Always Be Dancing

The Art of Movement for Every/body & Mindful Book Reviews By Eve


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Mindful Book reviews By Eve: October Picture Books from Candlewick Press

A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett Art by Shawn Harris

This is a simply beautiful book. I adore the eye-catching torn-paper illustrations and the white-on-white, with bursts of oceanic blue, of the images inviting us into the depths of the life of a polar bear. The accompanying narration compels us to follow the bear across the frozen tundra and into the deep blue sea, leaving much space for wonder and creative thought. The text and illustrations work perfectly together in this picture book about a loveable polar bear and each question is answered by a beautifully accompanying illustration that is so soothing and interesting. This is an early book about science and animals that will fascinate the youngest child. 

In The Half Room by Carson Ellis

Illumination is at the heart of this story and how a moon lights a room and at times how everything seems to only be a series of halves. It is quirky and at the first pass through might seem “disconnected” but by allowing the imagination to fill in the dark spots, we can see the mystery revealed. A child, who does not know the phases of the moon, might not understand why they only see half a moon, half a table or half a cat so they will explore this option with glee and curtiosity. It is very crafty and is a book about halves and wholes that allows the imagination to explore what the eyes are seeing. The surreal artwork lends a touch of fantasy to the story and brings to mind some of the great surreal art by the likes of Dali, Picasso and Arp. This is a slyly sophisticated book, take a look! 

Julián At The Wedding by Jessica Love

Jessica Love is back with another endearing tale of love, acceptance and joie de vivre. The art is dreamy and utterly charming. I love Julián’s purple suit with the skirted back and even the way “typical” roles are reversed. Here we see the sympathetic boy coming to the rescue of a girl who just likes to get dirty. Julián’s grandma is all in this time. There is nothing but a pure example of letting everyone be happy with their own self-expression. This book is a testament to love, friendship, acceptance and self-identity offering even a young child into a world where everyone is loved and has a place.  

Rain Before rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls Art by David Litchfield

This book is breathtaking with every beautifully written word and accompanying illustration. This is a story of hope, personal growth and intention; the real sense that life can get better propels it forward. Each page is filled with richly colored fantastical scenes that will keep you mesmerized while the perfectly-paced story shimmers with promise and resilience. The little girl along with her trusty fox companion embark on a journey which parallels life’s ups and downs, yet offers a sense of hope that there is a beautiful rainbow just around the corner. I absolutely adore this book. It is a ray of sunshine for anyone stuck out in the rain.

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer Art by Cindy Derby

This story is profound. I cannot even imagine having to share this  book with a child who has lost a mother-it is heartbreaking-I had tears in my eyes as I read it. This book does a fantastic job of creating a safe place for a child to mourn. Questions are asked and pondered, pain is held in a safe container and the quietly thoughtful text pairs perfectly with the expressive illustrations. This heavy topic is presented in a loving way by using a non-threatening sentient being that is able to envelope the child’s sadness in its large furry arms and is able to answer the most unanswerable questions from deep in its heart. A tear-jerker but one of the most loving books out there on this topic.


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Mindful Book reviews By Eve: Thank You, Crow by Michael Minkovitz

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Thank You, Crow by Michael Minkovitz; Illustrated by Jose D. Medina

I love the sweet green child and the doe-eyed crow. They make a beautiful couple creating art together. The child is kind-hearted and helps the hurt crow, who in turn brings joy and wonderment to the boy. This is a creative page turner that will elicit many giggles and ooh’s and aah’s.

Thank you to Penny Candy Books for sending me this book as part of a giveaway. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Gilly the Giraffe Self Esteem Activity Book by Dr. Karen Treisman

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Gilly the Giraffe Self Esteem Activity Book: A Therapeutic Story With Creative Activities to Help Children Aged 5-10 by Dr. Karen Treisman

This book puts the B in Brave! Such a useful and accessible book. Just reading the book is inspiring and has helped me to focus on how I can facilitate a positive learning environment for the students and the teachers by incorporating the story and ideas into my in-school yoga classes. The story is one that flows well by adding yoga poses, breathing activities and short meditations and the added applied practices offer many useful ways of building self-esteem activities into the classroom.

Dr. Treisman brings another part of the world to many readers-with new words and ways. This is a great book about diversity. It is colorful, eye-opening and totally relateable. The story promotes creative problem solving, by offering a view from another angle. It is like a game of Statues, where one person sets themselves up as a statue; the next person walks around, looking at the shape from different angles, and then fits themselves into the structure, which is a fun way of promoting this way of thinking.

