Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Silence Above

In after school yoga today, the kids started out bursting with energy. They were running around the room and there was so much chatter. It was exhausting! We started by singing “Namaste to you Om” to one of the girls whose birthday it was and after that I decide we needed to settle down.

I started class with silent meditation, taking some clues from my class this past Sunday with Fez Aswat. I had the kids take a comfortable seated position and I suggested resting their hands in their laps, one hand cupped inside the other, palms facing up. Eyes closed. First we tuned in with our ears to the sounds around us (humming radiator; teacher making noises in the room; kids outside laughing and playing) and I told them to locate a pocket of silence within all that noise; Find the silence to start relaxing with our ears. I like to imagine it is right above my head. We next moved on to feeling the relaxation in our own bodies. I let them slump a bit, drop their chins, generally flop out. Then finally, I had them start to listen to their own breathing. We listened and we felt our breath. I had them straighten up a bit and slightly tuck their chins in to elongate their spines, and really feel their belly take in the air, their ribs expand, their backs expand, trying to feel the breath all the way up to the crown of their heads.

As our breathing became more and more pronounced we took our first Downward Facing Dog Pose.

From there, we stepped our right leg back into a low lunge. Brought our hands to our knees and then arms above the head. Look at hands and if they had the strength, they could straighten up their back leg and then back down. Standing, with right leg pointing front, we did Warrior I & II (“I am courageous”). Hands back down to floor and took a strong and sturdy plank pose. Back to Downward Facing Dog Pose and repeat the whole sequence on the other side.

Finally, coming all the way to the ground, into Crocodile, resting our head on our hands.

A series now of two locusts, which spontaneously turned into an air swimming session. Then two Bows, where we giggled and rolled back and forth and side to side.
I then helped each child roll up in their mat, arms by their side, totally en-wrapped by the mat. It is such a calming a good feeling to so this. One girl said she did not like to do this and when I asked if she had ever tried it before she said no, but that she didn't like to be a taco. Ha-ha! Well I got her to try and lo and behold, she loved the feeling. All wrapped up, I had them play the “I Am Heavy” game. I had them listen to my voice and not talk. I led then through a series of making their body parts feel heavy: feet, calves/lower leg, knees, thighs/upper leg, belly (here we paused for a moment and thought about our breathing and once again we listened for the silence above us), backs, hands, lower arm, upper arm, shoulders, neck; at the head now, I first had them feel that their foreheads were cool and relaxed, that a nice relaxing breeze was blowing on them and cooling their forehead, the head is heavy but the forehead is cool. I have read that having the head feel warm and heavy can lead to headaches, so it is important to always have the forehead be cool.

After unwrapping, we took Child’s Pose for a moment.

For a song today, I chose “Peace Like River” with the body movements by Shakta Khalsa of Radiant Child Yoga. The kids now slightly different lyrics (Peace like a river; Love like an ocean; Joy like a fountain) so we used those instead.

Savasana to end.

In total we did more than 15 minutes of silent mediation today and the effect was profound. At the end of class, the kids were alert but focused and totally relaxed but energized. They were not the sparks of energy who had entered class but they were eternal lights when they left.

Hands to hearts, feel the rhythm of your own pulse....Namaste!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Want to get out and have some fun early this evening? I will be tap dancing...

A fun-filled evening with Jazz, Blues and Tap Dance with
Little Rose and The Boston All-Stars

All-Stars include :
Theodore Powers, rhythm guitar; Lenny Bradford, bass;
Sir Cecil,drums; Roberto Cassan,accordion; Reggie Grant, sax.

International star, Josh Hilberman;
Dr. Venus alias Rebecca Folkerth,
Patrice Monahan, Eve Agush and Val Marcantonio

$10 cash donation suggested

Dress festive and bring your own dancing shoes!!
Free on-street parking

When: Sunday February 21st
Where: 357 Huron Ave Cambridge MA
Time: 6pm to 8pm
Other: Light Refreshments served, BYOB

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yoga-Snack: Back to Back

Today I led two Yoga-Snacks back to back. I love the dedication of the classes that I teach to my yoga program. Their commitment to me is deep and has allowed us all to reap the benefits of this in-school yoga program.

We started class with a few warm ups: 3 large Belly Breaths, 3 Bumble Bee Breaths (ears covered and humming on the exhale), one giant Volcano Breath (with a huge open mouthed sigh at the end), Bumpy Camel, Washing Machine (while saying "Whish" Whoosh"), Dryer and then a simple Spinal Twist to end.

Standing, we did 3 Sun Salutations. On our final rise up, we "sat" in Chair Pose and then brought our arms parallel to the floor, creating a Lightning Bolt, and held it for the count of 5.

