Always Be Dancing: Flamenco, Yoga, Mindfulness for Every(body)

Teacher of Flamenco, Yoga, and Mindfulness for all ages, all abilities; Performer and Choreographer


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Book Review: Classroom Yoga Breaks by Louise Goldberg

I am inspired by people who adapt yoga to fit into spaces not intended, such as classrooms, libraries, parks, locker rooms and especially to those who are dedicated to bringing yoga to children wit…

Source: Book Review: Classroom Yoga Breaks by Louise Goldberg

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Book Review: Classroom Yoga Breaks by Louise Goldberg

I am inspired by people who adapt yoga to fit into spaces not intended, such as classrooms, libraries, parks, locker rooms and especially to those who are dedicated to bringing yoga to children with special needs; to making yoga inclusive, adaptable and accessible. Louise Goldberg, author of Classroom Yoga Breaks and Yoga Therapy for Children With Special Needs, which has been an invaluable asset for my own working in the special needs community, is a prime example.51-nma7wc3l-_sx398_bo1204203200_

To say I was delighted to receive my copy of Classroom Yoga Breaks is an understatement. Firstly, the book is presented beautifully with its sturdy, text book like, cover; it is well organized, and there are a plethora of accompanying photographs that lend clarity to the instruction. The book starts right off with great documentation of yoga and its many benefits physically, mentally and energetically. It draws clear connections to how yoga can improve Social Emotional Learning (SEL), can benefit special needs groups specifically and also the school community as a whole and how yoga bolsters self regulation, resilience and the executive functions. Through her vision, Ms. Goldberg, shows how to bring yoga into classrooms. She shares various curriculum and illustrates how all postures can be modified to fit every person. Through bodywork, breath-work and mind/energy-work, she shows how you can take yoga off the mat and into the world.

The clarity and attention to detail makes this book an indispensable addition to every schools, community centers and library. It is a repository for everything yoga and how it fits into the classroom. I especially appreciated the section dedicated to teacher’s self-care. Learning how to take care of yourself will not only help to build your resilience, your ability to respond rather then react and your sense of self but it will in turn change the climate of your classroom opening up the channels for easier teaching and freer learning.

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

A little about Louise Goldberg: 

Louise Goldberg, ERYT 500,
is owner of Relaxation Now LLC and founder of CreativeRelaxation®. Her new book,
Classroom Yoga Breaks will be published by Norton Books in Education on November 15, 2016. Her first book, Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs was published by Norton Professional Books in 2013. She is a co-author of S.T.O.P. and Relax, Your Special Needs Toolbox©2006, updated 2014. Her DVD Yoga for Children ©2004 features children on the autism spectrum.

 

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Thanksgiving Yoga: How To Smell The Roses In Your Poses

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Smell the roses in your poses.

There are so many benefits to feeling and expressing gratitude. People who are encouraged to notice and reflect upon the things they are thankful for experience stronger physical, emotional, and mental health, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, are less aggressive and have healthier sense of self.

 

Yoga poses and activities can develop emotional happiness, physical calmness and mental alertness and promote the appreciation of the natural world around us through attention to the kinesthetic experience.

A brief note and brief meditation for you:

Every year, an entire day is dedicated to the celebration of gratitude. We are thankful for good food, good family and friends, and a good life. But we do not have to wait till this day to be thankful. Yoga teaches us to practice mindfulness, opening the door for gratitude to be practiced all year-long. Gratitude unlocks the abundance of life. It turns what we have into enough, and contributes to our satisfaction with our own personal riches. Being thankful for little things around us allows us to be present, alive and fully in the moment.

This brings to my mind the phrase “Stop and smell the roses”. If we do stop and smell the roses, we will start to notice the richness that surrounds and inundates all our life’s moments. By taking a step back and being aware of the things in your life that you are truly thankful for, you can bring balance to chaos and calmness to turmoil. Peace of mind can be yours by bringing yourself into the here and now! Notice the veritable cornucopia of things to be grateful for in your life: your family, friends, a roof over your head, working at something you take pride in, a smile or kind word from a stranger, a flower peeping out from the sidewalk, a fresh breeze, the warm touch of the sun, the smell of the earth after rain, the farmers who grow the food, the chef who cooks it…the list is never-ending!

