In conjunction with the Multicultural Children’s Book Day event 2021, I was gifted My Sister, Alicia May Written by Nancy Tupper Ling; Illustrated by Shennen Bersani (Pleasant St. Press)
When I received this book to review for Multicultural Book Day 2020, I immediately wrote to the author to tell her what a sweet and wonderful book she had written. It just made me feel good and happy to read this story. It is so real, down-to-earth and full of kindness and just shows how a strong sense of being can open you up to a positive focus on life.This is the honest account through the eyes of one child whose older sister has Down Syndrome and she does a beautiful job of sharing her experiences with her and how she comes to a greater sense of self through their connection. We need more books like this, in every library, school and home just to show the pure beauty of the diversity of each life, each family-yet through all our uniqueness it too binds us together when we share our experiences and create a much broader and open sense of normal. The illustrations lovingly portray for us the life for these sisters-you can see their similarities in their faces and gestures. Life is life and it is not always easy but if you can be grateful and appreciative of your life you can spread this joy to others as well as being satisfied and at peace in your skin. I highly recommend this beautiful heartfelt story.
I was gifted a copy of this book by the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
How does one start to meditate? I started meditating about 5 years ago. I wanted to start before that but just never sat down on my own and meditated. When I started, I had little knowledge of “how-to” meditate. I thought you needed to sit absolutely still, in total silence and think of nothing. Yeah….you can guess how well that went.
But overtime, it seemed to take hook. I was never sure if I was meditating correctly and often felt I was not doing it right or well, but I stuck at it and it stuck to me. First, I found that I needed to meditate in the morning, because if I waited until later in the day, it did not get done. So every morning, after I made breakfast for my son, I would sit on the other sofa and meditate…listening to him munch his bagel and gulp his milk. I felt like a pro! Look at me sitting here, not moving, blocking out the sounds around me….but I still felt like I was not doing it right and it was not “affecting” or “effecting” me correctly. But I stuck to it. And it stuck to me. It was oddly satisfying and if I did not do it, I felt like I was missing something that I wanted. My brain wanted it. My body wanted it. My soul wanted it.
Enter Kundalini. In Kundalini, everything is organized and makes sense. The exercises have aim and purpose and are felt physically, mentally and energetically. There are physical movements or stillness encased by specific breathing patterns, chants and mudras. This allows for the seeing, the hearing and the sensing of of what’s happening within minutes of starting a practice. The truth is in the doing. Here form really follow function. Kundlini fits all bodies, all sizes, all adaptations without getting lost in the “what my body should look like” thoughts.
Also, Kundlini is a gold mine when it comes to varied meditations. Kundalini offers metal, physical and emotional distractions that ope the gateway for meditation that is wholly enjoyable and accessible.
Kirtan Kriya, often referred to as SA TA NA MA meditation, is the most important meditation in Kundalini Yoga. If you can do only one meditation, this is it. It will readjust and align you to bring balance into your body, mind and spirit and thus your life. It is your teacher. It is your best friend.
The bottom line is that this meditation works. All you have to do is do it. You can trust the process and the technology.
Sit with a straight spine. Bring your mental focus to the brow point/3rd eye point.
Chant SA TA NA MA.
While chanting alternately press the thumb with the four fingers. Press hard enough to keep yourself awake and aware of the pressure. Keep repeating in a stable rhythm and keep the hand motion going throughout the whole meditation.
SA press the thumb and the pointer or Jupiter finger together with pressure. TA press the thumb and the middle or Saturn finger together. NA press the thumb and the ring or Sun finger together. MA press the thumb and the pinky or Mercury finger together.
The Jupiter/Pointer finger brings in knowledge, expands our field of possibilities and releases us from limitations.
The Saturn/Middle finger gives us patience, wisdom and purity.
The Sun/Ring finger gives us vitality and aliveness.
The Mercury/Pinky finger aids clear communication.
Visualize or feel each individual sound come in the crown chakra at the top of the head, down through the middle of the head and out to infinity through the third eye. This is very important and must be done with each sound. It is an essential part of the cleansing process. If this part of the meditation is not done, you may experience a headache.
