Always Be Dancing

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body & Mindful Book Reviews By Eve


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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: The Mindfulness Skills Activity Book For Children by Chris Willard, PsyD and Mitch Abblett, PhD.

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The Mindfulness Skills Activity Book For Children by Chris Willard, PsyD and Mitch Abblett, PhD. (Illustrations by Kimberly Hermesch, M.Ed.; PESI Publishing and Media)

This book is full of fabulous activities that help connect social emotional learning to mindfulness concepts. I have found it immediately applicable and have already used a number of its offerings: Focus Mountain, Square Fence Breathing, SLOW Stream Floating and Fave Flames, to name a few. I have the awesome opportunity of bringing mindful concepts into school communities, K-12, both in classrooms and with professional development, and it is wonderful to have such a great resource to integrate into my programming. I highly recommend this book. The activities are engaging and accessible and they offer a great jumping off point to dig deeper.

¡Olé Namaste! Eve Costarelli

Thank you to Chris Willard for sending me this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

For more information, please visit alwaysbedancing dot com

#bookreviews #children #picturebook #midgrade #mindfulness #alwaysbedancing #evecostarelli #speedyyogini #speedykundalini #fiction #nonfiction #selfhelp #parentingtip #teachingtip


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It’s Great Time for Yoga & Flamenco!

882824_10151907518920295_1244060619_oNow is a great time to bring one of Eve Costarelli’s varied mindfulness programs to your school, center or special event. Eve Costarelli will seamlessly adapt her programs to fit yours and your students/residents needs.

  1. ¡Olé Flamenco! Educational Flamenco Presentation:*September 15 – October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. This dynamic, experiential arts learning program can help bring Hispanic cultures to life for your students. Available all year.a. With guitarist, Antonio Tiriti

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  2. ¡Olé Flamenco! Workshops* & Classes*in addition to or separate from the educational presentationa. with guitarist Antonio Tiriti

    b. Solo

  3. In-School Yoga & Mindfulness (working with school districts)

     

  4. Accessible Flamenco & Yoga (for populations who need accessibility and adaptability)

Programs are available for grades K-12; college level; corporate events; senior living facilities and private hire. All programs are inclusive and can be adapted as needed for those with special needs including physical disabilities, medical conditions, intellectual difficulties, or emotional problems, including deafness, blindness, dyslexia, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems.

Please contact Eve Costarelli for scheduling and pricing:

AdamAnt_Eve@hotmail.com or 617-216-1643

All About Eve:

For over 20 years, Eve has been an arts educator, teaching flamenco, tap dance, and yoga to children through seniors citizens of all levels and abilities. She practices a therapeutic and body-centric approach to teaching to give her students both physiological and psychological benefits from these art forms.

Eve is the lead teacher for Framingham’s own Open Spirit Centers Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms project, bringing mindfulness into both the Framingham Public Schools and Hoops & Homework, an award winning after-school program for the neediest children in Framingham.

Ms. Costarelli is a familiar face on the Boston dance scene, and along with guitarist Antonio Tiriti, brings educational and experiential flamenco performance and workshops all over New England. Eve and Anthony are past members of Young Audiences of Massachusetts and Celebrity Series: Arts for All!

Eve Costarelli is the creator of Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts: Yoga and Flamenco for Every/Body.

All programs are adaptable, accessible and inclusive www.AlwaysBeDancing.com

 

 


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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.

GypsyRoute

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: Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alvarez and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class

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This is book is the real deal…totally authentic…“the truth”…it is an honest, open-hearted expression of what it takes to really stop, take a moment and respond rather than react to things that are stressful and happening right now, in real time. These kids just tell it like it is and with their words and their beautiful art, they allow us to see how they are learning to come to grips with their humanness and how they have come to appreciate and respect the need to self-regulate. The staff and kids are 100% committed to this venture and that is evident from their honesty, bravery and creativity. I really appreciate how this book is presented, from the bright color schemes, the beautiful self-portraits, and the almost graphic novel-like approach, the book offers compelling examples from young people who are coping with stress by not hurting themselves or anyone else for that matter. Instead, they are willing to be calm, insightful, and kind. Masters of Mindfulness, written by Laurie Grossman, co-founder of Mindful Schools and Director of Program Development at Inner Explorer, and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class at Reach Academy in Oakland, California, introduces examples of how to be mindful in a straight forward approach, user-friendly manner and since it is written by kids, it is thoroughly believable.

This book is a huge success and it belongs in homes, libraries and on every park bench, school desk and bedside table!

Here is a nice trailer for it! 

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


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How Does Yoga Make You Feel…?

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This is what I asked my amazing group of students at the middle school I teach yoga at. This is the school’s group of Autism Spectrum kids and I have had the pleasure and the honor of getting to know these kids over the past two years:

Sam…Happy

John: The Stress goes out of my body

Liam: Mushy

Johnny: Comfortable

Harold: Happy

Joanne: Healthy

Catherine: Peaceful

Destiny: Sleepy

Marashall: My stress goes away

Edward: Like I am lying on the beach looking at the sun

Tricia: Stress Free

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Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement Retreat

I was invited to teach Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement at a day long retreat at the UCC Edwards Retreat Center for several target teen groups within Framingham High School who have been learning mindfulness skills based on the Benson Henry Institute’s Resilient Youth Curriculum. This retreat was the culminating activity to reinforce their skills and to expose them to other possible tools. There were about 50 English and Spanish speaking students.737157_10152024377000913_5585488161038564618_o

When I first arrived, the students were engaged in a singing/music session with one English speaking teacher and a Spanish interpreter. I was thoroughly amazed at the total engagement of the students in this activity. No one was “sitting out”, no one had pulled away. They were all singing and their body language showed that they were fully relaxed and enjoying themselves. I did not know these kids but I knew this was a special moment and felt my heart reacting.

Next it was my turn to introduce these kids to mindfulness through the arts of flamenco and yoga, a program that I call, Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement. I knew many of the kids understood Spanish better than English so I really pushed myself to speak in Spanish, something I am not very comfortable with. One thing I remember though, from my stay in Grenoble in college, was how helpful and respectful native speakers are if you really give it a try. They can make out most of what you are saying even if its the wrong tense or you do not know the exact word, so I pushed my fears aside and began shakily…”Sólo hablo un poco de español y sé que mi acento es terrible..haha!” That broke the ice and I was off and running.

I so enjoyed being a part of this special day. I want the students to know how much I appreciated them and their willingness to learn. I had the unique opportunity to spend time with about seven of them afterwards and was able to really get into the meat of what makes flamenco flamenco and why I found this art form as a way to express myself artistically and why that was important. It was a great dharma talk on finding something you are passionate about and how to strive for something you love to do. One girl said to me, “Please just teach us what you know. We want to learn.” Now, how beautiful is that?!?!

These kids made me feel very brave. I received a really nice thank you from the organizers, “We want to thank you for an amazing day!  Your energy and talent engaged the kids right from the start. It was the perfect workshop for this group and we loved your blending of culture, dance, meditation, and yoga. Many students  reflected on how the retreat enabled them to let go of their own emotional issues, anxiety for the day.  We appreciate your contributions to creating such a safe retreat for our students.”

Many thanks to Open Spirit Center of Framingham and the Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classroom project that keeps opening more and more doors for me to share myself with the students and staff in the Framingham Public Schools.