Always be dancing

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

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Book Review: The Mindful School Leader: Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School by Valerie Brown and Kristen Olson

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I am a yoga and mindfulness teacher working in my local public school district and community and I can say first hand that the need for mindful school leaders is much needed. To create the conditions for a successful learning environment, first the infrastructure must be healthy and well-balanced.

This book is a must for every principal, teacher, paraprofessional-everyone who comes in contact with the school environment, so that they can be the active change they want to see within their own classrooms, school and community at large. This book is a veritable repository that is highlighted by extremely well documented support research and case studies making this project so real and accessible. The subjects of the case studies give voice to the possibility and proof that mindfulness can work. The provided mindfulness scripts are very handy, even offering scripts that are as short as 30 seconds!

I really appreciated how this book showed mindfulness in-motion/in-action; showing how accessible it is in our everyday lives-it’s just there-go ahead and grab it! I highly recommend this book-hop on it and find the groove that you are seeking. We are all leaders at one time or another. That is why this book is for you!

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

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Book Review: Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alvarez and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class

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This is book is the real deal…totally authentic…“the truth”…it is an honest, open-hearted expression of what it takes to really stop, take a moment and respond rather than react to things that are stressful and happening right now, in real time. These kids just tell it like it is and with their words and their beautiful art, they allow us to see how they are learning to come to grips with their humanness and how they have come to appreciate and respect the need to self-regulate. The staff and kids are 100% committed to this venture and that is evident from their honesty, bravery and creativity. I really appreciate how this book is presented, from the bright color schemes, the beautiful self-portraits, and the almost graphic novel-like approach, the book offers compelling examples from young people who are coping with stress by not hurting themselves or anyone else for that matter. Instead, they are willing to be calm, insightful, and kind. Masters of Mindfulness, written by Laurie Grossman, co-founder of Mindful Schools and Director of Program Development at Inner Explorer, and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class at Reach Academy in Oakland, California, introduces examples of how to be mindful in a straight forward approach, user-friendly manner and since it is written by kids, it is thoroughly believable.

This book is a huge success and it belongs in homes, libraries and on every park bench, school desk and bedside table!

Here is a nice trailer for it! 

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


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Eve’s Awesome Yoga comes to Early Education Alliance of Framingham and Ashland

IMG_0269Emotional Health: is the ability to deal with your emotions in a way that is healthy for you and for those around you. Social-emotional development influences all areas of development,  from intellectual to  motor to interpersonal skills. To feel strong within your own skin, there needs to be a balance between the information you take in, and then your ability to healthfully ingest, digest, absorb and expel it.   The greatest challenges lie in being able to communicate even when dealing with the strongest emotions, such as anger, frustration and sorrow. It is natural to feel these emotions, but how we respond to them is what separates us. Laying a path to healthy emotional security is being able to acknowledge the varied feelings you have, but being able to respond rather than just automatically react is what will help you remain strong, confident and flexible in difficult situations. If you, as an adult, can demonstrate this to your child, you will help them learn by mirroring a natural and comfortable way  to express their emotions without harm.

Craft: “Breathing” Dragons: Since the activity before class was for such young children, I modified the craft. We took paper coffee cups and cut out a large hole in the bottom. Then each child, with the help of a parent/caregiver, if needed, put glue around the inside mouth of the cup and then glued strips of colored tissue paper flowing out of the cup. There were small pompoms for eyes, some kids used two eyes, some three, and even a few ones. When finished, we put them aside to dry and then gathered in the yoga area.

Ringing the Chime: Calm, quiet breathing. We ring the bell, gently swinging the two sides of the chime together. Take a breath in with your nose, like you are smelling a flower, cookies baking, fresh mowed grass, and slowly allow the breath to seep out your nose, a soft stream just trickling out through your nostrils, as the bell continues to echo. Carefully pass the chimes to the next person, trying not to make any sounds in between. Of course there are many types of chimes and bells that can be used. I like these chimes, because of their weight and their sound. Kids really enjoy being able to do this themselves and I find that all children can do it alone, given enough time and to assist only when needed. It is very rewarding for them and its fun! I strongly suggest that any person sharing the experience should take a try and ring the chimes. That means teachers, parents, kids…we even gently chimed them in front of any babies present and they connected to the sound immediately and smiles lit up on their tiny faces!g loud, quiet…pp347

Demo Strong vs Soft breathing (cannot/can blow out candle): Usually I focus only on breathing in and out of the nose during yoga, but for this exercise, we took a breath in with our noses and then out with our mouths. For the “soft” breath out, we did a gentle exhale, one that would not blow out a candle. For the “strong” breath, we exhaled fiercely.

