Always Be Dancing Expressive Arts

Yoga and Flamenco for Every/body


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Book Review: Classroom Yoga Breaks by Louise Goldberg

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 and Yoga 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.51-nma7wc3l-_sx398_bo1204203200_

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.

A little about Louise Goldberg: 

Louise Goldberg, ERYT 500,
is owner of Relaxation Now LLC and founder of CreativeRelaxation®. Her new book,
Classroom Yoga Breaks will be published by Norton Books in Education on November 15, 2016. Her first book, Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs was published by Norton Professional Books in 2013. She is a co-author of S.T.O.P. and Relax, Your Special Needs Toolbox©2006, updated 2014. Her DVD Yoga for Children ©2004 features children on the autism spectrum.

 

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Thanksgiving Yoga: How To Smell The Roses In Your Poses

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Smell the roses in your poses.

There are so many benefits to feeling and expressing gratitude. People who are encouraged to notice and reflect upon the things they are thankful for experience stronger physical, emotional, and mental health, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, are less aggressive and have healthier sense of self.

 

Yoga poses and activities can develop emotional happiness, physical calmness and mental alertness and promote the appreciation of the natural world around us through attention to the kinesthetic experience.

A brief note and brief meditation for you:

Every year, an entire day is dedicated to the celebration of gratitude. We are thankful for good food, good family and friends, and a good life. But we do not have to wait till this day to be thankful. Yoga teaches us to practice mindfulness, opening the door for gratitude to be practiced all year-long. Gratitude unlocks the abundance of life. It turns what we have into enough, and contributes to our satisfaction with our own personal riches. Being thankful for little things around us allows us to be present, alive and fully in the moment.

This brings to my mind the phrase “Stop and smell the roses”. If we do stop and smell the roses, we will start to notice the richness that surrounds and inundates all our life’s moments. By taking a step back and being aware of the things in your life that you are truly thankful for, you can bring balance to chaos and calmness to turmoil. Peace of mind can be yours by bringing yourself into the here and now! Notice the veritable cornucopia of things to be grateful for in your life: your family, friends, a roof over your head, working at something you take pride in, a smile or kind word from a stranger, a flower peeping out from the sidewalk, a fresh breeze, the warm touch of the sun, the smell of the earth after rain, the farmers who grow the food, the chef who cooks it…the list is never-ending!

So…stop and smell the roses! Take a moment to look at the trees. Notice their leaves, branches and bark, feel the wind on your cheeks and breathe deeply!

Remember that you need time to relax and rejuvenate too. Take care of yourself, so that you can be the most supportive and effective person that you can be.

A simple mindfulness meditation:

1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff. You can also lie down. Or lean against the wall.

2. Become aware of your breathing by focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel the air entering and exiting through your nostrils. Feel your belly rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. If needed, the first few breaths you can allow the exhale to express through gently pursed lips-imagine you are fanning the coals. This help to elongate the exhale and the sound is a great focuser. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different. Notice that the air is cool as it enters the body but it is gently warmed when it exits.

3. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hopeful. When thoughts come up in your mind, note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor. Watch your thoughts as if they are clouds drifting by in the sky.

4. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, simply return to your breathing. I sometimes like to say “Thinking” or “Thought” or I name it “that is the worrying me who thinks she cannot do things…etc. when I notice I have drifted and this helps me come back to the present moment and my breathing. There is not punishment for being lost in thought: allow it, notice it, move on.

As the time comes to a close bring (this can be 1-minute, 5 minutes 20 minutes or more!) bring some more energizing breaths into your body. You can wiggle your fingers and toes. Roll to one side (if lying down). Get up gradually.

Gratitude Attitude Yoga for Kids: 6358626217332020101255530005_thankyou

How should we bring gratitude to children’s attention? Playfully. They can learn how to be thankful by getting to know themselves, physically, emotionally, energetically and intellectually. Using the methodologies of yoga, qigong, and dance, they have the freedom to express this autonomously. The gratitude attitude can be bolstered by our commitment to communicating with them where they are now, by how we act and how we relate to them during our time together. Through various activities in action and in stillness , they can explore their own paths to gratitude.

