Always Be Dancing

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


Yoga Card Decks

One great tool I have found for my kids yoga classes is the number of fun and well made yoga cards. Each deck has a unique twist and the kids just love to use them.

1. Yoga Pretzels: 50 Fun Activities for Kids & Grownups by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish

2. Yoga Warrior Cards by Shakta Kaur Khalsa

3. The Kids’ Yoga Deck: 50 Poses and Games by Annie Buckley

4. Fun with Sun Yoga: Yoga Cards and Guidebook for Children’s Yoga by Dr. Jacqueline Koay

5. Yoga Planet Deck by Tara Guber, Leah Kalish, and Sophie Fatus

6. Yoga For Teens Card Deck by Mary Kaye Chryssicas

7. Yoga to the Rescue: Remedies for Real Girls (61 Card Deck) by Amy Luwis

8. Creative Yoga Games for Kids Volumes 1 & 2 by Yoga Education Resources

9. The ABCs of Yoga For Kids Learning Cards by Theresa Anne Power


Music To My Ears

At class yesterday, when I was telling the children that my family was moving out of town, one young girl looked at me and asked “Well who is going to be our yoga teacher then?”.

What a great opportunity I have to reach these kids. They have come into my program with trust and I have shown them how yoga and life just go together. On numerous occasions, my students have come to me and related how they had spent some time with one of their siblings, teaching them yoga. Makes my heart sing!

I know I am on the right path. My journey is so blessed.

Ole! Namaste!

PS: Don’t worry yogis and yoginis, I will not abandon you.


Yoga-Snack: Fairness/Decency

Today’s Yoga Snack: Fairness/Decency After some deep belly filling calming breaths, we talked about fairness and decency. What is fairness? It is an adjective that means “free from favoritism, self-interest, or preference in judgment. Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias; impartial: a fair mediator. Just to all parties; equitable:”. What is decency? It is a noun that means “the quality of being polite and respectable; reputability, respectability – honorableness by virtue of being respectable and having a good reputation”.

I had just received a note from an old family friend, who was reminiscing about his childhood summers often spent with my family. He had just learned that my mother had passed away at the beginning of March and he was reaching out to send some kind thoughts on her.

I quote “My fondest memories of her are from the summers I spent in your home in my early teenage years. She treated me like just another member of the family and through her example she showed me that being a kind and decent person was something to strive for.”

I too strive to be a kind, decent and fair person. I love to teach children and always treat them with respect for the wisdom they were born with, the wisdom they so desire to absorb and for the wise people they will become.

Ole Namaste!


Yoga Pretzel Cards

Today’s class was based on the Yoga Pretzel card deck by Tara Gruber. Since it was so beautiful outside today, we headed outdoors to the grassy knoll by the side of the school and set our mats up in a sun burst pattern. After a silent and still mediation, we did a short series of warm ups and then out came the Yoga Pretzel cards. In turn, each child looked though the cards and chose which pose they wanted to lead. We had a lot of fun and I took some great pictures, some of which are posted here.

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Kiss The Earth

Today although it rained I decided to lead the kids in a walking meditation. I know in the classroom where we have yoga, the teacher has placed a path of words on the floor so I decided I would use that for my walking path.

After some rich calming breaths, we lay on our backs and hugged our knees into our chests. Keeping the right leg to the chest, we extended our left leg up and then slowly brought it to the floor. I had the kids clasp their hands behind their right thigh and then straighten the right leg up. Some kids could grab a little higher and still some could actually grab hold of their big toe. We concentrated on keeping our backs on the floor and not rolling over (Supta Padangusthasana). We then brought both legs back to the chest and then repeated the exercise on the left side.

Cat and Cows.

Butterfly (baddha konasana), holding our big toes with our peace fingers and singing “Fly like a Butterfly”. Legs stretched wide open on our mats, we did a wide legged forward bend (Upavistha Konasana) and then a forward bend with one leg extended with a twist (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

Rising for Tadasana we clasped our hands behind our backs and bent foreword. Then rising again, we did standing side stretch (Parsva Tadasana)

Then a flow sequence:
Star Pose-to-Triangle (Trikonasana)-to-Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)-to- Intense Side Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana) -to-Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Lying back on the floor in constructive rest, we let our legs first fall to the right and then the left. Followed by Happy Baby.

Next came our walking meditation. I explained that regular breath and walking helped to calm the mind. I found a great description of how to do walking meditation written by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thich Nhat Hanh is an expatriate Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist) and I read them this passage,

“Walking meditation is a meditation while walking. We walk slowly, in a relaxed way. Keeping a light smile on our lips. When we practice this way, we feel deeply at ease and our steps are those of the most secure person on Earth. All our sorrows and anxieties drop away and peace and joy fill our hearts. Anyone can do it. It only takes a little time, a little mindfulness (here I added that mindfulness means being attentive, being heedful) and the wish to be happy.”