So…stop and smell the roses! Take a moment to look at the trees. Notice their leaves, branches and bark, feel the wind on your cheeks and breathe deeply!

Remember that you need time to relax and rejuvenate too. Take care of yourself, so that you can be the most supportive and effective person that you can be.

A simple mindfulness meditation:

1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff. You can also lie down. Or lean against the wall.

2. Become aware of your breathing by focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel the air entering and exiting through your nostrils. Feel your belly rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. If needed, the first few breaths you can allow the exhale to express through gently pursed lips-imagine you are fanning the coals. This help to elongate the exhale and the sound is a great focuser. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different. Notice that the air is cool as it enters the body but it is gently warmed when it exits.

3. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hopeful. When thoughts come up in your mind, note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor. Watch your thoughts as if they are clouds drifting by in the sky.

4. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, simply return to your breathing. I sometimes like to say “Thinking” or “Thought” or I name it “that is the worrying me who thinks she cannot do things…etc. when I notice I have drifted and this helps me come back to the present moment and my breathing. There is not punishment for being lost in thought: allow it, notice it, move on.

As the time comes to a close bring (this can be 1-minute, 5 minutes 20 minutes or more!) bring some more energizing breaths into your body. You can wiggle your fingers and toes. Roll to one side (if lying down). Get up gradually.

Gratitude Attitude Yoga for Kids: 6358626217332020101255530005_thankyou

How should we bring gratitude to children’s attention? Playfully. They can learn how to be thankful by getting to know themselves, physically, emotionally, energetically and intellectually. Using the methodologies of yoga, qigong, and dance, they have the freedom to express this autonomously. The gratitude attitude can be bolstered by our commitment to communicating with them where they are now, by how we act and how we relate to them during our time together. Through various activities in action and in stillness , they can explore their own paths to gratitude.

Activities:

Stillness activity #1: Ringing the chime. Turn taking. Sharing. Listening. Experiencing. Different vibration every time. Building confidence and self-esteem.

Stillness activity #2: Colored glass rocks: creating patterns, shapes, feeling their cool, soft edges…listening to a piece of quite music like “Variations On Twinkle Twinkle by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Joe Cool’s Blues by Wynton Marsalis and Ellis Marsalis.

gorilla-thumpWaking Up The Sense Activity #1: Gorilla Thumps Gently thumping body parts  and meridian points. The chest and just below the collar bones using Aaaaaaaa-Eeeeeee-Iiiiiii-Oooooooo-Uuuuuuuu. Energy booster! Waking up the energy lines. 

Waking Up The Sense Activity #2: Rag Doll Dance Shimmying, shaking, jiggling, flouncing. Feeling light. Waking up. Moving feet. Moving hands. Fingers, Toes. Head. Waking the senses.
Yoga Poses:

Mountain pose. Thank you Mountains for being so strong and stable. 

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Mountain

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Upward Mountain

Sun (breathe in, arms come up the sides till fingers touch at the top. Try to match finger to finger) feeling awake; Moon (hands clasped at the top. Lean to one side then the other) feeling bright; Wind (starting swaying arms, let them gently tap your body as your spine twists side to side) feeling free; Rain (add finger wiggles) feeling fresh. 

Waterfall Bend over and touch the floor. Feel the cool water running through your fingers. Feel calm. And Kind of sparkly. 

Squat like a frog. Sit still, like a frog. Breathe quietly, like a frog. Then hopping ribbit, ribbit, ribbit (and then back to your lily pad) 

Cow and Cat-Moo and Meow grounded to the floor. Stable like a table! 

Breathe in, lift up, Snake. Hissssssssssssing down on the exhale. Repeat. Strong arm muscles pushing you. Notice your hands on the floor and push up.

Woof. Down dog. Lifting one foot for a tail. Switch. Barking. Feeling joyful

Tree Pose. Standing tall and balanced on one foot. Friend Tree: Do it with a friend. Family Tree: Do it with the whole yoga family. 

Challenge Pose #1: Single sided bow pose. Switch sides. Then try traditional bow pose.

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Challenge #2: Pointer Dog Pose

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Challenge #3: Dancer’s Pose. Hold hands with a partner and be each others support. Try it on your own to test your inner balance.

