Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every(body)


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Book Review By Eve: Go Yogi: Everyday Yoga For Calm, Happy, Healthy Little Yogis by Emma Hughes; Illustrations by John Smisson

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Along with the titled book in the photo, you will see a bent pipe cleaner with beads on it. That is a Breathing Stick. We make them in class with the students and they can make a second one to bring home with them to teach a family member or friend how to use it. How to use it: 1. Slide all the beads to one side on the bend. 2. Breathe in and slide the first bead to the hump in the pipe cleaner; 3. breathe out, slide the bead over the hump and to the other side. Breath as slowly as a turtle. Repeat 4 more times.

I just received my copy of Go Yogi! and I decided to jump right in and bring it to my kids yoga classes and let them help me review it. Well, I must say, the book received 100% favorable reviews from my students, ages 3-6! They loved it and the classes were super fun, were rich with content and the kids remained focused and interested throughout the whole class. The illustrations by John Smisson are super engaging and they tell the whole story, so words are not even necessary. The descriptions hold a lot of vital information, including how to get in and out of the poses, what the poses are good for, and many positive thoughts to keep young minds joyful and healthy. Because of this, the writing is mostly best addressed by an adult while the children read along. There are separate “grown-up” tips that are very useful especially for adults who are not yoga teachers which makes this book a great addition to classrooms, homes and yoga studios alike. I love the overall feel of the book with its muted colors, computer graphic illustrations and its mindful take on bringing yoga to kids.

I highly recommend this book as a feel good book full of positive affirmations, fun yoga poses and a very well crafted sequence that is very helpful for all children. It worked very well for kids ages 3-6 and with some modifications it worked equally well with kids as young as 15 months.

Full Disclosure: Jessica Kingsley Publishing sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

How I will use this book:

The following is a detailed description of the class I taught, weaving together the book with my knowledge of teaching yoga to children.

Right off the bat, I started out with that funny word yogi The kids laugh when they hear that word. It’s great to use with kids and for comparison, I explain that just like someone who plays tennis is a tennis player, someone who surfs is a surfer, someone who dances tap is a tap dancer, a person who does yoga is a yogi. T’s what they call someone who practices yoga. Of course, the most popular word to use in yoga is namaste. The book describes it as meaning hello & goodbye; I add that it means thank you. Thank you from me to all of you; thank you from you to me; thank you from you to each other. It’s a beautiful, encompassing with a happy feeling, word. It is part of yoga in America. The kids know, that since I also throw in bits of flamenco into my yoga classes, that at the end of my classes, we say ¡Olé! ¡Namaste!

I ask them, “Why do we practice yoga?” Th e book tells us “yoga can help you feel healthy and happy” and with that we launch into our “I Am Happy, I am Good” meditation (link to previous post with meditation here) that I adapted from a meditation by Shakta Khalsa for Radiant Child Yoga.

The book points out it is best to practice in a space clear of toys and noise and we take a moment to notice that our yoga space is uncluttered, our mats are in order and it is as quiet as it can be (for a noisy child care center, that is!) I have a play list*, I use in the background, to create ambiance in our space, but I am always happy to practice in silence too with the kids. One of my major goals in bringing yoga to kids is for them to learn the difference between noise and silence in body, mind and energy.

At this point, I put the book on the floor so that my hands are free. The special yoga breathing exercise is well described and I add in “Sit up, criss-cross yoga sauce” and to have them try covering their mouths while they breathe. I demonstrated the sound of the oceanic breath so they could hear it for themselves and I did this while looking at each one them and timing my breathing with theirs, so we could flow our breath together.

Hello Mr. Sun (Singing-love me some Raffi!.…Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Please shine down on me. Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Hiding behind a tree. These little children are asking you, To please come out so we can play with you. Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun. Please shine down on me.). Here I make up some qi gong-like movements for the kids to copy while we sing. Singing and moving is a moving meditation.

In a sing-songy voice:

*We reach up to the sky, Mountain pose. Feel strong and, steady and still.