While doing the meditation, you may experience pictures of the past come up like on a movie screen in your mind. Let them dance in front of your eyes and release them with the mantra. This is part of the cleansing of the subconscious mind. If emotions come up, you can also incorporate them in the chanting, i.e. if you feel anger then chant out the anger. Whatever you experience is OK. Do not try to avoid or control your experiences. Simply be with what is going on and go through it. It is all part of the cleansing process.
2 min in-head (can add tongue movements) with hand movements
1 min whisper
1 min out-loud.
This meditation can be done for 6-31 minutes. Just keep all the segments equal length (the silent section is repeated twice). It can really be done for as little as 3 minutes (30 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 30 sec, 30 sec)
31 minute version:
5 min out loud
5 min whisper
10 min in-head (tongue moving) with hand movement
5 min whisper
5 min out-loud
[1 min listen inside, hear the mantra, experience it. No hand movements.]
Sa Ta Na Ma Variation
Rest hands in lap. Fingers interlaced with the pads of the thumbs pressing into each other
Rest eyes gently looking at tip of nose; eyes may close.
Sniff in 4-counts, mentally saying Sa-Ta-Na-Ma.
Hold breath while mentally repeating the mantra 4 times.
Breath out through the nose in two strokes while mentally chanting Wahe/Guru.(Wahe/Wow! + Guru/Inner teacher = Cheers to my inner super hero!)
To end: Breath in for the count of 4. Hold breath for the count of 7. Breathe out through a circle mouth, making a whooshing sound, for the count of 8. Repeat 4-8x.
3 minutes: Affects your circulation, blood chemistry and stability of the blood. The increased blood circulations begins, distributing enhanced neuroendocrine secretions throughout the body.
7 minutes: Brain patterns start to shift from the static of beta waves, to calmer alpha waves and ultimately to deep relaxing delta waves. Simultaneously, the magnetic force surrounding the body increases in strength.
11 minutes: The pituitary gland, glandular system and the nerves start to learn and change. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems begin to accommodate the increased energy.
22 minutes: Anxiety producing thoughts in the subconscious begin to clear. Your three minds (negative, positive, and neutral) start to work together so your mental integration changes. 22 is the infinite number of longing and gives mastery of the mental realm.
31 minutes: Affects your whole mind and your aura. Endocrinological balance is achieved, as is balance of the chakra’s of the ethereal body. This balance persists throughout the day, and is reflected by changes in moods and behavior.
11 days: 11 is the number of Infinity in the material world and conqueror of the physical realm. So it’s like the first step to break loose from the entanglement of the mind.
40 days:Helps to break negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the Kriya or mantra, if done 40 days straight in a row
90 days:When you practice the Kriya or mantra for 90 days straight it will establish a new habit in your conscious and subconscious mind. It will change you in a very deep way.
120 days: When you commit to practice the Kriya or mantra for 120 days without skipping a day it will confirm the new habit of consciousness. The positive benefits of the Kriya get integrated permanently into your psyche.
1000 days: This will allow you to master the new habit of consciousness that the Kriya or mantra has promised. No matter what the challenge, you can call on this new habit to serve you.
Practice the Woman’s Set to feel empowered, strong and confident. If you want to feel like Superwoman, try The Woman’s Set one morning… even better, practice it daily over the course of a week (or 40 days even!) and see for yourself. This set keep will keep us young, vital and radiant and builds courage and grace.
Kundalini Kriya’s are little prescriptions for the mind, body and soul. Each one is unique and offers such a wide variety of movement, breath and meditation that they are wholly accessible to everybody. I am enamored, to say the least. I feel that the combination of movement, breath and meditation are acupressure from the inside out. With this yoga you can heal yourself.
