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!)
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 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)
(Included at the end is a classroom/home assignment: How to make a Happiness Collector)
Funded by both Dance In the Schools and Friends of Baldwin, I am thrilled to be back for my sixth year at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School, Cambridge, MA, teaching my own Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement program with their amazing second grade classrooms. This year, they have three second-grade classrooms and I am able to see each group 5 times. Having this opportunity to grow each year with the students and staff is priceless. Also, I love seeing the past participants who are now in third, fourth or fifth grade. Whenever they see me, they jump into tree pose or even strike a flamenco pose (as I also integrate my program with flamenco). This school has great community spirit and I love the diversity and how it is celebrated.
Good Behavior In Yoga:
Good Behavior In Yoga Class:
I deliver the rules verbally, also pointing out that they can read along that there is a picture for each rule that shows what I am asking them to do. That way there are many ways to help them remember the rules.
I stay on my mat. This is so each child has personal space. We take a moment to look at our mats, the size, the color… I asked them to think of a color that makes them feel happy. Holding an imaginary Hula Hoop, we then cover our whole mat, including ourselves, with a bubble of this color. Inside our bubble we feel happy, good and safe.
I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given
I watch what my yoga teacher is doing. I remind them that I will most likely being doing what I am asking them to do, so if they watch me, they will always know what is being asked of them.
I try my best to do each yoga activity. Yoga is about trying, noticing, feeling. Just give things a try and if you need help…
If I need help, I can ask my yoga teacher. If one child needs an adaptation of an activity, we all do it. Its just something else to try!
If I need a break, I can take Child’s Pose or I can sit quietly on my mat. OK…a big one. I stop everything here and I go through and teach what I call the “three resting poses” First, I teach Child’s Pose, have everyone take a breath or two to feel this pose in their bodies. Then we roll forward onto our bellies, for Crocodile Pose, everyone needs belly-time! Once again a few breaths to feel the pose. Then we flip over onto our backs, and I teach Gingerbread Man Cookie Pose. This is the traditional savasana pose. Take our breaths. When we all sit back up, I ask them to think about which pose was the most restful for them because I will ask them later during class to do that pose.
I use a quiet voice. Enough said!
I keep my hands to myself. (OK this one should really be up by “staying on your mat” That will be on the updated poster!) Here I bring back the color bubble. Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pop anyone’s bubble….
After the rules (I only do this one time but I bring the board each week as a reminder, classes started with belly breathing. A great way to begin! I am a strong believer of breathing in and out through the nose, as an exhale with the mouth actually feels like a balloon that is losing air too fast (insert “balloon deflating too rapidly” sound here….FFFRRRAAPFT). I encourage breathing in through the nose, as if you are smelling a lovely flower and then letting the air gently leave through the nose on the exhale. It is more calming this way. Of course, there are two exceptions. If you have a cold/allergy or if you feel nervous and it makes you uncomfortable to breath that way.
One reason I bring yoga into classrooms is to help students and teachers that yoga is an accessible safe choice towards embodying self-control. Yoga is all about the self. Yoga is all about what it feels like inside your body. Only the individual knows what is feel like because no one else is inside another person’s being. The individual knows what is safe, what makes them feel good and how to calm themselves down. With increased self control, classrooms can flow more smoothly and teachers do not have to be noise/distraction monitors. For sure, yoga is not a cure-all, but it is one very accessible, adaptable and enjoyable tool for a person’s emotional intelligence tool kit.
Class begins with the ringing of the chime. Sometimes the best way to start class is form a relaxed and calm position to pave the way for better focused minds, bodies and energy. We inhale on the ring and allow the slow breath to release as we listen to the echo of the sound. Each child gets a turn. And with each chime, we focus our attention on the sound and on our breathing.
I will continue to use the bell as a way to bring back focus to the class. I want them to understand the difference between silent and noisy and stillness and movement. We all get a bit noisy, making silly sounds, talking, wiggling and then suddenly I ring the bell. The room quiets down. Of course, I made need to ring it again, but usually one ring is enough. Sometimes I play with the level intensity at which I ring the chime (loud vs soft), so they really have to be alert for its sound.
What is yoga?
relaxed & feeling good
stretch to become flexible
breathing to calm
Each class came up with similar responses, but the one I really liked was “getting flexible”. I love how it implies an opportunity for growth, for change. Just what yoga is about!
