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.
This is book is the real deal…totally authentic…“the truth”…it is an honest, open-hearted expression of what it takes to really stop, take a moment and respond rather than react to things that are stressful and happening right now, in real time. These kids just tell it like it is and with their words and their beautiful art, they allow us to see how they are learning to come to grips with their humanness and how they have come to appreciate and respect the need to self-regulate. The staff and kids are 100% committed to this venture and that is evident from their honesty, bravery and creativity. I really appreciate how this book is presented, from the bright color schemes, the beautiful self-portraits, and the almost graphic novel-like approach, the book offers compelling examples from young people who are coping with stress by not hurting themselves or anyone else for that matter. Instead, they are willing to be calm, insightful, and kind. Masters of Mindfulness, written by Laurie Grossman, co-founder of Mindful Schools and Director of Program Development at Inner Explorer, and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class at Reach Academy in Oakland, California, introduces examples of how to be mindful in a straight forward approach, user-friendly manner and since it is written by kids, it is thoroughly believable.
This book is a huge success and it belongs in homes, libraries and on every park bench, school desk and bedside table!
Fall teen yoga session begins at the McAuliffe Charter School Framingham,MA.
I have 8 lovely students.
Class started with a focused breathing exercise just to get the kids sitting up, paying attention and focusing inwards. I calmly explained the activity I had planned, a silent activity, where they would write their name on a piece of paper and then decorate it with a happy face, a happy design, something that made them feel happy. Then, one at a time, we said our name and then went to the board and wrote down a word or phrase that answered the question
What is yoga?
“What is yoga?”
Strengthening your core
I led them through a slow flow practice, naming prominent poses in both English and Sanskrit so that they become familiar with names. We balanced, strengthened, stretched to work on flexibility, we were observant doers, we laughed and after the second tree pose, the quiet and calm that filled the room was evident by all.
Lying down at the end. Meditation in the form of a focused breathing exercise: Just noticing the inhale (tip of nose, back of throat, chest, belly); just noticing the exhale (top of nose, back of throat, chest and belly); noticing both the inhale and the exhale. Letting thoughts come, as they too are a part of the meditation and then letting them gently dispel, like your finger stirring up still water and the ripples just floating away, coming back to stillness. Consciously cresting into Savasana. At the end, noticing which side of the nostril they are breathing more strongly out of and then rolling to that side, curling up like a baby, knees are bent at hip-height. Coming to a seated position. Focus through the brow point. Cross the hands right over left over the heart center in the center of the chest. This is called Garuda Mudra. Giving yourself a heart hug.
Feel your heart beat. Keep the chest lifted slightly.
The full title of this book is Her Lost Year: A story of hope and a vision for optimizing children’s mental health.
This book presents a disturbing narrative of a young girl and her family’s frightening journey through the pharmaceutical drug industry via mainstream psychiatry. I felt swallowed up into their journey as I struggled desperately right alongside, calling out “Beware of the side effects!” and hoping desperately for them to trust their instincts. I have long been shy of the pharmaceutical drug industry and this book walked me through the harrowing tale of a young girls descent into the madness brought on by a cocktail of medications and their side effects. I was so relieved when the parents finally were able to come to a clear understanding of how to help themselves and their daughter. They give a great plug for believing in your intuition! With this book, they share their struggles as a way to provide hope and enlightenment to people about medication and how it does not always have to be the answer. It is necessary to realize there is more than one way to do something and that there are practical, natural way to ensure stability in your life.
This book deserves a place alongside all the psychology, self-help and mindfulness books in every library. It is great for teens, parents and caregivers and every doctor should read it, to get a second opinion!
Last night, I attended Ainoa performance in her school’s International Night event. I am so impressed with this event. First of all, it is a night solely represented by dancing-boys and girls alike and there are dances representing at least 12 different countries such as India, Mexico, Iran, Ireland, China and Peru. Ainoa’s dancing has reached a new level. She has found her self within the music, knowing the choreography, understanding the rhythms. We can call this the comfort zone. So now we attack the emotional content and how to express it to the audience.
Seated yoga sequence to balance the chakras
Muladhara Chakra- root chakra- color red
Easy pose (habitual cross leg first-both of us chose right over left). Feel sit bones. Show on skeleton model, where the sit bones are (Remind of the wrap of the psoas muscle and the Nerf ball.) Recross to non-habitual side and feel sit bones.
Svadhistana Chakra- sacral chakra- color orange
Upavishta Konasana, with legs only as wide as the mat (short ways), with bolster under knees. Just resting arms on upper legs and letting head drop forward.
Manipura Chakra- solar plexus chakra- color yellow
Easy seated twist. Right leg in front, right hand holds left knee. Recross. Left leg in front, left hand holds right knee.
Anahata Chakra- heart chakra- color green
Bolster under shoulders and then moves after 3 breaths down the spine. Stopping and always taking at least three breathes in each spot. End with bolster under hips and do knees into chest. I pointed out to her that this is a back bend too. At first she did not believe e as she sees wheel as the only back bend, but I had her close her eyes and I told her to imagine she was standing on the edge of a pool and by leaning back, she was going to be able to dive in backwards. I could just tell from her energy shift that she was getting it.
Vishudda Chakra: throat chakra- color blue
Ocean breath, in constructive breath, on in breath still holding, knees go out and on out breath pull knees back in towards chest, like a bellows.
Ajna Chakra: Third-eye chakra- color purple
Release legs and let them rise to the ceiling (Make your body into an “L” shape-do not do shoulder stand). Make ankle circles in and out. Point and flex feet. Re-hug legs into chest.
Sahasrara Chakra: Crown of the head chakra- color white light/ glimmering diamond
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)