Another great book from author K.I Al-Ghani (this time with Joy Beaney) and illustrated by Haitham Al-Ghani. Right off the bat, I was taken with the boldly outlined cartoon-like images that are presented in a frame-by-frame format. This is so effective and the drawings are so expressive that words are not even needed. Also, I think it is really fun that the main character is a wallaby!
The overlying message of this book is that it is OK to be you and that inclusion is cool. The book makes what many people think of as not the norm, the norm, and that acceptance is the way to go. I love that. There are so many effective, adaptive ideas offered in the book to help those with ADHD/SPD/ASD find peace, a way to express themselves that others can hear and for others to be open-eared, compassionate and friendly. This is a great book. Everyone should read it and share it. Above all our differences, we are all the same, humans, with a right to live our lives as we are. Be caring! Be kind! Be creative! That’s cool!
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.
Today’s yoga class explored the wonderful art of flamenco! I am a flamenco dancer. I teach children and adults (of all abilities) to dance flamenco. I created a flamenco performance/workshop for schools (PreK-High school), colleges, senior living facilities and many other community events such as Farmer’s Markets and festivals. This performance is called ¡Olé Flamenco! and it explores the gypsies, the art of flamenco, and diversity. Dance is a form of communication that can be shared by everyone, whether you know the exact steps or not. Dance helps people come together, share the joy of movement, build confidence and coordinaton and feel happy! If you would like to experience the art of flamenco, you can hire my guitar player and I to come to your party or event and we entertain you all!
Class began by my playing my castañuelas or castanets. I create beautiful, rhythmic music with my hands. Then I danced and played my castanets to a Sevillana, which is a folk dance from Spain that the gypsies flamencoized. I had everyone clapping their hands and shouting ¡Olé! while I danced!
We read a wonderful folktale from Spain called The Beautiful Butterfly. Ask your little yogini about it! They all loved it! It is a wonderful story of compassion, friendship and has a good funny catch at the end. With each page, we did yoga poses that flowed along with the story. The kids loved listening and were all so attentive and focused and I let them decide what poses we would do, choosing from the lines of the story.
We then did one of our favorite partner dances “Happy Jio” which is actually a moving meditation but to them it is just fun, fun fun!
I gave each child a flamenco fan, turned on a fiery flamenco song, and we all waved our fans like butterfly wings, stomped our feet and danced! danced! danced!
I am inspired by people who adapt yoga to fit into spaces not intended, such as classrooms, libraries, parks, locker rooms and especially to those who are dedicated to bringing yoga to children with special needs; to making yoga inclusive, adaptable and accessible. Louise Goldberg, author of Classroom Yoga Breaks andYoga Therapy for Children With Special Needs, which has been an invaluable asset for my own working in the special needs community, is a prime example.
To say I was delighted to receive my copy of Classroom Yoga Breaks is an understatement. Firstly, the book is presented beautifully with its sturdy, text book like, cover; it is well organized, and there are a plethora of accompanying photographs that lend clarity to the instruction. The book starts right off with great documentation of yoga and its many benefits physically, mentally and energetically. It draws clear connections to how yoga can improve Social Emotional Learning (SEL), can benefit special needs groups specifically and also the school community as a whole and how yoga bolsters self regulation, resilience and the executive functions. Through her vision, Ms. Goldberg, shows how to bring yoga into classrooms. She shares various curriculum and illustrates how all postures can be modified to fit every person. Through bodywork, breath-work and mind/energy-work, she shows how you can take yoga off the mat and into the world.
The clarity and attention to detail makes this book an indispensable addition to every schools, community centers and library. It is a repository for everything yoga and how it fits into the classroom. I especially appreciated the section dedicated to teacher’s self-care. Learning how to take care of yourself will not only help to build your resilience, your ability to respond rather then react and your sense of self but it will in turn change the climate of your classroom opening up the channels for easier teaching and freer learning.
Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
I was excited to receive my copy of Stay Cool And In Control With The Keep-Calm Guru by Lauren Brukner; Illustrated by Apsley, a book dedicated to empowering children to regulate their emotions and senses. This book is geared for children and has a “early reader” book feel with the large type face and engaging and very effective illustrations.
There are easy to follow symbols (I will make accompanying cards for easy reference.) The collection of body breaks and the checklist for the calming down process are excellent and very accessible. I personally love the included adjective charts-they are just great for empowering children to name their feelings. I also really appreciate how the book clearly defines the differences between physical, intellectual and emotional energies.
So important in the quest for self control.
The last part of the book is dedicated to the adults in these children’s lives and offers tips on how to support your child on their journey to self-discovery. The appendices are very helpful, offering various checklists, work sheets and visual sequences of the exercises in the book.
I highly recommend this book. It is a great tool for working with the wide spectrum of students/children we encounter. It is filled with practical tips on ways to identify and cope with anxiety, anger and other difficult feelings. It will be very useful to help familiarize them with basic self-control techniques and to empower them with clear, accessible communication skills.
Click here for a downloadable PDF that includes the appendices featured in the book.
Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Halloween Yoga Comes to Mini Miracles Childcare Center:
Class started, as it always does, with the ringing of the chime, breath in, breath out.
Me: Where does a skeleton live before it is dead and is buried in the ground?
Them: In the ground, in a scary house, icky and gooey….In your body!
Me: That’s It!
We had a talk about how some things are scary like skeletons, zombies, ghosts and witches, but they are not real, so even though you feel scared by them, they are not real and cannot hurt you. At Halloween, it is fun to dress up in scary costumes, but it is also fun to dress up in non-scary ones, like Belle, Ariel, Superman and Elsa. Remember to respect other children’s’ feelings.Not everyone likes to be scared. Also remember, that even if you do feel scared, inside the costume is just a friend or a sibling or even a parent. Stay with your adult, do not run into the street and let your parent help choose the candy you can eat. Have a happy and safe Halloween!
Halloween Yoga Sequence for ages 15 Months+ All inclusive. Adapt as needed.
Happy Pumpkin Pose To Color
Happy Pumpkin: Easy pose with hands in Garuda Mudra at the heart center. Give yourself a heart hug as you breath in and out.
Twisting Ghost : While making a Woooooooooo sund like a ghost.
3. Mixing the Candy : Slow to Faster one direction. Stop. Repeat opposite direction.
4. Candy Bowl: This can be done with hands in the back for support. Also, lift one hand, reach in and say “Trick or treat” as you pull out a piece of candy. Switch Sides. Then try both. Try mixing the candy while in bowl pose. Throw hands up and say “Happy Halloween.”
5. I Am Happy, I AM Good 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.
6. Feel Your Heart Beat: Use Ride Your Bumpy Camel-up and down faster and faster, like a heart beat when you get scared. Then bring the tempo back down, to show resting heart rate.
7. Howling Wolf: Hooooooowwwwwoooooooo & Back Cat: Meoooowwwwwww
8. Haunted House: Lift one leg up for a chimney, swirl the ankle for the smoke coming out of the chimney. Switch sides.
9. Kick Away The Ghosts: We did it 8x.
10. Welcome Mat: Taking a rest mid class. Lay on your belly, rest head, eyes and energy. Listen to your heart and try to hear your heart beating. Can you slow it down? Do you notice how calm you feel? How Happy? How Safe? How strong?
11. Zombie: Rise up and find your inner zombie. Similar to mountain and up mountain pose. Skip the last one with the cut in 1/2, guts spilling out. But do say “arrrgggghhhh” and plod around on your mat a bit.
