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.
I was invited to teach Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement at a day long retreat at the UCC Edwards Retreat Center for several target teen groups within Framingham High School who have been learning mindfulness skills based on the Benson Henry Institute’sResilient Youth Curriculum. This retreat was the culminating activity to reinforce their skills and to expose them to other possible tools. There were about 50 English and Spanish speaking students.
When I first arrived, the students were engaged in a singing/music session with one English speaking teacher and a Spanish interpreter. I was thoroughly amazed at the total engagement of the students in this activity. No one was “sitting out”, no one had pulled away. They were all singing and their body language showed that they were fully relaxed and enjoying themselves. I did not know these kids but I knew this was a special moment and felt my heart reacting.
Next it was my turn to introduce these kids to mindfulness through the arts of flamenco and yoga, a program that I call, Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement. I knew many of the kids understood Spanish better than English so I really pushed myself to speak in Spanish, something I am not very comfortable with. One thing I remember though, from my stay in Grenoble in college, was how helpful and respectful native speakers are if you really give it a try. They can make out most of what you are saying even if its the wrong tense or you do not know the exact word, so I pushed my fears aside and began shakily…”Sólo hablo un poco de español y sé que mi acento es terrible..haha!” That broke the ice and I was off and running.
I so enjoyed being a part of this special day. I want the students to know how much I appreciated them and their willingness to learn. I had the unique opportunity to spend time with about seven of them afterwards and was able to really get into the meat of what makes flamenco flamenco and why I found this art form as a way to express myself artistically and why that was important. It was a great dharma talk on finding something you are passionate about and how to strive for something you love to do. One girl said to me, “Please just teach us what you know. We want to learn.” Now, how beautiful is that?!?!
These kids made me feel very brave. I received a really nice thank you from the organizers, “We want to thank you for an amazing day! Your energy and talent engaged the kids right from the start. It was the perfect workshop for this group and we loved your blending of culture, dance, meditation, and yoga. Many students reflected on how the retreat enabled them to let go of their own emotional issues, anxiety for the day. We appreciate your contributions to creating such a safe retreat for our students.”
Many thanks to Open Spirit Center of Framingham and the Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classroom project that keeps opening more and more doors for me to share myself with the students and staff in the Framingham Public Schools.
Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Love and happiness
Make you want to dance, love and happiness~Al Green
Valentine’s Day is a great day to explore love and happiness, not only in a boyfriend-girlfriend way, but in the way that you look at the way that love yourself and figure out what makes you happy.
I started the 7th graders yoga class by handing out small pieces of paper, on each one, I had drawn a small heart in red ink. I asked them to remember back to our MLK class where I had them make up a list of 10 people who they loved. I said, on this list can be parents, siblings, grandmas and grandpas, other family members, friends, anyone living or passed, a pet, even someone who they love but who does not know this…after a few minutes of contemplation, I brought to their attention the need for their own name to be on that list. That to be able to truly love another, you had to be able to first love yourself. That’s not to say you are going to love everything that you do, but that in the inner core, in the true depths of your being, you have to love yourself and know what brings you happiness.
I then had them write themselves a love note.
It could be as simple as:
“Dear Eve, I love you so much!
This was to be my call back point throughout the class. Especially when I would have them in some heart opening pose or a body hugging pose…”remember that note you wrote to yourself and feel that love.”
I finished off the day by reading “Happiness Is A Warm Puppy” by Charles Schultz. It was written in 1962 but its messages are sweet and simple and oh so true today (well maybe not the one where happiness is a thirty-five cent for a movie, fifteen cents for popcorn and a nickel for a bar of candy..that one is definitely dated!). I wasn’t sure where the reading of the book was going to take us, because I had actually brought it to read to group of special ability kids, but it just came naturally to read it to this group too.
