All of my online group offerings are being offered without a set fee to enable broader participation. I gratefully accept donations of any amount.If you are able to do so, please make a donation, through Venmo, PayPal or check (info included below)*
My Tween/Teen/Adult and my Tots+ classes will be continuing through June and I encourage you to take advantage of them. After-School Yoga will resume in September.
In addition to group classes, I am offering private sessions. I am a certified therapeutic yoga teacher with over three-decades of teaching experience. I am passionate in my love for yoga and dance and for making movement accessible and possible for all. I love designing personal practices that will enhance your quality of life. I would love for you to enjoy the experience of my yoga. My ideal clients are children, women and families for these private sessions. Please contact me at AdamAnt_Eve@gmail.com for private lesson rates.
Practitioners are welcome on a mat or in a chair. Rock, roll or stroll! .
Wishing you all love, peace and hope! Eve Costarelli
Eve Costarelli’s Online Offerings
All of my online offerings are being offered without a set fee to enable broader participation. I gratefully accept donations of any amount. If you are able to do so, please make a donation, through Venmo, PayPal or check (info included below)*
After-school Groove & Flow Yoga (on hold until September)
Groove & Flow Yoga for Tots+https://commonstreet.zoom.us/s/717933065Thurs. 10:00-10:45AM (EDT)
What: Classes are imaginative, playful and vary from very active to quietly meditative. Children will explore yoga poses and relaxation techniques through stories, games, books and songs which help to develop their confidence, awareness, focus and their interactions with peers within a safe, supportive environment. Fun for all!
For Tweens, Teens & Adults:
Groove & Flow Yoga & Dance Break https://commonstreet.zoom.us/j/953634210Mon. 5:00-6:00PM (EDT) Groove and Flow is a mix of yoga, dance and mindfulness that affords the participants the opportunity to explore and experience the joy of movement and freedom of expression within a supportive, creative environment, regardless of experience and/or abilities.
Groove & Flow Yoga https://commonstreet.zoom.us/s/781560765Thurs. 5:00-6:00PM (EDT)
Breathe, move, meditate then deeply relax. With a blend of styles, this yoga class aims to help you realize your true blissful self. This class designed to strengthen your body, mind, and spirit is balanced with relaxation and meditation. All levels welcomed for this one of a kind experience.
*I am holding space for everyone, with no expectations. I appreciate gratefully the donations of love I receive!*suggested donations $5-$20
**************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************Free fitness videos offered through the Natick Recreation & Parks YouTubechannel. Videos are posted every day Monday-Friday at 11:00AM (EDT) with an active fitness class that is fully accessible and inclusive . Classes are taught at a level for tweens/teens but it available to all to join.
Flamenco Monday taught by Eve Costarelli
Groove & Flow Yoga Wednesday taught by Eve Costarelli
(Fitness classes being offered Monday-Friday, please check them out!)
How does one start to meditate? I started meditating about 5 years ago. I wanted to start before that but just never sat down on my own and meditated. When I started, I had little knowledge of “how-to” meditate. I thought you needed to sit absolutely still, in total silence and think of nothing. Yeah….you can guess how well that went.
But overtime, it seemed to take hook. I was never sure if I was meditating correctly and often felt I was not doing it right or well, but I stuck at it and it stuck to me. First, I found that I needed to meditate in the morning, because if I waited until later in the day, it did not get done. So every morning, after I made breakfast for my son, I would sit on the other sofa and meditate…listening to him munch his bagel and gulp his milk. I felt like a pro! Look at me sitting here, not moving, blocking out the sounds around me….but I still felt like I was not doing it right and it was not “affecting” or “effecting” me correctly. But I stuck to it. And it stuck to me. It was oddly satisfying and if I did not do it, I felt like I was missing something that I wanted. My brain wanted it. My body wanted it. My soul wanted it.
Enter Kundalini. In Kundalini, everything is organized and makes sense. The exercises have aim and purpose and are felt physically, mentally and energetically. There are physical movements or stillness encased by specific breathing patterns, chants and mudras. This allows for the seeing, the hearing and the sensing of of what’s happening within minutes of starting a practice. The truth is in the doing. Here form really follow function. Kundlini fits all bodies, all sizes, all adaptations without getting lost in the “what my body should look like” thoughts.
Also, Kundlini is a gold mine when it comes to varied meditations. Kundalini offers metal, physical and emotional distractions that ope the gateway for meditation that is wholly enjoyable and accessible.