Jumping right into a short sequence:
Cow/Cat (adding moos and meows)
Downward Facing Dog (with barks)
Cobra (with hisses)
Child’s Pose (giving hand options to help the children figure out what feels best for them: under the forehead, fist-on-fist or hands by feet, palms up)
Now asking the students if doing that little bit of yoga make them feel calm/good/happy or like they were getting more flexible? I refer back to the word list they created and use them. I often throw in the question, “Is being able to touch your toes or do a backbend the only way to show that you are flexible? You might need to direct them away from more physical action descriptions for flexibility then someone can come up with alternative ways to be flexible (i.e. mind, energy)
One of my favorite yoga books and the one I have been using the longest is My Daddy Is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste. It is a great kicking off point for basic yoga poses.
The kids think the title is hysterical and I immediately tell them to create their own version of a pretzel yoga pose: tie yourself up, twist and curl any which way.
What I have found is that the real focus of the book is in the varied types of jobs the children in the story say that their parents do each day. There is a gardener (tree), vet (downward facing dog), architect, (triangle), pilot (airplane), builder (bridge), farmer (plow), marine biologist (fish), works inAfrica (lion), baker (pretzel). These jobs open up our ability to talk about what these job’s actually mean you do and kids either know or can piece together these answers by looking at the accompanying pictures. To make my teaching fully inclusive and to make sure I can make any adaptation necessary, I teach going into and out of poses my own way, so I do not use the accompanying pose descriptions. That way I can adapt and grow each pose organically with the group, rather than follow a set path. At the end, of course, we get to try another “make-your-own” pretzel pose. Lots of laughs and then I offer up the resting pose choice. We take a short resting moment.
One of my favorite moving meditations is “Yogini Went To Sea”by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (for only $9.99 you can buy the album Happy through iTunes). Shakta is the first children’s yoga teacher I studied with and she taught me the invaluable lesson of allowing your self to grow with each experience and also, she recorded the only recorded yoga songs that I use in my classes!
Classroom/Home Assignment: Create a Happiness Collector.
A Happiness Collectoris a jar, bucket, basket or any other receptacle you choose where you put in small piece of paper that have on them written or drawn things that make you happy. These things can be anything that make you happy. They can be something that you did, that you saw or that you had done to you.
Choose your Happiness Collector
Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.
Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.
Put it into your Happiness Collector.
Messages can be read whenever a bit of sunshine is needed, at the end of a week etc…
Children can be prompted with a phrase such as “I feel happy when I _________.
I was so happy with the successful launch of Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement at Mini Miracles Child Care Center, Natick. The students range from 15 month to 5.5 years and I was immediately charmed by each and everyone of them. The support staff is awesome. They are engaged and engaging as are the kids. I feel so fortunate to be creating this partnership with Mini Miracles Child Care Center and RCS Learning Center. I look forward to cultivating this wonderful friendship!
The launch of the Little Yogi Yoga program had us learning the differences between relaxed and active states in our breath, bodies and minds through songs, games, stories, dancing, moving and sitting still.
Things we learned (note: this is a grouping of all the things we did, through the breadth of all the classes. Everything was offered in an age appropriate manner. All concepts and exercises fit each age group. Modifications were applied) :
The Chime: Ring the chime and still and quiet with listening ears, to hear the reverberation, the echo, of the bell and just breath. We don’t even have to think of how to breath, because we all breath naturally. We are breathing and we are alive. But now I am asking you to really notice that you breathing. Think about breathing in, filling yourself up like a balloon, and feel yourself breathing out, feeling relaxed, and calm and focused. Let students try ringing the chime. One of the things often noted was how surprised the kids were at how heavy the chimes are.
Hoberman Sphere:This is a specialty item. It is an isokinetic structure that resembles a geodesic domebut is capable of folding down to a fraction of its normal size by the scissor-like action of its joints (the geodesic dome was created byBuckminster Fuller and I had the ultimate enjoyment of having one in my bedroom while I was growing up. All I had in my room was a bed, a bureau, a blackboard, a wooden stove and sink and the while center of the room was taken up by a wooden geodesic dome, with a rope and a circular wooden swing strung down the center on which I could swing round and round inside the arc of the jungle gym. We used to cover the whole thing with blankets and pretend it was a cave).It resembles the action of the belly in deep belly breathing, a very calming and relaxing way to breath. Inhale as you gently expand the sphere, exhale as you gently descend the sphere. Let the kids open and close once and then pass to the next person. Reminding them that it is a gently toy and that we want to breath slowly like a turtle.
