Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement:

Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body).

Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms: A Valentine’s Day Yoga Love Story

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Anthony's Valentine to himself!

Anthony’s Valentine to himself!

A Valentine’s Day Yoga Love Story:

Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Love and happiness

Make you want to dance, love and happiness~Al Green

Valentine’s Day is a great day to explore love and happiness, not only in a boyfriend-girlfriend way, but in the way that you look at the way that love yourself and figure out what makes you happy.

I started the 7th graders yoga class by handing out small pieces of paper, on each one, I had drawn a small heart in red ink. I asked them to remember back to our MLK class where I had them make up a list of 10 people who they loved. I said, on this list can be parents, siblings, grandmas and grandpas, other family members, friends, anyone living or passed, a pet, even someone who they love but who does not know this…after a few minutes of contemplation, I brought to their attention the need for their own name to be on that list. That to be able to truly love another, you had to be able to first love yourself. That’s not to say you are going to love everything that you do, but that in the inner core, in the true depths of your being, you have to love yourself and know what brings you happiness.

I then had them write themselves a love note.

It could be as simple as:

“Dear Eve, I love you so much!

Lovingly yours,

Eve”

This was to be my call back point throughout the class. Especially when I would have them in some heart opening pose or a body hugging pose…”remember that note you wrote to yourself and feel that love.”

I finished off the day by reading “Happiness Is A Warm Puppy” by Charles Schultz. It was written in 1962 but its messages are sweet and simple and oh so true today (well maybe not the one where happiness is a thirty-five cent for a movie, fifteen cents for popcorn and a nickel for a bar of candy..that one is definitely dated!). I wasn’t sure where the reading of the book was going to take us, because I had actually brought it to read to group of special ability kids, but it just came naturally to read it to this group too.

I just started reading and it initiated a line of communication and opened the kids up to sharing about things that make them happy, especially happy memories…

These where some of our favorites:

  1. Happiness is a thumb and a blanket. Talks of thumbs, blankies, hair twirling…

  2. Happiness is a pile of leaves. One of my happiest memories is driving down the West Roxbury Parkway with my son Anthony, right after they had piled up all the fall leaves-there must have been about 50 massive piles, lining the green-way. Initially I felt rushed and was going to drive right by them, even after Anthony asked to stop and jump in them, but I changed my mind in a split second, pulled the car to the side of the road and we jumped! Its not cushy or soft, but it was truly one of the best feelings in life, one of my happiest memories.

  3. Happiness is a warm puppy. This goes without saying, although some of the kids substituted cats, rabbits, etc…

  4. Happiness is an “A” on your spelling test. Everyone knows the feeling of a good grade!

  5. Happiness is three friends in a sandbox…with no fighting. A personal one for me again…no one likes sand in their eyes or having a big bucket of sand dumped on their head.

  6. Happiness is getting together with your friends. Goes without saying!

  7. Happiness is lots of candles. Well, if your older, I say the reverse would be true. A good time to laugh about age perspective!

  8. Happiness is being able to reach the doorknob. Thinking about things that we are able to accomplish as we grow, and a funny side note by me…this morning, after having lived in our house now for five years, my son was in the mud room and looked up at a wall hanging and noted “Wow, we have a mirror in here!” Now I am not sure if that is because he has finally grown tall enough to see the mirror, or did he honestly just realize it was there!

  9. Happiness is knowing all the answers. Well no one knows all the answers and it would be pretty boring if you did.

  10. Happiness is a night light. Once again, happy childhood memories-even for those who still like the night light…or the blankie…or the thumb.

  11. Happiness is walking in the grass in your bare feet. Sensory happiness…thoughts of lush green grass, brown crunchy grass…the smell of grass….the colors…the wind  in the grass…tall grass…short grass..

  12. Happiness is one thing to one person and another thing to another person. THE ULTIMATE TRUTH AND RESPECT FOR YOURSELF AND ALL THOSE AROUND YOU!

IMG_2771

We ended the class with a Loving-Kindness meditation (also called a Metta meditation). The first phase of the Loving-Kindness meditation, is to focus attention on yourself because as I mentioned earlier, you need to love yourself first and foremost. I used the “All Is Well” card from the “Yoga Pretzels (Yoga Cards) by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish. I instructed the kids to relax back, close their eyes and go inside. Lying down, we first focus our attention on our breath coming in and then out of our bodies. Notice the cool breath in and the warm breath out. Notice the filing up of the body with air, like a balloon, on the breath in and the deflating, softening on the breath out. Notice the energy in, notice the energy out. It is so important to first sit with yourself, to notice yourself, before beginning a meditation You need to know where you are, to allow yourself to just be. Asking them to hear my what I say and to allow these words to wash over them, to say them softly back in their heads, to allow the feeling that All Is Well to be.

May I be safe and loved.

May I be happy and healthy.

May I be kind and caring.

May I know that all is well.

After allowing these words to sink in, directing loving-kindness to yourself, we then bring to mind someone from our Ten People/Animals Who I Love List. And then repeat these phrases of Loving-Kindness directing them to this person/animal.

As we continued on we added in more loved ones into our thoughts, the whole school community, the whole community of Framingham, the world….

I presented the same class to my next group of students, the special ability class, but adapted it to fit their needs. As in the first class, I talked about Love and Happiness to get the class going, but I used it as a lead into to our checking in for our daily feelings. I explained that love is a feeling, just like happiness, anger, sadness, glee. I also explained how important is was to love ourselves and to accept ourselves and I then had everyone wrap their arms around themselves, give themselves a big hug, all the while I saying phrases, such as, “I love you!” “You are awesome!” “You deserve a great big hug, so I am going to give it to you!”

We followed with our breathing sticks and then our “I Am Happy, I Am Good” meditation. I love the flow of these exercises with the kids. The mediation is truly one of my favorite and so well received activities. Everyone does it, everyone gets into it…it is so special!

After our series of yoga poses…where I also kept adding in the feeling of love and happiness, we moved onto the reading of “Happiness Is A Warm Puppy”. This was so well received! These kids also opened up and shared stories and feelings. It was so beautiful. What I really enjoyed was how much the aides joined in to. It was a really nice day of community in the class. Lots of shared laughs and feelings of love and happiness really permeated the room.

Our final relaxation was a simple Metta meditation where I read the phrases form the card just having them think of themselves and everyone in the room (and the few students who were missing where definitely brought into the present when Julia-a girl who needs assistive technology to verbally communicate-kept repeating Dynasty’s name-her best friend who was not there that day..it made everyone smile and feel warm and snugly!).

What a day! I’m lovin’ it!

Savaaaahhhhsana

Savaaaahhhhsana

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Author: alwaysbedancing

Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement: Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body). I am committed to inclusion. I bring inclusion to school communities, fitness professionals, Pt's/OT's, yoga studios and every(body) in between through classes, workshops, professional development seminars, public speaking, and guest blogging. I can create a program specific to your needs.

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