I just started reading and it initiated a line of communication and opened the kids up to sharing about things that make them happy, especially happy memories…
These where some of our favorites:
Happiness is a thumb and a blanket. Talks of thumbs, blankies, hair twirling…
Happiness is a pile of leaves. One of my happiest memories is driving down the West Roxbury Parkway with my son Anthony, right after they had piled up all the fall leaves-there must have been about 50 massive piles, lining the green-way. Initially I felt rushed and was going to drive right by them, even after Anthony asked to stop and jump in them, but I changed my mind in a split second, pulled the car to the side of the road and we jumped! Its not cushy or soft, but it was truly one of the best feelings in life, one of my happiest memories.
Happiness is a warm puppy. This goes without saying, although some of the kids substituted cats, rabbits, etc…
Happiness is an “A” on your spelling test. Everyone knows the feeling of a good grade!
Happiness is three friends in a sandbox…with no fighting. A personal one for me again…no one likes sand in their eyes or having a big bucket of sand dumped on their head.
Happiness is getting together with your friends. Goes without saying!
Happiness is lots of candles. Well, if your older, I say the reverse would be true. A good time to laugh about age perspective!
Happiness is being able to reach the doorknob. Thinking about things that we are able to accomplish as we grow, and a funny side note by me…this morning, after having lived in our house now for five years, my son was in the mud room and looked up at a wall hanging and noted “Wow, we have a mirror in here!” Now I am not sure if that is because he has finally grown tall enough to see the mirror, or did he honestly just realize it was there!
Happiness is knowing all the answers. Well no one knows all the answers and it would be pretty boring if you did.
Happiness is a night light. Once again, happy childhood memories-even for those who still like the night light…or the blankie…or the thumb.
Happiness is walking in the grass in your bare feet. Sensory happiness…thoughts of lush green grass, brown crunchy grass…the smell of grass….the colors…the wind in the grass…tall grass…short grass..
Happiness is one thing to one person and another thing to another person. THE ULTIMATE TRUTH AND RESPECT FOR YOURSELF AND ALL THOSE AROUND YOU!
We ended the class with a Loving-Kindness meditation (also called a Metta meditation). The first phase of the Loving-Kindness meditation, is to focus attention on yourself because as I mentioned earlier, you need to love yourself first and foremost. I used the “All Is Well” card from the “Yoga Pretzels (Yoga Cards) by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish. I instructed the kids to relax back, close their eyes and go inside. Lying down, we first focus our attention on our breath coming in and then out of our bodies. Notice the cool breath in and the warm breath out. Notice the filing up of the body with air, like a balloon, on the breath in and the deflating, softening on the breath out. Notice the energy in, notice the energy out. It is so important to first sit with yourself, to notice yourself, before beginning a meditation You need to know where you are, to allow yourself to just be. Asking them to hear my what I say and to allow these words to wash over them, to say them softly back in their heads, to allow the feeling that All Is Well to be.
“May I be safe and loved.
May I be happy and healthy.
May I be kind and caring.
May I know that all is well.
After allowing these words to sink in, directing loving-kindness to yourself, we then bring to mind someone from our Ten People/Animals Who I Love List. And then repeat these phrases of Loving-Kindness directing them to this person/animal.
As we continued on we added in more loved ones into our thoughts, the whole school community, the whole community of Framingham, the world….
I presented the same class to my next group of students, the special ability class, but adapted it to fit their needs. As in the first class, I talked about Love and Happiness to get the class going, but I used it as a lead into to our checking in for our daily feelings. I explained that love is a feeling, just like happiness, anger, sadness, glee. I also explained how important is was to love ourselves and to accept ourselves and I then had everyone wrap their arms around themselves, give themselves a big hug, all the while I saying phrases, such as, “I love you!” “You are awesome!” “You deserve a great big hug, so I am going to give it to you!”
We followed with our breathing sticks and then our “I Am Happy, I Am Good” meditation. I love the flow of these exercises with the kids. The mediation is truly one of my favorite and so well received activities. Everyone does it, everyone gets into it…it is so special!
