Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement:

Yoga, Dance and Mindfulness for Every(body).


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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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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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A short yoga sequence to help teenagers out of “slump mode”

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Teenagers are notorious slumpers. They then grow up to be slump shouldered adults. Help your teen lift up! Have them imagine their breast plate as a display case, displaying a beautiful diamond necklace. Feel the broad open chest supported by the broad, open back, the shoulder blades sliding down the back, the heavy tail bone, the lifted abdominal muscles…the stance is proud and open, but relaxed.

Here is a short yoga sequence to help teenagers out of “slump mode”:

1. Lie on back, with feet on floor (This is called Constructive Rest). Starting on the right side, bend your right arm and slide the lower arm under your lower back, so that the fingers of that hand can be seen on the opposite side of the body. Lower your body back down. You may need to adjust your arm to relieve any discomfort or tingling. Now simply breathtwo in and out. Feel the lower back resting on the arm. You can roll your spine up and down, pressing the lower back into the arm a bit and then releasing. This is a gentle stretch for the front of the shoulder and the lower back. Repeat on left side. Adding a small neck bolster by rolling a blanket is a nice addition and helps to create space between the neck and shoulders and gently helps to stretch and relax the neck.

2. Now back to Constructive Rest. Roll completely onto the right side of your body. Knees are bent at hip height. Keeping the knees in place, slide your feet slightly forward, so that you can see your toes and then retract them just enough so they can no longer be seen. Allow your left arm to reach to the ceiling, elongating all the way from the center of your back and then roll the top portion of your body open so that the shoulders can rest on the floor. In this twist, the chest is open to the ceiling, while the knees and lower body are resting on the floor. If there is discomfort in the lower body, place a folded blanket between the thighs, possibly slide the knees a little higher or lower to relieve. If there is discomfort in the upper body, instead of opening the left arm all the way to the floor, allow it to rest on the ribs or even just allow the bent elbow to touch the floor. Breath. Repeat on left side.

 

3. Next bring both knees into chest and hug them in. Breath. Feel the belly pressing against the thighs on the inhale and a whole body softening on the exhale. DKTC

4. Roll over to Child’s Pose. This is a great stretch for the hips, back, shoulders and neck. Breath. Do you see how similar it is to the preceding pose? After a few moments of rest, sit up, onto the heels. Clasp hands behind the back and rest the thumbs on the sacrum. Feel a broadening and lifting in the chest as the shoulders open. Press the knuckles down towards the floor and create a back bend in your upper back. Head might rise to  look at the ceiling but only allow the eyes to go as far as the nose can point. Return to regular Child’s Pose and rest for a few breaths.

5. Put hands on floor, by knees and curl toes under. Press up into Standing Child’s Pose. This is basically a forward bend, but the knees are soft and bent so that the abdomen and possibly ribs can lay on top of the thighs. This gives a great stretch for the back. Feel you tail bones heavy and feel your front draping. Hands can rest on the floor or hold the elbows for more stretch…or put hands on blocks if the floor is still too far away.zero

6. Standing. Place a beanbag on the top of the head, not for balance, but to allow the head to be up, the chest to be lifted, the shoulders are relaxed. The tailbones are heavy so that back is in neutral. Walk around. Breath.


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Ways To Choose Love

love

What is love?

  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
  3. passion or desire.
  1. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.NHL-140217-WaystoChooseLoveflyer_2-e1393271804363

Synonyms: nouns

Synonyms: verbs :

 

If you care about someone, how do yo show it? Love is a universal feeling, but how we express ourselves can be very varied. The kind of affection we are shown as we grow up, shapes how we give and receive love.

Write Yourself a Love Letter

To express self love, you can write a love letter to yourself.  You can start simply with “Dear Eve”,  “My sweetest Eve” or “Dearest BFF”

 

Tell yourself in the letter why you are writing—”I just wanted you to now how much I love you!”

Signing it “With all my love, Eve”

 


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Book Review: The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo, MD, FAAP

The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo, MD, FAAP

The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo, MD, FAAP

I was so excited to receive my copy of The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo MD, FAAP. I am currently creating and implementing a yoga and mindfulness program through Open Spirit Center’s Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms project into the Framingham, MA public school system and this books title grabbed me and I knew it would become an invaluable resource.

The chapters are clearly thought through and touch on everything from every day stressors to in-school stressors to home stressors and the exercises offered help you to flex your mindfulness muscles with techniques to awaken the wisdom inside you and like all exercise, lead you to a sense of well-being, inner calmness, increased kindness to yourself and to others and increased resilience to stress.