Kirtan Kriya, often referred to as SA TA NA MA meditation, is the most important meditation in Kundalini Yoga. If you can do only one meditation, this is it. It will readjust and align you to bring balance into your body, mind and spirit and thus your life. It is your teacher. It is your best friend.
The bottom line is that this meditation works. All you have to do is do it. You can trust the process and the technology.
Sit with a straight spine. Bring your mental focus to the brow point/3rd eye point.
Chant SA TA NA MA.
While chanting alternately press the thumb with the four fingers. Press hard enough to keep yourself awake and aware of the pressure. Keep repeating in a stable rhythm and keep the hand motion going throughout the whole meditation.
SA press the thumb and the pointer or Jupiter finger together with pressure. TA press the thumb and the middle or Saturn finger together. NA press the thumb and the ring or Sun finger together. MA press the thumb and the pinky or Mercury finger together.
The Jupiter/Pointer finger brings in knowledge, expands our field of possibilities and releases us from limitations.
The Saturn/Middle finger gives us patience, wisdom and purity.
The Sun/Ring finger gives us vitality and aliveness.
The Mercury/Pinky finger aids clear communication.
Visualize or feel each individual sound come in the crown chakra at the top of the head, down through the middle of the head and out to infinity through the third eye. This is very important and must be done with each sound. It is an essential part of the cleansing process. If this part of the meditation is not done, you may experience a headache.
While doing the meditation, you may experience pictures of the past come up like on a movie screen in your mind. Let them dance in front of your eyes and release them with the mantra. This is part of the cleansing of the subconscious mind. If emotions come up, you can also incorporate them in the chanting, i.e. if you feel anger then chant out the anger. Whatever you experience is OK. Do not try to avoid or control your experiences. Simply be with what is going on and go through it. It is all part of the cleansing process.
2 min in-head (can add tongue movements) with hand movements
1 min whisper
1 min out-loud.
This meditation can be done for 6-31 minutes. Just keep all the segments equal length (the silent section is repeated twice). It can really be done for as little as 3 minutes (30 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 30 sec, 30 sec)
31 minute version:
5 min out loud
5 min whisper
10 min in-head (tongue moving) with hand movement
5 min whisper
5 min out-loud
[1 min listen inside, hear the mantra, experience it. No hand movements.]
Sa Ta Na Ma Variation
Rest hands in lap. Fingers interlaced with the pads of the thumbs pressing into each other
Rest eyes gently looking at tip of nose; eyes may close.
Sniff in 4-counts, mentally saying Sa-Ta-Na-Ma.
Hold breath while mentally repeating the mantra 4 times.
Breath out through the nose in two strokes while mentally chanting Wahe/Guru.(Wahe/Wow! + Guru/Inner teacher = Cheers to my inner super hero!)
To end: Breath in for the count of 4. Hold breath for the count of 7. Breathe out through a circle mouth, making a whooshing sound, for the count of 8. Repeat 4-8x.
3 minutes: Affects your circulation, blood chemistry and stability of the blood. The increased blood circulations begins, distributing enhanced neuroendocrine secretions throughout the body.
7 minutes: Brain patterns start to shift from the static of beta waves, to calmer alpha waves and ultimately to deep relaxing delta waves. Simultaneously, the magnetic force surrounding the body increases in strength.
11 minutes: The pituitary gland, glandular system and the nerves start to learn and change. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems begin to accommodate the increased energy.
22 minutes: Anxiety producing thoughts in the subconscious begin to clear. Your three minds (negative, positive, and neutral) start to work together so your mental integration changes. 22 is the infinite number of longing and gives mastery of the mental realm.
31 minutes: Affects your whole mind and your aura. Endocrinological balance is achieved, as is balance of the chakra’s of the ethereal body. This balance persists throughout the day, and is reflected by changes in moods and behavior.
11 days: 11 is the number of Infinity in the material world and conqueror of the physical realm. So it’s like the first step to break loose from the entanglement of the mind.
40 days:Helps to break negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the Kriya or mantra, if done 40 days straight in a row
90 days:When you practice the Kriya or mantra for 90 days straight it will establish a new habit in your conscious and subconscious mind. It will change you in a very deep way.
120 days: When you commit to practice the Kriya or mantra for 120 days without skipping a day it will confirm the new habit of consciousness. The positive benefits of the Kriya get integrated permanently into your psyche.
