A useful way to help children visualize how their brain works is to describe the brain’s layers as upstairs and downstairs neighbors. Calm Carl, Happy Hilda, and Creative Catie all live upstairs while Bossy Billy, Alerting Allison, and Scared Susan live downstairs. In this model, the upstairs neighbors live in your neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for language, abstract thought, imagination, consciousness, and rational decisions. The upstairs neighbors understand concepts like time, morality, decision-making and sense of self. The downstairs neighbors live in the spinal cord, brain stem, cerebellum, and limbic system and thrive on pure instinct and impulsivity, always poised to act to keep you alive. Your memories also live with the downstairs neighbors.

If the upstairs neighbors are in charge, you make good decisions and do the right thing. Upstairs neighbors are problem solvers, planners, creatives, and flexible. Your upstairs neighbors encourage you to:

  • Think before you act or speak
  • Be in control of your body, words and actions
  • Focus and pay attention
  • See other people’s points of view
  • Be confident
  • Make good choices

Your downstairs neighbors are in charge of your really big feelings. Downstairs is where feelings of love and caring come from, and it is also where anger, frustration, and fear come from. There’s nothing wrong with being downstairs and having big feelings. That’s normal. But if those neighbors get too loud, or never talk to the upstairs neighbors, you:

  • Act before you think
  • Feel out of control
  • Are too upset to pay attention or learn
  • Might yell, argue or run away and hide
  • Only see your point of view
  • Can’t complete your work

Sometimes it might be really important to let our downstairs neighbors be in charge. What if you met a dinosaur in the library? Wouldn’t it be important for your downstairs brain to keep you safe? And everyone lets their downstairs brain neighbors takeover sometimes,  even adults. Have you ever seen your mom or teacher get frustrated when they can’t find their keys? Or are running late? Their downstairs brain neighbors make them get more and more frantic. 

When the downstairs neighbors are in charge, they may need help calming down so the upstairs neighbors can give them a “hug”. This can be any activity that makes the downstairs neighbors begin to feel safe and happy again, like doing yoga poses, taking big breaths, dancing or singing, coloring, listening to music, reading, giggling, meditating, exercising, or asking for a real hug! Our brains actually work best when our upstairs and downstairs neighbors work together, sending messages to each other. 

Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, and SO MUCH MORE!


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Kidding Around Yoga Justice Information

 Company Justice Statement

We stand with you, our Black family. At Kidding Around Yoga, we are a worldwide multicultural community committed to bringing the teaching of yoga to children and families worldwide. Our aspirations have always been to treat all humans with dignity, respect and care. We recognize that aspirations and intentions are different from impact. Our good intentions have not diminished the impact of our lack of understanding. We acknowledge the harm experienced by Black people and people of color within our organization. We have been blind to the ways in which white supremacy culture has been at play within our materials, structures and communications. We are deeply humbled and saddened to start to realize the extent to which BIPOC have been harmed, undersupported, ignored, dismissed, asked to perform emotional labor for free, and otherwise not held in the ways we aspire to hold everyone. We appreciate those who continued to point out to us our blindspots, even when we failed to listen or honor the wisdom they were bringing. We apologize. We know it is not enough. We are committing to strengthening our anti-racist actions, to continue looking deeper into our structures and personal biases, and to make ongoing changes to embody the teachings of yoga.

This is a time to wake up, to speak up, to stand up. This is a time to fight for what is right and educate those who are still in the dark. Every Black life matters. We all recognize that these are not new issues, but this IS a new opportunity to be allies and agents of change, in large and small ways. Let us not hide from this challenge or wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting. We each have a voice and a responsibility to fight for a better, more just and peaceful world. Join us as we listen, as we learn, as we change, and as we do what we do best: share the ancient and powerful practice of yoga and meditation with children across the globe.

In addition to the ways in which KAY supports bringing yoga to all children, we specifically recognize and commit to the following:

► Our materials and content need to be reviewed and updated. Some existing content contains ideas or themes rooted in racist structures we are now becoming aware of. These have caused harm and discrimination, and we are committed to a thorough review and action steps. We will give updates as to our actions regarding these materials.

We also recognize that we have not fully understood what cultural appropriation of yoga looks like. We understand that, in certain instances, we have used yoga in a way that has diminished its roots and caused harm to the culture from which it arises. We are undergoing a deep review of our materials and marketing, in this light, and will give updates as to our actions as a result of this review.

We also recognize that asking our Black teachers to share what they are doing to guide themselves through these “trying times” was felt as insensitive by many teachers. It was not our intention to cause harm in this way, but we understand how this is emotional labor, and that teachers need to be compensated for this. We will compensate any teachers we call upon to support us in this process.

We acknowledge the lack of Black leadership within KAY, and are actively expanding the leadership team to include and elevate Black wisdom and voices. This week, we are delighted to welcome Shawandra Ford and Camelia Brown onto the leadership team. We will continue to expand our team in the coming weeks.

We are revamping our KAY4ALL training to include specific anti-racist training. We will make it mandatory and included for all trainees and trainers. Meanwhile, KAY Leadership is undergoing anti-racist trainings themselves, which will be ongoing.

We are in the process of allocating resources to support scholarships for BIPOC trainees, to fund classes in underserved communities, and to offer financial support to organizations upholding anti-racism and helping make yoga accessible and available to BIPOC families.

In order to move forward and accomplish the mandates listed above, we have created a Justice Task Force. The JTF will identify and implement the changes needed within KAY. The JTF consists of seasoned and new team leaders committed to serving to create an anti-racist culture within our organization.

We will be adding tasks to the list, as we grow and evolve in our understanding of what needs to be done. We hope you will join us in doing this work in your own lives.

We are open to feedback, but we understand that it is no one’s job but ours to look, to learn, to digest, and to take action. We stand by our commitment to become an anti-racist organization whose work uplifts, supports and learns from Black wisdom and leadership.

Please email info@kiddingaroundyoga.com if you wish to reach out to us in regard to this statement, whether it’s feedback, an offer to join our efforts, or you want to be kept up to date with these promises. 


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