Always Be Dancing

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body & Mindful Book Reviews By Eve


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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Stay Cool at School* by Lori Lite

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Mindful Book Reviews By Eve: Stay Cool at School by Lori Lite*; Illustrated by Richard Watson

I love how mindfulness in schools is becoming the norm and that more and more teachers and school districts are interested in bringing mindfulness and self-help strategies into their school communities. In my opinion, the younger we can start this the better, as empowering our young children with strategies to deal with big emotions, can only be a win-win for the children themselves and the greater community at large.

Lori Lite is in the top of the tier of people offering easily accessible ways to bring mindfulness into the classroom. Her most recent book Stay Cool at School is an adorable and extremely important book for teachers of young children (ages 3-9) who want to help their students identify big emotions and offer them tools to cope. Since coping is a practice, the more this is encourages, the more likely the students will be able to access their wisdom at times of high emotions.

In the story, the two adorable dream monkeys, Jumpy & Sunny help the young child in the story to identify the big emotions experienced, from anger to over-excitement to embarrassment and joy. In each instance, they offer up various breathing strategies that anyone can do, without anyone else even noticing, to increase a sense of calm, self-control and to encourage a positive outlook. 

The illustrations are very cute and I love the fun color palette. The scenarios and emotions are well articulated and this book can be enjoyed over and over again.

I highly recommend this book to families and school communities alike. Libraries should have a section for mindfulness books specifically aimed at children. I know I am going to embrace this book and share it with the children I have the opportunity to work with through my children’s yoga program. Its fun and engaging nature make it an easy fit as a gateway into mindfulness for young children.

*A special note: Stay Cool at School is only available through Scholastic Book Clubs. Contact your child’s teacher for their order/login with the teacher’s information to their club and/or their 5 digit class code. More information here http://bit.ly/LLStayCool

For more information about Always Be Dancing: Yoga & Flamenco for Every/Body, my mindfulness/yoga/dance program, please visit: alwaysbedancing(dot)wordpress(dot)com.

¡Olé Namaste! Eve Costarelli

Thank you to Lori Lite for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions stated are my own.

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Mindful Book reviews By Eve: A Therapeutic Treasure Box for Working With Children and Adolescents with Developmental Trauma by Dr. Karen Treisman

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A Therapeutic Treasure Box for Working With Children and Adolescents with Developmental Trauma by Dr. Karen Treisman

This book is fabulous. It is an eye-opening approach to engaging children who suffer from developmental trauma through art activities but can be applied to the general population of children, as I believe that any gateway you can find that allows a child to express and release is a sure fire win! The book is stuffed full of applied practices that are easily adapted to classroom work, yoga/mindfulness programming and for anyone who works with children who wants to engage them outside the box. This book is so creative and well thought out and its myriad of applied practices provide a solid foundation for understanding, assessing, and helping children cope with developmental trauma. I am a yoga and mindfulness teacher and the ease at which I can locate and adapt the tools in this book make it 100% accessible for the as well as mental health practitioners, as the book is full of the most up-to-date clinical information too. This book is a must have for everyone who works with children, not just those who are traumatized, as we can reach out with creativity and compassion to all children to help them release what is hidden inside so they can move forward and thrive. I highly recommend this book. It’s sitting right on my work table along with Dr. Treisman’s  Therapeutic Treasure Deck of Sentence Completion and Feelings (please check out my review). This is a dynamic duo of highly accessible, especially for the non-professional, creative, socio-emotional learning techniques and activities for children. They have become indispensable to me.

I’m looking forward to reviewing her latest “Therapeutic Treasure Deck of Grounding, Soothing, Coping and Regulating Cards” 

¡Olé Namaste! Eve Costarelli

Thank you to Jessica Kingsley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

 

 


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Mindful Book Reviews by Eve: Two Wonderful Books By Gabi Garcia

 

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Listening To My Body by 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.

