Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body


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Mindful Book Reviews by Eve: Late summer reviews of books from Singing Dragon & Jessica Kingsley Publishers

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Robin And The White Rabbit: A story to help children with Autism to talk about their feelings and join in by Emma Lindström & Åse Brunström; Illustrated by Emma Lindström

This is a very engaging book for children, parents and teachers to help children with Autism to communicate their feelings more clearly and to enable them to fit in more comfortably with their peers. To accompany the text, there are some great illustrated effects. One of my favorites, is the clear bubble that Robin is inside, given a pictorial depiction of alone-ness and separation. The illustrations, which are a cross between realism and cartoon, are sweet and I do like how the main character, Robin, is quite androgynous and therefor quite gender-less, making the book very open minded and inclusive. To bring Robin out of confusion and distress, the kind white rabbit

offers a non-threatening and simple visual system that can be used to help express feelings. This is beneficial for many children on the spectrum, as they find picture cards an accessible way to describe their feelings. These pictures offer them choices which can always be rearranged to allow for change.

This book is an excellent resource for families and schools. I highly recommend it, not only for children on the spectrum, but also as a tool for opening up the dialogue with young children on how to be more aware of other peoples needs and how there is not just one way to learn something.

The Red Beast: Controlling Anger in Children with Asperger’s Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani; Illustrations by Haitham Al-Ghani

Through clear text and captivating illustrations, this book shows you what it is like to blow your top and then how to notice the anger and how to shrink it. The text melds beautifully with the illustrations and you get pulled right into the full expression of rage. The illustrations are great! I love the colored pencil/crayon scratch effect and the red that is chosen is a deep, satisfying hue, which give a perfect visual representation of anger. A take away from this book is definitely the overall feeling of compassion and acceptance.

I highly recommend this book. We all get angry sometime and this is a book is a great one to have in your toolkit for anger management strategist. At the back of the book, there are listed even more useful strategies.

Frog’s Breathtaking Speech: How children (and frogs) can use yoga breathing to deal with anxiety, anger and tension by Michael Chissick; Illustrations by Sarah Peacock

This book is a great introduction to stress relief for pre-schoolers and elementary aged children and is so usable by both non-practitioners and yoga teachers alike. It can be easily integrated into the classroom for some self-esteem enhancement and mindfulness. This book uses adorable watercolor and ink illustrations to increase children’s awareness of their own breath and affects of stress on their bodies, minds and energy and clearly instructs on accessible breathing strategies for all children. A nice bonus is that at the back of the book, there are illustrations for the yoga postures that accompany the breath-work.

I highly recommend this, one of the many awesome books by the dynamic duo of author, Michael Chissick, and illustrator, Sarah Peacock. Together they have filled a void in yoga and mindfulness for children with their picture books that clearly present techniques to reduce stress and increase peace of mind.

Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation: How children (and frogs, dogs, flamingos and dragons) can use yoga relaxation to help deal with stress, grief, bullying and lack of confidence by Michael Chissick; Illustrations by Sarah Peacock

This book is made to use in school, offering a successful relaxation technique that is simple, fun and easy to learn and can be administered by yoga teachers and non- practitioners alike.. It can be learned by everyone and once learned can be used anywhere at anytime when relaxation is needed. The bottom line is, it works!

Ladybird is an adorable, unassuming character who literally jumps off the pages of the book and onto various body parts of the body to add physical sensation and focus to a body scan mediation. At the back of the book, there are clear instructions on how to teach the Ladybird Relaxation and the actual Ladybird Relaxation Script.

I highly recommend this, one of the many awesome books by the dynamic duo of author, Michael Chissick, and illustrator, Sarah Peacock. Together they have filled a void in yoga and mindfulness for children with their picture books that clearly present techniques to reduce stress and increase peace of mind.

Thank you to Jessica Kingsley Publishing for sending me a copy of these books. All opinions are my own.

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Book Reviews by Eve: Rent Party Jazz by William Miller & The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami

IMG_9067Book Reviews by Eve: Two books from Lee & Low that promote mindfulness, building self-esteem and diversity are Rent Party Jazz by William Miller & The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami.

Rent Party Jazz by William Miller is a story, above all, about struggle, responsibility, hope and community. The great brush-stroke illustrations by Charlotte Riley-Webb create movement giving life to the scenes of New Orleans, to the people and to the trains of music pulsing through the city. You can practically feel the music bringing them all together, giving the reader a sense of belonging in the story too. I really appreciate the beautiful color palette and how the party scenes are so lively and colorful, contrasting against the darker, more somber tones of the street.IMG_9065

This story is both culturally significant and historically accurate. Rent parties are used to raise money, are a way for budding musicians to get off the ground and a selfless way to hold space for those in need. I highly recommend this book-it might inspire a blossoming philanthropist or a child with a heart of jazz.

IMG_9066The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami is a story that encourages interest, bolsters determination and increases self-reflection. Through yoga, it shows how it is empowering and uplifting to challenge oneself. The main character, Meena, starts off with a weak sense of self and fearing rejection, but through acts of self-challenge, she emerges with inner strength and a strong self-esteem. The sweet illustrations by Ruth Jeyaveeran, show great expressions of interest, happiness, doubt and support that really highlight the emotional content of the story. I love the peppering of authentic Indian phrases throughout the story, making it culturally relevant and inviting. I highly recommend this endearing story of self-realization and inner peace.

Thank you to Lee & Low for sending me copies of these books. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review By Eve: Go Yogi: Everyday Yoga For Calm, Happy, Healthy Little Yogis by Emma Hughes; Illustrations by John Smisson

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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 yogi The 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!”


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Book Review by Eve: All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann Jessica

 

IMG_7319The 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.

  1. Yoga To Settle In and Calm Down (not necessarily feeling anxious):
  • Belly Breath
  • Twist
  • 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
  1. Yoga To Energize (suggested use,after lunch):
  • Trunk Breath
  • Mt-Up Mt-Chair-Skier-Rock-Hang-Roll-up
  • Balance poses
  • 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
  • 1-minute Exploration
  1. Yoga for an upset or anxious student:
  • Belly Breath

  • Child’s Pose (either on floor, standing, in chair or at desk)

  • Possibly lay on belly, if that is available.

  • Imaginary or Real “Blow-A-Pinwheel” breath

  • Forward bends (calming, cooling, exhale poses)

  • Back Drawing

  • 1-Minute Exploration