Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body


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Mindful Book Reviews by Eve: Late summer reviews of books from Singing Dragon & Jessica Kingsley Publishers

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Robin And The White Rabbit: A story to help children with Autism to talk about their feelings and join in by Emma Lindström & Åse Brunström; Illustrated by Emma Lindström

This is a very engaging book for children, parents and teachers to help children with Autism to communicate their feelings more clearly and to enable them to fit in more comfortably with their peers. To accompany the text, there are some great illustrated effects. One of my favorites, is the clear bubble that Robin is inside, given a pictorial depiction of alone-ness and separation. The illustrations, which are a cross between realism and cartoon, are sweet and I do like how the main character, Robin, is quite androgynous and therefor quite gender-less, making the book very open minded and inclusive. To bring Robin out of confusion and distress, the kind white rabbit

offers a non-threatening and simple visual system that can be used to help express feelings. This is beneficial for many children on the spectrum, as they find picture cards an accessible way to describe their feelings. These pictures offer them choices which can always be rearranged to allow for change.

This book is an excellent resource for families and schools. I highly recommend it, not only for children on the spectrum, but also as a tool for opening up the dialogue with young children on how to be more aware of other peoples needs and how there is not just one way to learn something.

The Red Beast: Controlling Anger in Children with Asperger’s Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani; Illustrations by Haitham Al-Ghani

Through clear text and captivating illustrations, this book shows you what it is like to blow your top and then how to notice the anger and how to shrink it. The text melds beautifully with the illustrations and you get pulled right into the full expression of rage. The illustrations are great! I love the colored pencil/crayon scratch effect and the red that is chosen is a deep, satisfying hue, which give a perfect visual representation of anger. A take away from this book is definitely the overall feeling of compassion and acceptance.

I highly recommend this book. We all get angry sometime and this is a book is a great one to have in your toolkit for anger management strategist. At the back of the book, there are listed even more useful strategies.

Frog’s Breathtaking Speech: How children (and frogs) can use yoga breathing to deal with anxiety, anger and tension by Michael Chissick; Illustrations by Sarah Peacock

This book is a great introduction to stress relief for pre-schoolers and elementary aged children and is so usable by both non-practitioners and yoga teachers alike. It can be easily integrated into the classroom for some self-esteem enhancement and mindfulness. This book uses adorable watercolor and ink illustrations to increase children’s awareness of their own breath and affects of stress on their bodies, minds and energy and clearly instructs on accessible breathing strategies for all children. A nice bonus is that at the back of the book, there are illustrations for the yoga postures that accompany the breath-work.

I highly recommend this, one of the many awesome books by the dynamic duo of author, Michael Chissick, and illustrator, Sarah Peacock. Together they have filled a void in yoga and mindfulness for children with their picture books that clearly present techniques to reduce stress and increase peace of mind.

Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation: How children (and frogs, dogs, flamingos and dragons) can use yoga relaxation to help deal with stress, grief, bullying and lack of confidence by Michael Chissick; Illustrations by Sarah Peacock

This book is made to use in school, offering a successful relaxation technique that is simple, fun and easy to learn and can be administered by yoga teachers and non- practitioners alike.. It can be learned by everyone and once learned can be used anywhere at anytime when relaxation is needed. The bottom line is, it works!

Ladybird is an adorable, unassuming character who literally jumps off the pages of the book and onto various body parts of the body to add physical sensation and focus to a body scan mediation. At the back of the book, there are clear instructions on how to teach the Ladybird Relaxation and the actual Ladybird Relaxation Script.

I highly recommend this, one of the many awesome books by the dynamic duo of author, Michael Chissick, and illustrator, Sarah Peacock. Together they have filled a void in yoga and mindfulness for children with their picture books that clearly present techniques to reduce stress and increase peace of mind.

Thank you to Jessica Kingsley Publishing for sending me a copy of these books. All opinions are my own.

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My Top 20 Books About and For Kids Yoga

Below are listed my top 20 books that I have found most useful in my youth yoga teaching career. Some are for kids; some are for grownups and teachers; all are filled with useful knowledge and tried and true activities.