Breathing: STOP acronym for parents and care givers: S” Stop; “T” Take a few deep, calming breaths; “O” Observe yourself and the situation at hand so that you can respond rather than react; “P” Proceed.

Hoberman Sphere:  (the link in this title shows the sphere in action) This is the best all around visual breathing assistant. When it opens, you inhale and imagine you belly expanding; then as you exhale, let it close as your belly softens. It works for all ages and all abilities. Kids love to use the ball, as do adults. The Hoberman sphere is a structure resembling a geodesic dome, and which can fold down to a fraction of its normal size. The scissor-like action of its joints enables it to do this. If you look at it closely you can see a pattern in how its structured.  It is made up of triangles and hexagons (the regular sized toy, that is.) It is a beautiful toy both aesthetically and structurally. It is truly a mesmerizing toy where form follows function. 

Butterfly Sequence w/ Fly Like A Butterfly: Sit with bottom of feet touching. Gently flap the legs and sing: Fly like a butterfly, fly like a butterfly, fly like a butterfly up so high (two times); Next place hands together by the side of the head to represent “sleeping” and sing a little more softly: Sleep like a butterfly, (switch hands to other side of the head) sleep like a butterfly, (switch one more time) sleep like a butterfly through the night (repeat, this time sing as quietly as possible and then even just move lips and say words); hands go behind you now on the floor and you sing more robustly: Soar like a butterfly (lift up right leg and put it down), soar like a butterfly (lift up left leg and put it down), soar like a butterfly up so high (Both legs up-body is being held up by hands on the floor) (second time through at the part when both legs are up, try to release hands from the floor and even try to flap like butterfly wings) color-3B-butterfly%2872%29[1]

Little White Duck: Use the book that is based on the Raffi song (Here I interject that I highly recommend Raffi for his great kids music. He sings folk songs and is utterly appealing to kids and not bad on the ears for adults. Also, Dan Zanes. Love love love his kids music.) It is a simple book with an accompanying song. ..There’s a little white duck sitting in the water, a little white duck, doing what he oughta…In the book you have duck pose (squat and flap wings and say quack quack quack), take a bite of the lily pad (make a bite sound and rub your tummy), frog pose with hopping and ribbits (then have them jump back to their lily pads-whatever their space marker is), bug pose (lie on back with feet and hands in the air and say buzz buzz buzz); snake pose (on you belly, add hissing and squiggling); when there is no one left in the water, we all pretend to cry, boo hoo hoo. In the song their is the refrain “I’m glad” and I always cue the kids to sing with me at this part, “I’m g…….!” This book is full of fun onomatopoeia for kids!  Little-White-Duck-9780316733977

Breathing Dragons: Get your (now dried) Dragon Breath craft. Strong breaths. Soft breaths. I once again talked about the differences between  strong, happy, athletic breath and soft, calm, relaxing breath. The strong breaths really whip up the tissue paper, making the dragon breath fire. The soft breath, a gentle rustle is all.

Mindful Movement Series:  Here I combine flowing yoga poses, rhythmic passages on the feet, clapping, snapping, counting. Doing things with a flowing sense of synchronicity in a group, is a feel good activity. The movement, the community, and  the rhythm all blend together for a fun, positive experience. I like to use a variety of songs, but some of my favorites include: Sleep Tonight (Junior Boys Remix) by Stars; All That Meat And No Potatoes by Fats Waller; Tangos De Mi Novia by Son De La FronteraIMG_8293

I Am Happy: Verse based meditation technique. Combines vocalization of the affirmations good and happy, the vowel sounds and some laughter yoga. See Eve’s Awesome Mini Yogi Yoga comes to Mini Miracles Childcare Center, Framingham, MA 

Yogini Went To Sea (click this title for a link to the video): The greatest standby song/dance/meditation on the planet. It combines tapping, repetition, a fun sound track (by my dear friend Shakta Khalsa) and many many giggles. By singing and dancing, your mind is focused in the moment, adding an element of mind calming). The words are: Yogini went to sea, sea sea; to see what she could see, see, see; but all that she could see, see, see; was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea ,sea (tap forehead); Yogini went to jai, jai, jai… (tap upper arm at bicep); Yogini went to knee, knee, knee (cross body tap of opposite knee); Yogini went to oowajawa, to see what she could oowajawa, but all that she could oowajawa, was the bottom of the deep blue oowajawa (rub tummy); now of four motions in order: Yogini went to sea, jai, knee, oowajawa…. (tap forehead, tap arm, tap knee, rub tummy). As kids get older, I have them start with one hand, switch as the song gets faster and then on the third and fastest time, keep switching hands.

