Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body


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Cultivate Your Flamenco Body

Cultivate your flamenco body

My yoga teacher, Barbara Benagh used a metaphor for cultivating a plant in relation to growing a pose in yoga. This metaphor really resonated with me and I brought it with me to flamenco class this week.

At the beginning of class, we explore the body structure to be held during flamenco and  I describe the process physically:
*Feel a long lower back
*In return you will feel a response in your belly, a lifting in your belly
*Bring your belly into your spine, so you fill out your lower back
*Feel your side ribs lifting
*Have deep arm pits
*Lift your shoulder girdle up and then drop it over the top of the rib cage
*Do not pull your shoulders back, instead open your upper back wide
*At the same time, open your chest up wide too
*You need a micro-bend in your knees and elbows
*Pull the back of your cranium into your neck for a long straight line from tail to crown of head
*Eyes are down cast (hooded) in a far off type of way (do not look at the floor)

This week, however, I led the class using visualization to allow my students to create new habits in forming the flamenco body:

“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.”

This is a much different image than if you imagine the feet are rooted to a soil line right below them. In this scenario, the legs are not rooted in the soil. But with the soil being at the hip line, you can instead imagine the legs to be strong roots growing deeply down into the soil and then allow the feet to hold you to the earth.

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Book Review: Growing Up Mindful by Christopher Willard, PSYD

bk04652-growing-up-mindful-published-cover_1I 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! 514xcamlnel-_ac_ul320_sr192320_

As a special treat, here is a YouTube link to Dr. Willard’s TedX – Growing Up Stressed or Growing Up Mindful?

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of Growing Up Mindful. All opinions are my own.


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Eve Costarelli’s preliminary teaching and performing schedule for 2016-2017

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.

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  1. 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.
  2. I will be at Mini Miracles Childcare Center with Eve’s Awesome Yoga for ages 15 months-6 Years. Classes here are only available for center enrollees. 
  3. Anthony Tiriti Tran and I continue our educational program, ¡Olé Flamenco! with both Young Audiences of Massachusetts and Celebrity Series: Arts For All! We can come to your school or community gathering! All programs are inclusive and adaptable.
  4. 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.
  5. I am available for *private and semi private work, site specific choreography, educational presentations and master classes. *My private lesson slots are filling fast.
  6. This summer, I had the awesome opportunity to bring yoga to a BINA Farm/Warrior Thunder Foundation event and I hope to do more work with both organizations.
  7. 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
  8. 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. 

Thank you and Remember to Always Be Dancing!

¡Olé Namaste!

Eve

 

 


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Eve’s Awesome Yoga comes to Mini Miracles Child Care Center, Framingham, MA

I was so happy with the successful launch of Always Be Dancing Mindful Movement at Mini Miracles Child Care Center, Natick. The students range from 15 month to 5.5 years and I was immediately charmed by each and everyone of them. The support staff is awesome. They are engaged and engaging as are the kids. I feel so fortunate to be creating this partnership with Mini Miracles Child Care Center and RCS Learning Center. I look forward to cultivating this wonderful friendship!

The launch of the Little Yogi Yoga program had us learning the differences between relaxed and active states in our breath, bodies and minds through songs, games, stories, dancing, moving and sitting still.

Things we learned (note: this is a grouping of all the things we did, through the breadth of all the classes. Everything was offered in an age appropriate manner. All concepts and exercises fit each age group. Modifications were applied) :

The Chimepp347: Ring the chime and still and quiet with listening ears, to hear the reverberation, the echo, of the bell and just breath. We don’t even have to think of how to breath, because we all breath naturally. We are breathing and we are alive. But now I am asking you to really notice that you breathing. Think about breathing in, filling yourself up like a balloon, and feel yourself breathing out, feeling relaxed, and calm and focused. Let students try ringing the chime. One of the things often noted was how surprised the kids were at how heavy the chimes are.

