Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement:

Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body).


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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.

 

 


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Book Review: Our Brains Are Like Computers! By Joel Shaul

9781849057165Exploring how to communicate social cause and effect with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by using computer diagrams and associations is a truly remarkable concept. Joel Shaul’s use of this metaphor, that “our brains are like computers,” creates a clear and effective communication tool to help children increase their awareness about how their words and actions affect other people.

This highly stimulating social skills book, with bold, easy-to-read illustrations and clear and simple text, teach mindfulness in a very factual and straightforward manner. It is perfect to share with your child as he begins to take ownership for his own honesty, friendliness and openness in the social situations required for the growing youth. Included are open-ended questions at the end of each chapter to help initiate conversation and thought and in the back are fun printable games and worksheets that can help your child investigate how he impacts the world around him.

I highly recommend this book to parents and anyone works within the Autism community. It is a great book to read and share and I have already begin sharing it with my students and their families. Please check out his website at Autism Teaching Strategies. It provides a wealth of information and resources! On YouTube he has a channel with many helpful videos. Also, he has a second book out The Green Zone that is a great companion to his first book. 

Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy of Our Brains Are Like Computers! All opinions are my own.


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Literary Inspiration

 These are the books I have been exploring in class and on my own:

The Silence Above

Nourishing Teachers Strengthening Classrooms-A Morning Of Yoga And Mindfulness

Book Review: My Amazing Day: A Celebration Of Wonder And Gratitude

Yoga Card Decks

Yoga For A Brainy Day


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Book Review: Her Lost Year by Tabita Green w/ Rebecka Green

Her Lost Year CoverThe full title of this book is Her Lost Year: A story of hope and a vision for optimizing children’s mental health.


This book presents a disturbing narrative of a young girl and her family’s frightening journey through the pharmaceutical drug industry via mainstream psychiatry. I felt swallowed up into their journey as I struggled desperately right alongside, calling out “Beware of the side effects!” and hoping desperately for them to trust their instincts. I have long been shy of the pharmaceutical drug industry and this book walked me through the harrowing tale of a young girls descent into the madness brought on by a cocktail of medications and their side effects. I was so relieved when the parents finally were able to come to a clear understanding of how to help themselves and their daughter. They give a great plug for believing in your intuition! With this book, they share their struggles as a way to provide hope and enlightenment to people about medication and how it does not always have to be the answer. It is necessary to realize there is more than one way to do something and that there are practical, natural way to ensure stability in your life.

This book deserves a place alongside all the psychology, self-help and mindfulness books in every library. It is great for teens, parents and caregivers and every doctor should read it, to get a second opinion!

http://tabitagreen.com/her-lost-year-book/

Full Disclosure: The author provided me with a Kindle copy of Her Lost Year. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Book Review: Cognitive Yoga: Mindful Stategies for Teachers by Lee Guerette

Cognitive Yoga

 

With school starting just around the corner, I was happy to be able to read and digest the wisdom imparted by Lee Guerette in her book Cognitive Yoga. Through exercises and insights that Lee has developed through her years of working with middle school students, she offers teachers ways to make their teaching more effective and students are made more aware of their own reactivity to themselves and to those around them. This leads to a well-nourished, more relaxed, thriving learning environment.

I loved the chapter about Setting Up A Serene Classroom that explains how subtle changes in the classroom’s physical environment can have huge results in creating a calming atmosphere where the teacher can spend her time teaching rather then controlling. Students do not even need to know that the elements are balanced in order for it to be effective. My other favorite part of the book, was her take on the Gunas, or the great states of energy, and how the interplay of these states of energy defines the character of someone or something. The three states which are sattva : goodness, constructive, harmonious and still, rajas: passionate, active, full of desire and restless, and tamas: dull, oblivious, negative and sluggish. All of these energies are present in each one of us and the purpose of identifying the different gunas is to help the students to be more aware of their own physical and mental states plus that of the surrounding environment. The coup de grâce is her likening each one of these energies to an animal personality: Satva= swan, Raja=tiger and tamas=sloth. Such a great teaching moment for kids and really so useful in my yoga classes in the public school environment.

Cognitive Yoga is focused on making school life accessible and successful for all students and teachers and on how to make life work constructively within the school environment. Ms. Guerrette shows her belief that all kids possess a gift for the world and by clearing the way for educators to do their jobs, the students will be able to grow, train and nourish this gift. Teachers in turn will find profound fulfillment. A phrase that comes to mind when I take in Ms. Guerette’s words is “Not knowing is different thany not knowing yet!”

I highly recommend this book for new and seasoned teachers alike and believe should be in every school library.

Full Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of Cognitive Yoga. All opinions expressed are my own.