I read them a poem also written by Thich Nhat Hanh called “Kiss the Earth”:
Walk and touch peace every moment
Walk and touch happiness every moment
Each step brings a fresh breeze
Each step makes a flower bloom
Kiss the earth with your feet
Bring the Earth your love and happiness
The earth will be safe when we feel safe in ourselves

I tried to have them follow a 2:2 ratio for breathing and walking, meaning 2 steps for each breath in and 2 steps for each breath out. I lead the way and had them form a single file line behind me. I suggested they use the phrase “lotus flower” or “green planet” for each breath in/out and for them to imagine this picture in their minds, so they connected with their words-they should imagine lotus flowers blooming under their feet (The lotus flower is a symbol of the sun, of creation and rebirth).

Ending with Savasana.

Ole Namaste!

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Springing Forward

Today’s’ Yoga-Snack’s theme was the entry of springtime. The feeling of new energy, grounding ourselves to the earth and standing strong, facing the change of the season.

We sat in easy pose and opened up our throat chakra by chanting or the toning of our voices. We started with a breath in and then out while toning the letter “A” (as in Play); breath in, breath out… “E” (as in “Ease”); breath in, breath out…”I” (as in “Identity”): breath in, breath out…”O” (as in “Ohm”); breath in, breath out…”U” (as in “You”); and breath in, breath out…”Y” (as in “Why”). Another good idea for clearing your throat is to drink water with a little peppermint oil in it.

A short, silent, still meditation followed and then easy stretches (arm out to one side, lean on it and take the other arm by your ear and then overhead) and an easy twist, to get rid of the winter’s tired blood and let in some new energetic springtime blood.

Starting in child’s pose, we became seeds, getting ready to grow. We all picked what kind of plant we wanted to be and then slowly we took root and started to grow, very slowly. Feeling grounded in the earth but at the same time starting to reach up to the sky. Pausing in table top (on all fours), then cat and cow, curl toes under and downward facing dog pose. Jumping forward, reaching up to the sky, bending over to touch the ground, flat back, stepping into plank pose; holding for 5 counts and lowering to the ground. Up into upward facing dog pose; down to the ground. Press back into child’s pose and breath slow and easy. Repeat Sun Salutation and then immediately go into lunges, back leg stretched out, front knee over foot, hands first to knees, then hands above head. Repeat other side without resting. Then child’s pose for final time.

Sitting up, we sang “Happiness Runs” (by Shakta Kaur Khalsa) along with the accompanying hand movements. I explained we would try later on to do it as a round and I brought up singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” which we promptly tried to sing in a round (got a good dose of laughing yoga there).

Low squat prepares us to try a balance pose-Hands to floor, lift with “cat pose” muscles (lower abs first) to try and get feet off the floor.

Then wide legged forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana).

Warrior Series: Warrior I-to-Warrior III-to-standing splits-even trying to hold the standing ankle with one or two hands for an extra balance challenge.

Group tree while some of the students serenaded us with their own favorite songs.

Lying down, simple twist. Then into Halasana, plow pose to clear our bodies in preparation for the spring. Up into shoulder stand. Back to plow pose. Roll forward into seated forward bend.

Savasana with “The Rain Falls And The Sky Shudders” by Moby (OK this one is now officially on my yoga play list). Some kids chose to roll themselves up in their mats for a little relaxation and compression.

Ole Namaste!

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Yoga-Snack: The Rain Falls and The Sky Shudders

Today’s Yoga-Snack is soggy! I mean everyone and everything feels soaked through and through. I came to yoga today with this prevailing feeling for the need for a restorative yoga class and thought the kids would be droopy when they came in. Well I was wrong! They were bouncing off the walls, but I held fast to my idea for the need to internalize and to focus within.

I chose to play music today, so we started class with a meditation listening to Moby’s “The Rain Falls And The Sky Shudders” (on Moby Songs). It is such a beautiful piece of electronic music. You can feel the sky opening and the rain coming down; there is no thunder, no real storming effect to it, just rain. It is very purifying. From listening to the music, feeling our breath and feeling our bodies relax; we crept inside ourselves and just were.

Next on the track was “Raga Malika” by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan (on Ragas). Although there was no sun, we decide to reach for the sun and stretch from our feet to our finger tips. I had the kids step into low lunge and we held our knees to balance ourselves. Then with arms out stretched, we reached for the sun again, brought our hands together and let our heads fall back.