1000 days: This will allow you to master the new habit of consciousness that the Kriya or mantra has promised. No matter what the challenge, you can call on this new habit to serve you.
Another mindful activity: Make your own deck. Draw favorite yoga poses, “this or that’s”, etc.
What you’ll need:
Yoga Memory Set (of course you can make you’r own too…which could be a totally other mindful activity. Everyone designs two yoga/mindfulness activity cards….. They can be similar pictures or even two aspects of the same idea…which could lead to cross matching….oh! So many options)
How to play?
Mix-up tiles/cards. Set up game. Traditional memory has 36 matching pairs for a total of 72 tiles. Reducing the number of tiles used can make the game easier and more fun if needed for special adaptation. .
Traditional Memory rules apply.
When a pair is found, all participants practice the activity.
Breathe in and out in each pose. Do both sides of a 2-sided pose.
Found Object Mandala
A mandala is a series of concentric circles, beginning with a central concept, an then radiating out to the outer rim with repeating shapes, colors or designs.
What you’ll need:
Nik-Naks, Bric-A Brac, screws, nuts and bolts, pins, jacks, toy cars, ABC blocks, sea glass, beach rocks, or head outside for a walk and collect leaves, acorns, stones….everything and anything that has multiples.
A large open space, maybe covered with a table cloth.
How to play:
First, look around the space you are in and find mandalas, for example, a clock face, the ceiling sprinklers, window moldings, etc. Think of mandalas outside, for example, the sun, a flower, a hubcap, etc.
Work as a team to build the mandala.
For fun, take photos throughout the process. This makes a nice flip book or picture video or even a nice picture for next years holiday card.
6/ 1-Minute Meditations:
Whistle Breathing: Whistling is breath and music combined that you create with the lips. It is very powerful because it relaxes inside and out. It creates inner balance.
A. To do it on the inhalation: pucker your lips, concentrate on the third eye point, and inhale through the mouth making a high-pitched whistle. Exhale through the nose. Focus the third-eye point on the sound of the whistle on the inhalation and on the soft sound of the breath through the nose on the exhalation.
B. To do it on the exhalation, reverse the procedure: inhale through the nose and exhale through the puckered lips with a whistle. Focus the eyes at the third eye point and focus the third-eye point on the sound of the whistle on the inhalation and on the soft sound of the breath through the nose on the exhalation.
Tongue Action Meditation A: Stick your tongue: left, right, in, out. You will start to laugh!
Tongue Action meditation B: Roll your tongue on the inside of the mouth around the gum and lips (not the teeth) as if you are wiping peanut butter off from the inside of your mouth. Can switch directions 1/2 way through, if desired.
Kiss the air! Pucker up and kiss the air. Or possibly kiss the left palm and then the right, back and forth.
“Z” Stand: Balance on toes; bend knees slightly as if to start sitting down; arms out, parallel to the ground, palms facing down; Chin gently dropped; Eyes 9/10th’s closed; Breath-of-fire. Short sniff in and short puff out with the nose or circled lips. Focus on the navel point.
4-Stroke Breathe: Emergency calming activity! Breathe in 4 strokes with the nose; Breathe out all in one stoke, to the count of 4,3,2,1. (the exhale can be through the nose or with the mouth).
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.
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.
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.
The Brain: Prefrontal Cortes, Hippocampus & Amygdala
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inhale very slowly through your nose for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5.
Exhale very slowly through your nose or mouth for 5 seconds: 1-2-3-4-5.
Suspend breath and pump belly 5 times: 1-2-3-4-5.
Repeat the process 3-5 more times
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.
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?!
Along comes a new, beautifully crafted, set of mindfulness cards for kids!
Right off the back, I fell in love with illustrator Mina Braun’s adorable drawings and appreciated their fostering of diversity. It is so important to show that every child will be able to access the mindful activities on these cards. The color palette is cheery and each picture is full of captivating details and creative patterns.
Whitney Stewart has made mindfulness easily accessible by everyone. The simple step-by-step instructions make it possible for teachers and families to use the cards anytime during the day when a mini mindful moment is needed. The cards are varied and offer entrance into mindfulness through breathing exercises, mental focus, yoga and movement activities, self-reflection, laughter, relaxing and renewing, waking up and motivating, games and kindness. So much kindness!
