Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement:

Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body).


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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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Yoga For Flamenco Dancers

Yoga For Flamenco Dancers: Mr. Thrifty Skeleton (Señor Esquelto Económico)

Basis for the sequence:

  1. Getting in touch with the spine and pelvis to coordinate movement with emotion
  2. Strengthening the ball of foot for tacaneo
  3. Arch of back/back-bends for Vuelta Quebrada
  4. Ankle strengthen for balance

Take a few moments to prepare your self for practice.

To get an understanding of the sensation of your spine and it’s ability to flex, extend, twist and lean, start on your back, legs out, arms resting by sides, just noticing which areas along your backs/spine touch the floor. I use a Mr. Thrifty Skeleton (Señor Esqueleto Económico), to refer to when describing bones and movement. Constructive Rest

After that, bend your knees into constructive rest, and then notice the changes that happen in relation to your back against the floor. With knees bent, it also made it possible to gently rock the pelvis back and forth. Using Señor Esqueleto Económico, you can see how the spine connects into the skull at the Occiput Occiputand how it runs all the way down to the tail bone. (Interesting fact: We are born with about 300 bones but by the time we reach adulthood, due to fusing, we only have 206). an-elegant-perfect-sunflower-in-a-flower-pot-vector-1650453Imagine that your spine sits into the pelvis as a flower in a pot. With good strong roots and good balance, the stem (spine) grows strong and the energy flows and is able to balance the flowering head atop with ease, grace and strength. The neck spine (cervical spine) is longer than you think. A good way to check into this part of the spine is to notice how it feels when turned and when the head is dropped forward towards the chest. You will notice a pull somewhere between you shoulders and you feel the full length of the neck. The neck spine has the greatest degree of rotation, then the lower back and hip spine (lumbar spine) and finally the middle section of the back spine (the thoracic spine). The joints in the lumbar spine allow for forward and backward movement but limit rotation.

IMG_6454IMG_6455From constructive rest, hug the knees into the chest, allowing the lower back to spread out onto the floor. You can even feel , by your lowest ribs, the floating ribs, the sensation that a pair of wings is unfurling. Then, hold onto your knees, and practice wave breathing: on the inhale, gently allow the knees to pull away, just until the arms straighten and on the exhale, gently pull the knees towards the belly, aiding in the removal of the air; this action is like a bellows. Noticing here, the same rocking of the pelvis you observed earlier and noting now the feeling of the subsequent spinal movement. The knees into the chest are like a forward bend and the knees away from the chest create a subtle back-bend. 

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Seated in easy pose, exploring the 6 directions of the movement of the spine. Always like to pull out Bumpy Camel here, then side-stretch, and seated twist. Move onto hanIMG_6464IMG_6461IMG_6460ds and knees to explore this again: cat and cow (once again noting the flexion and extension of the spine), easy kneeling twist with a chicken wing pose and dog looking at tail pose (for side stretch).

Child’s Pose to Baddha Konasana to Hero’s pose and the discussion of the difference between this position of the legs in relation to the body vs. “W” Sitting (see http://www.skillsforaction.com/w-sitting). Start with the simplest variation of Hero’s pose. To note as you progressed through the pose, you might need to add props if you are not able to sit comfortably on the floor. Some people might be comfortable enough to continue on into Supta Virasana- Reclining Hero’s pose (this of course can also be done with props to attain the full pose). Use the first two poses as preparatory poses to doing Hero and to note some of the benefits of Hero’s pose are : Stretching of the quadriceps; Keeping the knee joints healthy; Keeping tendons in the back of the knees properly aligned; Strengthening the tops of the feet and ankles; Strengthening of the arches and broadening of the sacrum.    

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Standing now. More arch work with Scrunches and Toe Lifts. Imagine you are standing on two silky scarves, one under each foot. Try to scrunch up your foot as you drag the scarf towards your heels. Do this 5 times in a row, 4 quicker attempts and then on #5, a longer hold. Relax the foot and then lift up all ten toes and flare them open, keep the heel and the ball of the foot on the floor. When laying the toes back down, first time is a regular drop, second time, you try to drop the toes baby toe first to the big toe, one at a time and on the third time, you try to drop the big toe first down to the baby toe. I then repeat this whole sequence once or twice more (scrunches through toe lifts). Even if you cannot actually drop the toes separately, just try to imagine that you are doing it. Sometimes the brain needs to tell the toes what it wants them to do to teach them.

Tree on a block. A fun variation of tree pose that adds a little challenge and a little more focus on the core stabilizing muscles that wrap around your lower spine and help it plant deeply into the pelvis so the two parts of your body can work harmoniously. Most physical movement requires a rotation of the torso. Our core muscles actually form an X across the front and back of your body. This means the body acts by connecting the right shoulder with the left hip and visa-versa. From your neck and your upper back, around the sides of the body, through the upper rib muscles, that lift your arm pit, wrap inwards, travel towards the opposite side of the body. They pass by the hips, criss-cross then end up in the opposite thigh. Known as the Serape Effect.

Brief History of Flamenco as imagined through the migrants from India, who arrived in Spain in the 15 century, and came to be known as the Gypsies. These people are believed to have been composed of three groups/castes: metal smiths working in iron, copper and bronze; practitioners of animal husbandry such as horse doctors, farriers and dealers in live stock; and entertainers such singers, dancers, conjurers, magicians, jugglers, fortune tellers and acrobats. These fiercely proud nomadic groups, divided into two major migratory routes with one faction heading northward towards Russian along the Caspian coast and the other faction heading southward through Iraq, Persia, Egypt, Arabia and North Africa before arriving in Spain via Mediterranean Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar on trading vessels and overland caravans trains, known as kumpanias. Both the music and culture of these people were highly influenced by the cultures they had reached along their journey and the melodies and rhythms alive in the culture of Spain that the gypsies heard upon their arrival planted the seeds for the birth of the art of flamenco. Flamenco has evolved as a forceful and exciting art form. It involves both physical and emotional intelligence and is a dance form characterized by hand clapping (palmas), percussive footwork (tacaneo), intricate hand (floreo), arm (braseo) and body movements combined with a highly tuned in emotional structure that spans the deepest songs of the original gypsies through the styles influenced by Cuba and South America all the way to today, with traditional flamenco being fused with jazz, pop and World Music styles. Without dispute, flamenco is the most familiar form of Spanish dance. With its fire and intensity, its insistent rhythms, its soulful guitars and its passion, it has the power to draw people in and after watching a performance, everyone is ready to strike a pose and stomp their feet. ¡Olé!


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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