12. Crescent Moon:Can do it with breath.
13. Witch on a Broom (with hat), Witch Taking Flight & Flying Witch: “I am brave (Warrior I). I am bold (Warrior II). To our brooms, we take hold! (Warrior III)”
14. Eye In The Sky: Twinkle fingers. Big smile.
15. Owl: “whoooooooooooo” breath. Turn head side-to-side. Tuck arms in like wings.
16. Littlest Pumpkin in the Patch:
17. Tootsie Roll: The most calming!
18. Freeze Yoga Dance: Start out by leading them into poses and saying freeze to get them to hold the poses. Then let them do any poses they want and randomly stop the music. Then starting adding in suggestions, such as: Do a pose with one hand on the floor. Do a pose with your belly on the floor but not your feet. Make the smallest pose you can. The largest. And so on…
I was pleased to receive the book Growing Up Mindful from the author, Christopher Willard, PSYD. As I have become increasingly more focused on bringing mindfulness into situations where mindfulness might not be readily available, such as in schools, offices, and with the special needs populations, I have enjoyed the wide array of books on the practical applications of mindfulness, that I can adapt to my needs. Dr. Willard is at the top of the game. This book was really user-friendly with just enough scientific knowledge mixed with common sense. A dream book of ideas to help create a sense of balance, ease and flexibility in your life, that of your family and also to those around you. From the excellent mindfulness exercises to the practical advice, Dr. Willard offers creative and useful scripts, examples and ideas on how to bring mindfulness into your day. I highly recommend this book. It is an excellent tool for anyone: parent, teacher, and boss who wants to help young people bring mindfulness into their lives.
He also has an audio companion to his book available on Sounds True and a great set of Growing Mindful card deck that features 50 unique mindfulness activities to teach awareness, how to be present in the moment, and cultivate kindness & curiosity. Perfect for all ages!
Dear Students & Families: past, present and future,
Welcome to my preliminary teaching and performing schedule for 2016-2017. All programs are inclusive and are adaptable.
This year, as lead youth/teen yoga and mindfulness instructor at Open Spirit Center, Framingham and their Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms project, I am aiming to bring yoga and mindfulness to target populations of students and faculty at Framingham High School and Hoops and Homework, an award winning After School and Summer Program serving the most under privileged kids in Framingham, MA. *** My ability to reach these populations is determined by grants and private donations though the Open Spirit/ Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms Project. For more information, please visit our donation page.
On the performance front, I will be dancing for the Boston Arts Consort and Song Caravan. On the stage, you will find me either dancing traditional flamenco or my beautiful creative gypsy-freestyle, which blends my life of dance into my own artistic expression.
I am available for *private and semi private work, site specific choreography, educational presentations and master classes. *My private lesson slots are filling fast.
On Saturday September 24, 2016, I will be participating in Open Spirit Center’s Day of Spirit. Please join me for my gypsy-freestyle class and how mindful movement assists in freeing your artistic voice. Check Open Spirit Center/ Day of Spirit for more details
Just throwing this out there: I am looking to create a 11+ yoga boys class. If you are interested or know of anyone, please share my information with them.
Please contact me for more information. All programs can be tailored to fit your needs.
This is book is the real deal…totally authentic…“the truth”…it is an honest, open-hearted expression of what it takes to really stop, take a moment and respond rather than react to things that are stressful and happening right now, in real time. These kids just tell it like it is and with their words and their beautiful art, they allow us to see how they are learning to come to grips with their humanness and how they have come to appreciate and respect the need to self-regulate. The staff and kids are 100% committed to this venture and that is evident from their honesty, bravery and creativity. I really appreciate how this book is presented, from the bright color schemes, the beautiful self-portraits, and the almost graphic novel-like approach, the book offers compelling examples from young people who are coping with stress by not hurting themselves or anyone else for that matter. Instead, they are willing to be calm, insightful, and kind. Masters of Mindfulness, written by Laurie Grossman, co-founder of Mindful Schools and Director of Program Development at Inner Explorer, and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class at Reach Academy in Oakland, California, introduces examples of how to be mindful in a straight forward approach, user-friendly manner and since it is written by kids, it is thoroughly believable.
This book is a huge success and it belongs in homes, libraries and on every park bench, school desk and bedside table!