Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every(body)


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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.


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Book Review by Eve: Triangle by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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I was thrilled to receive my copy of Triangle. Right from the get-go, I loved it! The book itself is a great design/shape and I love the thick board book covers that encase this signature Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen tale. The words are simple, great for new readers and read aloud, and each accompanying illustration enriches the story with beautiful layering of the shapes, with their earthy tones and marbled textures.

Mac Barnett has a wry sense of humor and his book is full of questioning possibilities, as each page turns, allowing the reader to guess what is coming next and to be either confirmed or surprised by the outcome. This book offers lessons in simple geometry, proprioception (knowing where you are in space) and the art of friendship. This book is great for kids and even hipsters, as it will look great on any coffee table!

How will I use this book?

I will use this book in my adaptive yoga program to discuss the geometry of poses!

  1. Triangle Pose:
  • Standing (alone, using a chair for balance, against a wall)
  • Seated in a chair (leg crossed at the ankle or the knee)
  • Seated on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  • Lying down on the floor (one leg extended, one leg bent in “tree” position)
  1. Square Pose: What can you fit into a square shape?

*Note: Blocks can be used in any of the variations to rest the foot on. In cases of extreme immobility, either gently guide the person into a variation that suits their body where they can enjoy the energetic benefits of the pose. Even just touching the area (left or right; inner or outer thigh) can bring their attention to that spot and thereby give them the benefit too.

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

AlwaysBeDancing dot com


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Book Review by Eve: Windows by Julia Denos; Illustrations by E. B. Goodale

9780763690359This charming picture book is partly an I-Spy. By reading the simple text, the reader can search for the related images on the pages, but it is also so much more. The worlds revealed through the windows create the opportunity for the reader to invent their own stories. Like putting together a puzzle, piece-by-piece, as the changing light of the day counter-posed with the the lighting of the indoor lights heightens the view from the streets outside,  the windows allow pieces of the inhabitants to be revealed.  This book, that’s words create interest in the world around accompanied by the richly colored and finely detailed illustrations, can help pique the readers own interests in discovering this great big wonderful world. These windows, teeming with similarities as well as differences, offer a glimpse into the unknown, making it friendly and inviting. Differences make us the same as much as the similarities! I highly recommend this book. It is creative and special. 

How will I use this book?

This is a lovely book with a message of peace and acceptance. It is a perfect book to include in my youth yoga program as a jumping off point for creating yoga poses out of what we see in the story. I allow the kids to pick anything they see and create a yoga pose from it. There are some recognizable ones, like tree, cat and dog (downward facing or puppy dog), but kids can also make poses from bicycles, hanging clothes and star-burst clocks! The talking points revolve around acceptance, feeling of security and peace.

Windows meditation:

  • Start seated or laying down and take in a few deep breaths.
  • Feel your breath coming in and out through your nose.
  • Focus your breath into your belly.
  • Let yourself go and allow yourself to rest calmly.
  • Imagine a window in front of you. You could be standing inside, looking-out or outside, looking-in.
  • Through this window you will see yourself having happy times. These happy times can be with your family, with friends, by yourself or with an animal; they can be from vacations or at home; they can be of your favorite place to relax; they can be indoors or outdoors; they can be real and they can be imagined.
  • Now settle your eyes on one happy moment. It does not have to be your favorite one just anyone your eyes rest on. Think about this happy time…how old were you? What’s the temperature? The smell? The colors?
  • Let your self be wrapped up by all the sensations of this moment. You are safe, loved and relaxed.
  • Inside each one of us, we carry images that can help us to feel grounded, focused and thankful. Bringing these images up during difficult moments can allow us to find the peace and stillness we have inherent inside each one of us.

    This book was sent to me by Candlewick Press. All opinions are my own.

     

    AlwaysBeDancing dot com


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Book Review by Eve: Rain written and illustrated by Sam Usher

 

51CvOVlNB8L._SX361_BO1,204,203,200_This is a magnificent book where the artwork carries the full weight of the story. There is simple accompanying text but the rain drenched watercolor illustrations are where the true magic happens. From the washing out of reality to the rich reflective life in the puddles, this wonderful story unfolds from the imaginary life of a little boy, stuck inside on a rainy day. CVVUQRXWcAM8jXw

I love how the sharp lines of objects dissolve into the rain and how the shadows of people at the window melt into the watery scene, creating a sense that the world will soon be covered with water.

All of a sudden, it all comes alive! When there is a break in the storm, the boy and his granddad head outside. The images the boy had created in his mind to pass the time appear in full color, replete with flags a fluttering, horns a blowing, clowns a drumming and even a cupcake eating queen, now draping the previously washed out scene with vivid colors, activity and joy! Cfxqu1HWcAAb1U6

I highly recommend this book, including the awesome, tactile, un-jacketed book cover. The story is sweet and the delightful illustrations are captivating and could hold a child mesmerized as they take in each little detail.

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