Above all, these cards promote 1. Loving Kindness 2. Compassion 3. Empathetic Joy 4. Equanimity-helping to cultivate kindness to self, to the known and to the unknown.
I highly recommend these cards. I know they will become a staple in my own tool kit for working with youth and bringing mindfulness into my and their lives. They should be in every classroom, library and in any space that involves youth. Younger children will need help reading them but older kids will be able to engage with them on their own.
Thank you to Barefoot Books & Whitney Stewart for sending me these beautiful cards. All opinions expressed are my own.
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 yogiThe 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!”
The author, Kathy Hoopmann, has found a great vehicle in using photographs of the expressive faces of birds in partner with a short phrase describing the very real and very serious subject of anxiety. The fabulous photographs bring the words to life. Each description of a level of anxiety allows the reader to empathize with and feel compassion for the very stressed out “birds”. This is totally relatable to ones own perceptions of and connections to anxiety but it also gives insight into the world and people around us. The book presents many varied aspects of anxiety and how they negatively effect us physically, mentally and emotionally. After taking the reader through these very descriptive definitions of anxiety and it’s out-reach (or in-reach, as it were), I so appreciated the feeling of lightness and a belief that their can be relief from the pain and stress anxiety causes that was evident at the end of the book. The book offers various coping skills to allow a person to really hear what their inner self is saying and how to bring themselves out of fear such as learning to trust oneself, being brave, and taking action such as eating well, exercising, doing yoga, snuggling pets and caring for themselves and others (human, animal or plant); all of these leading to the initiation of the relaxation response to counteract the negative effects of the continual firing of the fight or flight response. And thereby, releasing a person from the grips of anxiety and arriving at a calmer place.
I recommend this book with its straight-forward prose and the beautiful and often comical photographs, to both children and adults. It is an extremely accessible tool for those who are experiencing anxiety. It should be available in schools, doctors offices, libraries and anywhere else people might find a little relief from their anxiety.
Full Disclosure: Kingsley Publishers (London & Philadelphia) sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Mindful Teachings by Eve: How I will use this book:
A certain amount of stress is normal but an over production can lead to an anxiety disorder which can wreck havoc on a child physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. Yoga is an accessible, adaptive and inclusive method to decrease anxiety and bring about a better state of mind and a stronger connection to oneself.
Yoga for anxious children creates opportunities for them to:
Build self-esteem and confidence in a relaxed atmosphere while they improve their balance, coordination and proprioception.
Practice independence in a safe, non-judgmental environment
Experience a sense of community
Learn how to focus on and use their breathing effectively (which has a direct effect on their vagus nerve and the multiple benefits of a fit vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest of the cranial nerves (nerves in the brain). The word “vagus” means “wanders” and this nerve wanders all the way from the brain through the neck and into the abdomen. The vagus nerve is literally the captain of your inner nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system, to be specific, which controls the relaxation response as a counteraction to the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. This “captain”. When well tines, will do a great job of navigating functions and impulses of the body.)
Practice calming techniques such as visualization, meditation and physical movement.
In general, poses that bend forward are calming and poses and backward bending poses are uplifting. A forward bending pose has a long exhale (to calm) and a back-bend has a deeper inhale, to invigorate. If you are feeling depressed, do not practice too many forward folding poses as they will increase your feelings of melancholy, but a few can certainly make you feel safe, secure and quiet. Back-bending poses are great to amp-up energy, open the heart and to increase joy.
Yoga To Settle In and Calm Down (not necessarily feeling anxious):
30 seconds to 1 minute of stillness in body, mind and energy
ADD: Tree Pose
ADD: Challenge: Tree to Dancer to Tree
ADD Challenge: Partner Tree/Partner Dancer
(FINAL POSE): 1-minute Exploration
Yoga To Energize (suggested use,after lunch):
Real or imaginary “Blow-A-Pinwheel” breath
Mini Back Bends (energizing, invigorating, opening and warming)
Warrior I-II-III sequence (add in awakening affirmations)
Shake it out/Tap it out
Yoga for an upset or anxious student:
Child’s Pose (either on floor, standing, in chair or at desk)
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:
In 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.
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.
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
Strengthen the heart muscle, both physically and emotionally
Increase positive energy
Develop balance, flexibility and coordination
Strengthen confidence, patience and risk taking skills
Deepen sense of self
Expand world view
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.
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:
John: The Stress goes out of my body
Marashall: My stress goes away
Edward: Like I am lying on the beach looking at the sun