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Dance In The Schools 2015: Life Cycle of the Yoga Butterfly

Waiting For Wings by Lois Ehlert

Today was the final day of Dance In The Schools 2015 at the Baldwin School, Cambridge. My classes were based on the life cycle of the butterfly (current with the 2nd grade science curriculum) and the concepts of senses we know (touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste) and then the ones we don’t know as much about (proprioception= an awareness of our bodies in space and the vestibular system=balance, gravity and movement information though our inner ear).

The best thing about yoga is that it allows for a sensory experience in a safe/non-competitive environment. You can manipulate your body in space, using poses, breath and meditation to clear pathways to achieve balance.

Breathing Sticks (once again, I noted to them to practice their breathing once they got their sticks)

Sa-Ta-Na-Ma meditation

Waiting for Wings/They have eggs to lay...What is the Butterfly Life Cycle?

Egg (usually laid on a leaf)

Larva/Caterpillar (eats leaves to grow)

Pupa/Chrysalis/Cocoon

Adult butterfly/moth

What is metamorphosis?

Interesting facts:

  1. Butterflies are active during the day feeding on flowers. They suck up the sweet nectar with their long, curly tongues. That is because butterflies cannot bite or chew.
  2. There are about 150,000 kinds of butterflies and they and their caterpillars come in all sorts of colors and sizes.
  3. Butterflies Like all insects, they have six jointed legs, 3 body parts, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, and an exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax (the chest), and abdomen (the tail end). Most have four wings. The wings of butterflies are covered with tiny scales that seem to shimmer in the daylight. Some of them are brightly colored. Others have bold patterns or scary eye-spots. When a butterfly flashes its wings at its enemies, it confuses them, and gives itself time to escape the danger that they might be in.
  4. Butterflies and moth belong to the order Lepidoptera. Lepidos is Greek for “scales” and ptera means “wing”. Monarch visiting Mums

Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert

Out in the fields, eggs are hidden from view. Child’s pose

clinging to leaves with butterfly glue. Stretching child’s pose. Fingers crawl to the left and right to stretch sides.

Soon caterpillars hatch. They creep and they chew. Creep forward into inchworm.

Each one knows what it must do. Press up to cobra. Add hissing and snaking back up and down.

Find a place where winds don;t blow, Locust.

then make a case in which to grow. Bow.

Caterpillar changes now begin– Rock and roll on belly, release. Rise up to standing position.

body and wings take shape within. Tapping.

When it’s time, each case is torn– Willow tree and joy breath.

wings unfold; new butterflies are born! Star Pose.

They pump their wings, get ready to fly, Add cross body kicks.

then hungry butterflies head for the sky. Yoga Jumping Jacks.

Looking for flowers with nectar to eat, Standing flower pose (tree)

they catch a whiff of something sweet.: Join a partner for partner tree/or group tree

They follow that fragrant scent of perfume, Melt to the floor. breathing in and smelling the delicious odor of fresh flowers 3x.

until they find our garden bloom.: Seated flower

We’ve been waiting for wings! Seated bat (opening flower)

We watch them circle, land on their feet, Lay on back and hug knees to chest. Legs up towards ceiling, as if walking on ceiling. Foot circles, both directions. Point and flex and then walk on ceiling and then bicycle.

unroll their tongues, and begin to eat.: Rock and roll. Grab feet, happy baby.

They dip and sip, Feet down. Simple lying twist.

then fly away, back home to the fields… Full body stretch-like a gingerbread man.

They have eggs to lay.: Savasana

Song (sung to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel)…I tried!

I spin and spin my chrysalis

I stay inside to rest

When I come out….Metamorphosis!

Pop! Goes the butterfly.

Of course we then did a rousing version of Yogini Went to Sea and then the Downward Dog Crawl Tunnel. Not taking into account the size of the room, proved to be a stumper for a moment. But I offered up the challenge to the class and we  were able to create a circle, which worked very well! I so appreciated the first groups problem solving ability!

Please enjoy the wonderful gift I received:

IMG_3897 IMG_3898 IMG_3903 IMG_3899 IMG_3900 IMG_3901 IMG_3902 IMG_3904 IMG_3905 IMG_3906 IMG_3907 IMG_3908 IMG_3909 IMG_3910 IMG_3911 IMG_3912 IMG_3913 IMG_3915 IMG_3916 IMG_3917 IMG_3918 IMG_3919 IMG_3920 IMG_3921 IMG_3922 IMG_3923 IMG_3924 IMG_3925 IMG_3926 IMG_3927 IMG_3928 IMG_3929 IMG_3930 IMG_3931 IMG_3932 IMG_3933 IMG_3934 IMG_3935 IMG_3936

Ole! Namaste!