Activities:

Stillness activity #1: Ringing the chime. Turn taking. Sharing. Listening. Experiencing. Different vibration every time. Building confidence and self-esteem.

Stillness activity #2: Colored glass rocks: creating patterns, shapes, feeling their cool, soft edges…listening to a piece of quite music like “Variations On Twinkle Twinkle by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Joe Cool’s Blues by Wynton Marsalis and Ellis Marsalis.

gorilla-thumpWaking Up The Sense Activity #1: Gorilla Thumps Gently thumping body parts  and meridian points. The chest and just below the collar bones using Aaaaaaaa-Eeeeeee-Iiiiiii-Oooooooo-Uuuuuuuu. Energy booster! Waking up the energy lines. 

Waking Up The Sense Activity #2: Rag Doll Dance Shimmying, shaking, jiggling, flouncing. Feeling light. Waking up. Moving feet. Moving hands. Fingers, Toes. Head. Waking the senses.
Yoga Poses:

Mountain pose. Thank you Mountains for being so strong and stable. 

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Mountain

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Upward Mountain

Sun (breathe in, arms come up the sides till fingers touch at the top. Try to match finger to finger) feeling awake; Moon (hands clasped at the top. Lean to one side then the other) feeling bright; Wind (starting swaying arms, let them gently tap your body as your spine twists side to side) feeling free; Rain (add finger wiggles) feeling fresh. 

Waterfall Bend over and touch the floor. Feel the cool water running through your fingers. Feel calm. And Kind of sparkly. 

Squat like a frog. Sit still, like a frog. Breathe quietly, like a frog. Then hopping ribbit, ribbit, ribbit (and then back to your lily pad) 

Cow and Cat-Moo and Meow grounded to the floor. Stable like a table! 

Breathe in, lift up, Snake. Hissssssssssssing down on the exhale. Repeat. Strong arm muscles pushing you. Notice your hands on the floor and push up.

Woof. Down dog. Lifting one foot for a tail. Switch. Barking. Feeling joyful

Tree Pose. Standing tall and balanced on one foot. Friend Tree: Do it with a friend. Family Tree: Do it with the whole yoga family. 

Challenge Pose #1: Single sided bow pose. Switch sides. Then try traditional bow pose.

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Challenge #2: Pointer Dog Pose

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Challenge #3: Dancer’s Pose. Hold hands with a partner and be each others support. Try it on your own to test your inner balance.

Resting Poses:

Floating On The Sea: On your back, the mat is a calm blue sea. Gentle waves rocking you as you let your body relax and float. You feel weightless. Hear the seagulls. Hear the waves lapping. Feel the warm breath of the sun. Smell the beach air full of ocean, sun and sand.  Your belly is the ocean. On each inhale, allow the belly to fill up and on the exhale, let the belly soften. Take your next few breaths into your veer softening belly. Drift. 

Crocodile: Belly time (EVERYBODY needs belly time!). Now the mat is a river.  Crocodile is gliding slowly in the river. Feel the warm water all around. Head down. Can rest head to one side or the other. Or use hands as a pillow. Can bend one knee or the other (if knee is bent head should be looking to that same side or straight down.)  Feel belly on the floor. Pressing in as you inhale. Feel your back softening on the exhale. On each inhale, allow the belly to fill up and on the exhale, let the belly soften. Take your next few breaths into your veer softening belly. Glide. 

Sleeping On A Cloud: Belly or back time. Can you imagine clouds in the sky? Imagine you could rest gently on top of one. Feel the soft cotton cradling you gently. There is a little sway and bob as the cloud floats through the sky. In your imagination,  look at the other clouds as they float by. See them drifting by. See their shapes. What shapes do you see? When you start to look at or think about other things, gently go back to looking at the clouds. It is o.k. if you do. When you do realize you are not thinking about the clouds, gently start noticing the clouds and their shapes. Float.