From there, we moved onto our bellies. From locust to crocodile a few times and then some free form air swimming with bellies on the floor. Due to popular demand, we practiced bow pose too. After resting, we tried Peacock pose, but found it too hard to get our feet off the floor. I love how everyone really tried to figure it out and balance and although no one got up, we were all smiling from our efforts.
To keep the smiling going, I decide to do some heart opening bridges and wheels. We all did bridge together and then with my assisting some and others on their own, we did wheel. I taught everyone how to carefully come down so as not to put undue strain on their necks or knees.

Rock and roll, rock and roll, up into boat pose. Tons of laughing here.

For a final challenge, we all did head stand prep. I allowed no one to go into full head stand without me, but after trying the prep, I assisted each student into a head stand and helped them carefully to descend. While they waited their turn, some did more prep and others rolled themselves up into their mats. One girl told me how much she loved the mat rolling, so much so that the other day at home when she and her sister were feeling anxious, they rolled themselves up in mats and it helped to calm them and made them feel relaxed.

We did a rousing version of “Happy Jio” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (on Happy Radiant Child Music) some in partners and some just dancing away solo! That is one winner of a fun song!

In Savasana, I had a request to play the Moby song from the beginning of class, so we listened and relaxed to music too.

At the end of class I played “She Dips Water” by Joanne Shenandoah (on Matriarch: Iroquois Women’s Songs). What a gorgeous song! What a gorgeous yoga practice!

Ole! Namaste!

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Yoga-Snack 3/8/10 (1 hour program): Yoga Story

We started today by climbing a mountain (running in place up the mountain to warm up our bodies) and then at the top, we planted our feet, reached up high and greeted the sun. It made us feel warm, safe, good and happy. We continued with 3 more Sun Salutations, pressing up into cobra and using Downward Facing Dog Pose for mountain.

Sitting now in a grassy meadow, with the warm sun beating down on us, we took in some satisfying breaths: in through the nose and out through the mouth with a “hah”, out through the mouth with a sigh, and out through the nose, settling into some ugjiyi breathing.

We saw a beautiful butterfly (Fly Like A Butterfly and Butterfly Circle, legs in butterfly, hands go through the inside and then under the legs to hold hands with the person next to you) and a gentle wind blew by us (Simple Seated Twist). In the distance, we saw a mother bear and her cubs (so we got down into Downward Facing Dog Pose and did Bear Walk, forward with R hand, then L foot, then L hand, then R foot-and made some growls to be really bear-like). Squatting down to look in the grass, we see a (Praying Mantis) and then a Crane (Bakasana) rises up ahead of us.

We realize there is a stream nearby, so we (run) to get there. We hear the water and can feel the coolness as we get closer to the water. First we notice a small (Bridge) over the stream (although I also had the idea that we could use Bean Bags as rocks and try to step across them) and then we make our way to the water’s edge. We see a frog (Frog Push-ups), a (Turtle) a fish (Matsyasana) and then a beautiful rainbow (Side Plank-Vasisthasana).

(Running) again, we head for a group of Trees (Vrksasana) and then we see some fallen trees (we lay down and roll ourselves up in our mats and do a simple meditation of feeling the ground beneath us, feeling the cool air under the trees, seeing a pale green light filtered through the tree branches and feeling heavy, like a fallen log).

But in death, so comes life and bugs were alive on the tree and new growths had started to reach into the ground and up to the sky, so up we went, wiggling and wriggling and stretching and growing (well we also did “Dead Bug” here, just because we wanted to).

Rising for a fun and group rendition of “Happy Jio”. We then dropped to our mats, energized,happy and tired; ready for Savasana.

Namaste! Have a nice day!

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The “Love Bubble” Meditation

Today’s afterschool yoga class stared with a seated meditation. I have been so pleased with the progress of meditation in this class and like to start the class by calming and focusing all the minds. We sat in a comfortable, seated position, with hands in our laps, palms up, one hand cradled inside the other. I started by asking the students to listen for the sounds around them and then to locate a place of silence in all the noise, so our minds could rest. We then turned our focus to our bodies, paid attention to how we felt, and let go of any tension (here I led them through a foot-to-head “heaviness” exercise. At the belly we stopped for a moment and felt our breath and at the overhead, I mentioned that should feel their brows were cool); our final focus went to the breath, first as something to hear and then as something to feel. I started the “Love Bubble” meditation: I suggested to them to “feel happy” to “feel love” to “feel good”. I asked them to think of someone they wanted to send some love to, this person could be alive or passed on, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a friend…anyone alive or not. While thinking of this person, we felt “happy”, “love”, and “good”. We then imagined a large pink bubble surrounding our loved one. We allowed this bubble to float up to the sky above us and then drift into the air, heading towards “our loved one”. As the bubble floated away, I had them once again find their silence, relax their bodies and breathe.