*Breathe in, arms up reach up to the sun (tippy-toes)

*Dive down , splash, wooosh. You are a waterfall, flowing your water down to a river.

*Step one leg back and the other leg back. Now you are a plank over the quiet water. Strong and long. Sturdy. Hold your tummies up so the water does not splash it but do not touch the sky with your backside. Hold it for 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

*Slowly the plank lowers down to the water. Float on your belly, on the river, bobbing on the waves. Breathe in-the wave swells; breathe out, the wave slides away. Repeat. Be like a bird (hero pose), silently sitting on the water, bobbing up and down, but not getting jostled or ruffled. Just quietly resting on the quietly moving water.

*Oh! A little snake pops its head out of the water. Palms by shoulders. Now, you are the snake. Breath in, lift up (into cobra pose), breath out, hisssssssss. Here comes a dog, to play in the water. Press up into Downward Facing Dog pose. Press into the earth with your hands and feet. Lift your happy puppy tail and feel how long your back feels. One leg up, wag your tail. Woof! Woof! Put it down. Switch feet; wag; Woof! Woof! Bring it down. One hand up. Lick you paw. Other side. We try one paw and one leg (opposite sides) just for fun.

*Settle down into child’s pose to feel calm and happy, totally relaxed. Find that wavy feeling of your breath, calming you and bringing your focus inwards.

Usually we call this pose child’s pose, but for today we will call it seed pose. You, little seed, nestled in the earth, nourished by the rain and the sun, slowly your roots start to grow down deep into the earth and you being to know. Slowly we rise up onto our knees, let the head come up last, as it finally presses through the dirt. Now add your arms. Reach them up to the sun, palms together. Feel your body; it is a strong, rooted stem. With a final push, step up with one leg and then the other. Your roots strongly planted in the ground. Your arms burst open and greet the sun “Hello Mr. Sun! Here I am!” palms open wide as we grasp the energy the warmth, the glow from the sun and pull it towards you, bringing your hands to your heart. Right hand over the heart, left hand on top, and just breath. Energy, happiness and trust-pull it right into your heart. Feel your beating heart. Take a few breaths and slow down the beating.

Tea Pot or Watering Can (Triangle pose): I’m a little tea pot short and stout, here is my handle here is my spout. When I get all steamed up, hear me shout! Just tip me over and pour me out”.

Feather Fingers is the perfect time for me to add some flamenco into class. Some cuerpo, braseo, floreo y taconeo! ¡Olé!

Barn Door had them tried the balance with no support and then had them hold onto a ledge to support their balance. Did they notice if it was easier or harder or them same for them when they held the ledge to when they did not? Try it again without.

Chair Pose: feel how strong this pose makes your legs feel. Feel the energy of a lightning bolt; then we shoot off, up, far however, kaboom!

Warrior 1,2,3…with the chant “I am brave (Warrior 1); I am bold (Warrior 2); My own power (get set up to launch into Warrior 3); I can hold! (Warrior 3).”

Balancing Boat builds strong tummy muscles! Rock-and-roll and come right back up to boat pose

Pebble/Child’s Pose: have them take the pose and then go to each one individually and help into the proper form. Do not press on their backs; gently guide them into the shape. Nice round back. Breathing in, feel your belly press against your legs as it gets round; breathing out, the belly softens and your gently drape over your legs.

Butterfly add in “Fly Like A Butterfly” sitting in butterfly pose: Fly like a butterfly, fly like a butterfly, fly like a butterfly up so high. Repeat; Put hands together and place by a cheek, in a sleep like position: Sleep like a butterfly, (switch hand to other cheek,) sleep like a butterfly (switch hands, get a little quieter), sleep like a butterfly (switch; quieter) through the night. Repeat.

Tick-Tock Hands: I replace slightly with drawing circles on each others backs (sit in a large circle, so everyone has a person in front of them.) Go in one direction, now the other. Helps with cross brain and a great sensory exercises.

Calming Candle: First we go back to a little rock and roll action, and then roll up and over.