Resting Poses:

Floating On The Sea: On your back, the mat is a calm blue sea. Gentle waves rocking you as you let your body relax and float. You feel weightless. Hear the seagulls. Hear the waves lapping. Feel the warm breath of the sun. Smell the beach air full of ocean, sun and sand.  Your belly is the ocean. On each inhale, allow the belly to fill up and on the exhale, let the belly soften. Take your next few breaths into your veer softening belly. Drift. 

Crocodile: Belly time (EVERYBODY needs belly time!). Now the mat is a river.  Crocodile is gliding slowly in the river. Feel the warm water all around. Head down. Can rest head to one side or the other. Or use hands as a pillow. Can bend one knee or the other (if knee is bent head should be looking to that same side or straight down.)  Feel belly on the floor. Pressing in as you inhale. Feel your back softening on the exhale. On each inhale, allow the belly to fill up and on the exhale, let the belly soften. Take your next few breaths into your veer softening belly. Glide. 

Sleeping On A Cloud: Belly or back time. Can you imagine clouds in the sky? Imagine you could rest gently on top of one. Feel the soft cotton cradling you gently. There is a little sway and bob as the cloud floats through the sky. In your imagination,  look at the other clouds as they float by. See them drifting by. See their shapes. What shapes do you see? When you start to look at or think about other things, gently go back to looking at the clouds. It is o.k. if you do. When you do realize you are not thinking about the clouds, gently start noticing the clouds and their shapes. Float.

Games and Books:

Game #1: Let each child call out the name of a living thing and then create a pose to go with it. For example, T-Rex. Stand up. Make “little” arms like a T-Rex, and then do mat walk. Walk all around the outer edge of your mat-while acting like T-Rex-in one direction. Then reverse your direction to get the most brain balancing effect.

Game #2: Tape numbers (1-10, or less) around the walls and tape a yoga pose card next to each number. Easy version: everyone goes through poses in numerical order. Challenge option: Pair up the students. Give them each a pose order card (numbered 1- 10, but not in numerical order). Each group heads off a deux, and does their poses in the order specific to their card.

Game #3: Another version of the above game (my fall to game in every class) is putting one, two or more cards under each mat. Student pull the cards out and arrange them, either as they like or numerically. Students then have an allotted amount of time to do their pose(s). At the signal, everyone moves clockwise and arrives on a new mat, with a new set of cards presented to them. Continue until everyone is back on their original mat.

Book #1:For younger kids, check out My Amazing Day: A celebration of wonder and gratitude by Karin Fisher-Golton, Lori A. Cheung and Elizabeth Iwamiya (please check out my review of this book here). This book can be read and easily adapted to yoga poses to go along with the things the baby is grateful for. 

Book #2: This is one of my favorite all time books that I read to my son almost every day. It is so beautiful and the kids just can’t get enough of the surprise and the anticipation and it is so sweet and lovely: The Lion and the Red Bird by Elisa Kleven. Here is a fabulous YouTube of Elisa Kleven reading her beloved book. Elisa came into this hospital to share her wonderful story with fantastic illustrations. The patient, Ashley, sure had a lot to say about the story! Enjoy this children’s book classic.

 


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Breathe Easy Through The Season: Above all, dance flamenco!

Thanksgiving is surely a time to be thankful for all the good graces that are in our lives, but truth be told it can also be a stressful time. All ages, kids to adult, have to combat overeating, st…

Source: Breath Easy Through The Season: And above all dance flamenco!

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Book Review: Stay Cool And In Control With The Keep-Calm Guru by Lauren Brukner; Illustrated by Apsley

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I was excited to receive my copy of Stay Cool And In Control With The Keep-Calm Guru by Lauren Brukner; Illustrated by Apsley, a book dedicated to empowering children to regulate their emotions and senses. This book is geared for children and has a “early reader” book feel with the large type face and engaging and very effective illustrations.

There are easy to follow symbols (I will make accompanying cards for easy reference.) The collection of body breaks and the checklist for the calming down process are excellent and very accessible. I personally love the included adjective charts-they are just great for empowering children to name their feelings. I also really appreciate how the book clearly defines the differences between physical, intellectual and emotional energies.

So important in the quest for self control.

The last part of the book is dedicated to the adults in these children’s lives and offers tips on how to support your child on their journey to self-discovery. The appendices are very helpful, offering various checklists, work sheets and visual sequences of the exercises in the book.