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Yoga for a Brainy Day: Dance in the Schools 2015. Day 2: Science

Yoga for a Brainy Day

The Brain: Prefrontal Cortes, Hippocampus & Amygdala

The Brain: Prefrontal Cortes, Hippocampus & Amygdala

Today’s classes were based on the brain, stress and Neuroplasticity. Your brain is amazing! That is for sure! With determination** to learn and by practicing what you learn, you will become smarter. You have the ability to sculpt your brain. I like the word Neurosculptor from the book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph. D.. “Neuro” means “brain” and “sculptor” who is someone who “reshapes, carves, styles”…so as a Neurosculptor you are the sculptor of your own brain. **Determination (What a GREAT word!). I see this word as very active. One boy did ask, “What is the difference between confidence and determination?” I said that in my opinion, “Confidence can waiver because it seems more stagnant and momentary, where as determination is active and requires your focus and effort so it does not become stagnant.” What is determination? It is bravery, courageousness, being energetic, persistent, driven, gutsy, purposeful and spunky!

Step-by-step, you can make clear your intentions.

So…What is an intention? It is an aim, an objective, a motivation, a purpose, a plan. At the beginning of class, kids can set an intention which will help them keep focused, kind of like a road map to their destination. In this case, the destination being how they want to feel or what they want to experience. An intention is a path that is focused on the “now”. You set your intentions based on something that matters to you. It should not feel heavy like something you have to do but instead it should feel light and make you feel open and ready.

Class started by us using the breathing sticks that we made last week. First I led the 5 breaths, then I asked for a “Turtle breath” volunteer, whom we then followed, and after that, I challenged them to close their eyes and they could then do it for themselves. I counted a bit and off they went.

I then showed them my brain picture. I explained that I had made it and that I loved to cut out paper. I explained that the more you can focus, pre-plan and practice, the more efficient your brain works. You can get smarter and smarter, just keep learning new things and practicing what you learn. Have the determination to persist even when it’s tough, because intelligence grows and expands. It, like the word determination, is not stagnant. Learning is like lifting weights for the brain-it is exercise, it helps you get stronger and feeling better. Also, do not be afraid to make mistakes as the old saying goes “Learn from your mistakes”; mistakes train your brain too. It is better to RISK being wrong as a new pathway will be created for more learning. Risk is a great word, too. Risk it; take a chance; you will be braver; more confident and in turn, more determined to keep on going. Stand on the edge of that diving board and go for it!!!

***I point out here, especially in reference to my work in the schools and working to get teachers involved in this mindful process; It is very important for adults, educators and parents to understand this, because by keeping this in the forefront of their professional practices or their parenting style, can remind them that when a student or their child is struggling, it is not because they cannot learn but because they need more practice and instructional support-maybe come at the situation from a different angle.

  1. The Prefrontal Cortex is at the very front of your brain, in the cerebral cortex . It is your Wise Old Owl. The decision maker: yes or no?; should I or shouldn’t I?; true or false? On a test, A,B,C, or D? This area helps you with learning and focus. The best thing for this part of your brain is for you to remain calm in order to learn the best.
  1. The Hippocampus, from the ancient Greek “Hippo” which means “horse” and then “kampus” which means “sea” (seahorse) because this area looks like a 2 seahorses side-by-side, one in the left side of the brain and the other in the right side, is buried deep inside the brain. This is your filing cabinet, that stores all your long-term memories.
  1. The Amygdala, which is basically attached to the end of the seahorse, is the center that controls your emotions, more specifically, your fears. This is your Security Guard, there to protect you. Here we see the Fight of Flight response initiated. Now, if you were a caveman and you came across a saber toothed tiger, you would need the ability to decide very quickly whether to stay and fight the beast or run. If you decided to stay, you would need to be the best warrior you could be and if you decided to run, then you would need to be the fastest runner. For this you would need your body to be working very efficiently so all your bodily and mental functions could help you out! This is stressful to you and your heart rate increases. You sweat, your muscles get ready to spring and your mind is focused on your one objective. But not everything needs to be experienced with such a stressful response and instead by activating the Relaxation Response (*see Herbert Benson), we can get through lesser stressors without them taking a toll on our body. Group discussion about big, medium, small problems and other ways we can solve things without getting stressed out.