Savasana: Body scan deep relaxation script

 

Create the scene for a quiet relax time.

Everyone please rest on your back or your tummy. Choose the one that you feel will be most comfortable. The one that will let you be restful and quiet. Breath in through your nose, like you are smelling a delicious flower or some yummy cookies baking and as you breath out through your nose, you can feel your whole bod, from head to toe, relax.

  • Settle into your space/bed
  • Breathe in, out
  • Notice how the breath in fills you up with air, like a balloon, and you feel light and free.
  • Feel how the breath out allows your whole body to soften and relax; you feel like your body is just a cloud floating in the big blue sky..
  • Can you allow yourself to be very still and quiet? This means your mouth is not talking, your body is not moving and your mind is not trying to figure things out.
  • Breathe in, out
  • I am going to tell you to think about various parts of your body. I do not want you to touch these body parts, just allow yourself to think about them. Bring the attention to their heads, arms/hands, belly, legs, feet/toes. Pausing to breath in/out between each body part. Tell them to feel light, free, happy, good, friendly, still, healthy, loving, lovable, whole, complete, perfect. Say nice things to them. Then be silent. Maybe for a minute. Maybe longer?

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                                                    All written material is the sole property of Eve Costarelli, DBA Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement/ Eve’s Amazing Yoga/ ¡Olé Namaste!

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Dance In The Schools 2016: Baldwin School Wrap-Up

Cue in Dance In The Schools 2016!

I had the ultimate pleasure of working again with the Maria Baldwin School in Cambridge for this year’s Dance In The Schools Month. I began forging a relationship with the second grade teacher’s 6 years ago and it only keeps getting better each year I go back. This year I had the extra enjoyment of bringing not only my yoga program but I also brought flamenco to the music classes. Together these two classes make up the basis for Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement. This opened up a whole new angle to me for bringing mindfulness into this school. Pairing me up with the music teacher only enriched my musical knowledge, so it was truly a win-win situation for all! The second graders received a veritable cornucopia of mindfulness through dancing, Yoga posing, breathing, and meditating.The positive responses I gathered from the students and the teachers were full of positive remarks and full of enjoyment.

Please comment on what worked regarding the content of this program, e.g., use of theme, connection of movement/dance to curriculum, etc. Did you or the Classroom Teacher notice any changes in any of the students’ behavior, focus, ability to do whatever you were teaching? Please describe if possible.

The kids were all so connected to learning-it is a great environment. The staff and kids are very engaged and even the few children who are on the spectrum or emotionally developing interact with the group and learn alongside their peers. I often work with special needs and other high risk populations and I have developed a compassionate and effective way of bringing what I am teaching to these groups. I appreciated that every student tried what I offered to them. The music students learned about the history of flamenco and the gypsies, styles of flamenco, the emotional content of flamenco, the art of clapping, singing, dancing rhythmically and also rhythmic footwork.  In yoga, we used the basics of yoga, breath-work, poses and meditation, to reinforce emotional control. In the end, they students created a book for me which reinforced their engagement with both my yoga and flamenco classes.

Did you share any materials, resources, music, ideas, props with the Classroom Teacher so they could continue after your last session? If so, what?

MUSIC: I sent a musical link and we made a video of our dance. I also created a special document that gave the history of flamenco and wrote out a simplified version of the choreography for reference.

Here is the document I created for music: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gpZnnLeYRu33aZqIooSvV5tm7mTxjAdOMu_qOCr_HEo/edit?usp=sharing

YOGA: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IKRDDtAAfwcO4vL3EmU381SCi8YEGRAY0g2X2FOlk0o/edit?usp=sharing

Describe the nature of your collaboration with your Classroom Teacher – before your sessions (interaction with teacher, co–planning of materials, other), during your sessions (co-teaching, assessing the process, altering plans), after you finished (examples of follow-up lessons created by you and/or the Classroom Teacher, other)

MUSIC: After reaching out to the music teacher, he sent me some ideas for how we could collaborate his music and my dance class, which really helped me to mold my program.