Games and Books:

Game #1: Let each child call out the name of a living thing and then create a pose to go with it. For example, T-Rex. Stand up. Make “little” arms like a T-Rex, and then do mat walk. Walk all around the outer edge of your mat-while acting like T-Rex-in one direction. Then reverse your direction to get the most brain balancing effect.

Game #2: Tape numbers (1-10, or less) around the walls and tape a yoga pose card next to each number. Easy version: everyone goes through poses in numerical order. Challenge option: Pair up the students. Give them each a pose order card (numbered 1- 10, but not in numerical order). Each group heads off a deux, and does their poses in the order specific to their card.

Game #3: Another version of the above game (my fall to game in every class) is putting one, two or more cards under each mat. Student pull the cards out and arrange them, either as they like or numerically. Students then have an allotted amount of time to do their pose(s). At the signal, everyone moves clockwise and arrives on a new mat, with a new set of cards presented to them. Continue until everyone is back on their original mat.

Book #1:For younger kids, check out My Amazing Day: A celebration of wonder and gratitude by Karin Fisher-Golton, Lori A. Cheung and Elizabeth Iwamiya (please check out my review of this book here). This book can be read and easily adapted to yoga poses to go along with the things the baby is grateful for. 

Book #2: This is one of my favorite all time books that I read to my son almost every day. It is so beautiful and the kids just can’t get enough of the surprise and the anticipation and it is so sweet and lovely: The Lion and the Red Bird by Elisa Kleven. Here is a fabulous YouTube of Elisa Kleven reading her beloved book. Elisa came into this hospital to share her wonderful story with fantastic illustrations. The patient, Ashley, sure had a lot to say about the story! Enjoy this children’s book classic.

 


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Flamenco Arms

flamenco armsFlamenco Arms

There are many different styles of arms, elongated and elegant; strong and sinuous. There is the classic style, lifting from the elbow or the modern style, with elbows bent and lowered first, riding tight to the body. Some arms are wild and unschooled. While still others are technical and calculated. All styles, when they are compatible with the dance, are authentic.

Your arms are never just your arms. They are an expression of your art. Next to facial expression, arms and hands are the most expressive element in flamenco dance. They capture attention as they create line, rhythm and feeling. They are the most difficult technique to master.

Learning to use your arms as part of your overall body line is of utmost importance, no matter what your style is. The arms must be extensions of the shoulders, chest, hips and legs. Arms held overhead are rarely held high enough and droopy arms are distracting and are definitely not flamenco!

 

To create the sweep for classic flamenco arms you must grow wings! Spread your back wide and lift your arms. Keep this image of wings as your back body spreads open to cradle the front body. As arms rise, shoulders must stay down and back. Not wrenched back, so that the shoulder blades pull in, but spread wide open to make the arms even longer than they already are. This is the key to the elegance and gypsy arrogance held in flamenco dance. Elbows must remain high throughout the movement as the shoulders remain down.  Feel the the initial extension of your wings from deep within muscles between the shoulders.  When you arrive at “T” position, shoulders must drop over the back of the rib cage. This will cause the front body, around the collar bones, to open wide, like a display case. There you will imagine that you are wearing a beautiful diamond necklace. This area is your display case, lift it up and display your necklace! Wear it proudly.

The arms must have energy all the way to the fingers; use Dynamic Tension. Feel your arms moving with the strength and unity of the whole shoulder girdle. 
Feel your arm pits are deep caverns with vaulted ceilings. You can create a small hollow opening inside as if to cradle a very ripe, very juicy apricot (do not squish it or drop it).

The passage of the arm must go through all the “stopping” points (3, 6, 9, 12 n  clock face) and create the shape necessary at each point (ie Never just bring your arm up with out passing through:  low “v” to “t” position to high “v” etc…). In low “v” & 6 o’clock,  make sure you do not compress the arm pits. 