Rest of class sequence:

Meditation: Mindful breathing with body, feeling/energy, and mind focus

Warm Up: Balance Pointer dog series memorization (table to kneeling 1/2 scorpion to pointer dog to full kneeling scorpion and reverse); Seed to Tree series

Movement: Sun salutation; Yogini Went to Sea (with happy refrain of Ooowajawa Island); Also in the kindergarten I brought this class to, I played a game with the Stretch What Matter’s yoga card deck. I placed one pose on each mat and in a rotating fashion, each child stopped at each mat, copied the pose and took a breath in and a breath out before moving on to the subsequent mat and the next pose. It was a huge success! I am going to add that game along with the game I call “Spark” or “Metamorphosis “from now into these classes.

Cool Down

Deep Relaxation: Post Card Rack

Savasana

Today’s play list (most if not all these songs are available or download on iTunes):

  1. Om Zone Pt. 1 by Steve Halpern
  2. Chakra Balancing by Yoga Music for Kids Masters
  3. Aeo (Pts I & 2) by Brian Briggs
  4. Rock on Hanuman (Omstremental) by MC Yogi
  5. Yogini Went to Sea by Shakta Kaur Khalsa
  6. Transform by TJ Rehmi
  7. Falling Snow – Toshiyuke Watanabe
  8. Sky And Sand Way by John Kaizan Neptune
  9. Breathe (Music only) by Lori Lite
  10. Relax (Music only) by Lori Lite


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Youth Yoga Ties Into the Common Core Curriculum: Liquids, Solids, Gases

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The first of a four week stint of Yoga-Snacks for Dance Month in Cambridge has me combining the Cambridge Public Schools Common Core Science curriculum for the second grade level science with yoga.  At the Maria Baldwin School, I started the unit off with viscosity. In the coming weeks, we will continue to explore the connection of yoga’s kinetic energy (i.e., energy of motion)  with the amount of kinetic energy  the molecules of a substance has which then determines whether the substance is a solid, liquid or gas. Looking at such scientific terms such as viscosity, melting point, freezing point, beading and surface tension, this yoga classes will enhance the science curriculum. Students will learn properties of water and other liquids, and recognize the importance of water to living and non-living things. They will also learn about the interaction of water with different materials, and apply that knowledge to practical problems such as liquid absorption and liquid containment all the while moving their bodies, building self confidence and sharing in a non-competitive, friendship building, calming group interaction.

Day One: Viscosity: Today we started by examining the similarities and differences between water, vegetable oil and corn syrup. I brought in cups and small tubes and we poured these liquids through the tubes and discovered how quickly or slowly the liquids passed through the tubes. We used words like sticky, thick, goopy, fast, slow, clear and see through, when describing the viscosity of these three liquids.  After our liquid experimenting, we talked about how the blood in our body keeps us alive and that the heart is a pump used to distribute the blood throughout the body. In that regards, less viscous blood and a strong healthy heart are the best things for us. We discussed how to keep our hearts healthy: eat good foods, don’t over eat or eat too little, no smoking, exercise, yoga, don’t eat too much junk food, drink water, be nice to each other…which was a great segue into our yoga section.  Starting with “I Am Happy, I Am Good; Ha ha He he Ho ho Huuuu”– I noticed how everyone had smiles on their faces while doing this. We then practiced some vigorous poses and were then able to notice how are our hearts were beating faster at the end and we felt energized and happy. I then made up a short sequence and we first did it as slow as corn syrup, then a bit quicker like vegetable oil and then fast, like water through the pipes. Lying down, allowing our heart beats to slow down and bringing focus back to our breathing, we did deep relaxation with a right side/left side breath-centric focus and the noodle test (see Shakata Kaur Khalsa’s “Fly Like A Butterfly: Yoga for Children) and then Savasana.

Day Two: Beading, Surface Tension, Absorption: Today, I brought in molasses, vegetable oil and water to help the children understand the concept of beading and surface friction. We started with a short review of viscosity and then naturally that lead us to the idea of how liquids bead on different surfaces and then also a bit about absorption. Ms. Power’s 2nd grade classroom has an awesome tool- a surface camera, so I was able to work on the counter surface and the images were projected onto the screen set up ion the room. That way, the kids did not have to crowd around the counter to see. We started by pouring water, oil and molasses onto the counter surface to see what would happen-if the liquid would stay together, spread or bead. We then tried the same experiment on wax paper and then finally on paper towel.