Savasana: Noodle Test: Go around to each child and have them totally release the effort in their arm or legs, like a wet noodle. Gently pick up the limb(s) and wobble them to have the kids feel the total loosey-goosey feel.

Sit up, cross-cross; rub palms furiously together to create warmth. Take your warmed, tingly hands and place them right one over the heart, then the left one on top, catch the thumbs (a bird shadow puppet) and feel the energy form your hands going right into your body and give yourself a happy, loving, friendly hug. Now let the bird fly away and we say “Thank you! ¡Olé! ¡Namaste!”


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Book Review by Eve: Pancho Bandito and the Amarillo Armadillo Written by Mike Sundy; Illustrated by Jonathan Sundy

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Well right off the bat, let me say, I love anything armadillo. They have to be the coolest animal on the planet! They are literally present-day dinosaurs and are the only mammal with a built in suit of armor. They can hold their breath for up to 6 minutes and the 3-banded one can roll up arm3in a ball to protect itself from predators. They are also coolly adaptive creatures as they have minimal vision and hearing but they have a great sense of smell. They are my spirit animal!

The Sundy Brothers are a dynamic duo! This epic cowboy tale, written by Mike Sundy, is accompanied by the adorable illustrations of his brother, Jonathan Sundy and together these two pack a punch. With the resounding moral of the story being “what seems insurmountable is not” brought together with a giant sized bandito and an equally giant sized amarillo armadillo throw in some spicy hot Hatch chiles, a true southwestern staple, and a generous dose of humor and you have a highly entertaining story for children and their families. I love that the rhyme scheme is peppered with Spanish words. This delightful book has gripping action scenes, teaches about the importance of friendship, is multicultural and promotes diversity. One more thing, when reading out loud, it must be read with a drawling cowboy accent! Too funny! This book will definitely put a smile on your face and I promise, your mouth will be watering thinking of those vinegary, spicy peppers!

I highly recommend this book. Kid and grown ups will love it and it can be read again and again. The pictures are adorable. I love each emotive glance, whether human or animal!

How will I use this book?

This is a great book to use when teaching kids about the differences between the Fight or Flight stress reaction and the Relaxation Response. The F/F stress response occurs naturally when stress is perceived and it is designed to protect us from bodily harm.

The Relaxation Response is a accessible and beneficial way to turn off F/F stress response and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. Unlike the F/F stress response, the Relaxation Response must be practiced as it is not a natural occurring reaction to a situation. The beauty of it is, though, that the more you practice it, the stronger your ability is to calm down after stress. The RR can be initiated by deep breathing, yoga, visualizations, and other calming modalities.

Stress comes from how we perceive things. We need the Fight or Flight stress response in situations when stress is real, like when a tiger walks into the room. You need to decide whether to fight or run away, and your body needs to be ready to act-fast! But what happens if you expect a tiger to walk in and you get all stressed out and anxious, your sweating, your heart is beating fast, maybe you get a headache or your stomach gets upset and then in walks a kitten. No stress at all but your body is ready to fight or flight. Now you need to calm down fast! Take some deep breaths. Bring your heart rate, your blood pressure and your energy down. Try not to predetermine that a tiger is going to walk in every time. Let life unfold and allow it to happen. Your Fight or Flight stress response will be there when you need it, but you do not always need it.

Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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(Coloring) Book Review by Eve: Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm: A Self-Help Kid’s Coloring Book for Overcoming Anxiety, Anger, Worry and Stress by Lori Lite

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This coloring book is full of positive affirmations and fun pictures to color.

Each 2-page layout has a great advice bubble and an accompanying picture to color. The pictures are all very emotive and capture the essence of the affirmations perfectly. The pictures are simple, allowing each one to be finished in a sitting, which is very satisfying. The flow of the lines is very pleasant and they add to the overall calming effect of the book.

Each page of this delightful book offers a mini-mindful moment including a progressive muscle relaxation script, yoga, visualization, a bubble thought exercise and gratitude pages along with a variety of other ways to connect mindfulness to your senses, functions, emotions, and activities such as dance, listening to music and exercise.