Hoberman Sphere: This is a specialty item. It is an isokinetic structure that resembles a geodesic dome but is capable of folding down to a fraction of its normal size by the scissor-like action of its joints (the geodesic dome was created by Buckminster Fuller and I had the ultimate enjoyment of having one in my bedroom while I was growing up. All I had in my room was a bed, a bureau, a blackboard, a wooden stove and sink and the while center of the room was taken up by a wooden geodesic dome, with a rope and a circular wooden swing strung down the center on which I could swing round and round inside the arc of the jungle gym. We used to cover the whole thing with blankets and pretend it was a cave). It resembles the action of the belly in deep belly breathing, a very calming and relaxing way to breath. Inhale as you gently expand the sphere, exhale as you gently descend the sphere. Let the kids open and close once and then pass to the next person. Reminding them that it is a gently toy and that we want to breath slowly like a turtle.

Deep Belly Breathing: Place your hands on your belly. Breath in: Feel how your belly fills up like a beabdominal-breathingach ball; breath out, feel your belly soften. Gently close your eyes. I will add next time, having the kids lie down and place a bean bag on their belly and have them lift and drop it along with their breath. This can also be done with a rubber duck, and they can pretend it is riding the waves.

Blowing Pom-Poms: At first I tried this with small straws, but I found them to be a distraction. We just lay on our bellies and blew on the pom-poms (each student had their own), trying to send them sailing across the floor. Lots of laughs, slithering, crawling, breathing going on!

Fly Like a Butterfly: Butterfly Pose with song & movements. color-3B-butterfly%2872%29[1]

Yogini Went To Sea: Tapping energy points on the forehead, arm, knee, belly and coordinating them all.

Clapping Name Game: Opening circle game that uses rhythm, counting, patterning, sequencing, socializing within a group, taking turns, listening, and creative thinking. Clap the number of syllables in my name, each child’s name and any support staff present. Help the children count how many syllables in their won name. At the end of class ask, who had the least? The most? What one was most common?

I Am Happy 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.

Little White DLittle-White-Duck-9780316733977uck song & movements: Rendering of the version that Raffi sings, along with the board book. As we read, we added movements to the story.

Pose Series: **The accompanying yoga cards are from the Yoga Education Resources: Creative Yoga Games sets 1 & 2, by Edna Reinhardt 

Final Rest Pose: This is the classic last pose of every yoga class. The idea is to lie perfectly still, legs slightly apart, feet dropping open, arms slightly away from the body, palms facing up the ceiling. You then follow the breath in and out for anywhere from 1 minute up to…..well in a “perfect” world that is what rest pose looks like, but that is not the reality of a children’s class. I gently remind stillness, focus, calmness, relaxation….

Namaste: Thank you!

Eve

 


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Yoga For Flamenco Dancers

Yoga For Flamenco Dancers: Mr. Thrifty Skeleton (Señor Esquelto Económico)

Basis for the sequence:

  1. Getting in touch with the spine and pelvis to coordinate movement with emotion
  2. Strengthening the ball of foot for tacaneo
  3. Arch of back/back-bends for Vuelta Quebrada
  4. Ankle strengthen for balance

Take a few moments to prepare your self for practice.

To get an understanding of the sensation of your spine and it’s ability to flex, extend, twist and lean, start on your back, legs out, arms resting by sides, just noticing which areas along your backs/spine touch the floor. I use a Mr. Thrifty Skeleton (Señor Esqueleto Económico), to refer to when describing bones and movement. Constructive Rest

After that, bend your knees into constructive rest, and then notice the changes that happen in relation to your back against the floor. With knees bent, it also made it possible to gently rock the pelvis back and forth. Using Señor Esqueleto Económico, you can see how the spine connects into the skull at the Occiput Occiputand how it runs all the way down to the tail bone. (Interesting fact: We are born with about 300 bones but by the time we reach adulthood, due to fusing, we only have 206). an-elegant-perfect-sunflower-in-a-flower-pot-vector-1650453Imagine that your spine sits into the pelvis as a flower in a pot. With good strong roots and good balance, the stem (spine) grows strong and the energy flows and is able to balance the flowering head atop with ease, grace and strength. The neck spine (cervical spine) is longer than you think. A good way to check into this part of the spine is to notice how it feels when turned and when the head is dropped forward towards the chest. You will notice a pull somewhere between you shoulders and you feel the full length of the neck. The neck spine has the greatest degree of rotation, then the lower back and hip spine (lumbar spine) and finally the middle section of the back spine (the thoracic spine). The joints in the lumbar spine allow for forward and backward movement but limit rotation.