  1. 100 Yoga Activities for Children by Shobana R. Vinay
  2. Angry Octopus Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm: A Self-Help Kid’s Coloring Book for Overcoming Anxiety, Anger, Worry, and Stress By Lori Lite
  3. Be Good To Your Body: Learning Yoga (Dover Children Activity Book) by Roz Fulcher
  4. Breathe Yoga For Teens by Mary Kaye Chryssicas
  5. Classroom Yoga Breaks by Louise Goldberg
  6. Creative Yoga Games for Children (Volumes 1 & 2) by Edna Reinhardt
  7. Creative Yoga Practice For Children by Yael Calhoun
  8. Fly Like A Butterfly by Shakta Kaur Khalsa
  9. Go Yogi! By Emma Hughes
  10. I Love Yoga! By Mary Kaye Chryssicas
  11. Little Gurus: A Yoga Discovery Book by Illustration Olaf Hajek
  12. My Daddy Is A Pretzel by Baron Baptise
  13. Storytime Yoga: The Treasure in Your Heart – Stories and Yoga for Peaceful Children by Sydney Solis
  14. Yoga Book Of Feelings by Mary Humphrey
  15. Yoga Calm Educating Heart, Mind and Body by Lynea & James Gillen
  16. Yoga For Children by Mary Stewart
  17. Yoga Kids by Marsha Wenig
  18. Yoga Planet Cards by Tara Gruber
  19. Yoga Pretzel Cards by Tara Gruber
  20. Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs by Louise Goldberg


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Book Reviews By Eve: Unclouded by Longing: Meditations on Autism and Being Present in an Overwhelming World by Christopher Goodchild

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Wood Carving by Amelia Robin Gloss (my mother)

Right off the bat, I was inspired by Christopher Goodchild, this talented author with Autism, who has so skillfully mastered the art of the written word. His writing is profound, flowing and self-reflective. It is within his own contemplation while holding silence that he arrives at his perspective and then is able to put this into beautifully written passages. The depths to which his contemplations take us allow us to explore and meditate on ourselves and through his writings we learn not only to listen but to hear what is in the silence. You do not have to read this book in one sitting-it is best savored.

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I was deeply moved by this book. It is powerful and direct. I highly recommend it as a companion to your contemplation practice. Additionally, the book is accompanied by beautiful black and white scratch art by illustrator Julie Lonneman. The two artist blend very well together. IMG_8531

Thank you to Jessica Kingsley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review by Eve: The ASD And Me Picture Book by Joel Shaul

IMG_8157 (1)Once again, Joe Shaul hits it out of the park with an accessible, user-friendly book for children on the Autism Spectrum. The book clearly explains, with easy-to-read cartoon/clip art-like illustrations, how we are all different yet all the same and shows how we can quantitatively assess these things thereby gaining insight about ourselves and the world around us paving the way for self- reflection and improved self control.

I love the outlined head-shapes with the visual depictions of thoughts actions and ideas. This makes it so clear and simple. It really helps to delineate differences and similarities so that we can see that we are similar to each other not only by our similarities but also by our differences; we are similar because we are different and by becoming aware of this we will be able to blend all varied modalities together seamlessly, into a world that truly allows everyone their own growth path. This book is great for kids with ASD but it is also great for everyone else to appreciate and learn from. Its especially good for visual learners.

I highly recommend. It is a great tool!

How will I use this book:

As you can see, I was inspired to make visuals of my own thoughts on the sticky notes attached to the book in the heading photo. Inside my head, I have ideas to make accessible flamenco as a way to discover ones true nature. It makes it very clear what I am thinking about and what makes me, me. These are things that I am good at, I feel confident about and I am passionate about expressing within this creative form.

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Full Disclosure: Jessica Kingsely Publishing sent me this book. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review by Eve: All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann Jessica

 

IMG_7319The author, Kathy Hoopmann, has found a great vehicle in using photographs of the expressive faces of birds in partner with a short phrase describing the very real and very serious subject of anxiety. The fabulous photographs bring the words to life. Each description of a level of anxiety allows the reader to empathize with and feel compassion for the very stressed out “birds”. This is totally relatable to ones own perceptions of and connections to anxiety but it also gives insight into the world and people around us. The book presents many varied aspects of anxiety and how they negatively effect us physically, mentally and emotionally. After taking the reader through these very descriptive definitions of anxiety and it’s out-reach (or in-reach, as it were), I so appreciated the feeling of lightness and a belief that their can be relief from the pain and stress anxiety causes that was evident at the end of the book. The book offers various coping skills to allow a person to really hear what their inner self is saying and how to bring themselves out of fear such as learning to trust oneself, being brave, and taking action such as eating well, exercising, doing yoga, snuggling pets and caring for themselves and others (human, animal or plant); all of these leading to the initiation of the relaxation response to counteract the negative effects of the continual firing of the fight or flight response. And thereby, releasing a person from the grips of anxiety and arriving at a calmer place.