The questions posed in the book are there to aid you in identifying your own experiences and to help guide you to deeper self-reflection. I love the Teen Voices boxes as they offer personal stories in a teen voice that express strong testaments to other teens. This book does not lecture but rather offers simple strategies to access mindfulness in daily life. This book gives teens the means to embrace the now engaging them to look for the wisdom and strength they possess to heal themselves from all that life throws at them.

I highly recommend this book to teens and adults alike. It is so accessible an user friendly and just full of insight and meaningful and practical ways to make the mindfulness connection. There are many great ideas that I have already stared using in my own teen and education based mindfulness program. I see this book as a necessary addition to libraries, to schools, to yoga teachers, to parents and to anyone who is or who works with teenagers.

Full Disclosure: The authors provided me with a copy of The Mindful Teen to review. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Dance In The Schools 2015: Life Cycle of the Yoga Butterfly

Waiting For Wings by Lois Ehlert

Today was the final day of Dance In The Schools 2015 at the Baldwin School, Cambridge. My classes were based on the life cycle of the butterfly (current with the 2nd grade science curriculum) and the concepts of senses we know (touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste) and then the ones we don’t know as much about (proprioception= an awareness of our bodies in space and the vestibular system=balance, gravity and movement information though our inner ear).

The best thing about yoga is that it allows for a sensory experience in a safe/non-competitive environment. You can manipulate your body in space, using poses, breath and meditation to clear pathways to achieve balance.

Breathing Sticks (once again, I noted to them to practice their breathing once they got their sticks)

Sa-Ta-Na-Ma meditation

Waiting for Wings/They have eggs to lay...What is the Butterfly Life Cycle?

Egg (usually laid on a leaf)

Larva/Caterpillar (eats leaves to grow)

Pupa/Chrysalis/Cocoon

Adult butterfly/moth

What is metamorphosis?

Interesting facts:

  1. Butterflies are active during the day feeding on flowers. They suck up the sweet nectar with their long, curly tongues. That is because butterflies cannot bite or chew.
  2. There are about 150,000 kinds of butterflies and they and their caterpillars come in all sorts of colors and sizes.
  3. Butterflies Like all insects, they have six jointed legs, 3 body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end). Most have four wings. The wings of butterflies are covered with tiny scales that seem to shimmer in the daylight. Some of them are brightly colored. Others have bold patterns or scary eye-spots. When a butterfly flashes its wings at its enemies, it confuses them, and gives itself time to escape the danger that they might be in.
  4. Butterflies and moth belong to the order Lepidoptera. Lepidos is Greek for “scales” and ptera means “wing”. Monarch visiting Mums

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert

Out in the fields, eggs are hidden from view. Child’s pose

clinging to leaves with butterfly glue. Stretching child’s pose. Fingers crawl to the left and right to stretch sides.

Soon caterpillars hatch. They creep and they chew. Creep forward into inchworm.

Each one knows what it must do. Press up to cobra. Add hissing and snaking back up and down.

Find a place where winds don;t blow, Locust.

then make a case in which to grow. Bow.

Caterpillar changes now begin– Rock and roll on belly, release. Rise up to standing position.

body and wings take shape within. Tapping.

When it’s time, each case is torn– Willow tree and joy breath.

wings unfold; new butterflies are born! Star Pose.

They pump their wings, get ready to fly, Add cross body kicks.

then hungry butterflies head for the sky. Yoga Jumping Jacks.

Looking for flowers with nectar to eat, Standing flower pose (tree)

they catch a whiff of something sweet.: Join a partner for partner tree/or group tree

They follow that fragrant scent of perfume, Melt to the floor. breathing in and smelling the delicious odor of fresh flowers 3x.

until they find our garden bloom.: Seated flower

We’ve been waiting for wings! Seated bat (opening flower)

We watch them circle, land on their feet, Lay on back and hug knees to chest. Legs up towards ceiling, as if walking on ceiling. Foot circles, both directions. Point and flex and then walk on ceiling and then bicycle.

unroll their tongues, and begin to eat.: Rock and roll. Grab feet, happy baby.

They dip and sip, Feet down. Simple lying twist.

then fly away, back home to the fields… Full body stretch-like a gingerbread man.

They have eggs to lay.: Savasana

Song (sung to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel)…I tried!

I spin and spin my chrysalis

I stay inside to rest

When I come out….Metamorphosis!

Pop! Goes the butterfly.

Of course we then did a rousing version of Yogini Went to Sea and then the Downward Dog Crawl Tunnel. Not taking into account the size of the room, proved to be a stumper for a moment. But I offered up the challenge to the class and we  were able to create a circle, which worked very well! I so appreciated the first groups problem solving ability!

Please enjoy the wonderful gift I received:

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Ole! Namaste!