IMG_6454IMG_6455From constructive rest, hug the knees into the chest, allowing the lower back to spread out onto the floor. You can even feel , by your lowest ribs, the floating ribs, the sensation that a pair of wings is unfurling. Then, hold onto your knees, and practice wave breathing: on the inhale, gently allow the knees to pull away, just until the arms straighten and on the exhale, gently pull the knees towards the belly, aiding in the removal of the air; this action is like a bellows. Noticing here, the same rocking of the pelvis you observed earlier and noting now the feeling of the subsequent spinal movement. The knees into the chest are like a forward bend and the knees away from the chest create a subtle back-bend. 

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Seated in easy pose, exploring the 6 directions of the movement of the spine. Always like to pull out Bumpy Camel here, then side-stretch, and seated twist. Move onto hanIMG_6464IMG_6461IMG_6460ds and knees to explore this again: cat and cow (once again noting the flexion and extension of the spine), easy kneeling twist with a chicken wing pose and dog looking at tail pose (for side stretch).

Child’s Pose to Baddha Konasana to Hero’s pose and the discussion of the difference between this position of the legs in relation to the body vs. “W” Sitting (see http://www.skillsforaction.com/w-sitting). Start with the simplest variation of Hero’s pose. To note as you progressed through the pose, you might need to add props if you are not able to sit comfortably on the floor. Some people might be comfortable enough to continue on into Supta Virasana- Reclining Hero’s pose (this of course can also be done with props to attain the full pose). Use the first two poses as preparatory poses to doing Hero and to note some of the benefits of Hero’s pose are : Stretching of the quadriceps; Keeping the knee joints healthy; Keeping tendons in the back of the knees properly aligned; Strengthening the tops of the feet and ankles; Strengthening of the arches and broadening of the sacrum.    

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Standing now. More arch work with Scrunches and Toe Lifts. Imagine you are standing on two silky scarves, one under each foot. Try to scrunch up your foot as you drag the scarf towards your heels. Do this 5 times in a row, 4 quicker attempts and then on #5, a longer hold. Relax the foot and then lift up all ten toes and flare them open, keep the heel and the ball of the foot on the floor. When laying the toes back down, first time is a regular drop, second time, you try to drop the toes baby toe first to the big toe, one at a time and on the third time, you try to drop the big toe first down to the baby toe. I then repeat this whole sequence once or twice more (scrunches through toe lifts). Even if you cannot actually drop the toes separately, just try to imagine that you are doing it. Sometimes the brain needs to tell the toes what it wants them to do to teach them.

Tree on a block. A fun variation of tree pose that adds a little challenge and a little more focus on the core stabilizing muscles that wrap around your lower spine and help it plant deeply into the pelvis so the two parts of your body can work harmoniously. Most physical movement requires a rotation of the torso. Our core muscles actually form an X across the front and back of your body. This means the body acts by connecting the right shoulder with the left hip and visa-versa. From your neck and your upper back, around the sides of the body, through the upper rib muscles, that lift your arm pit, wrap inwards, travel towards the opposite side of the body. They pass by the hips, criss-cross then end up in the opposite thigh. Known as the Serape Effect.