 


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Book Reviews by Eve: Rent Party Jazz by William Miller & The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami

IMG_9067Book Reviews by Eve: Two books from Lee & Low that promote mindfulness, building self-esteem and diversity are Rent Party Jazz by William Miller & The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami.

Rent Party Jazz by William Miller is a story, above all, about struggle, responsibility, hope and community. The great brush-stroke illustrations by Charlotte Riley-Webb create movement giving life to the scenes of New Orleans, to the people and to the trains of music pulsing through the city. You can practically feel the music bringing them all together, giving the reader a sense of belonging in the story too. I really appreciate the beautiful color palette and how the party scenes are so lively and colorful, contrasting against the darker, more somber tones of the street.IMG_9065

This story is both culturally significant and historically accurate. Rent parties are used to raise money, are a way for budding musicians to get off the ground and a selfless way to hold space for those in need. I highly recommend this book-it might inspire a blossoming philanthropist or a child with a heart of jazz.

IMG_9066The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story by Uma Krishnaswami is a story that encourages interest, bolsters determination and increases self-reflection. Through yoga, it shows how it is empowering and uplifting to challenge oneself. The main character, Meena, starts off with a weak sense of self and fearing rejection, but through acts of self-challenge, she emerges with inner strength and a strong self-esteem. The sweet illustrations by Ruth Jeyaveeran, show great expressions of interest, happiness, doubt and support that really highlight the emotional content of the story. I love the peppering of authentic Indian phrases throughout the story, making it culturally relevant and inviting. I highly recommend this endearing story of self-realization and inner peace.

Thank you to Lee & Low for sending me copies of these books. All opinions are my own.


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Book Review: Disruptive Stubborn Out Of Control by Bo Hejlskov Elvén

IMG_6706I was pleased to get a copy of this book. It seems ground breaking in its vision of dealing with disruptive classroom behavior as it does not blame the disruptive students as acting out on purpose, but instead the resounding message of the book is, kids will behave, if they can. To me, that is a refreshing perspective as it seems in most cases that students are punished for their inability to act appropriately even when it seems that a reward option is being exercised. This is the case for sticker charts etc. We think these are systems of reward but they are quite insidious and are actually just as likely to be a system of punishment. We think that if we force the children through behavior modification to behave appropriately and that we will see a change in their negative behavior but this is only true up until the point that they cannot behave appropriately. This book does a great job showing examples of behavior, explaining through simple charts the sequence of events, and offers action plans. But most of all, it makes the adults, the teachers, the ones responsible for changing the outcome of negative behavior. It may seem an insurmountable task, along with all of the other teaching duties, but in the long run, taking action and responsibility will lead to a stronger sense of community in the classroom and pave the way for a more fluid learning environment for everyone. The back of the book offers insights for personal reelection and a large section of further reading on the subject.

I highly recommend this book as an alternative viewpoint from the norm. It will empower you to take work through and discover a new way of taking charge in your classroom.

How I will use this book:

I too encounter negative behaviors in my yoga classes. By this I mean children who cannot sit quietly and are disruptive and out of control. I want to help these kids so much as I know it must be very difficulty for their classroom teachers and their families to deal with their continued “lit” behaviors. I have a number of such students in the after-school program I teach at that is in a housing development. I am not sure how these kids teachers actually reach them? How do they learn if they cannot shut down and listen? I have starting working separately with each of these students, for just a few minutes each before my yoga classes begin. I know their “negative” behavior is not on purpose; the just lack self control. So how to help them learn self control? How to take control of their “Me-Me” outbursts? One I idea I had was to create a social story, to show them how their behavior negatively impacts the other students. I spent about 5 minutes talking through the cartoon. I let them know they were not in trouble and I asked if they knew how much noise they made during class (they did not). I made a secret symbol up for them (crossing my fingers at my lips) to let them know tat their “Me-Me” talking had got too loud and disruptive. During class, I used this symbol, but I also called attention to them when they “went there” not by saying “shhhhh” but calling their name, getting them to “see me” and saying they were too loud. This coming week, I am going to have one of my assistants keep track for me how many times they are disruptive during class so that I can actually show them data of their disruptions. Well day one went very well. I did not let their behavior distract me from teaching but I kept a tight hold on it. At then end of class, these two boys (plus one more who I will be adding into this program) came up to me at the end of class and gave me big hugs. I never expected this and I was totally enveloped by them. It was a glorious feeling of connection!

