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 what I asked my amazing group of students at the middle school I teach yoga at. This is the school’s group of Autism Spectrum kids and I have had the pleasure and the honor of getting to know these kids over the past two years:
John: The Stress goes out of my body
Marashall: My stress goes away
Edward: Like I am lying on the beach looking at the sun
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!
With school starting just around the corner, I was happy to be able to read and digest the wisdom imparted by Lee Guerette in her book Cognitive Yoga. Through exercises and insights that Lee has developed through her years of working with middle school students, she offers teachers ways to make their teaching more effective and students are made more aware of their own reactivity to themselves and to those around them. This leads to a well-nourished, more relaxed, thriving learning environment.
I loved the chapter about Setting Up A Serene Classroom that explains how subtle changes in the classroom’s physical environment can have huge results in creating a calming atmosphere where the teacher can spend her time teaching rather then controlling. Students do not even need to know that the elements are balanced in order for it to be effective. My other favorite part of the book, was her take on the Gunas, or the great states of energy, and how the interplay of these states of energy defines the character of someone or something. The three states which are sattva : goodness, constructive, harmonious and still, rajas: passionate, active, full of desire and restless, and tamas: dull, oblivious, negative and sluggish. All of these energies are present in each one of us and the purpose of identifying the different gunas is to help the students to be more aware of their own physical and mental states plus that of the surrounding environment. The coup de grâce is her likening each one of these energies to an animal personality: Satva= swan, Raja=tiger and tamas=sloth. Such a great teaching moment for kids and really so useful in my yoga classes in the public school environment.
Cognitive Yoga is focused on making school life accessible and successful for all students and teachers and on how to make life work constructively within the school environment. Ms. Guerrette shows her belief that all kids possess a gift for the world and by clearing the way for educators to do their jobs, the students will be able to grow, train and nourish this gift. Teachers in turn will find profound fulfillment. A phrase that comes to mind when I take in Ms. Guerette’s words is “Not knowing is different thany not knowing yet!”
I highly recommend this book for new and seasoned teachers alike and believe should be in every school library.
Full Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of Cognitive Yoga. All opinions expressed are my own.
Sam and Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett is an adorable and laugh-out-loud funny story about two boys and the power of determination. When I first read the book, I was struck by how closely related it was related to how I view the journey of yoga. In yoga, we are archaeologists of our bodies, mind and soul. We endlessly inquire into how our bodies work, what feels good/bad, what makes us feel better and what are our habits. With care, kindness and perseverance, we as yoga archaeologists brush away layer after layer of “dirt”to unearth our somatic history. Like in archaeology, you do not always know what you are looking for, maybe there is nothing there or maybe there is a hidden treasure. It is a slow process. New things pop up and take you down different paths of discovery/sensation. Archaeologists and yogi’s have patience, focus, a lust for knowledge, seek the unknown, show flexibility in mind, body and soul, have inner strength and above all love what they do. Same and Dave exemplify this in the fact that they are not driven by finding a treasure but instead by the evident joy along their path of discovery. The journey is the ultimate reward!
I have already brought this book with me to a number of yoga classes and as Mr. Barnett says, there is no ceiling on this book’s suggested age limit. Like him, I say this book is wonderful for ages 4 to adult. Noting the peels of laughter from the younger kids, the smirks from the mid-graders and the dancing eyes from my teens tells me “I am correct”; it’s an all-around winner!
I highly recommend this book to everyone! The illustrations by Jon Klassen are simply adorable. The fact that Sam and Dave do not have mouths makes me think they are communicating through mental telepathy and after catching the subtle artistic changes at the end of the book, my classes were lead naturally into theorizing about the ending to the story.
Full Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of Sam And Dave Dig A Hole. All opinions expressed are my own.
I so gratefully received a copy of The Autism Playbook for Teens by Irene McHenry PhD and Carol Moog PhD months ago. I read it and immediately began implementing the strategies in it but it took me way too long to write this review. My deepest apologies to both the authors as this is a book worth having in your library, recommending to all your students and using for yourself.
What I like most about this book is its straight forward, practical approach to empowering special ability teens. We can all learn something from this book! Self control is not an easy thing and each time I learn one of the strategies to teach to my students, I teach myself.
In class, I introduce a mindfulness activity from the book to my students and then they practice with their families over the week. When we reconvene for our next lesson, we go over the past technique and when the right “teaching” moment presents itself, I introduce a new technique. Going about it this way, my hope is that as time goes on they will be able to draw forth these calming practices naturally to soothe themselves, build their self-confidence and help them interact more comfortably in social situations.
I love this book because it enables teens with special needs to take control of themselves. I think the strategies presented are accessible to them and I highly recommend this book to teens, adults and professionals alike. It is user-friendly and is full meaningful and practical ways to make the mindfulness connection for teens with special needs. I see this book as a necessary addition to libraries, to schools, to yoga teachers, to parents and to anyone who is or who works with teenagers with special needs.
Full Disclosure: The authors provided me with a copy of The Autism Playbook for Teens to review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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