Deep Belly Breathing: Place your hands on your belly. Breath in: Feel how your belly fills up like a beach ball; breath out, feel your belly soften. Gently close your eyes. I will add next time, having the kids lie down and place a bean bag on their belly and have them lift and drop it along with their breath. This can also be done with a rubber duck, and they can pretend it is riding the waves.
Blowing Pom-Poms: At first I tried this with small straws, but I found them to be a distraction. We just lay on our bellies and blew on the pom-poms (each student had their own), trying to send them sailing across the floor. Lots of laughs, slithering, crawling, breathing going on!
Fly Like a Butterfly: Butterfly Pose with song & movements.
Yogini Went To Sea: Tapping energy points on the forehead, arm, knee, belly and coordinating them all.
Clapping Name Game: Opening circle game that uses rhythm, counting, patterning, sequencing, socializing within a group, taking turns, listening, and creative thinking. Clap the number of syllables in my name, each child’s name and any support staff present. Help the children count how many syllables in their won name. At the end of class ask, who had the least? The most? What one was most common?
I Am Happy Meditation: Sitting, criss-cross yoga sauce. Pointer fingers stretched out and using thumb to hold other fingers curled I am happy; I am good. I am happy; I am good (Shake pointer fingers) A-E-I-O (finger tips together at the belly button) ; A-E-I-O (finger tips together by the heart) ; A-E-I-O (finger tips together by the forehead); U (hands reaching up to sky). Ha-ha-ha-ha (finger tips together by the forehead) ; He-he-he-he (finger tips together by the heart) ; Ho-ho-ho-ho (finger together at the belly button) ;Hooooooo (pronounced “who” hands reaching our by the knees). I have finger tips join as a brain gym activity.
Little White Duck song & movements: Rendering of the version that Raffi sings, along with the board book. As we read, we added movements to the story.
Final Rest Pose: This is the classic last pose of every yoga class. The idea is to lie perfectly still, legs slightly apart, feet dropping open, arms slightly away from the body, palms facing up the ceiling. You then follow the breath in and out for anywhere from 1 minute up to…..well in a “perfect” world that is what rest pose looks like, but that is not the reality of a children’s class. I gently remind stillness, focus, calmness, relaxation….
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!”
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)
What is the Butterfly Life Cycle?
Egg (usually laid on a leaf)
Larva/Caterpillar (eats leaves to grow)
What is metamorphosis?
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.
There are about 150,000 kinds of butterflies and they and their caterpillars come in all sorts of colors and sizes.
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.
Butterflies and moth belong to the order Lepidoptera. Lepidos is Greek for “scales” and ptera means “wing”.
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 Seaand 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!
Yoga for kids can be geared to teach them the meaning of yoga but with lightness, lots of levity and tons of exploration. Recently, I have been thinking of how to teach the koshas to kids. I have found that studying and teaching Esoteric Anatomy (your energetic anatomy)informs my practice and teaching in a beneficial way. The study of the subtle-body’s energies and structures supports my desire to focus inwards. Focusing on the energy inside your body is a great way to notice tensions, relaxation, and a great way to focus inside rather than just externally. I love feeling that the inside of me is just as powerful means for change as the outside.
In yoga, you can describe the functions of the perceptible (corporal) body and you can also describe the functions of the subtle (implied) body. The subtle anatomy of the humans is divided into five energetic sheaths known as ‘pancha kosha’. Pancha, meaning five and kosha, meaning layer or sheath. To explain these layers, I got out my Winnie The Pooh nesting doll-which by luck has exactly 5 layers. The outermost layer is Pooh, then Tigger, Eeyore, Owl and finally Piglet.
(Winnie the Pooh Body) Annamaya Kosha (Food Sheath/Physical Body)– This describes the physical body composed from the five elements but mainly from food and water. With this layer you experience awareness of sensation. Imbalance can be experienced by: muscle tension, too much or too little body weight, obsession with appearance. To balance: Eat a simple diet, rich in organic foods and unprocessed food and do twists.
