Room to Breath

I am really looking forward to seeing this film, Room to Breath .  The organization Mindful Schools, which is featured in the documentary, offers great online trainings for working with kids and mindfulness. And I am fortunate enough to be starting their curriculum training in just a few weeks!  I can't wait.  I recommend checking out the Mindful Schools web site for more information on mindfulness and children.

Hoberman Sphere!


My new favorite toy for kids yoga is the Hoberman Sphere.  It has been an amazing tool for teaching kids to slow down their breath, and take long, even inhales and exhales.  We talk about how the Hoberman Sphere mimics the work our diaphragm does, and its a great model for showing what happens when we breath in/out too quickly.  The kids' response to this simple expanding ball has been really unexpected too - they are pretty fascinated by it. When I pass it around the room, the kids each takes turns opening it and closing it in time with their breath.  Another student of mine, who I see individually, likes to start and end his sessions by doing deep breathing with the Hoberman.   In addition to working on breath, I think this would be a great tool for doing gratitude circles. Because the ball will expand when thrown in the air, the kids could toss it to each other around a circle as they share something they are grateful for or something kind about the person they are tossing the ball to.

Just 15 minutes makes a difference

This year my school has started a new program called Smart Start, where the first 15 minutes of the day is spent doing some sort of physical activity.  All of the specialists at school are asked to pitch in and be in classrooms helping to lead activities.  Yoga, of course, is my contribution.  For the first round of what I've termed Yoga Mornings, I focused on teaching the fundamentals of Sun Salutations to my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes.  It has been so fun to be with the kids and watch them practice this gorgeous flow paying homage to the sun.  The downside to Yoga Mornings though is that I leave right after, so don't see any of the awesome effects yoga may have on the kids as they transition into the day!  

Luckily, a good friend stopped me today and let me know.  She said that after we did Sun Salutations with her 2nd grade students, they transitioned into their day quietly and peacefully.  She saw a big difference in the way they shifted between activities, and credited that to yoga. 

That was only the second time I've done yoga with Brooke's class.  For 15 minutes.  Imagine what these kids will be experiencing after they start doing yoga on a regular basis through Yoga Mornings!  I was already excited about this new program, but after this conversation today, my drive to bring yoga to more and more kids is even stronger.

Its amazing how time flies...

Holy cow!  The past five months have flown by and all of a sudden summer is over and its back to work.  And life.  And all that comes in between.  Its been a crazy few months with some sadness (my dad passing), some happiness (seeing great family and friends), and loads of airplane travel, terrific food, and of course yoga.

Now that I'm back in Jakarta and life is slowly returning to normal, I am getting back into my routine.  Which includes this blog!  I am really excited for this next year at my school because the idea of teaching yoga/meditation/mindfulness to kids is really catching on.  This year teachers, kids, other faculty and staff, etc. are starting off each morning with 15-20 minutes of movement.  Every day I'll be in a different classroom leading a mini yoga class to kick off their day.  On Fridays I'll be teaching yoga to 3rd-5th graders until October and then switching to K-2 until December.  Hopefully enough middle-school students sign up for my Thursday after school class, and I'm also hoping to coordinate with a group of parents here to be my "guinea pigs" for a "yoga at home" parent training course.  And to top it off I begin the Mindful Schools Curriculum Training on September 9th! Oh yeah - and then my own personal practice :) I am starting to practice with an Iyengar teachers this year which I am thrilled about.  Proper alignment in yoga is so important to me and I'm always looking for new insight into how to make my personal practice stronger.

Whew - all that and my regular job as a speech-language pathologist (which I secretly tie yoga and mindfulness into when I can :)).  It's going to be a fantastic year full of new opportunities!   Stay tuned...

Impromptu virtual yoga

I have two nieces and they are amazing.  Smart, funny, fun, beautiful, spontaneous, and daring.  Obviously I'm biased; however, they bring me nothing but joy and then more joy.  And then even more joy. Living so far away can be incredibly difficult but Skype and FaceTime definitely ease the heartbreak of not seeing teeth lost and Bollywood performances in person.

Just a bit ago I caught them before their bedtime (at my parents' house in Virginia) for what initially seemed like a short-lived conversation.  They were equally tired and wound-up, my other sister had just arrived (in person) from DC, and they were getting ready for a road trip in the morning.  Lots to compete with.

But then I asked about what classes they were taking, and my older niece listed Bollywood dance and "of course, yoga."  She volunteered to show me a pose, and then we were off and running.  I moved my iPad into my yoga room and they cleared a space in the living room.  For the next 20 minutes we showed our favorite poses, tried some new ones, and both of my nieces taught me some new tricks (although they seamlessly jump into splits like rock stars while I...stop about half way down).   They were dutifully impressed with my handstand, and I was blown away by their wheels.

Yoga has slowly eked its way into my heart, head and life, and I love to see my nieces embracing it as well.  From even so far away, it gives us something to bond over and to share, and makes me feel an even closer connection to them.  In just two months I will be at their home in Seattle, and I can't wait to hug, kiss, and snuggle with them - and maybe learn some new poses.