I recommend this book with its straight-forward prose and the beautiful and often comical photographs, to both children and adults. It is an extremely accessible tool for those who are experiencing anxiety. It should be available in schools, doctors offices, libraries and anywhere else people might find a little relief from their anxiety.

Full Disclosure: Kingsley Publishers (London & Philadelphia) sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Mindful Teachings by Eve: How I will use this book:

A certain amount of stress is normal but an over production can lead to an anxiety disorder which can wreck havoc on a child physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. Yoga is an accessible, adaptive and inclusive method to decrease anxiety and bring about a better state of mind and a stronger connection to oneself.

Yoga for anxious children creates opportunities for them to:

  • Build self-esteem and confidence in a relaxed atmosphere while they improve their balance, coordination and proprioception.
  • Practice independence in a safe, non-judgmental environment
  • Experience a sense of community
  • Learn how to focus on and use their breathing effectively (which has a direct effect on their vagus nerve and the multiple benefits of a fit vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves (nerves in the brain). The word “vagus” means “wanders” and this nerve wanders all the way from the brain through the neck and into the abdomen. The vagus nerve is literally the captain of your inner nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system, to be specific, which controls the relaxation response as a counteraction to the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. This “captain”. When well tines, will do a great job of navigating functions and impulses of the body.)
  • Practice calming techniques such as visualization, meditation and physical movement.

In general, poses that bend forward are calming and poses and backward bending poses are uplifting. A forward bending pose has a long exhale (to calm) and a back-bend has a deeper inhale, to invigorate. If you are feeling depressed, do not practice too many forward folding poses as they will increase your feelings of melancholy, but a few can certainly make you feel safe, secure and quiet. Back-bending poses are great to amp-up energy, open the heart and to increase joy.

  1. Yoga To Settle In and Calm Down (not necessarily feeling anxious):
  • Belly Breath
  • Twist
  • 30 seconds to 1 minute of stillness in body, mind and energy
  • ADD: Tree Pose
  • ADD: Challenge: Tree to Dancer to Tree
  • ADD Challenge: Partner Tree/Partner Dancer
  • (FINAL POSE): 1-minute Exploration
  1. Yoga To Energize (suggested use,after lunch):
  • Trunk Breath
  • Mt-Up Mt-Chair-Skier-Rock-Hang-Roll-up
  • Balance poses
  • Real or imaginary “Blow-A-Pinwheel” breath
  • Mini Back Bends (energizing, invigorating, opening and warming)
  • Warrior I-II-III sequence (add in awakening affirmations)
  • Shake it out/Tap it out
  • 1-minute Exploration
  1. Yoga for an upset or anxious student:
  • Belly Breath

  • Child’s Pose (either on floor, standing, in chair or at desk)

  • Possibly lay on belly, if that is available.

  • Imaginary or Real “Blow-A-Pinwheel” breath

  • Forward bends (calming, cooling, exhale poses)

  • Back Drawing

  • 1-Minute Exploration

 


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Book Review: Disruptive Stubborn Out Of Control by Bo Hejlskov Elvén

IMG_6706I was pleased to get a copy of this book. It seems ground breaking in its vision of dealing with disruptive classroom behavior as it does not blame the disruptive students as acting out on purpose, but instead the resounding message of the book is, kids will behave, if they can. To me, that is a refreshing perspective as it seems in most cases that students are punished for their inability to act appropriately even when it seems that a reward option is being exercised. This is the case for sticker charts etc. We think these are systems of reward but they are quite insidious and are actually just as likely to be a system of punishment. We think that if we force the children through behavior modification to behave appropriately and that we will see a change in their negative behavior but this is only true up until the point that they cannot behave appropriately. This book does a great job showing examples of behavior, explaining through simple charts the sequence of events, and offers action plans. But most of all, it makes the adults, the teachers, the ones responsible for changing the outcome of negative behavior. It may seem an insurmountable task, along with all of the other teaching duties, but in the long run, taking action and responsibility will lead to a stronger sense of community in the classroom and pave the way for a more fluid learning environment for everyone. The back of the book offers insights for personal reelection and a large section of further reading on the subject.

I highly recommend this book as an alternative viewpoint from the norm. It will empower you to take work through and discover a new way of taking charge in your classroom.