(Tigger Body) Pranamaya Kosha (Pranic or Energy Sheath)-The Pranic or Energy Sheath, comprises the prana vayus*, nadis** and the chakras***. Prana, the vital breath which man lives by, is the bridge between the gross and subtle bodies as well as between the other koshas. Imbalance: nervous stress, anxiety, shortness of breath, depression, ADHD, exhaustion. Balance: pranayama, forward bends for anxiety, backbends for depression.
(Eeyore Body) Manomaya Kosha (Mental or psycho-emotional Sheath)– Consists of thoughts and emotions. Expressed by ego and personality. Imbalance: fear, vengefulness, clinging attachment, mental illness. Balance: visualization, meditation, mantra chanting, inversions.
(Owl Body) Vijnyanamaya Kosha (Intellectual Sheath)– Governs intuition. Created by instinct. Imbalance: lack of trust, arrogance, lack of empathy, malcontent. Balance: walking and sitting meditations, solitude, spiritual study, and headstand.
(Piglet Body) Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Sheath)– The ‘bliss sheath’ is the seat of the inner essence or self and is where we metabolize our experience of Samadhi or a higher level of concentrated meditation. The mind is said to rest in its intrinsic natural state which is pure bliss. In reality (or spiritually) there are no imbalances at this level as the mind is free from ‘chitta vrittis’ or mental confusions and distractions; yet…Imbalance: ungrounded, unfocused, suicidal thoughts. Balance: use all strategies.
*Prana is the force/energy that is in our body which brings forth life. Vayu means winds. Prana viyus are energy winds inside the body.
** Nāḍis are the channels through which, in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science, the energies of the subtle body are said to flow. They connect at special points of intensity called chakras.
***Chakra means “wheel” or “circular motion”. They are the psychic centers located in ascending order along the shushumna nadi (the spine) and are part of the nadi (“little rivers or streams”) system of yoga.
We started class lying in constructive rest, hands on belly, just noticing breath. I gave an intention for the practice which was that we were going to give our yoga practice our wholehearted attention-training the mind to regain its ability to be undistracted. This will help them to remain aware and conscious throughout the practice. I also began to explain how to do Ujjayi breath or Victory breath. With breaths in and out through the nostrils, I first had them imagine that the breath was coming from the soft spot directly in the middle of their collar bones, at the base of their throat. I explained the sound was audible only to themselves but it should have a soft oceanic pulse. Imagine they are really Darth Vader but they do not want anyone to know so making Darth Vader breath “silently”.
From constructive rest, we moved on to an easy twist, something I learned in Svaroopa yoga, which I like a lot.
Standing, breathing up and down from Up Mountain to Bent Over Forward Bend using the inhale to lift us and the exhale as we descended. This establishes a coordination of breath and movement.
High lunge on both sides ending with Downward Facing Dog. Of course we had to try 3 legged dog with some leg wags and barks! As we began to use our breath more, I encouraged them to try their Ujjayi breathing. I also reminded them of our class intention, just a few subtle reminders and they kept on track.
We then did Triangle, Tree and then Half -Moon, even going for a foot hold, which some people call Sugarcane Pose…I just call it “Wheeeeee”!
Sitting back down, Bound Angle Pose, to Revolved Head-to- Knee Pose, with Karate Chop action…taking the opposite arm, lifting it high by your ear and then bending over and karate chopping towards the pinky toe side of the extended leg to a simplified version of Marichyasana III.
Of course, I threw in a number of Child’s Poses throughout.
What came next was unplanned, but grew into the perfect activity to tie in the koshas. We lay the yoga blocks out in a pattern, like stepping stones. As each person began their trail, they would take the first block with them and then add it to the end of the trail, reshaping the shape. To make this an exercise in concentration, I first had them say “So” “Hum” as they walked, one syllable for each step. We then internalized this and it became a silent walking meditation. They had to pay attention to their feet or they wold fall off the blocks. The shape moved around and ended up heading into the kitchen, where after each block placement, they would walk around the kitchen island and back to the head of the trail. The shape slithered through the kitchen, back out again and across the floor, to the supply closet, where the carefully placed each block back in place and then quietly went back to their mats for Final Relaxation. This unplanned activity lasted a good 15 minutes. They all worked together, silently, and the joy and happiness radiated from within.
I love yoga!
Here are some Babushka coloring pages and crafts or you can get your own set of Babushka dolls from https://nestingdolls.co