(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:
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.
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.
I listen with my ears. That way they can hear the directions that are being given
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.
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…
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!
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.
I use a quiet voice. Enough said!
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….
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?
relaxed & feeling good
stretch to become flexible
breathing to calm
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.
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 inAfrica (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 Collectoris 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.
Choose your Happiness Collector
Every day take a moment to remember something that made you happy.
Write it down or draw it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper.
Put it into your Happiness Collector.
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 _________.
I am inspired by people who adapt yoga to fit into spaces not intended, such as classrooms, libraries, parks, locker rooms and especially to those who are dedicated to bringing yoga to children with special needs; to making yoga inclusive, adaptable and accessible. Louise Goldberg, author of Classroom Yoga Breaks andYoga Therapy for Children With Special Needs, which has been an invaluable asset for my own working in the special needs community, is a prime example.
To say I was delighted to receive my copy of Classroom Yoga Breaks is an understatement. Firstly, the book is presented beautifully with its sturdy, text book like, cover; it is well organized, and there are a plethora of accompanying photographs that lend clarity to the instruction. The book starts right off with great documentation of yoga and its many benefits physically, mentally and energetically. It draws clear connections to how yoga can improve Social Emotional Learning (SEL), can benefit special needs groups specifically and also the school community as a whole and how yoga bolsters self regulation, resilience and the executive functions. Through her vision, Ms. Goldberg, shows how to bring yoga into classrooms. She shares various curriculum and illustrates how all postures can be modified to fit every person. Through bodywork, breath-work and mind/energy-work, she shows how you can take yoga off the mat and into the world.
The clarity and attention to detail makes this book an indispensable addition to every schools, community centers and library. It is a repository for everything yoga and how it fits into the classroom. I especially appreciated the section dedicated to teacher’s self-care. Learning how to take care of yourself will not only help to build your resilience, your ability to respond rather then react and your sense of self but it will in turn change the climate of your classroom opening up the channels for easier teaching and freer learning.
Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
I was excited to receive my copy of Stay Cool And In Control With The Keep-Calm Guru by Lauren Brukner; Illustrated by Apsley, a book dedicated to empowering children to regulate their emotions and senses. This book is geared for children and has a “early reader” book feel with the large type face and engaging and very effective illustrations.
There are easy to follow symbols (I will make accompanying cards for easy reference.) The collection of body breaks and the checklist for the calming down process are excellent and very accessible. I personally love the included adjective charts-they are just great for empowering children to name their feelings. I also really appreciate how the book clearly defines the differences between physical, intellectual and emotional energies.
So important in the quest for self control.
The last part of the book is dedicated to the adults in these children’s lives and offers tips on how to support your child on their journey to self-discovery. The appendices are very helpful, offering various checklists, work sheets and visual sequences of the exercises in the book.
I highly recommend this book. It is a great tool for working with the wide spectrum of students/children we encounter. It is filled with practical tips on ways to identify and cope with anxiety, anger and other difficult feelings. It will be very useful to help familiarize them with basic self-control techniques and to empower them with clear, accessible communication skills.
Click here for a downloadable PDF that includes the appendices featured in the book.
Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Halloween Yoga Comes to Mini Miracles Childcare Center:
Class started, as it always does, with the ringing of the chime, breath in, breath out.
Me: Where does a skeleton live before it is dead and is buried in the ground?
Them: In the ground, in a scary house, icky and gooey….In your body!
Me: That’s It!
We had a talk about how some things are scary like skeletons, zombies, ghosts and witches, but they are not real, so even though you feel scared by them, they are not real and cannot hurt you. At Halloween, it is fun to dress up in scary costumes, but it is also fun to dress up in non-scary ones, like Belle, Ariel, Superman and Elsa. Remember to respect other children’s’ feelings.Not everyone likes to be scared. Also remember, that even if you do feel scared, inside the costume is just a friend or a sibling or even a parent. Stay with your adult, do not run into the street and let your parent help choose the candy you can eat. Have a happy and safe Halloween!