Today’s classes theme was: “things that fly” and “things in the sky”

For warm-up we started seated: Fly Like A Butterfly, arm flap, Wind-Releasing Pose (Pavanamuktasana) and Caterpillar (which is what I called spinal warm up today). Then standing, feet firmly planted, swing arms and torso side to side loosely for Helicopter.
In the sky, we saluted the sun (Suryanamaskar); Triangle pose (Trikonasana) led us to ½ Moon (Ardha Chandrasana); Airplane; Eagle (Garudasana); Squat led us to Crane (Bakasana); Final power pose, Rainbow or commonly known as Wheel or Upward Facing Bow Pose (Urdhva Danhurasana). I of course gave spots to all during Crane & Wheel.
Down we went for ½ Pigeon stretch.

Savasana: Lying down, completely still, hands by your side, palms open to feed the birds we had just conjured up, I brought back the “Love Bubble” and had them imagine it was now en-wrapping them. It was filling them with happiness, love and goodness. We felt ourselves float up to the sky and let the air currents gently move us around, and then imagined gently floating back to the ground, with a warm body and cool forehead.
Seated in Easy Pose, we did acapella version of “We’re The Rockin’ Yogis & Yoginis”.


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The Silence Above

In after school yoga today, the kids started out bursting with energy. They were running around the room and there was so much chatter. It was exhausting! We started by singing “Namaste to you Om” to one of the girls whose birthday it was and after that I decide we needed to settle down.

I started class with silent meditation, taking some clues from my class this past Sunday with Fez Aswat. I had the kids take a comfortable seated position and I suggested resting their hands in their laps, one hand cupped inside the other, palms facing up. Eyes closed. First we tuned in with our ears to the sounds around us (humming radiator; teacher making noises in the room; kids outside laughing and playing) and I told them to locate a pocket of silence within all that noise; Find the silence to start relaxing with our ears. I like to imagine it is right above my head. We next moved on to feeling the relaxation in our own bodies. I let them slump a bit, drop their chins, generally flop out. Then finally, I had them start to listen to their own breathing. We listened and we felt our breath. I had them straighten up a bit and slightly tuck their chins in to elongate their spines, and really feel their belly take in the air, their ribs expand, their backs expand, trying to feel the breath all the way up to the crown of their heads.

As our breathing became more and more pronounced we took our first Downward Facing Dog Pose.

From there, we stepped our right leg back into a low lunge. Brought our hands to our knees and then arms above the head. Look at hands and if they had the strength, they could straighten up their back leg and then back down. Standing, with right leg pointing front, we did Warrior I & II (“I am courageous”). Hands back down to floor and took a strong and sturdy plank pose. Back to Downward Facing Dog Pose and repeat the whole sequence on the other side.

Finally, coming all the way to the ground, into Crocodile, resting our head on our hands.

A series now of two locusts, which spontaneously turned into an air swimming session. Then two Bows, where we giggled and rolled back and forth and side to side.
I then helped each child roll up in their mat, arms by their side, totally en-wrapped by the mat. It is such a calming a good feeling to so this. One girl said she did not like to do this and when I asked if she had ever tried it before she said no, but that she didn’t like to be a taco. Ha-ha! Well I got her to try and lo and behold, she loved the feeling. All wrapped up, I had them play the “I Am Heavy” game. I had them listen to my voice and not talk. I led then through a series of making their body parts feel heavy: feet, calves/lower leg, knees, thighs/upper leg, belly (here we paused for a moment and thought about our breathing and once again we listened for the silence above us), backs, hands, lower arm, upper arm, shoulders, neck; at the head now, I first had them feel that their foreheads were cool and relaxed, that a nice relaxing breeze was blowing on them and cooling their forehead, the head is heavy but the forehead is cool. I have read that having the head feel warm and heavy can lead to headaches, so it is important to always have the forehead be cool.

After unwrapping, we took Child’s Pose for a moment.

For a song today, I chose “Peace Like River” with the body movements by Shakta Khalsa of Radiant Child Yoga. The kids now slightly different lyrics (Peace like a river; Love like an ocean; Joy like a fountain) so we used those instead.

Savasana to end.

In total we did more than 15 minutes of silent mediation today and the effect was profound. At the end of class, the kids were alert but focused and totally relaxed but energized. They were not the sparks of energy who had entered class but they were eternal lights when they left.

Hands to hearts, feel the rhythm of your own pulse….Namaste!