yoga projects

Star Wars Yoga

From the Founder of Asana Alphabet Yoga for Kids, Ann Robideaux, c. 2016

star-wars-yoga1.jpgI don’t often design kids yoga classes around commercialized characters, as we can get much more  authentic in our kids yoga practice than talking about the wonders of Disney (of course there are others, but most of my young students seems to mention Disney characters and stories the most).  Some schools we bring kids yoga to explicitly say they do not want ANY lesson plans using commercialized characters.  BUT, a yoga teacher recently asked if I had ever done a Star Wars yoga class (no I have not), but if I was going to, I’d probably add these few things in. You know, sometimes meeting kids where they are at with what they already like is one way to entice them to start yoga in the first place.In the end, yoga is about being happier, and if Star Wars is the way to get you there, so be it.:

—Take long deep breaths…loud through your nose like Darth Vadar. These are good breaths though! 

—Explore Warriors, 1, 2, 3 and Peaceful War with positive energy lightsabers.

—Meditate like yoda in the mountains.

–Practice half-moon rising and crescent moon poses as you explore the galaxies.

—Inhale turn your head left and exhale turn your head right like R2D2 (Kundalini Yoga inspired here)

As a small but important note here, I personally call yoga poses by their given names ALWAYS.  So for instance, I may say, “take giant warrior 1 steps like Chewbacca” but I would never say, “do Chewbacca Yoga Pose”. Let’s keep yoga authentically yoga please.

So after creating a few quickie ideas, I turned to Ye Olde Google Search and wasn’t surprised to find some great Star Wars Yoga Cartoons as well as a fun kids yoga video on that theme.  If you teach Star Wars Yoga to kids, let me know how it goes. If you want to learn more fun ways to engage children in real yoga, come train with Asana Alphabet. Our next basic trainings are in NJ and Arkansas as well as a Baby Specialty training in NYC this May.  Namaste!

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True Yoga Stories: Success with Middle Schoolers

Report from today, March 11, 2016; All boys yoga class; average age: 11

Teacher: First day of yoga, please come in and lie down on a mat to relax a bit.

Students: Everyone runs to a mat. Three boys make a pile up on one mat and wrestle, the rest of them flop down in various positions.

Teacher: Please keep your voices off so you can hear what to do.

Students: Two boys call out, “I’ve done this before!” ; another, “ssshhh!” and yet another pretends to snore in savasana. A few do listen quietly.

Teacher: OK, time for sun salutations

Students: Everyone participates while yelling out what poses they can’t do (mainly touching their toes).

Teacher: Now for some partner yoga.

Students: Several partners wrestling and play hitting each other, then trying out the partner yoga poses with some success.

Teacher: Let’s learn warrior 1, 2 and 3 poses.

Students: I want to do warrior 7 and 9 instead!

Teacher: Ok, everyone into child’s pose please.

Students: everyone (literally everyone) is quiet

Teacher: Ok, now some challenge poses. Let’s try side arm balances.

Students: All doing their best. Some giving up but finally giving it another shot to find out they can do it.

Teacher: Now let’s lie down in savasana.

Students: Everyone (well, ALMOST everyone except for one trying to pinch his neighbor) is quiet and still.

Teacher: Time to go, please clean up your mats.

Students: “Yoga is over already?! That was too short.”

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2015, Asana Alphabet Kids Yoga in Review

So many exciting events happened with Asana Alphabet this year!

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First off, we held our first ever trainings in Vitoria and Vila Velha, Brazil. With the help of several amazing translators, our guidebook could be given out and the teachings spread orally. Really, our photos convey best how much fun we had!

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With our continued partnership with the Cornelia Connelly Center, we were able to host three successful teacher trainings in NYC this past year. When we rent from a school like Cornelia, our training participants are directly supporting positive educational programs—in this case, for middle school girls at an all-scholarship school. Second level trainings were then held in Bethlehem, PA at Kula Heart Yoga—one of our favorite spots always full of smart and positive students.

11890943_994288043924799_5037588151039084905_nSilver Kim, director/owner, is always posting photos of her in handstand—we think this would be a fun project for high school students to take on as well!