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Yoga class started with a variation of the “Sa-Ta-Na-Ma Meditation”…instead of saying Sa-Ta-Na-Ma, we said, “Water”: Thumb to Pinky finger, “Oil”: Thumb to Ring finger, “Mola-” Thumb to Middle finger (sounds like the “a” in “back”), “-Sses” (sounds likes “says”): Thumb to Pointer.  The rest of class focused on poses that started small and spread wide (Child’s Pose (Molasses Pose) spread to Table Top (Oil Pose) which spread to Downward Facing Dog (Water Pose); Vishnu’s Couch added Tree Pose leg which added Hand to Big Toe Stretch; Mountain grew to Up Mountain which grew to Star Pose) and then also poses that started as a single “blob” but were drawn to join other “blob poses” near them, so single poses became team poses.

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Class ended with a deep relaxation that took their energy from a water state to an oil state to a slowed down oozing molasses state. Let them wiggle to flow to settle.

 

 

 

Day Three: Freezing Point & Melting Point: Moving from liquid to solid to liquid: I was inspired to do some liquid freezing tests by the questions that were posed by the students on a work sheet that was distributed: 1. What do you know about liquids? 2. What do you want to know about liquids? 3. What did you learn about liquids?

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In the second section, many of the kids were asking if corn syrup/molasses would freeze? And what about oil?

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I decided to conduct an experiment basing all freezing points against that of water to see what would happen to molasses and oil in the freezer? I made up three containers, one with water, one with oil and one with molasses and I placed them in the freezer. Every 1/2 hour (up till 2 hours and then once again over night),  I would go and check on the liquids to see what state of freezing they were in. The water froze in 2 hours, the oil never froze but got cloudy and the molasses never froze either, but became so vicious that it could not pour. After leaving the liquids over night, the oil became hard like a cake of butter and the molasses was like tar, but after 1/2 hour of being out of the freezer, all liquids had returned to their original liquid state.

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ImageThe yoga portion of the class had us first sequencing poses that flow: * I made up some rhymes to go along with the flows. 1. I am water (Mountain Pose) 2. The weather is fair  (Up Mountain-hands above head, palms touching, like an umbrella) 3. Watch me turn into the air (Jump out to Star Pose-taking up space and “air”). 1. I am water  (Warrior I) 2. I am free (Warrior II) 3. Watch me flow into the sea (Warrior III) 1. I am water (Downward Facing Dog Pose) 2. It’s so nice (Hands and Knees Table Top Pose) 3. Watch me turn into some ice (Child’s Pose). 

* Freeze Yoga Dance: I played the Song “Happy” by Pharrell, which I know is an anthem at this time and it has a nice message and appropriate lyrics. First we went through the poses that we knew…so at each music stop, I would call out “Freeze into “one of the poses” and all the kids took the same one together, then for the last few times, it was a free for all and at the music stops, they could take any pose they wanted to.

Day Four: Wrap Up and ¡Ole Namaste!:

My final experiments checked out the “freezability” of water and oil, water and molasses and finally water , oil and molasses. These were the final three question from the students. Will they freeze if combined? Well the results are in…when combined, the liquids separate and then freeze and coagulate in layers.

This final session will not be a science tie-in, instead it will be a class of yoga combined with dance, flamenco, a mixing that I call ¡Ole Namaste! which is on the cutting edge of the global yoga and dance trend infusing the movements, breath-work and meditation of yoga with the music and dance of flamenco. The students had a body stretching, breath enhancing, mind relaxing, hand clapping good time! In this fun, upbeat yoga class, that is infused with the music and dance of flamenco, students absorbed the dramatic postures and colorful flavor of flamenco while exploring yoga poses, philosophy, breath work and meditation.

My take away from this enriching experience is how important kinesthetic, or body-based, teaching methods can be in reaching students , particularly those with special needs. For all students K-12, body-based teaching is a way to reproduce curricular content and is a widely accessible step to cultivate critical thinking skills. Not only that, kinesthetic based teaching is fun to incorporate into the classroom, offering a connection to social and emotional intelligence standards as well. Kinesthetic methods have the power to inspire both individual and whole-class attention and energy levels and mental states and can assist in memory retention. By incorporating yoga into the 2nd grade science curriculum, I was able to focus, unify, and both calm down and energize students and to reach those for whom kinesthetic intelligence is a strength. This was a fun experience and enriching for myself, the teachers, Megan Powers and Karma Paoletti,  the students and the whole Baldwin community. Three cheers to the Maria Baldwin School in Cambridge, MA!  Big shout out to Nicholas Leonardos, Principal,  for his dedication to his school! And to Erica Sigal, Coordinator of Dance in the Schools.