We came up with:

*Phrase *Form *Different rhythmic values *Dynamics (volume) *Improvisation/Composition

 We worked with each throughout the classes, him adding in his teaching methodology (using the Takadimi system) which opened my eyes to new ways of being able to teach ideas and my own creative style of teaching which only enhanced his system. 

YOGA: I was in contact with the two second grade teachers prior to my visit. They asked me to work with their students on  Socio-Emotional learning and the executive functions, to enable a string and fruitful learning environment for all. I mapped out 4 programs that I would use as the basis of the 4 sessions.

Eve’s Awesome Yoga Day one was about using yoga to calm the body, mind and energy and playing with the differences between silence and non-silence, which can mean vocally, mentally and physically. Here I also taught about the brain and the concept of neuro-plasticity; Day two,  healthy eating; Day three, Rhythm and movement; Day four, Cooperation. 

Do you feel/think you were effective? Why/why not? What did you learn? What challenges did you face? (This is a food for thought question, not judging or criticizing you.

MUSIC: This was extremely effective. Every time I came into the room, the kids all brightened up and beamed, totally ready to dance/do yoga. I could see in their faces their joy! I loved learning about Takadimi as it brings in a Kathak element to my Flamenco teaching, as Kathak is seen as one of the roots of Flamenco.

YOGA: The kids learn in a very short amount of time about how they can control their brains, that brains change, how to be strong, focused and self-effective. How to work by themselves and cooperate in a group. How to be still and to move; to be quiet and loud; to be fast and slow. They learn about emotional control and how they can learn in a different environment than they are usually presented with.


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Strengthening Ankles

Some children have very weak ankles and they often wobble on their heels or miss class due to a sprained ankle. This can become quite frequent, so I decided to address this issue head on.

This weeks classes started with a silent, drawing meditation. The only “rule” was no talking. We sat and did some simple inhales and exhales with our noses, bringing us into a more focused and relaxed state of mind. I then read to the kids, while they colored (they could draw anything they wanted); they just had to listen and draw. The room was pleasantly silent and calm. I read from the book “Three Golden Oranges and Other Spanish Folktales” by R.S. Boggs and M.G. Davis.To the first group of students, I read “The Three Golden Oranges” and to the second “Toñino and The Fairies”. Both stories are set in Granada and along the roads, leading into and out of the the hills of the Sierra Nevadas. These stories are full of senorita’s, dashing young men, brides/husbands to be found, money to squandered and good deeds to be done. And you definitely need strong ankles to go up and down those long winding country roads.

Next came the yoga sequence designed to build strong ankles:

1. Start in Mountain Pose. Feel your legs growing down into the earth, feel the strength flowing through your ankles. Scrunch your toes up, like you are trying to dig a hole with your toes; then lift your toes up and spread your toes as wide as you can. Repeat several times. Press into the ground and inhale as you lift your arms up and over head. Exhale. Feel your upper body reaching up as your lower body plants itself firmly into the earth. Inhale as you look up your hands and let your head fall back-Upward Salute/Up-Mountain Pose.

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Urdhva Hastasana/Upward Salute

Next, righting your head, exhale into Chair Pose . Utkatasana/Chair Pose/Lightning Bolt Pose Utkatasana/Chair Pose/Lightning Bolt Pose. From chair, with the legs still bent and feet firmly planted into the ground, bend forward so your hands are on the floor. Knees can be bent enough to facilitate this, but heels should remain on the floor-Standing Child’s Pose.

Slowly rise back up to stand, making sure you feel the strength of your legs, ankles and feet the while time you lift up.

Repeat the sequence, but this time, instead of rising up after the standing child’s pose, step back with your left foot and come into, what I call, Right Angle Pose. Place your hands on either side of the front foot, curl the toes of the back foot under and then press the back leg up, straight, into High Lunge.

Hands to hips. Inhale, hands up; exhale, turn back foot and place it down on the floor-Warrior I. Inhale and bend forward, placing you elbow/lower arm of your right arm on your right knee. First look at your front foot and feel it grounded, buried deep into the ground. Look at your back foot and feel the same energy. Then pressing into your right arm, so your chest lifts up. Raise your left arm up and turn your chest to the left-Modified Triangle Pose.

Breathing in, stand up, jump feet together as you breath out.