Brief History of Flamenco as imagined through the migrants from India, who arrived in Spain in the 15 century, and came to be known as the Gypsies. These people are believed to have been composed of three groups/castes: metal smiths working in iron, copper and bronze; practitioners of animal husbandry such as horse doctors, farriers and dealers in live stock; and entertainers such singers, dancers, conjurers, magicians, jugglers, fortune tellers and acrobats. These fiercely proud nomadic groups, divided into two major migratory routes with one faction heading northward towards Russian along the Caspian coast and the other faction heading southward through Iraq, Persia, Egypt, Arabia and North Africa before arriving in Spain via Mediterranean Sea through the Straits of Gibraltar on trading vessels and overland caravans trains, known as kumpanias. Both the music and culture of these people were highly influenced by the cultures they had reached along their journey and the melodies and rhythms alive in the culture of Spain that the gypsies heard upon their arrival planted the seeds for the birth of the art of flamenco. Flamenco has evolved as a forceful and exciting art form. It involves both physical and emotional intelligence and is a dance form characterized by hand clapping (palmas), percussive footwork (tacaneo), intricate hand (floreo), arm (braseo) and body movements combined with a highly tuned in emotional structure that spans the deepest songs of the original gypsies through the styles influenced by Cuba and South America all the way to today, with traditional flamenco being fused with jazz, pop and World Music styles. Without dispute, flamenco is the most familiar form of Spanish dance. With its fire and intensity, its insistent rhythms, its soulful guitars and its passion, it has the power to draw people in and after watching a performance, everyone is ready to strike a pose and stomp their feet. ¡Olé!


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Book Review: Sam And Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett; Illustrations by Jon Klassen

Sam and Dave are Yoga Archaeologists

Sam And Dave Dig A HoleSam and Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett is an adorable and laugh-out-loud funny story about two boys and the power of determination. When I first read the book, I was struck by how closely related it was related to how I view the journey of yoga. In yoga, we are archaeologists of our bodies, mind and soul. We endlessly inquire into how our bodies work, what feels good/bad, what makes us feel better and what are our habits. With care, kindness and perseverance, we as yoga archaeologists brush away layer after layer of “dirt”to unearth our somatic history. Like in archaeology, you do not always know what you are looking for, maybe there is nothing there or maybe there is a hidden treasure. It is a slow process. New things pop up and take you down different paths of discovery/sensation. Archaeologists and yogi’s have patience, focus, a lust for knowledge, seek the unknown, show flexibility in mind, body and soul, have inner strength and above all love what they do. Same and Dave exemplify this in the fact that they are not driven by finding a treasure but instead by the evident joy along their path of discovery. The journey is the ultimate reward!

I have already brought this book with me to a number of yoga classes and as Mr. Barnett says, there is no ceiling on this book’s suggested age limit. Like him, I say this book is wonderful for ages 4 to adult. Noting the peels of laughter from the younger kids, the smirks from the mid-graders and the dancing eyes from my teens tells me “I am correct”; it’s an all-around winner!

I highly recommend this book to everyone! The illustrations by Jon Klassen are simply adorable. The fact that Sam and Dave do not have mouths makes me think they are communicating through mental telepathy and after catching the subtle artistic changes at the end of the book, my classes were lead naturally into theorizing about the ending to the story. 

Full Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of Sam And Dave Dig A Hole. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Book Review: Red Turban White Horse by Nadini Bajpai

Red Turban Whote Horse

I just finished reading the delightful debut YA novel “Red Turban White Horse” written by the local author Nandini Bajpai that is set in the Metrowest (of Boston) and is full of thinly disguised local references. For someone, like myself, living in the region, this is a tasty treat!

The heroine of the story (Padmini “Mini” Kapoor) is a resourceful, caring teen who comes in charge of orchestrating her older sisters wedding while at the same time a hurricane is barreling down the east coast. Mini is a generous soul and armed with the current know-how of how-to-get-things done, she sets about to get everything in order from location to caterer to finding their mother’s lehengas (a skirt that is long, embroidered and pleated) that have been packed away for many years so that her sister can have the fairy tale wedding she deserves.

Wedding Lehenga

Start with the rich descriptions of the beautiful fabrics of the lehengas, from the gold and cranberry to the raspberry and silver, add in the mouth-watering descriptions of the delicious aromatic curries, warm crusty garlic naans, fragrant rice and Tandoori chicken, and then sprinkle in sweet, youthful romance and strong family values and you have a little slice of swarg!

I highly recommend this YA novel! It is a fun romp through Indian-American culture, with strong, likable characters and lots of local flavor (I did reach out to the author and she indicated that the little takeaway that comes to Mini’s rescue is loosely based on a diner on Route 9 in Framingham called Welcome India. I can’t wait to try them sometime.)

Full disclosure: I stumbled upon this book at the LOCAL library book sale! All opinions expressed are my own.