I highly recommend incorporating these activities throughout the day. Practicing increases personal growth and strength.

Anther great book by Dr. Triesman is Presley Pug, check out my review here.

Thank you to JK Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. All onions expressed are my own.


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Halloween Picture Books from Candlewick Press

Where’s The Witch? Ingela P. Arrhenius

This is a very sweet, fun baby’s first activity book. It’s a guessing game with fun textural flaps and great introductory words about everyone’s favorite holiday…Halloween. The illustrations are adorable and are created with a bright, pleasing color palette. The “surprise” mirror at the end is crystal clear and the viewer’s image is well reflected-which I think is VERY important. Cuteness abounds!

Pick A Pumpkin by Patricia Toht; Ill. Jarvis

Really fun, quirky rhymes carry the reader from pumpkin patch to Jack O’ Lantern. Pick A Pumpkin offers the true nitty-gritty of the whole pumpkin carving process alongside a loving ode to the beauty and wonderfulness of family fall-time traditions. The adorable wide eyed children are presented in a gorgeous varied fall inspired palette and I love the multi-layering effects. A great book to read aloud as the rhyming just rolls of your tongue and

I highly recommend it and cannot wait to share it with my granddaughter!

Hide and Seek by Katie May Green

This book’s old world appeal is so charming and sets the mood perfectly for this fun and not too scary romp into the night for a game of hide and seek. The lavender-eyed beauties slip out of their picture frames one night and out into the garden for a night of fun and giggle inducing shenanigans. Each page offers the reader a chance to look for the twins and I love the onomatopoeia of the rain storm that sends them all scurrying back inside. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and with simple dark scratchy lines create a pleasant nighttime feel to this wonderful addition too the Halloween book tradition.

I highly recommend it and cannot wait to share it with my granddaughter!

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me these books. All opinions expressed are my own.

For more information about Accessible Yoga & Flamenco, please visit alwaysbedancing dot com

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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Pop-Up Shakespeare by The Reduced Shakespeare Company: Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor

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I love pop up books especially ones that take a heavy topic and break it down into little bites, making so it is much easier to ingest. Here we have the complete works of Shakespeare laid out on five double-page spreads that include pop-ups and flaps with in the pages that also pop-up. This work of non-fiction gives a great overview of Shakespeare through carefully laid out sections about his life and his works: comedies, histories, romances and tragedies. This would be a perfect book for a living art museum project! I love the plethora of details and how each flap is full of fascinating information and often hilarious recaps. I enjoyed learning about Shakespeare-about the person he was and insight into his writing and his influences that are still felt to this day especially about things you might not have known such how much influence Shakespeare has had on current English language!

The pop-ups by illustrator Jennie Maizels are wonderfully detailed and charming. Each flap and pop-up is carefully laid out to give the reader a sense of wholeness, kind of like theater in the round (another tie in to Shakespeare!).

I somehow got through school without ever having to read Shakespeare  and this was a totally fun catch up on all his greatness that I missed out on. Peaked my interest totally.

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me this book. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Mindful Book Reviews by Eve: You Are Light by Aaron Becker

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This book is simply delightful. From the very first turn of the page, which casts a gorgeous mandala shadow onto my hand, I was drawn into its sturdy die-cut frame and stained-glass creativeness. The poetic prose match perfectly with the play of translucent-jewel toned inserts that radiate around a bright yellow sun, together illuminating the story of the sun’s effect on the water cycle while at the same time reflecting the story back onto the reader. You cannot but hold it up to the light at each turn! It’s truly mesmerizing and joy-inducing. This book is very clever and artfully profound. It will certainly delight young children but it has a wider outreach due to its unique and beautiful presentation of both spirituality and natural scientific facts.

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This book is an absolute exuberant celebration of life. With few words, it reminds us to be mindful of our consumption, of our relationship to mother earth and of our connection to every living thing. It is truly an awakening. This book is the full package: creative concept, engaging story; good for young and old…and it is devotedly dedicated to STEAM. I love it!