From there, we did Warrior I (I am a warrior; I am brave; I am strong; I am happy; I am ME!); Warrior II; straightened our front leg and did Triangle; used our leg strength to stand and then we jumped our legs together. Holding one leg (I chose to use the leg that had been at the back of our Warrior-to-Triangle series), Dancer's Pose. We then repeated the whole sequence from Chair Pose through Dancer's Pose on the other side.

Sitting back down in Easy Pose, we did our new "I am Ha-Ha-He-He-Ho-Ho" meditation. And I have to say the few kids that were still in grumble mode, switched out and everyone joined in and by the end , everyone was smiling and having a good time, but not fooling around.

We ended with Savasana. I had them notice that an in-breath feels cool, while the out-breath feels warm. We then allowed ourselves to be blanketed by snow, covering us, encasing us, heavy on our bodies, causing us to be still and relaxed (the warm breath kept the snow from forming on our noses and mouths, therefore allowing us to continue to breath). Total stillness and calmness enveloped the room.

Wiggling fingers and toes, rolling wrists and ankles, we shook the snow off. Then rubbing hands together and covering our eyes with our warm hands, we reopened our eyes and then rolled to one side (preferably the right side) and curled up like a baby for a moment. Sitting back in Easy Pose, covering our heart with our hands, we said Namaste!

Namaste my little Yogis and Yoginis!

Monday, February 8, 2010


Drape: 1. To cover, dress, or hang with or as if with cloth in loose folds: draped the coffin with a flag; a robe that draped her figure 2.To fall or hang in loose folds: arranged the cloth to drape over the table legs 3. to cover or dress loosely with cloth; drape the statue with a sheet.

I have started running a yoga inspired warm-up at the beginning of each dance class I teach with elements to aid the students in their particular dance styles. One of the items that I discussed at length with my young flamenco dancers was the concept that they need to experience an upper-back back bend while dancing. I had them imagine that they were lifting up and over in their upper-backs, trying not to touch an imaginary pin point that was being held just below their shoulder blades. I had them lift up, while I placed my finger in this exact spot and had them lift up and then drop over my finger, yet never touching it. They must keep their chests open wide and at the same time, they must keep their backs broad. From there, the arms are free to move on their own, irregardless of what the torso or legs/feet are doing. They can lift their arms seemingly effortlessly.

One pose that I have been experiencing very deeply in my own yoga practise is the back bend. In the weekly classes I take, my teacher often has us recline over a bolster of rolledup blankets. I have moved on to drape myself over a crate. I imagine that I am a piece of material and then allow myself to relax fully on the crate, with my head dropped back, not touching the floor. My lats are very tight though and when I try too reach above my head and then grab a hold of the crate, my back tightens up. I am basing my home practise on release in this area and am feeling emboldened and strong. It is an exciting journey.

As written by Barbara Benagh, Iyengar teacher and mentor:

Back bend Over a Crate
Roll two blankets into a firm cylinder and place them on top of a sturdy crate or stool. Lie back over the bolster, positioning it in the small of your back. With your hips and shoulders at the same level, melt back over the bolster until your spine relaxes. To extend further, stretch your arms overhead or bend your elbows and grasp the crate or stool. Relax your neck, and roll your top shoulder blades toward the stool to open your chest more. Extend your legs and place your feet flat on the floor. Focus on steady breathing to enhance an internal focus.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Namaste to you, Om!

This week's Yoga-Snack was a birthday celebration! We started with a recreation of the standard birthday song, by changing the lyrics to:
Namaste to you, Om!
Namaste to you, Om!
Namaste to you, dear (name)!
Namaste to you, Om… namo guru dev namo!

The kids got a great kick out of that and I hear they sang it all day!

We then moved onto a special yoga class where we took a trip to the circus. No, I do not mean that we actually went to the circus, instead we based the whole class on things we see and do at the circus (main ingredients: kids and fun!).

We started by taking three large Balloon Breaths because what is a day at the circus without a balloon? We rode our Bumpy Camel, Washing Machine became the ride “The Whip” and as we turned side to side we called out “Whish” “Whoosh”; Dryer became the “Ferris Wheel” which we rode both forwards and back. Pretending to be in a Moonwalk, we did a series of Frog Push-Ups.

All warmed up and ready to go, we saw our first animal, the Elephant. With our legs wide, we clasped our hands and swung our trunks up and down and side to side, trying our hardest to sound like elephants. Bear walk ( one day I did this as an active pose, but I realized the classroom is not geared for the space, so the next day we did this on our backs, walking in the air; remember to walk with opposite hand and leg moving at the same time. If you do this with children with sensory disorders, then have them actually touch their leg with their hand). Sitting on our feet, toes in, heels out, we leaned back and did Camel and then leaned forward, grabbed our knees with our hands, straightened up our shoulders and did Lion’s Breath with some big roars. With the older kids, we also did Crane, or as we called it, Balancing On The HighWire!