Arms must always be controlled. Never throw them around as if you are directing air traffic. Arms are under constant tension. You can imagine from the torso to the wrists, as your arms rise, that an elastic band is pulling tights. Feel the tension, but do not show the tension. There is a buoyancy as they rise, like they are pushing through water. Keep the gently descending line from shoulders to elbow to wrist to finger tips. This picks up again as the arms pass through “T” position and then again the dynamic tension is created from the arms back into the body.  Make sure your arms flow.

A little about hands:

Hand movement are very personal and your hands are an extension of your personality and the emotional content to your dance. They are the fine sable hairs at the end of a paint brush. They add flourish, punctuation and can pull energy into your field or press it away. They add the final important details to your dance. the hands move from the circling of the wrists. The wrist circles do not involve any other part of the arms-so pay attention to your elbows!

 

There are two hand movement styles:

  1. Gypsy: The little finger leads the way in opening and closing the hand-like a fan opening and closing.
  2. Classic: The middle finger leads.
    • Keep thumbs in as you turn your wrist.
    • SEQUENCE: palm, fingers, wrist, fingers
    • Bend wrists as much as possible. Bring your finger tips towards the very inside of the wrist before making the rotation. That is your accents point. The unfurling carries the rhythm till the next accent.
    • Hands move with rhythm not randomly.

 


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Cultivate Your Flamenco Body

Cultivate your flamenco body

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.


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Book Review: Growing Up Mindful by Christopher Willard, PSYD

bk04652-growing-up-mindful-published-cover_1I 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! 514xcamlnel-_ac_ul320_sr192320_

As a special treat, here is a YouTube link to Dr. Willard’s TedX – Growing Up Stressed or Growing Up Mindful?

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of Growing Up Mindful. All opinions are my own.


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Eve Costarelli’s preliminary teaching and performing schedule for 2016-2017

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.

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  1. 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.
  2. I will be at Mini Miracles Childcare Center with Eve’s Awesome Yoga for ages 15 months-6 Years. Classes here are only available for center enrollees. 
  3. Anthony Tiriti Tran and I continue our educational program, ¡Olé Flamenco! with both Young Audiences of Massachusetts and Celebrity Series: Arts For All! We can come to your school or community gathering! All programs are inclusive and adaptable.
  4. 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.
  5. I am available for *private and semi private work, site specific choreography, educational presentations and master classes. *My private lesson slots are filling fast.
  6. This summer, I had the awesome opportunity to bring yoga to a BINA Farm/Warrior Thunder Foundation event and I hope to do more work with both organizations.
  7. 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
  8. 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. 

Thank you and Remember to Always Be Dancing!

¡Olé Namaste!

Eve

 

 


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Book Review: Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alvarez and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class

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This is book is the real deal…totally authentic…“the truth”…it is an honest, open-hearted expression of what it takes to really stop, take a moment and respond rather than react to things that are stressful and happening right now, in real time. These kids just tell it like it is and with their words and their beautiful art, they allow us to see how they are learning to come to grips with their humanness and how they have come to appreciate and respect the need to self-regulate. The staff and kids are 100% committed to this venture and that is evident from their honesty, bravery and creativity. I really appreciate how this book is presented, from the bright color schemes, the beautiful self-portraits, and the almost graphic novel-like approach, the book offers compelling examples from young people who are coping with stress by not hurting themselves or anyone else for that matter. Instead, they are willing to be calm, insightful, and kind. Masters of Mindfulness, written by Laurie Grossman, co-founder of Mindful Schools and Director of Program Development at Inner Explorer, and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th Grade Class at Reach Academy in Oakland, California, introduces examples of how to be mindful in a straight forward approach, user-friendly manner and since it is written by kids, it is thoroughly believable.

This book is a huge success and it belongs in homes, libraries and on every park bench, school desk and bedside table!

Here is a nice trailer for it! 

Full Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.