Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body


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Book Reviews By Eve: Unclouded by Longing: Meditations on Autism and Being Present in an Overwhelming World by Christopher Goodchild

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Wood Carving by Amelia Robin Gloss (my mother)

Right off the bat, I was inspired by Christopher Goodchild, this talented author with Autism, who has so skillfully mastered the art of the written word. His writing is profound, flowing and self-reflective. It is within his own contemplation while holding silence that he arrives at his perspective and then is able to put this into beautifully written passages. The depths to which his contemplations take us allow us to explore and meditate on ourselves and through his writings we learn not only to listen but to hear what is in the silence. You do not have to read this book in one sitting-it is best savored.

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I was deeply moved by this book. It is powerful and direct. I highly recommend it as a companion to your contemplation practice. Additionally, the book is accompanied by beautiful black and white scratch art by illustrator Julie Lonneman. The two artist blend very well together. IMG_8531

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

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Book Reviews by Eve: Find The Dots by Andy Mansfield

IMG_8462Now this is a fun book! My mother was a paper artist, so I was completely enchanted by the crafty pull, push, lift, twist and peek tabs. This book has clever tactile puzzles on each page as the reader is directed to search for a number of certain color dots. This book is challenging but with a bit of focus and some problem solving techniques, every dot will be found. I really enjoyed the splendid color palette. It is bright and engaging yet still soft on the eyes.

I highly recommend this fun and educational book. It can be read alone or together. Reading it together is such a great way to introduce problem solving, cooperation and to instill the joy of discovery in a calm, non-stressful way. My fifteen year old chuckled a few times while reading it and gives it a thumbs up!

Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Book Review by Eve: The ASD And Me Picture Book by Joel Shaul

IMG_8157 (1)Once again, Joe Shaul hits it out of the park with an accessible, user-friendly book for children on the Autism Spectrum. The book clearly explains, with easy-to-read cartoon/clip art-like illustrations, how we are all different yet all the same and shows how we can quantitatively assess these things thereby gaining insight about ourselves and the world around us paving the way for self- reflection and improved self control.

I love the outlined head-shapes with the visual depictions of thoughts actions and ideas. This makes it so clear and simple. It really helps to delineate differences and similarities so that we can see that we are similar to each other not only by our similarities but also by our differences; we are similar because we are different and by becoming aware of this we will be able to blend all varied modalities together seamlessly, into a world that truly allows everyone their own growth path. This book is great for kids with ASD but it is also great for everyone else to appreciate and learn from. Its especially good for visual learners.

I highly recommend. It is a great tool!

How will I use this book:

As you can see, I was inspired to make visuals of my own thoughts on the sticky notes attached to the book in the heading photo. Inside my head, I have ideas to make accessible flamenco as a way to discover ones true nature. It makes it very clear what I am thinking about and what makes me, me. These are things that I am good at, I feel confident about and I am passionate about expressing within this creative form.

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Full Disclosure: Jessica Kingsely Publishing sent me this book. 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

 


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Book Review by Eve: Pancho Bandito and the Amarillo Armadillo Written by Mike Sundy; Illustrated by Jonathan Sundy

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Well right off the bat, let me say, I love anything armadillo. They have to be the coolest animal on the planet! They are literally present-day dinosaurs and are the only mammal with a built in suit of armor. They can hold their breath for up to 6 minutes and the 3-banded one can roll up arm3in a ball to protect itself from predators. They are also coolly adaptive creatures as they have minimal vision and hearing but they have a great sense of smell. They are my spirit animal!

The Sundy Brothers are a dynamic duo! This epic cowboy tale, written by Mike Sundy, is accompanied by the adorable illustrations of his brother, Jonathan Sundy and together these two pack a punch. With the resounding moral of the story being “what seems insurmountable is not” brought together with a giant sized bandito and an equally giant sized amarillo armadillo throw in some spicy hot Hatch chiles, a true southwestern staple, and a generous dose of humor and you have a highly entertaining story for children and their families. I love that the rhyme scheme is peppered with Spanish words. This delightful book has gripping action scenes, teaches about the importance of friendship, is multicultural and promotes diversity. One more thing, when reading out loud, it must be read with a drawling cowboy accent! Too funny! This book will definitely put a smile on your face and I promise, your mouth will be watering thinking of those vinegary, spicy peppers!

I highly recommend this book. Kid and grown ups will love it and it can be read again and again. The pictures are adorable. I love each emotive glance, whether human or animal!

How will I use this book?

This is a great book to use when teaching kids about the differences between the Fight or Flight stress reaction and the Relaxation Response. The F/F stress response occurs naturally when stress is perceived and it is designed to protect us from bodily harm.

The Relaxation Response is a accessible and beneficial way to turn off F/F stress response and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. Unlike the F/F stress response, the Relaxation Response must be practiced as it is not a natural occurring reaction to a situation. The beauty of it is, though, that the more you practice it, the stronger your ability is to calm down after stress. The RR can be initiated by deep breathing, yoga, visualizations, and other calming modalities.

Stress comes from how we perceive things. We need the Fight or Flight stress response in situations when stress is real, like when a tiger walks into the room. You need to decide whether to fight or run away, and your body needs to be ready to act-fast! But what happens if you expect a tiger to walk in and you get all stressed out and anxious, your sweating, your heart is beating fast, maybe you get a headache or your stomach gets upset and then in walks a kitten. No stress at all but your body is ready to fight or flight. Now you need to calm down fast! Take some deep breaths. Bring your heart rate, your blood pressure and your energy down. Try not to predetermine that a tiger is going to walk in every time. Let life unfold and allow it to happen. Your Fight or Flight stress response will be there when you need it, but you do not always need it.

Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review By Eve: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

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This is a charming read! The characters are delightful and the beautiful sense of community that rises around the growing of the giant pumpkin is a true testament to love they neighbor and brotherly love. The author obviously has a great knowledge of Japanese things as her description of the tea ceremony is so full of rich detail that you can practically smell the tea in the air and feel the warmth as it passes through your lips.

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Also, she brings in the concept of Kintsugi. While most people would likely conceal damages to their pottery, the Japanese art of Kintsugi follows a different philosophy. Rather than disguising the breakage, gold is used to restore the broken item incorporating the damage into its aesthetic, making it part of the object’s history. This theme weaves together most of the book and like the beautiful rivulets of gold in the pottery, we see time and time again how imperfections make us more real, more appealing and even a bit more perfect. In addition, the beautiful mathematically organized music of Bach is the soundtrack to this lovely story! This is a book of substance and is full of practical knowledge! I highly recommend this read to children and families.

Full disclosure: Candlewick Press sent me copy of this book. All opinions are my own.