Send in the clowns to add a little Laughing Yoga to our meditation; we did my modified version of “I am happy, I am good” (see entry on Saturday January 30, 2010 entitled “Morning Meditation”). The kids loved it! I call it "I Am Ha-Ha He-He Ho-Ho Hu!"

We slipped “Happy Jio” in here. Kids just wanted to get up and dance.

For our Deep Relaxation, I had the kids lie in Savasana and imagine a birthday candle in front of them. To slow down their breathing, I told them too imagine that as they breath in gently, the flame pulls toward them a bit and then as they breath out gently too, the flame moves away, but that they must remember to breath gently so as not to blow out the candle. On our final breath, I had them think of something that they are thankful for in their lives and with one final blow, out goes the candle.

Namaste to you, Om!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yoga and Flamenco: The Connection

I had an epiphany the other day while I was teaching a private lesson. I am working with a woman who allows me to pick apart the flamenco body, the movements, the postures and has opened my eyes to see more and more the connection between flamenco and yoga. Yoga (c. 3300–1700 BC) is much older than flamenco (c. 16th Century). The original gypsies were from Rajisthan. When they finally arrived in Spain they had been practising yoga for many years and then they created this dance we call flamenco and so many of the movements seem so connected to the roots of yoga posture.

This week, an idea that I had already been formulating, arose and it occurred to me that the way we hold our body in flamenco is actually an upper back , backbend. I have always thought the posture was created in the shoulders, but since the shoulders are only connected to the body in the very front at the sternum, it makes more sense to see the arched back as a backbend that anything else.

I feel Tadasana when I stand erect in my flamenco stance. My feet are grounded, my legs like the trunk of a tree. My torso growing forth from the trunk, side ribs lifting, energy rising up to my shoulders, and my heart lifts from behind, arching my back. I LOVE BACK BENDS!


tada = mountain asana=pose
Step by Step:
1. Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart (so that your second toes are parallel). Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on the feet.

2. Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps, without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches, then imagine a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs to your groins, and from there through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out through the crown of your head. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pubis toward the navel.

3. Press your shoulder blades into your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Without pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones. Hang your arms beside the torso.

4. Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes.

5. Tadasana is usually the starting position for all the standing poses. But it's useful to practice Tadasana as a pose in itself. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.

RASP YOGA: Day One Winter Session 2010

Monday started the new RASP After School Yoga program (Winter Session 2010). I have 8kids this time and I was really happy to see both old and new faces.

I began today's lesson by asking who had done yoga before and then what the kids thought yoga was: exercising, relaxing, stretching,and I also added energizing. When you need to relax, you practise yoga that helps you relax and when you need to be energized you practise yoga that energizes you.

We lay down on our mats and I gave each child a bean bag and had them place it on their bellies. I had them lightly touch the bean bags and then we inhaled and filled our bellies like balloons and then we exhaled and let our bellies deflate and return to normal. We then lay out long on the floor and stretched ourselves from all directions.

In Easy Pose, we warmed up our spines by "riding" the Bumpy Camel. Then, hands to shoulders for Washing Machine, twisting side to side,and saying "But" "Mom" (that is the feeling of the chant "Sat" "Nam" but the kids get a kick out of using "But" "Mom"). Hand over hand, we do dryer in both directions. The an Easy Seated Twist. Remember to do a large balloon breath at the end of every pose to signify the ending of one and the start of another.

I decided to do a Vinyasa style class and we began with a few Sun Salutations. In between, we did Table Top with a One/Arm, One/Leg Balance. We also pracised Flat Back. At our last Sun Salutation, we did Chair Pose. We then ran through on each side: Warrior I, Warrior II and Warrior III.

Lying down again, we lay on one side and balanced in Anantasana or Sleeping Vishnu. This is a very challenging pose.

Class choice was Happy Jio and then we lay down in Shavasana. One full minute of stillness and silence.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Pineal Gland & Melatonin

To my friends who are parents of teens:

During teen years, melatonin in pineal gland kicks in two hours later than any other stage of life. This is why teens sleep so much!

The pineal gland synthesizes and secretes melatonin, a structurally simple hormone that communicates information about environmental lighting to various parts of the body. Ultimately, melatonin has the ability to entrain biological rhythms and has important effects on reproductive function of many animals. The light-transducing ability of the pineal gland has led some to call the pineal the "third eye".