After our series of yoga poses…where I also kept adding in the feeling of love and happiness, we moved onto the reading of “Happiness Is A Warm Puppy”. This was so well received! These kids also opened up and shared stories and feelings. It was so beautiful. What I really enjoyed was how much the aides joined in to. It was a really nice day of community in the class. Lots of shared laughs and feelings of love and happiness really permeated the room.
Our final relaxation was a simple Metta meditation where I read the phrases form the card just having them think of themselves and everyone in the room (and the few students who were missing where definitely brought into the present when Julia-a girl who needs assistive technology to verbally communicate-kept repeating Dynasty’s name-her best friend who was not there that day..it made everyone smile and feel warm and snugly!).
Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to bring yoga and mindfulness into a first grade classroom at the McCarthy Elementary School in Framingham, MA. Since September, I have been bringing yoga and mindfulness to the Fuller Middle School through the wonderful non-profit Open Spirit’s Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms project. We received a very generous grant from the Massachusetts Women’s Missionary Union for me to work with both the Special Needs and the typical population at the Fuller Middle School. It is so wonderful to see that other schools in the Framingham system are also interested in joining in on this project! Framingham is an amazing, open minded, positive approach school system! I have found my THING for sure!
Today’s Yoga Class
1. Check-In: How are you feeling?; the Guidelines for Good Yoga Class Behavior; What is Yoga?; Child’s Pose.
2. Breath-work: Hoberman Sphere breath; What is meditation?
3. Meditation: ” I am happy; I am Good” *
4. Warm-Up: bumpy camel, washing machine with Sat, Nam (explain that “nam” means “I”-you, your name and “sat” means “my truth”-I often use the example that if you lie and you get away with it, the only person who you cannot hide the truth from is yourself. You will always know your truth), cat/cow, child’s pose, morning cup of coffee….
* ” I am happy; I am good” meditation (my own spin, using vowel sounds and laughter yoga, on the meditation with the same name by Shakta Khalsa):
2x out loud (but with a quiet voice), 2x whisper, 2x in head (but continue hand movements), 2x whisper, 2x out loud (on the final time, I like to change the saying to “I am happy; I feel GREAT and really exaggerate the laughings.)
I am happy; I am good (waggle pointer fingers) x 2
A,E,I,O (hands joined at belly); A,E,I,O (hands joined at heart center); A,E,I,O (hands joined at third eye); U (throw both hands up)
Ha, ha, ha, ha (hands joined at third eye); He, he, he, he (hands joined at heart center), Ho, ho, ho, ho (hands joined at belly); Hu! ( throw hands open at sides)
I may be just one little person (Child’s Pose) but what I do affects the world in a big way (jump up and do Star Pose).
When I plant a tree (Tree Pose)…and owl gets a new home Squat Pose with hoots)
When I pick up trash at the beach (Cross between Elephant breath and Swinging Gorilla pose with monkey sounds)…a crab has clean sand to crawl on (Crab Walk-forward, back and sideways)
When I put a feeder in the backyard (Boat Pose)…the birds have food to eat (Airplane Pose with flapping arms)
When I use a cloth grocery bag instead of paper (Downward Dog Pose with tail wags and barks)…there are more trees for the bears to climb (Bear Walk)
When I plant new flowers in the garden…bees have more nectar to eat (Flower Pose into Bat Pose with buzzing bee sounds)
When I turn off the faucet while brushing my teeth (Swipe the Peanut Butter Off Your Teeth Pose)…there is more water for the fish in the rivers (Fish Pose)
When I reduce, reuse and recycle (Lie down, bring knees in and give yourself a big hug)…there is more open land for the deer to run (bring legs up to first do single leg raises then bring them up and over in an easy inversion)
When we all pitch in a little (rock and roll to seated; Easy Twist)…it makes a big difference to our world (Full Body Stretch on floor-set up for Savasana)