I love my background in Hatha yoga and cannot thank my dearest teacher Barbara Benagh for instilling in me the love of bodily focus and alignment, but the general flow yoga classes just bore me to tears. It’s like everyone is on repeat. Same old every single time with just a different “affirmation” being preached at me with the same old poses which are never taught. I am so happy to have stumbled onto Kundalini since it has given me an avenue to be different. I am not a Sikh nor a certified Kundalini teacher, but I get it and I can give it. I can give it in my way, with house music in the back ground, by adding dance and by offering people the chance to let go of what they think yoga is and experience something new-something different.
Thank you deeply to the birthday boy (August 26th), Yogi Bhajan for sharing the beautiful art of Kundalini with the world!
I am an Aquarian teacher.
~Remember to always be dancing!
Rock Pose. Sit on heels or in chair, palms on thighs or hands relaxed in lap, spine straight. Relax meditatively in this position. 1-3 minutes.
Life Nerve Stretch. Extend both legs straight out in front. Grab the big toe(s) in finger-lock. Inhale, lengthen the spine. Exhale, bend forward bringing chest to thighs, and nose to knees. Avoid leading with the head. Long deep Breathing. 1-3 minutes.
Camel Pose. Long, deep breathing. 1-3 minutes. This exercise adjusts the reproductive organs.
Shoulder Stand. Long, deep breathing. 1-3 minutes. This exercise releases pressure on all of the organs and stimulates the thyroid gland.
Archer Pose. Start with right foot forward so that the feet are 2-3 feet apart. The right toes face forward while the left foot comes to a 45 degree angle, with the heel back and the toes forward. The left leg stays straight and strong as the right knee bends until the thigh is almost parallel to the ground (do not let the knee go beyond the toes); tuck the tailbone. Curl the fingers of both hands onto the palms, thumbs pulled back. As if pulling back a bow and arrow, lift the right arm up, extended forward parallel to the ground, over the right knee. The left arm, bent at the elbow, pulls back until the fist is at the left shoulder. Pull Neck Lock. chin in, chest out. Feel this stretch across the chest. Eyes stare beyond the thumb to Infinity. Practice for 1-5 minutes on each side. *Please note: In the standing picture, with my left foot forward, I note my right arm should be higher up. In the seated pose, you should push forward a bit towards the extended knee, which is not evident in the photos.
Child’s Pose. Palms face up by feet. Totally relax. 1-3 minutes.
Bow Pose. Long Deep Breathing. In chair (or on floor) you can try the one handed version. Stretch up with the extended arm to increase the stretch. 1-3 minutes.
Locust Pose. Still on the stomach, feet together, with the chin on the ground, place the fists under the hips where the hips and thighs join. Raise the legs up, and the back of the thighs to keep the legs together. Long Deep Breathing. 1-3 minutes. *I am not sure this is the best chair representation for this pose, but it did allow for a light-opening stretch for the back of the leg.
Cow Pose. Do not scrunch the neck. Open the heart and raise the chin as far as you can without collapsing the neck. Hold with long, deep breathing. 1-3 minutes.
Cat Pose. Press chin into chest; arch up like an angry cat. Hold with long, deep breathing. 1-3 minutes.
Stretch Pose. Lie on the back with the feet together, toes pointed. Flatten the lower back. Place hands palms down over the thighs, pointing toward the toes. Lift the head up, apply Neck Lock and look at the toes. Lift the feet up 6 inches and begin Breath of Fire for 1-3 minutes. In chair, raise one or two legs off the floor, out straight. If doing one leg at a time (on floor or in chair) switch at 1/2 way mark)
Corpse Pose. Relax on the back or in chair, palms facing up. 3-10 minutes.
“Through their new referral service for dancers with disabilities, the Boston Dance Alliance strives to break down barriers to inclusion. I was thrilled to see their action become a reality when I received an interview for and then earned the position to teach a 5-week accessible youth flamenco class at the Cotting School in Lexington. This is a chance of a lifetime, affording me the opportunity to share my love of flamenco with this inclusive community. Thank you BDA for increasing cultural equity and access to dance for diverse communities!