The book itself allows for lots of space to breathe and to express yourself creatively. I love how it touches on so many ways to experience mindfulness. This book offers both young and old coping skills to help calm anxiety and bring about peace of mind. Coloring is proven to be a great calming activity and is a great way for families to enjoy some quiet together time. I highly recommend this book for families, therapists, yoga classes (which is what I will be using it for) and for anyone else who wants to access their creativity and share calming strategies with children.

How I will use this book:

IMG_7627In my yoga/mindful movement classes, I love to offer many avenues to my students to absorb coping skills. This book will come in super handy when I need an activity that passively activates the still quiet place inside where peace abides and anxiety is dissipated.

 


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¡Olé Namaste!

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Pictured above from top left: Two students strike a pose, Hurley School, Boston; Eve Costarelli (AKA Eva Lorca); Students learning palmas at St. Stephens after-school program, Boston, MA; Visual representations of flamenco; Antonio Tiriti and Eve performing at the Natick Farmer’s Market; Students performing the story of Ferdinand The Bull; Eve teaching how braseo to students of St. Stephen’s after-school program, Boston, MA; Eve and some students. (Thank you to Celebrity Series and Robert Torres for the pictures of Eve and St. Stephen’s)

I am a flamenco dancer. Through this dance, I communicate my kinship to the gypsies, a group of wanderers/nomads/pilgrims who migrated from Northern India during the 8th and 9th centuries. One route that they took was through Saudi Arabia and Northern Africa, before arriving in Spain through the Straits of Gibraltar. These gypsies were comprised of expert metal workers, animal tenders and entertainers. They arrived in Spain when the country was controlled by the Moors (made up of Arabs, Syrians and Berbers). In Spain, the gypsies mixed freely amongst the veritable melting pot of cultures. In Andalucía, a region in Southern Spain known as the birth place of flamenco, the gypsies found a land that suited them and found a sense of connection with the people who lived there: the Jews, the Moors and the Spaniards. The gypsies absorbed the diverse cultures around them: the music of the Moors, the songs of the Sephardic Jews and the dances of the Spaniards and then coupled with their heritage from India, they transformed the music, song and dance into the art of flamenco.

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My journey to become a flamenco dancer has been a deeply personal artistic pursuit. I have found that the greatest joy of flamenco is discovering my interpretation and style within the art form. As a flamenco dancer, I possess the capacity for self-controlled passion and emotional expression which becomes the underlying energy which motivates me to dance. This is my life force, my soul, my chi, my prana. Duende, the passion and inspiration within, is the heart of the flamenco artist. It is the transfer of emotions across space. It is the energetic imprint of the raw emotion released as a result of a performer’s intense emotional involvement with the music, song and dance. It is in the sum the energy the dancer takes from the earth, drawing it up through the soles of their feet. It travels through the body electrifying the the base, the core, the heart and shines forth through the crown of her head.

It is in this sensation filled space that I find the connection between flamenco and yoga. I speculate that the gypsies created the movements in flamenco directly in correlation to the yoga body. The energy centers, the chakras, directly speaking to the emotional output of the artist. I believe that the gypsies brought with them an underlying understanding of yoga and that this physical, emotional and spiritual connection to the body was then naturally incorporated into flamenco’s expression. It is fascinating to teach flamenco under the label of mindfulness. I incorporate it (plus a smattering of other rhythmic and contemplative movement forms) into all of my youth yoga classes. I find that flamenco is a perfect addition as its many benefits go hand-in-hand with the benefits of yoga.

Flamenco and Yoga both:

  • Stimulate memory, thinking and retention
  • Increase the ability to focus, listen, observe and absorb
  • Reduce Stress
  • Strengthen the heart muscle, both physically and emotionally
  • Increase positive energy
  • Develop balance, flexibility and coordination
  • Strengthen confidence, patience and risk taking skills
  • Build community
  • Deepen sense of self
  • Expand world view
  • Heighten happiness
  • Help you get in touch with your emotions and give you a safe outlet for their release
  • Cultivate accessibility, adaptability and inclusivity

When you want to plant a flower, you first need to till the soil, nourish it, plant the seeds, water it, and then sit back and wait to see the blossom….now in relation to the flamenco body. If you imagine that the soil line is at the hips, so your legs and your feet are the roots below the surface. The roots grow down and ground the dance to the earth. From the waist up is the blossom, growing from the soil line (which is your hips). This is the blossom. With good, strong roots, you then use the upper body to create the shapes and lines true to flamenco, building out of the hips and allowing the legs and feet to move separately.”