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Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Brainy Day Yoga

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This week’s yoga classes are based on the brain, stress and Neuroplasticity. I love the word Neurosculptor (Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.). “Neuro”means “brain” and “sculptor” who is someone who “reshapes, carves, styles”…so as a Neurosculptor you are the sculptor of your own brain. The brain is amazing, that is for sure! We have the ability to sculpt our brains. With determination to learn and by practicing what we learn., we become more and more able to do things because our brains change with each new thing that we learn. 51fGFBSOapL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Determination (What a GREAT word!). I see this word as very active and internally driven. “What is the difference between confidence and determination?” I believe that, “Confidence can waiver because it seems more stagnant and momentary, where as determination is active and requires focus and effort, so it does not become stagnant.”

What is determination? It is bravery, courageousness, being energetic, persistent, driven, gutsy, purposeful and spunky! It is GROWTH. With determination, we can do hard things!

The more we can focus, plan and practice, the more efficient our brains work. We get smarter and smarter by learning new things and by practicing what we learn. Have the determination to persist even when it’s tough, because intelligence grows and expands. It, like the word determination, is not stagnant. Learning is like lifting weights for the brain-it is exercise, it helps you get stronger and feeling better. Also, do not be afraid to make mistakes as the old saying goes, “Learn from your mistakes”. Mistakes train your brain too! It is better to RISK being wrong as a new pathway will be created for more learning. Risk= Take a chance=Dare. You will be braver; more confident and in turn, more determined to keep on going. Stand on the edge of that diving board and go for it!!!

***I point out here, especially in reference to my work in the schools and working to get teachers involved in this mindful process; It is very important for adults, educators and parents to understand this, because by keeping this in the forefront of their professional practices or their parenting style, can remind them that when a student or their child is struggling, it is not because they cannot learn but because they need more practice and instructional support-maybe come at the situation from a different angle.

BRAIN HOUSE

Imagine your brain is a house. The people who live upstairs are your THINKERS: Planning Penelope, Problem Solving Peter, Peace Keeping Pari, Flexible Felicia, Kind Karl, Wise Wilma. The people who live downstairs are your FEELERS: Worried Willa, Nervous Nelly, Anxious Aisha, Easily Upset Eliot, Angry Alexander, Fearful Frieda, Sound-The-Alarm Stevie


When the two floors are working together messages can go up and down the stairs, between the two floors. Problems get solved, new challenges are met and a calm way of being is in effect. When you FLIP YOUR LID, the two floors are no longer connected and they can no longer work together for a solution, so the downstairs folks take over and there is a time of confusion, easy out bursts and no problem solving is accomplished.


To help with brain flexibility and strength, yoga constantly pushes the mind and body to be more open-minded and to want learn more. Yoga can help change the way the brain “thinks” by, over time, creating and strengthening new neurons and neural pathways to help get out of ruts and stuck old ways of thinking. Yoga boosts executive functioning and emotional resilience.

Studies looking at how the brain changes before and after meditation found that brain structures involved in awareness, attention and self-related thinking changed in structure and increased in volume. Plus, after eight weeks of meditation training, research found that the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory, developed more gray matter density.

 

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The Brain: Prefrontal Cortes, Hippocampus & Amygdala

THE BRAIN

The brain is the center of the Nervous System. The nervous system is the highway along which your brain sends and receives information about what is happening in the body and around it.

The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The brain lies protected inside the skull (originally 22 bones which fuse) and from there controls all the body functions by sending and receiving messages through nerves. It gets the messages from your senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching and moving. The messages travel from nerve cells all over the body. They travel along nerve fibers to nerve cells in the brain.

  1. The Prefrontal Cortex is at the very front of your brain, in the cerebral cortex. It is your Wise Old Owl. The decision maker: yes or no?; should I or shouldn’t I?; true or false? This area helps you with learning and focus. The best thing for this part of your brain is for you to remain calm in order to for you to be able to learn at your best.
  1. The Hippocampus, from the ancient Greek “Hippo” which means “horse” and then “kampus” which means “sea” (seahorse) because this area looks like a 2 seahorses side-by-side, one in the left side of the brain and the other in the right side, is buried deep inside the brain. This is your filing cabinet, that stores all your long-term memories.
  1. The Amygdala, which is basically attached to the end of the seahorse, is the center that controls your emotions, more specifically, your fears. This is your Security Guard, there to protect you. Here we see the Fight of Flight response initiated. Now, if you were a caveman and you came across a saber toothed tiger, you would need the ability to decide very quickly whether to stay and fight the beast, run away or freeze and become food. If you decided to stay, you would need to be the best warrior you could be and if you decided to run, then you would need to be the fastest runner. For this you would need your body to be working very efficiently so all your bodily and mental functions could help you out! This is stressful to you and your heart rate increases. You sweat, your muscles get ready to spring and your mind is focused on your one objective. But not everything needs to be experienced with such a stressful response and instead by activating the Relaxation Response (*see Herbert Benson), we can get through lesser stressors without them taking a toll on our body. Group discussion about big, medium, small problems and other ways we can solve things without getting stressed out.