How I will use this book:

I too encounter negative behaviors in my yoga classes. By this I mean children who cannot sit quietly and are disruptive and out of control. I want to help these kids so much as I know it must be very difficulty for their classroom teachers and their families to deal with their continued “lit” behaviors. I have a number of such students in the after-school program I teach at that is in a housing development. I am not sure how these kids teachers actually reach them? How do they learn if they cannot shut down and listen? I have starting working separately with each of these students, for just a few minutes each before my yoga classes begin. I know their “negative” behavior is not on purpose; the just lack self control. So how to help them learn self control? How to take control of their “Me-Me” outbursts? One I idea I had was to create a social story, to show them how their behavior negatively impacts the other students. I spent about 5 minutes talking through the cartoon. I let them know they were not in trouble and I asked if they knew how much noise they made during class (they did not). I made a secret symbol up for them (crossing my fingers at my lips) to let them know tat their “Me-Me” talking had got too loud and disruptive. During class, I used this symbol, but I also called attention to them when they “went there” not by saying “shhhhh” but calling their name, getting them to “see me” and saying they were too loud. This coming week, I am going to have one of my assistants keep track for me how many times they are disruptive during class so that I can actually show them data of their disruptions. Well day one went very well. I did not let their behavior distract me from teaching but I kept a tight hold on it. At then end of class, these two boys (plus one more who I will be adding into this program) came up to me at the end of class and gave me big hugs. I never expected this and I was totally enveloped by them. It was a glorious feeling of connection!

Full disclosure: Jessica Kingsley Publishers sent me a copy of this book. All onions are my own.


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Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

(Included at the end is a classroom/home assignment: How to make a Happiness Collector)

Funded by both Dance In the Schools and Friends of Baldwin, I am thrilled to be back for my sixth year at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School, Cambridge, MA, teaching my own Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement program with their amazing second grade classrooms. This year, they have three second-grade classrooms and I am able to see each group 5 times. Having this opportunity to grow each year with the students and staff is priceless. Also, I love seeing the past participants who are now in third, fourth or fifth grade. Whenever they see me, they jump into tree pose or even strike a flamenco pose (as I also integrate my program with flamenco). This school has great community spirit and I love the diversity and how it is celebrated.

Good Behavior In Yoga:

Good Behavior In Yoga Class:

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I deliver the rules verbally, also pointing out that they can read along that there is a picture for each rule that shows what I am asking them to do. That way there are many ways to help them remember the rules.

  1. I stay on my mat. This is so each child has personal space. We take a moment to look at our mats, the size, the color… I asked them to think of a color that makes them feel happy. Holding an imaginary Hula Hoop, we then cover our whole mat, including ourselves, with a bubble of this color. Inside our bubble we feel happy, good and safe.

  2. I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given

  3. I watch what my yoga teacher is doing. I remind them that I will most likely being doing what I am asking them to do, so if they watch me, they will always know what is being asked of them.

  4. I try my best to do each yoga activity. Yoga is about trying, noticing, feeling. Just give things a try and if you need help…

  5. If I need help, I can ask my yoga teacher. If one child needs an adaptation of an activity, we all do it. Its just something else to try!

  6. If I need a break, I can take Child’s Pose or I can sit quietly on my mat. OK…a big one. I stop everything here and I go through and teach what I call the “three resting poses” First, I teach Child’s Pose, have everyone take a breath or two to feel this pose in their bodies. Then we roll forward onto our bellies, for Crocodile Pose, everyone needs belly-time! Once again a few breaths to feel the pose. Then we flip over onto our backs, and I teach Gingerbread Man Cookie Pose. This is the traditional savasana pose. Take our breaths. When we all sit back up, I ask them to think about which pose was the most restful for them because I will ask them later during class to do that pose.

  7. I use a quiet voice. Enough said!

  8. I keep my hands to myself. (OK this one should really be up by “staying on your mat” That will be on the updated poster!) Here I bring back the color bubble. Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pop anyone’s bubble….img_6145

After the rules (I only do this one time but I bring the board each week as a reminder, classes started with belly breathing. A great way to begin! I am a strong believer of breathing in and out through the nose, as an exhale with the mouth actually feels like a balloon that is losing air too fast (insert “balloon deflating too rapidly” sound here….FFFRRRAAPFT). I encourage breathing in through the nose, as if you are smelling a lovely flower and then letting the air gently leave through the nose on the exhale. It is more calming this way. Of course, there are two exceptions. If you have a cold/allergy or if you feel nervous and it makes you uncomfortable to breath that way.