Full disclosure: Jessica Kingsley Publishers sent me a copy of this book. All onions are my own.


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Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

Dance In The Schools- Day One: What is yoga?

(Included at the end is a classroom/home assignment: How to make a Happiness Collector)

Funded by both Dance In the Schools and Friends of Baldwin, I am thrilled to be back for my sixth year at the Maria Baldwin Elementary School, Cambridge, MA, teaching my own Always Be Dancing Adaptive Movement program with their amazing second grade classrooms. This year, they have three second-grade classrooms and I am able to see each group 5 times. Having this opportunity to grow each year with the students and staff is priceless. Also, I love seeing the past participants who are now in third, fourth or fifth grade. Whenever they see me, they jump into tree pose or even strike a flamenco pose (as I also integrate my program with flamenco). This school has great community spirit and I love the diversity and how it is celebrated.

Good Behavior In Yoga:

Good Behavior In Yoga Class:

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I deliver the rules verbally, also pointing out that they can read along that there is a picture for each rule that shows what I am asking them to do. That way there are many ways to help them remember the rules.

  1. I stay on my mat. This is so each child has personal space. We take a moment to look at our mats, the size, the color… I asked them to think of a color that makes them feel happy. Holding an imaginary Hula Hoop, we then cover our whole mat, including ourselves, with a bubble of this color. Inside our bubble we feel happy, good and safe.

  2. I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given

  3. I watch what my yoga teacher is doing. I remind them that I will most likely being doing what I am asking them to do, so if they watch me, they will always know what is being asked of them.

  4. I try my best to do each yoga activity. Yoga is about trying, noticing, feeling. Just give things a try and if you need help…

  5. If I need help, I can ask my yoga teacher. If one child needs an adaptation of an activity, we all do it. Its just something else to try!

  6. If I need a break, I can take Child’s Pose or I can sit quietly on my mat. OK…a big one. I stop everything here and I go through and teach what I call the “three resting poses” First, I teach Child’s Pose, have everyone take a breath or two to feel this pose in their bodies. Then we roll forward onto our bellies, for Crocodile Pose, everyone needs belly-time! Once again a few breaths to feel the pose. Then we flip over onto our backs, and I teach Gingerbread Man Cookie Pose. This is the traditional savasana pose. Take our breaths. When we all sit back up, I ask them to think about which pose was the most restful for them because I will ask them later during class to do that pose.

  7. I use a quiet voice. Enough said!

  8. I keep my hands to myself. (OK this one should really be up by “staying on your mat” That will be on the updated poster!) Here I bring back the color bubble. Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pop anyone’s bubble….img_6145

After the rules (I only do this one time but I bring the board each week as a reminder, classes started with belly breathing. A great way to begin! I am a strong believer of breathing in and out through the nose, as an exhale with the mouth actually feels like a balloon that is losing air too fast (insert “balloon deflating too rapidly” sound here….FFFRRRAAPFT). I encourage breathing in through the nose, as if you are smelling a lovely flower and then letting the air gently leave through the nose on the exhale. It is more calming this way. Of course, there are two exceptions. If you have a cold/allergy or if you feel nervous and it makes you uncomfortable to breath that way.

One reason I bring yoga into classrooms is to help students and teachers that yoga is an accessible safe choice towards embodying self-control. Yoga is all about the self. Yoga is all about what it feels like inside your body. Only the individual knows what is feel like because no one else is inside another person’s being. The individual knows what is safe, what makes them feel good and how to calm themselves down. With increased self control, classrooms can flow more smoothly and teachers do not have to be noise/distraction monitors. For sure, yoga is not a cure-all, but it is one very accessible, adaptable and enjoyable tool for a person’s emotional intelligence tool kit.