Interesting facts about the human brain

  • Your brain has around 100 billion nerve cells
  • Your brain keeps on growing until you are about 20 years old. By then the brain has made lots of links which it no longer needs so it is able to shed any unwanted connections and still have billions of brain cells left to cope with whatever you may want to do. You can still make new connections even when you are 100 years old, so get Grandma going on the computer – she may not learn as fast as you but she can do it!
  • The front of the human brain is larger than any other animal’s, even the dinosaur’s!
  • The left side of your brain is usually better at problem solving, maths and writing.
  • The right side of the brain is creative and helps you to be good at art or music.
  • The brain stores all sorts of things in the memory including facts and figures and all the smells, tastes and things you have seen, heard or touched.
  • Your brain can also find things that you have remembered.
  • The adult brain weighs about 3lbs.

Looking after your brain

Your brain is protected inside your skull and is cushioned by cerebral-spinal fluid but could still be damaged if your head is hit or bumps into something hard.

  • Always wear a helmet if you are riding a bike, scooter or skate board.
  • Always wear a helmet for sports where you could be hit or fall, eg baseball, horse-riding, skiing & snowboarding .
  • Never dive into water unless you know how deep it is. (Your brain should let you know that this is not a smart thing to do.)
  • Listen to that ‘voice’ inside you – you know what I mean, the one that says ‘This is not a good idea!’

Apart from making sure that you don’t injure your brain, you can also make sure that you help your brain by:

  • Eating healthy food like fresh fruit and vegetables, drinking milk and not eating too much junk food.
  • Exercising your brain by learning new things and trying to remember them.
  • Getting plenty of sleep.

5-5-5 Breathing to Calm Down

One part of our nervous system gives us more energy when we need it. This part is called the sympathetic nervous system. Another part helps calm us down when we are too excited. This part is called the parasympathetic nervous system. When you get upset, nervous, or anxious, we can trigger our parasympathetic nervous system to calm us down.

Follow these steps.

  1. Inhale very slowly through your nose for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5.
  2. Exhale very slowly through your nose or mouth for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5.
  3. Suspend breath and pump belly 5 times: 1-2-3-4-5.
  4. Repeat the process 3-5 more times
  5. Notice how you feel. (Hopefully you will feel calmer.)

This is an AWESOME breath for an overall sense of calm and inner focus.

In Kundalini yoga, kriyas are sets of postures, movements or breath patterns which, when all performed as a sequence, lead mind and body to a specific desired outcome, such as eliminating stress in the body. Each standalone movement within the kriya will change how you feel, but by practicing the full set, we will physically change our entire body.

Self-care is vitally important. Taking care of yourself needs to be your number one focus. The less stressed you are the happier, healthier and more wholly well you will be and there fore will be more able to give of yourself to work, family, friends and life in general. How can you add some stress-relief into your daily routine? You need to put your air mask on first before you can be of service to others.

Kundalini Kriya for Stress-Relief

The following Kundalini kriya is specifically designed for self-care with an emphasis on relieving stress.

Step 1:
Listen to Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo while breathing. This chant awakens our inner teacher and wisdom. It sets us up to focus in on ourselves & devote this time to our inner well-being. *I am not a certified Kundalini teacher nor am I a Sikh, but I am 100% enamored with the art and science of kundalini. My goal is to bring this powerful tool into the world through non-sectarian means.
Step 2:
Begin standing and wrap your arms around yourself so you are hugging your lower ribs as tight as you can. Begin extending alternate legs forward, and as you build momentum, make each extension a little jump. This lifts the heart rate, shakes out any tension in the legs, ankles and feet, and loosens up the hips. 3-5 minutes.
Step 3:
This exercise is the same as step 2, but now we add a forward bend to touch the toes after each leg kick (kick/kick/bend) and lift back up to continue. Keep the legs as straight as possible to stretch out the hamstrings. This is also beneficial for balancing the upper and lower chakras, as well as the central meridian line. 2 minutes.
Step 4:
Come into rock pose. Clasp the hands together and rest them on the top of your head. Keeping the spine upright, begin to draw circles with the torso. This releases toxins from our cells (which is important because cell toxins often constrict blood flow). 1 minute.
Step 5:
Still kneeling, place your palms on the cheeks with the Venus Mound of the thumb pushing up under the cheekbones. Apply enough pressure to distort the face and make speaking difficult. Purse the lips and ‘drink’ your inhale in (as though slurping a long drink). Exhale powerfully through the nose. 2 minutes.
Step 6:
Sit in a comfortable easy pose (cross legged) and continue the same breathing pattern from step 5. Bringing your hands to the knees, allow your torso to bend towards one side, then come back through center and bend towards the other side. Inhale one side – exhale the other. Try to bend as deeply as possible. 2 minutes.
Step 7:
Relax on your back, arms at your side, palms facing up. Relax & drift off to sleep 11 minutes.