One reason I bring yoga into classrooms is to help students and teachers that yoga is an accessible safe choice towards embodying self-control. Yoga is all about the self. Yoga is all about what it feels like inside your body. Only the individual knows what is feel like because no one else is inside another person’s being. The individual knows what is safe, what makes them feel good and how to calm themselves down. With increased self control, classrooms can flow more smoothly and teachers do not have to be noise/distraction monitors. For sure, yoga is not a cure-all, but it is one very accessible, adaptable and enjoyable tool for a person’s emotional intelligence tool kit.

Class begins with the ringing of the chime. Sometimes the best way to start class is form a relaxed and calm position to pave the way for better focused minds, bodies and energy. We inhale on the ring and allow the slow breath to release as we listen to the echo of the sound. Each child gets a turn. And with each chime, we focus our attention on the sound and on our breathing.

I will continue to use the bell as a way to bring back focus to the class. I want them to understand the difference between silent and noisy and stillness and movement. We all get a bit noisy, making silly sounds, talking, wiggling and then suddenly I ring the bell. The room quiets down. Of course, I made need to ring it again, but usually one ring is enough. Sometimes I play with the level intensity at which I ring the chime (loud vs soft), so they really have to be alert for its sound.

What is yoga?

Group 1

  • stretching

  • feeling relaxed

  • relaxing moves

  • movement

  • flexible

Group 2

  • calm down

  • stretching

  • getting flexible*

Group 3

  • relaxed & feeling good

  • stretch to become flexible

  • breathing to calm

  • de-stress

  • peaceful

  • floating

Each class came up with similar responses, but the one I really liked was “getting flexible”. I love how it implies an opportunity for growth, for change. Just what yoga is about!

Jumping right into a short sequence:

Cow/Cat (adding moos and meows)

Downward Facing Dog (with barks)

Cobra (with hisses)

Child’s Pose (giving hand options to help the children figure out what feels best for them: under the forehead, fist-on-fist or hands by feet, palms up)

Now asking the students if doing  that little bit of yoga make them feel calm/good/happy or like they were getting more flexible? I refer back to the word list they created and use them. I often throw in the question, “Is being able to touch your toes or do a backbend the only way to show that you are flexible? You might need to direct them away from more physical action descriptions for flexibility then someone can come up with alternative ways to be flexible (i.e. mind, energy)

One of my favorite yoga books and the one I have been using the longest is My Daddy Is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste. It is a great kicking off point for basic yoga poses.

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The kids think the title is hysterical and I immediately tell them to create their own version of a pretzel yoga pose: tie yourself up, twist and curl any which way.

What I have found is that the real focus of the book is in the varied types of jobs the children in the story say that their parents do each day. There is a gardener (tree), vet (downward facing dog), architect, (triangle), pilot (airplane), builder (bridge), farmer (plow), marine biologist (fish), works in Africa (lion), baker (pretzel). These jobs open up our ability to talk about what these job’s actually mean you do and kids either know or can piece together these answers by looking at the accompanying pictures. To make my teaching fully inclusive and to make sure I can make any adaptation necessary, I teach going into and out of poses my own way, so I do not use the accompanying pose descriptions. That way I can adapt and grow each pose organically with the group, rather than follow a set path. At the end, of course, we get to try another “make-your-own” pretzel pose. Lots of laughs and then I offer up the resting pose choice. We take a short resting moment.

One of my favorite moving meditations is “Yogini Went To Sea” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (for only $9.99 you can buy the album Happy through iTunes). Shakta is the first children’s yoga teacher I studied with and she taught me the invaluable lesson of allowing your self to grow with each experience and also, she recorded the only recorded yoga songs that I use in my classes! 

Classroom/Home Assignment: Create a Happiness Collector.

A Happiness Collector is a jar, bucket, basket or any other receptacle you choose where you put in small piece of paper that have on them written or drawn things that make you happy. These things can be anything that make you happy. They can be something that you did, that you saw or that you had done to you.

  1. Choose your Happiness Collector

  2. Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.

  3. Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.

  4. Put it into your Happiness Collector.

  5. Messages can be read whenever a bit of sunshine is needed, at the end of a week etc…

Children can be prompted with a phrase such as “I feel happy when I _________.

Thank you!

Ole! Namaste!