Halloween Yoga Sequence for ages 15 Months+ All inclusive. Adapt as needed.
Happy Pumpkin Pose To Color
Happy Pumpkin: Easy pose with hands in Garuda Mudra at the heart center. Give yourself a heart hug as you breath in and out.
Twisting Ghost : While making a Woooooooooo sund like a ghost.
3. Mixing the Candy : Slow to Faster one direction. Stop. Repeat opposite direction.
4. Candy Bowl: This can be done with hands in the back for support. Also, lift one hand, reach in and say “Trick or treat” as you pull out a piece of candy. Switch Sides. Then try both. Try mixing the candy while in bowl pose. Throw hands up and say “Happy Halloween.”
5. I Am Happy, I AM Good 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.
6. Feel Your Heart Beat: Use Ride Your Bumpy Camel-up and down faster and faster, like a heart beat when you get scared. Then bring the tempo back down, to show resting heart rate.
7. Howling Wolf: Hooooooowwwwwoooooooo & Back Cat: Meoooowwwwwww
8. Haunted House: Lift one leg up for a chimney, swirl the ankle for the smoke coming out of the chimney. Switch sides.
9. Kick Away The Ghosts: We did it 8x.
10. Welcome Mat: Taking a rest mid class. Lay on your belly, rest head, eyes and energy. Listen to your heart and try to hear your heart beating. Can you slow it down? Do you notice how calm you feel? How Happy? How Safe? How strong?
11. Zombie: Rise up and find your inner zombie. Similar to mountain and up mountain pose. Skip the last one with the cut in 1/2, guts spilling out. But do say “arrrgggghhhh” and plod around on your mat a bit.
12. Crescent Moon:Can do it with breath.
13. Witch on a Broom (with hat), Witch Taking Flight & Flying Witch: “I am brave (Warrior I). I am bold (Warrior II). To our brooms, we take hold! (Warrior III)”
14. Eye In The Sky: Twinkle fingers. Big smile.
15. Owl: “whoooooooooooo” breath. Turn head side-to-side. Tuck arms in like wings.
16. Littlest Pumpkin in the Patch:
17. Tootsie Roll: The most calming!
18. Freeze Yoga Dance: Start out by leading them into poses and saying freeze to get them to hold the poses. Then let them do any poses they want and randomly stop the music. Then starting adding in suggestions, such as: Do a pose with one hand on the floor. Do a pose with your belly on the floor but not your feet. Make the smallest pose you can. The largest. And so on…
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.
STARS Social: Skills Training and Readiness Skills
I am reviewing STARS Social: Skills Training and Readiness Skills by Lynn M. O’Dell-Pateman MA CCC-SLP, Kerry L. Walsh PT, MS and Jaime E. Meyer-McHale MS OTR/L.
The STARS program declares itself as A FUNctional Multi-sensory Group Approach to Enhancing the Social Skills of Children with Autism and Other Special Needs. The three authors bring together their very distinct and different backgrounds (speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy) to successfully accomplish this. This manual offers a variety of techniques, all very clearly explained, to ensure success for every child, no matter their individual skill set.
All of the activities (warm-up, vestibular, proprioceptive, and cool-down) are broken down into three distinct levels to allow for every child to participate in the same activity modified for their age/skill set and the group lessons allow for flexibility to adjust to your groups specific needs.
As a yoga teacher offering classes to typical and special needs populations, both privately and within the public school setting, I appreciate the multitude of ideas and activities the manual presents that I can integrate into my own classes to ensure that basic concepts for successful integration make my classes accessible to all students. I appreciate the convenient sensory based flow carts that I can use for visual summary and the pre-made progress reports are a plus for organization. The only thing I would suggest would be that the authors consider developing some type of color coding to make finding the skill set variations easier throughout the book.
I highly recommend this book and see it as a necessary addition to libraries, to school teachers, yoga teachers, parents of children with special needs and to anyone who seeks to create a community of inclusion.
Full Disclosure: The authors provided me with a copy of STARS Social: Skills Training and Readiness Skills to review. All opinions expressed are my own.