The power of a practice...

Last week I did a partner yoga lesson with a 5th grade class followed by the same lesson with Marcey's 4th grade class the next day.  I have only done meditation with the 5th graders once, whereas with Marcey's class I am in her room leading a yoga/meditation lesson almost every week.  Being able to do this same yoga session with these two different classes back-to-back made me really reflect on the power of practice.  The 5th graders were fantastic - enthusiastic, excited and willing to try almost everything. But they were unsure of how to settle into breath work and how to sequence some of the movements.  Savasana was a new learning experience as it is for most novice yogis.  They giggled and fell over, and constantly looked around at what others were doing, which is totally normal for anyone new to yoga. Being patient, knowing the poses, and focusing on the breath, as well as yourself, are things that come with regular practice.  

In contrast, Marcey's class knew the drill so to speak. They settled into the breathing activity right away and took it all very seriously.  When they partnered up, they appeared confident of their skills and checked in with each other frequently.  When it came time for meditation and savasana, all of them settled into it immediately and peacefully.  At the beginning of the year with Marcey's kids, there were a few that weren't interested in yoga/meditation or couldn't sustain savasana for even 1-2 minutes.  Now those same kids are eager participants and sink into savasana like pros.

Seeing the change in Marcey's kids in comparison to the group that hadn't done much yoga/meditation this year was eye opening for me. It reinvigorated my excitement for bringing yoga/meditation into classrooms and teaching kids the incredibly valuable skills that come with a regular yoga practice.


At the beginning of the year, our fourth grade students were learning about bringing their passions into their everyday lives.  Teachers were asked to come and share their passions with students, so I shared mine for yoga with my friend Marcey's class. When I talked about what I had learned from yoga, patience was at the top of the list. I am incredibly impatient especially when I really want something. I sometimes forget the work that has to come first.  But with yoga (and consequently other areas of my life) I am constantly reminded that if I let go of the big picture and end result and just enjoy the journey, I will reach my goal.  

Four years ago, the pose forearm balance seemed out of the realm of possibility. I only half-heartedly tried in classes that encouraged us to go to the wall and experiment.  Then last year I started to try in a more genuine, earnest way - and it still seemed impossible.  And then we just took a big long break from forearm balance in my regular class.  It wasn't something that we were practicing and I certainly wasn't working on it at home.  Until last week. I was doing a class through YogaGlo and all of a sudden a variation of forearm balance came into play.  And I was feeling just gutsy enough to really make an effort (against the wall).  And guess what? I did it!  Out of the blue, beyond my expectations I was upside down, at least for a few seconds.  Initially I was surprised until I realized that in the past year I have been doing lots of work without realizing it to get to this goal.  And then suddenly the opportunity presented itself and I stepped up.  It wasn't perfect, but there was something so satisfying in realizing how my patience was rewarded.  

That said, just this past Thursday forearm balance made a sudden reappearance in my yoga class.  I felt flustered by it, and really struggled to regain the confidence I'd had in my apartment just a few days earlier.  The more I attempted the pose, the more frustrated I got, and the less successful I felt.  I walked away from class feeling disappointed in myself and a little embarrassed.  However, the next night I had a private yoga class, and worked through a lot of these feelings through conversations with my teacher and a more focused practice. I realized that the only way I would be successful with this pose was with patience, perseverance, and a little risk-taking.  My teacher showed me some strategies that worked immediately, and while I am still struggling to get upside down in forearm balance and handstand, I certainly am getting a lot closer. I know I just need to trust myself and the process. Its a good lesson for me, and so directly applicable to my work with students. I'm excited to share this part of my own journey with them.


A different approach...

When I first started doing yoga with kids last summer, I developed a template for lessons plans that would help guide me through each class.  As time has gone on though I've become somewhat disenchanted with my template but haven't quite figured out what to change.  It didn't feel innovative enough and although I like my ideas, something wasn't clicking. Until I discovered the Little Flower Yoga site, and became enamored with their approach to yoga with kids.  I'm hoping, in the near future, to learn even more and to possibly complete their teacher training course in NY State. In the meantime, I'm going to use the below model to help create a new lesson plan template. My goal is to become more purposeful with my teaching, especially in the areas of mindfulness, connections, and focus.  


Quiet Time in Schools

I really recommend watching this video to any and all who work in the schools.  It brought to mind the few years I spent working in a poverty-stricken area of Vancouver, WA.  I wish I had known about Quiet Time then - I feel like our kids would have found solace in this peaceful space where they could escape some of the realities of their world.  I now work in a much different environment, but while my students anxieties and stressors may be different than my former students, they are nonetheless very real and significant.  When I bring meditation into the classrooms at my school, I see the kids change and center themselves. I feel a thoughtfulness in them.  I hear them ask for more.  Our kids today have much busier lives than most of us probably did, and their environment and exposure to the world is much greater than we probably could have imagined when we were kids.  As the adults responsible for their well-being, education, and future, we have a duty in many ways to find new ways to help them shoulder these interesting but sometimes heavy weights.  In my opinion, meditation - at school, home, or both - is an idea worth exploring.