Repeat the sequence on the opposite side -after the standing child’s pose, step back with your right foot and come into, what I call, Right Angle Pose. Place your hands on either side of the front foot, curl the toes of the back foot under and then press the back leg up, straight, into High Lunge.

Hands to hips. Inhale, hands up; exhale, turn back foot and place it down on the floor-Warrior I. Inhale and bend forward, placing you elbow/lower arm of your right arm on your right knee. First look at your front foot and feel it grounded, buried deep into the ground. Look at your back foot and feel the same energy. Then pressing into your left arm, so your chest lifts up. Raise your right  arm up, first in front of you and then reach it to the ceiling and turn your chest to the right-Modified Triangle Pose.

Breathing in, stand up, jump feet together as you breath out.

Standing Challenge series:

1. Tree Pose      IMG_3902     

2. Reach down and grab foot, Dancer’s Pose  DSC05980

3. Release foot, bend forward, walk hands forward, lift one leg into 3 Legged-DogMom-Kid.3LeggedDogs

4. Standing, straightening legs, Airplane ava_airplane.jpg

Rest in Child’s Pose; repeat whole sequence on other side. Balasana/Chilb's Pose

Rest in Child’s Pose

Reverse Plank series:

1. Hands facing towards your body, press up DSC06102 DSC06101

2. Hands facing back, away from your body, press up

3. Choose which hand position you like better and do this one more time. This time, press up: lift right leg and hold; then lift left leg and hold, then press up one more time

Lay on your backs and take Savasana.

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¡Olé Namaste!


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How Does Yoga Make You Feel…?

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This is what I asked my amazing group of students at the middle school I teach yoga at. This is the school’s group of Autism Spectrum kids and I have had the pleasure and the honor of getting to know these kids over the past two years:

Sam…Happy

John: The Stress goes out of my body

Liam: Mushy

Johnny: Comfortable

Harold: Happy

Joanne: Healthy

Catherine: Peaceful

Destiny: Sleepy

Marashall: My stress goes away

Edward: Like I am lying on the beach looking at the sun

Tricia: Stress Free

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Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement Retreat

I was invited to teach Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement at a day long retreat at the UCC Edwards Retreat Center for several target teen groups within Framingham High School who have been learning mindfulness skills based on the Benson Henry Institute’s Resilient Youth Curriculum. This retreat was the culminating activity to reinforce their skills and to expose them to other possible tools. There were about 50 English and Spanish speaking students.737157_10152024377000913_5585488161038564618_o

When I first arrived, the students were engaged in a singing/music session with one English speaking teacher and a Spanish interpreter. I was thoroughly amazed at the total engagement of the students in this activity. No one was “sitting out”, no one had pulled away. They were all singing and their body language showed that they were fully relaxed and enjoying themselves. I did not know these kids but I knew this was a special moment and felt my heart reacting.

Next it was my turn to introduce these kids to mindfulness through the arts of flamenco and yoga, a program that I call, Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement. I knew many of the kids understood Spanish better than English so I really pushed myself to speak in Spanish, something I am not very comfortable with. One thing I remember though, from my stay in Grenoble in college, was how helpful and respectful native speakers are if you really give it a try. They can make out most of what you are saying even if its the wrong tense or you do not know the exact word, so I pushed my fears aside and began shakily…”Sólo hablo un poco de español y sé que mi acento es terrible..haha!” That broke the ice and I was off and running.

I so enjoyed being a part of this special day. I want the students to know how much I appreciated them and their willingness to learn. I had the unique opportunity to spend time with about seven of them afterwards and was able to really get into the meat of what makes flamenco flamenco and why I found this art form as a way to express myself artistically and why that was important. It was a great dharma talk on finding something you are passionate about and how to strive for something you love to do. One girl said to me, “Please just teach us what you know. We want to learn.” Now, how beautiful is that?!?!

These kids made me feel very brave. I received a really nice thank you from the organizers, “We want to thank you for an amazing day!  Your energy and talent engaged the kids right from the start. It was the perfect workshop for this group and we loved your blending of culture, dance, meditation, and yoga. Many students  reflected on how the retreat enabled them to let go of their own emotional issues, anxiety for the day.  We appreciate your contributions to creating such a safe retreat for our students.”

Many thanks to Open Spirit Center of Framingham and the Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classroom project that keeps opening more and more doors for me to share myself with the students and staff in the Framingham Public Schools.

 

 

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