Self-Care Breathing Kriya: helps to reduce stress quickly and effectively

  • Sit comfortably in a meditation pose (either in a chair with feet flat on the floor, or crossed legged on the floor). Ensure your spine is straight and the crown of your head is reaching skyward.
  • Open the mouth and form a small circle – slightly bigger than if you were about to whistle.
  • Place left hand over your heart center, then right hand on top of left.
  • Close your eyes and breathe a steady, powerful inhale and exhale through the mouth (this is known as Cannon Breath), while focusing your awareness on the area under your palms.
  • Continue for 5 minutes.
  • To end, inhale and suspend the breath.
  • Relax the mouth and mentally repeat “I am beautiful, I am innocent, I am innocent, I am beautiful.”***
  • Exhale through the nose.
  • Repeat this breath suspension and affirming mantra 5 times.

Self-care is so vitally important to all of us. Think about how you could achieve a higher level of self-care in your daily routine to reduce your stress. Remember – the most important person in your life is YOU. If you aren’t ok, then how can you be ok for your friends, family, work and all the other wonderfulness in your life?!

***Beautiful:

  • dazzling
  • delightful
  • fascinating
  • gorgeous
  • lovely
  • superb
  • wonderfulness
  • radiant
  • foxy

***Innocent:

  • good
  • honest
  • authentic
  • fresh
  • well-intentioned
  • trustworthy
  • true
  • valuable
  • whole


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Around The World In 80 Puzzles by Aleksandra Artymowska

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What a fun book! This book is beautifully designed and each 2-page layout is gorgeously detailed with intricate puzzles and labyrinths that are full of ships in glass bottles, hot air balloons and a host of interlocking pipes, strings and vines that seem endless. This book will surely provide hours of engagement and can entertain and fascinate kids through adults. This is a very creative book!

This book would make a perfect gift for the holidays and every day. I absolutely love the sweet illustrations and the fun and challenging puzzles.

¡Olé Namaste! Eve Costarelli

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this book.

For more information about my accessible mindfulness/yoga/dance program, please visit alwaysbedancing dot com.


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: City by Ingela P. Arrhenius

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This book is not only coffee table worthy, it could actually be a coffee table-just add legs! I love everything about this giant-sized, hardcover picture book that is full of awesome, fun illustrations accompanied by big, bold words in varied, unique fonts. Each poster-sized page is full of delightful city attractions, richly detailed with endearing characters. This is a truly whimsical celebration of city life that will be poured over for hours-and-hours.

This book would make a perfect gift for the holidays (Can’t deny the super “wow factor” of its size) and for every day. I absolutely love the gorgeous illustrations and fancy fonts!

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¡Olé Namaste! Eve Costarelli

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this book.

For more information about my accessible mindfulness/yoga/dance program, please visit alwaysbedancing dot com.


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Mindful Book reviews By Eve: A World Of Cities by James Brown

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This awesome kids book is a perfect coffee table book but it is not just for kids! This nonfiction picture book  would be appealing to children and adults alike! The gorgeous muted color palette evokes an era gone-by and reminds me of the “This Is…” books by Miroslav Sasek, which were some of my favorite to pour over as a child. The 2-page layout for each city are depicted in architecturally imagined digital illustrations that look like silk screened travel posters and are filled with a plethora of interesting trivia and facts. The illustrations are just gorgeous!

This book would make a wonderful gift for the holidays and for every day. I absolutely love the quotes, historical notes and interesting trivia. Before you travel anywhere, check out this book!

¡Olé Namaste! Eve Costarelli

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

For more information about my accessible mindfulness/yoga/dance program, please visit alwaysbedancing dot com.