~Eve Costarelli, owner and founder, Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts: Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body
Boston Dance Alliance is committed to opening doors to dance. Our free referrals for dancers with disabilities and those who want to work with them are only possible because of your generous support.
Every donation of $50 or more gets you the benefits of membership!
Now is a great time to bring one of Eve Costarelli’s varied mindfulness programs to your school, center or special event. Eve Costarelli will seamlessly adapt her programs to fit yours and your students/residents needs.
¡Olé Flamenco! Educational Flamenco Presentation:*September 15 – October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. This dynamic, experiential arts learning program can help bring Hispanic cultures to life for your students. Available all year.a. With guitarist, Antonio Tiriti
¡Olé Flamenco! Workshops* & Classes*in addition to or separate from the educational presentationa. with guitarist Antonio Tiriti
In-School Yoga & Mindfulness(working with school districts)
Accessible Flamenco & Yoga (for populations who need accessibility and adaptability)
Programs are available for grades K-12; college level; corporate events; senior living facilities and private hire. All programs are inclusive and can be adapted as needed for those with special needs including physical disabilities, medical conditions, intellectual difficulties, or emotional problems, including deafness, blindness, dyslexia, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems.
Please contact Eve Costarelli for scheduling and pricing:
For over 20 years, Eve has been an arts educator, teaching flamenco, tap dance, and yoga to children through seniors citizens of all levels and abilities. She practices a therapeutic and body-centric approach to teaching to give her students both physiological and psychological benefits from these art forms.
Eve is the lead teacher for Framingham’s own Open Spirit Centers Nourishing Teachers, Strengthening Classrooms project, bringing mindfulness into both the Framingham Public Schools and Hoops & Homework, an award winning after-school program for the neediest children in Framingham.
Ms. Costarelli is a familiar face on the Boston dance scene, and along with guitarist Antonio Tiriti, brings educational and experiential flamenco performance and workshops all over New England. Eve and Anthony are past members of Young Audiences of Massachusetts and Celebrity Series: Arts for All!
Eve Costarelli is the creator of Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts: Yoga and Flamenco for Every/Body.
Once again, Joe Shaul hits it out of the park with an accessible, user-friendly book for children on the Autism Spectrum. The book clearly explains, with easy-to-read cartoon/clip art-like illustrations, how we are all different yet all the same and shows how we can quantitatively assess these things thereby gaining insight about ourselves and the world around us paving the way for self- reflection and improved self control.
I love the outlined head-shapes with the visual depictions of thoughts actions and ideas. This makes it so clear and simple. It really helps to delineate differences and similarities so that we can see that we are similar to each other not only by our similarities but also by our differences; we are similar because we are different and by becoming aware of this we will be able to blend all varied modalities together seamlessly, into a world that truly allows everyone their own growth path. This book is great for kids with ASD but it is also great for everyone else to appreciate and learn from. Its especially good for visual learners.
I highly recommend. It is a great tool!
How will I use this book:
As you can see, I was inspired to make visuals of my own thoughts on the sticky notes attached to the book in the heading photo. Inside my head, I have ideas to make accessible flamenco as a way to discover ones true nature. It makes it very clear what I am thinking about and what makes me, me. These are things that I am good at, I feel confident about and I am passionate about expressing within this creative form.
Full Disclosure: Jessica Kingsely Publishing sent me this book. All opinions are my own.
D.G. Driver, author of No One Needed To Know, delivers an honest and highly relateable portrayal of a pre-teen girl, Heidi (who is partially biographical) with an older brother who has autism. On one hand, Heidi wants desperately to fit in with her peers and on the other hand, remain true to her family values. It is easy to identify with her as she struggles with her own coming of age at a time when society was much less inclusive for people with autism. On the precipice of “growing up”, we meet Heidi when she is unable to stick up for herself or her brother, but she evolves into a resilient, brave young woman, who comes, not only, to her brother’s rescue but also, in turn rescues herself. I highly recommend this book. It is a great heart-felt, eye opening “slice of life” that should be shared at school, in the home and out into the world.
Full Disclosure: The author 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…
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.