I highly recommend this book. It is a great tool for working with the wide spectrum of students/children we encounter. It is filled with practical tips on ways to identify and cope with anxiety, anger and other difficult feelings. It will be very useful to help familiarize them with basic self-control techniques and to empower them with clear, accessible communication skills.

Click here for a downloadable PDF that includes the appendices featured in the book.

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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Halloween Yoga For Kids

Halloween Yoga Comes to Mini Miracles Childcare Center:human-skeleton-vector-illustration-body-anatomy-internal-organ-34569329

Class started, as it always does, with the ringing of the chime, breath in, breath out.

Me: Where does a skeleton live before it is dead and is buried in the ground?

Them: In the ground, in a scary house, icky and gooey….In your body!

Me: That’s It!

We had a talk about how some things are scary like skeletons, zombies, ghosts and witches, but they are not real, so even though you feel scared by them, they are not real and cannot hurt you. At Halloween, it is fun to dress up in scary costumes, but it is also fun to dress up in non-scary  ones, like Belle, Ariel, Superman and Elsa. Remember to respect other children’s’ feelings.Not everyone likes to be scared. Also remember, that even if you do feel scared, inside the costume is just a friend or a sibling or even a parent. Stay with your adult, do not run into the street and let your parent help choose the candy you can eat. Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Halloween Yoga Sequence for ages 15 Months+ All inclusive. Adapt as needed.

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Happy Pumpkin Pose To Color

  1. Happy Pumpkin: Easy pose with hands in Garuda Mudra at the heart center. Give yourself a heart hug as you breath in and out. mudra-garuda
  2. Twisting Ghost : While making a Woooooooooo sund like a ghost.

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3. Mixing the Candy : Slow to Faster one direction. Stop. Repeat opposite direction.

4. Candy Bowl: This can be done with hands in the back for support. Also, lift one hand, reach in and say “Trick or treat” as you pull out a piece of candy. Switch Sides. Then try both. Try mixing the candy while in bowl pose. Throw hands up and say “Happy Halloween.”img_3919

5. I Am Happy, I AM Good MeditationSitting, criss-cross yoga sauce. Pointer fingers stretched out and using thumb to hold other fingers curled.
I am happy; I am good. I am happy; I am good (Shake pointer fingers)
A-E-I-O (finger tips together at the belly button) ; A-E-I-O (finger tips together by the heart) ; A-E-I-O (finger tips together by the forehead); U (hands reaching up to sky).
Ha-ha-ha-ha (finger tips together by the forehead) ; He-he-he-he (finger tips together by the heart) ; Ho-ho-ho-ho(finger together at the belly button) ;Hooooooo (pronounced “who” hands reaching our by the knees). I have finger tips join as a brain gym activity.

6. Feel Your Heart Beat: Use Ride Your Bumpy Camel-up and down faster and faster, like a heart beat when you get scared. Then bring the tempo back down, to show resting heart rate.conferenceyoga-for-children-disordersppt-28-728

7. Howling Wolf: Hooooooowwwwwoooooooo & Back Cat: Meoooowwwwwwwyoga-poses-cat-cow-back-stretch-pose

8. Haunted House: Lift one leg up for a chimney, swirl the ankle for the smoke coming out of the chimney. Switch sides. img_3920

9. Kick Away The Ghosts: We did it 8x. donkey-kick

10. Welcome Mat: Taking a rest mid class. Lay on your belly, rest head, eyes and energy. Listen to your heart and try to hear your heart beating. Can you slow it down? Do you notice how calm you feel? How Happy? How Safe? How strong? crocodile_1

11. Zombie: Rise up and find your inner zombie. Similar to mountain and up mountain pose. Skip the last one  with the cut in 1/2, guts spilling out. But do say “arrrgggghhhh” and plod around on your mat a bit. zombie_yoga_by_wonder_twin

12. Crescent Moon: Can do it with breath. img_3922

13. Witch on a Broom (with hat), Witch Taking Flight & Flying Witch: “I am brave (Warrior I). I am bold (Warrior II). To our brooms, we take hold! (Warrior III)” 

