Living with a sense of purpose is so important. Wake each day with a drive and will to do. Find things that interest you and a determination to learn, even when it is hard. Learn to figure things out-ask questions-make mistakes. Experience the inner sensations of your passion.
Life is to be lived with gusto-zest-zeal. You must live in and for the moment. Your goals and desires and hopes and dreams have many paths that lead to them. Allow yourself the freedom to travel many paths. They will lead you to experiences that will help you on your way. Do not be disappointed if your path is different than you thought it would be; instead be flexible. Learn along the way. Find joy in your travels. Be inspired to live.
Experience the moments within a larger context. Everything you do will cause an effect. Whether the desired one, or not, or possibly one that is not immediately noticeable…maybe not even in your lifetime. Above all be patient Know that patience is not just the ability to wait for it to happen. Rather, it is the absolute knowing that it will happen. Just. Know. It. Will. Happen.
You can effect change.
Alwasy keep your vibration high.
Have a positive outlook.
Look at your heart.
If you are local to Natick, MA, please join me today. I will be leading a short Grove & Flow associated with the fire element and summer. Come get grounded!
Grounding In Community
Natick Common 1:30-3:00PM
Grounding In Community is an outdoor, in-person, and safe way to grow our hope and support each other. Every last Sunday afternoon, from 1:30 – 3:00, we meet under the shade of a giant tree on the Natick Common for a time of spiritual practice, artistic expression, and truth-telling. We lie on the grass, sit on blankets and chairs, sing, explore movement, and speak words of truth that give us greater strength and freedom.
We are living in times that are heavy with foreboding in terms of health, economics, and politics. And so we gather in community to affirm that we are not alone in being afraid and in needing support. Together we create a space where we find the courage to face all this…and to find a way of being well and of keeping hope alive within.
For everyone’s safety, we will wear masks and maintain six feet of distance. If you want, please also bring a blanket, yoga mat, or chair to sit on. It is also recommended to bring a water bottle.
If you are inspired to share a poem, story, song, or reading–something that grounds you in truth and gives you hope–there is a time of open sharing in the structure of the gathering where this will be welcome.
I have partnered with Downtown Framingham, Inc. to bring yoga (with a little bit of flamenco) to the Framingham Common this summer. This weekly series runs from Saturday June 2nd- Saturday September 8th.
DFI is proud to announce our summer-long yoga series! Each Saturday morning from 10-11 a.m. a yoga class will be held on the Downtown Common. Each week a different local instructor will lead the group through poses and breathing exercises to help you feel calm for the whole weekend. Join us! Tickets or season passes can be purchased on Eventbrite (see links and schedule below). $5/class; $60/season pass (Children 12 & under, free)
If the weather is not suitable for classes to be held outside, they will be relocated to the upstairs gallery at Amazing Things Arts Center at 160 Hollis Street.
Select the date you would like to attend to purchase tickets.
Listening To My Bodyby Gabi Garcia is a really nice, effective book to aid children in understanding about sensations and feelings and how these things interact to better help them navigate understanding their own needs. The book is written with compassion and obvious desire to help kids tune in and trust themselves. There are great short noticing activities throughout and I really like the recap word list at the end for a visual reminder of the sensations and feelings brought up by the story. The noticing activities are also listed for easy access. A special shout out to Ying Hui Tan for her adorable illustrations. The characters are sweet and they clearly express the content of the book. The art is textural and creative and very endearing.
Listening With My Heart: A Story Of Kindness And Self-Compassion by Gabi Garcia shares the messages of awareness, self -respect and friendliness, using positive self talk within a story that empowers you to being true to yourself. The spirit of the book is openhearted and generous and the illustrations are super adorable. The message is clear-be compassionate and kind to yourself so that you can reach past yourself and extend the kindness to others. The illustrator, Ying Hui Tan, has really developed her style and palette. The children’s wide-eyed expressive faces display great emotion and work in beautiful unison with the words. I love the layering effects and the wide use of texture. The back of the book has some wonderful kindness activities. All around, this is simply a lovely book!
I highly recommend these books. They make great read aloud’s to share with children, students, parents and teachers. These books should be in libraries, classrooms and homes!
Full Disclosure: The author sent me these books. All opinions expressed are my own.
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.
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 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 Chime: 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 domebut 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 byBuckminster 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 beach 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.
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 Duck song & movements: Rendering of the version that Raffi sings, along with the board book. As we read, we added movements to the story.
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….
Getting in touch with the spine and pelvis to coordinate movement with emotion
Strengthening the ball of foot for tacaneo
Arch of back/back-bends for Vuelta Quebrada
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.
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 and 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). Imagine 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.
From 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.
Seated in easy pose, exploring the 6 directions of the movement of the spine. Always like to pull out Bumpy Camelhere, thenside-stretch, and seated twist. Move onto hands 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 wingpose 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.
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!
Sam 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.