Class begins with the ringing of the chime. Sometimes the best way to start class is form a relaxed and calm position to pave the way for better focused minds, bodies and energy. We inhale on the ring and allow the slow breath to release as we listen to the echo of the sound. Each child gets a turn. And with each chime, we focus our attention on the sound and on our breathing.

I will continue to use the bell as a way to bring back focus to the class. I want them to understand the difference between silent and noisy and stillness and movement. We all get a bit noisy, making silly sounds, talking, wiggling and then suddenly I ring the bell. The room quiets down. Of course, I made need to ring it again, but usually one ring is enough. Sometimes I play with the level intensity at which I ring the chime (loud vs soft), so they really have to be alert for its sound.

What is yoga?

Group 1

  • stretching

  • feeling relaxed

  • relaxing moves

  • movement

  • flexible

Group 2

  • calm down

  • stretching

  • getting flexible*

Group 3

  • relaxed & feeling good

  • stretch to become flexible

  • breathing to calm

  • de-stress

  • peaceful

  • floating

Each class came up with similar responses, but the one I really liked was “getting flexible”. I love how it implies an opportunity for growth, for change. Just what yoga is about!

Jumping right into a short sequence:

Cow/Cat (adding moos and meows)

Downward Facing Dog (with barks)

Cobra (with hisses)

Child’s Pose (giving hand options to help the children figure out what feels best for them: under the forehead, fist-on-fist or hands by feet, palms up)

Now asking the students if doing  that little bit of yoga make them feel calm/good/happy or like they were getting more flexible? I refer back to the word list they created and use them. I often throw in the question, “Is being able to touch your toes or do a backbend the only way to show that you are flexible? You might need to direct them away from more physical action descriptions for flexibility then someone can come up with alternative ways to be flexible (i.e. mind, energy)

One of my favorite yoga books and the one I have been using the longest is My Daddy Is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste. It is a great kicking off point for basic yoga poses.

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The kids think the title is hysterical and I immediately tell them to create their own version of a pretzel yoga pose: tie yourself up, twist and curl any which way.

What I have found is that the real focus of the book is in the varied types of jobs the children in the story say that their parents do each day. There is a gardener (tree), vet (downward facing dog), architect, (triangle), pilot (airplane), builder (bridge), farmer (plow), marine biologist (fish), works in Africa (lion), baker (pretzel). These jobs open up our ability to talk about what these job’s actually mean you do and kids either know or can piece together these answers by looking at the accompanying pictures. To make my teaching fully inclusive and to make sure I can make any adaptation necessary, I teach going into and out of poses my own way, so I do not use the accompanying pose descriptions. That way I can adapt and grow each pose organically with the group, rather than follow a set path. At the end, of course, we get to try another “make-your-own” pretzel pose. Lots of laughs and then I offer up the resting pose choice. We take a short resting moment.

One of my favorite moving meditations is “Yogini Went To Sea” by Shakta Kaur Khalsa (for only $9.99 you can buy the album Happy through iTunes). Shakta is the first children’s yoga teacher I studied with and she taught me the invaluable lesson of allowing your self to grow with each experience and also, she recorded the only recorded yoga songs that I use in my classes! 

Classroom/Home Assignment: Create a Happiness Collector.

A Happiness Collector is a jar, bucket, basket or any other receptacle you choose where you put in small piece of paper that have on them written or drawn things that make you happy. These things can be anything that make you happy. They can be something that you did, that you saw or that you had done to you.

  1. Choose your Happiness Collector

  2. Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.

  3. Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.

  4. Put it into your Happiness Collector.

  5. Messages can be read whenever a bit of sunshine is needed, at the end of a week etc…

Children can be prompted with a phrase such as “I feel happy when I _________.

Thank you!

Ole! Namaste!