14. Eye In The Sky: Twinkle fingers. Big smile.dsc01693

15. Owl: “whoooooooooooo” breath. Turn head side-to-side. Tuck arms in like wings. img_3923

16. Littlest Pumpkin in the Patchimg_3924

17. Tootsie Roll: The most calming!  bryce-gets-wrapped-up-like-a-map-during-yoga

 

18. Freeze Yoga Dance: Start out by leading them into poses and saying freeze to get them to hold the poses. Then let them do any poses they want and randomly stop the music. Then starting adding in suggestions, such as: Do a pose with one hand on the floor. Do a pose with your belly on the floor but not your feet. Make the smallest pose you can. The largest. And so on…

 Fun Halloween Songs:

  1. Purple People Eater
  2. Woolly Bully
  3. Monster Mash
  4. I Put A Spell On You
  5. Love Potion No. 9

¡Olé! Happy Halloween! Love, Eveimg_3917-1

20hours

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Flamenco Arms

flamenco armsFlamenco Arms

There are many different styles of arms, elongated and elegant; strong and sinuous. There is the classic style, lifting from the elbow or the modern style, with elbows bent and lowered first, riding tight to the body. Some arms are wild and unschooled. While still others are technical and calculated. All styles, when they are compatible with the dance, are authentic.

Your arms are never just your arms. They are an expression of your art. Next to facial expression, arms and hands are the most expressive element in flamenco dance. They capture attention as they create line, rhythm and feeling. They are the most difficult technique to master.

Learning to use your arms as part of your overall body line is of utmost importance, no matter what your style is. The arms must be extensions of the shoulders, chest, hips and legs. Arms held overhead are rarely held high enough and droopy arms are distracting and are definitely not flamenco!

 

To create the sweep for classic flamenco arms you must grow wings! Spread your back wide and lift your arms. Keep this image of wings as your back body spreads open to cradle the front body. As arms rise, shoulders must stay down and back. Not wrenched back, so that the shoulder blades pull in, but spread wide open to make the arms even longer than they already are. This is the key to the elegance and gypsy arrogance held in flamenco dance. Elbows must remain high throughout the movement as the shoulders remain down.  Feel the the initial extension of your wings from deep within muscles between the shoulders.  When you arrive at “T” position, shoulders must drop over the back of the rib cage. This will cause the front body, around the collar bones, to open wide, like a display case. There you will imagine that you are wearing a beautiful diamond necklace. This area is your display case, lift it up and display your necklace! Wear it proudly.

The arms must have energy all the way to the fingers; use Dynamic Tension. Feel your arms moving with the strength and unity of the whole shoulder girdle. 
Feel your arm pits are deep caverns with vaulted ceilings. You can create a small hollow opening inside as if to cradle a very ripe, very juicy apricot (do not squish it or drop it).

The passage of the arm must go through all the “stopping” points (3, 6, 9, 12 n  clock face) and create the shape necessary at each point (ie Never just bring your arm up with out passing through:  low “v” to “t” position to high “v” etc…). In low “v” & 6 o’clock,  make sure you do not compress the arm pits. 

Arms must always be controlled. Never throw them around as if you are directing air traffic. Arms are under constant tension. You can imagine from the torso to the wrists, as your arms rise, that an elastic band is pulling tights. Feel the tension, but do not show the tension. There is a buoyancy as they rise, like they are pushing through water. Keep the gently descending line from shoulders to elbow to wrist to finger tips. This picks up again as the arms pass through “T” position and then again the dynamic tension is created from the arms back into the body.  Make sure your arms flow.

A little about hands:

Hand movement are very personal and your hands are an extension of your personality and the emotional content to your dance. They are the fine sable hairs at the end of a paint brush. They add flourish, punctuation and can pull energy into your field or press it away. They add the final important details to your dance. the hands move from the circling of the wrists. The wrist circles do not involve any other part of the arms-so pay attention to your elbows!

 

There are two hand movement styles:

  1. Gypsy: The little finger leads the way in opening and closing the hand-like a fan opening and closing.
  2. Classic: The middle finger leads.
    • Keep thumbs in as you turn your wrist.
    • SEQUENCE: palm, fingers, wrist, fingers
    • Bend wrists as much as possible. Bring your finger tips towards the very inside of the wrist before making the rotation. That is your accents point. The unfurling carries the rhythm till the next accent.
    • Hands move with rhythm not randomly.