My favorite part about teaching is sharing my love of movement and making both the arts of flamenco and yoga accessible. Yoga is not one tangible thing. It is not movement; it is not breath; it is not meditation. What it is, is all of these things. Each of these elements leaves an energetic imprint, a vibrational frequency on the person, and that is the yoga. I love both yoga and flamenco in my life and I live to share them. With each personal exploration of my own energy’s movement, I teach. Yoga and flamenco are deeply connected to my soul, and I am constantly evolving. I choreograph the dance between effort and surrender. I find such joy in these sensations. All I want to do is to share them with my students.


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Book Review by Eve: Triangle by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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I was thrilled to receive my copy of Triangle. Right from the get-go, I loved it! The book itself is a great design/shape and I love the thick board book covers that encase this signature Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen tale. The words are simple, great for new readers and read aloud, and each accompanying illustration enriches the story with beautiful layering of the shapes, with their earthy tones and marbled textures.

Mac Barnett has a wry sense of humor and his book is full of questioning possibilities, as each page turns, allowing the reader to guess what is coming next and to be either confirmed or surprised by the outcome. This book offers lessons in simple geometry, proprioception (knowing where you are in space) and the art of friendship. This book is great for kids and even hipsters, as it will look great on any coffee table!

How will I use this book?

I will use this book in my adaptive yoga program to discuss the geometry of poses!

  1. Triangle Pose:
  • Standing (alone, using a chair for balance, against a wall)
  • Seated in a chair (leg crossed at the ankle or the knee)
  • Seated on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  • Lying down on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  1. Square Pose: What can you fit into a square shape?

*Note: Blocks can be used in any of the variations to rest the foot on. In cases of extreme immobility, either gently guide the person into a variation that suits their body where they can enjoy the energetic benefits of the pose. Even just touching the area (left or right; inner or outer thigh) can bring their attention to that spot and thereby give them the benefit too.

Full Disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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Book Review by Eve: “Princess Cora and the Crocodile” by Laura Amy Schlitz; Illustrated by Brain Floca

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Book Review of Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz; Illustrated by Brain Floca

This early chapter book, perfect for out loud reading and for the newly independent reader, is a great modern fairy tale complete with a strong willed heroine (princess Cora), parents who just don’t listen, a maid on a mission to clean up the world, one bath at a time and a mischievous, cream puff eating crocodile. Ms. Schlitz’s writing is witty, creative and captivating and the gorgeous accompanying illustrations, by Brain Floca, fit the character of the book perfectly. Readers will find it impossible not to fall in love with the two true heroes of this tale, the saucy crocodile and the zestful princess. The happy ending shows that paying a little attention to what is in front of us goes a long way! I highly recommend this delightful story. croc-and-epergne

Full Disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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Book Reviews by Eve: No One Needed To Know by D. G. Driver

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D.G. Driver, author of No One Needed To Know, delivers an honest and highly relateable portrayal of a pre-teen girl, Heidi (who is partially biographical) with an older brother who has autism. On one hand, Heidi wants desperately to fit in with her peers and on the other hand, remain true to her family values. It is easy to identify with her as she struggles with her own coming of age at a time when society was much less inclusive for people with autism. On the precipice of “growing up”, we meet Heidi when she is unable to stick up for herself or her brother, but she evolves into a resilient, brave young woman, who comes, not only, to her brother’s rescue but also, in turn rescues herself. I highly recommend this book. It is a great heart-felt, eye opening “slice of life” that should be shared at school, in the home and out into the world. back-of-no-one-needed-to-know-5

Full Disclosure: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.