End of the year celebration!!! We received the tremendous news that the grant funding Asana Alphabet yoga classes at SCO family of services has been extended for 2016! This grant funds 20 KIDS YOGA CLASSES PER WEEK for lower income students. Not only are students served but this gives three of our expert teachers a significant chunk of hours to rely upon so they can do what they love for work.

addie baby yogaOur founder and director gave birth to a baby this year too and she’s already practicing yoga with baby. She especially recommends kundalini sufi grinds (or criss cross legs then rotate them around and in gently towards the stomach) for relieving baby gas, baby massage before bedtime and cobra pose (aka tummy time) to our followers with infants. IT WORKS! Note, you too can become a baby yoga expert by taking our May workshop in NYC.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Stay tuned for our post on what’s in store for 2016.

Upcoming Retreat: Kundalini Yoga in Tulum

Kundalini Yoga Retreat: March 18-23, 2011Sometimes you have to get away from your everyday surroundings in order to gain clarity and a new perspective.  Come join us in sunny and beautiful Tulum, Mexico, March 18-23, 2011 for a 5night/6 day retreat including lodging, intensive Kundalini Yoga practice, some meals, surprises and fun at an amazing price!!  Children are welcome to travel with adults; however, the yoga offerings are for adults only this time around.  As always, full-time teachers are appreciated by Asana Alphabet and receive a spring break discount for joining us.

Early Bird Special, register by Nov. 1, 2010 and receive $50 your vacation.

More info: AsanaAlphabet@gmail.com

We love Mott Haven Academy!

Downward DogsWhen Asana Alphabet started several years ago, the original intention was to create an organization that would primarily serve students in the lower income bracket as well as help train those who teach them.  While we have gratefully expanded to serve many other children and teachers, we always keep our eye open to helping those who may not always be able to afford such “extracurricular” activities as yoga and dance.

To this end, I was thrilled to open the New York Times this past Sunday and see Mott Haven Academy on the cover of the Metropolitan section (under education online).  I can honestly say that knowing the directors and teachers at this school (Asana Alphabet brings movement and yoga to the school twice a week), Mott Haven Academy moves fully towards bringing a strong education to their students.  Though their school is full, I always see the school’s teachers taking an extra moment for one-on-one attention to the kids.  Please click on the above link to read more…then perhaps consider donating to the school via the New York Foundling.

Yoga Projects Abroad: KupuKupu Foundation of Bali

This past summer, I volunteered as a yoga teacher at the Kupu Kupu Foundation (http://www.yamp.com/kupukupu/), a center for mentally and physically disabled students located in Ubud, Bali. Kupu Kupu means butterfly, symbolizing the beautiful people they serve, who can start out in a cocoon and develop into beautiful butterflies. Kupu Kupu’s accomplishments, with Begonia Lopez at the helm, is impressive. Thus far, they have served over 250 people with disabilities through out Bali, they run stores which sell items created by Kupu Kupu students to generate more funding, and an on-site facility which provides educational care, often led by teaching volunteers in the arts as well as language teachers, has been a daily service for many.

Pulling up in the entryway to KupuKupu, one is greeted by tall trees and green vegetation along with the sound of birds and the occasional barking of a neighborhood dog. The main area where activities take place is an open-air room connecting nature with students at all times. Most activities are for everyone, regardless of ability, as Begonia believes that each child will benefit, regardless of their level or ability to participate in a given activity. Some students have very highly functioning mental capabilities but are paralyzed from the waist down and these physical attributes make it difficult to work in the “real world” as an adult. Others are strong and physically capable yet may be diagnosed as autistic.

While working with many students of varying disorders at once may appear difficult, the main obstacle I had as a yoga teacher was being able to communicate in their language so that the class exercises could be understood. The usual songs, games and stories I rely on in an American classroom had to be drastically tailored or other methods had to be discovered. Yoga poses which incorporated work with a ball, moving poses which worked with making breath sounds and chanting in Sanskrit (which many of them already knew) worked effectively and were easy enough to follow for everyone. I have to say that the students and the staff at Kupu Kupu were amongst the most open-minded, friendly and happy group I have worked with to date. Laughter was a most common sound during class!

I have worked with students with “special needs”, primarily autism, in a variety of settings in New York City and after my experience in Bali, I can’t help but think that a calm, relaxing, encouraging and natural environment is a recipe for progress when working with students with mental or physical disabilities. At Kupu Kupu, everyone is expected to perform to the best of her/his abilities at the present moment and whatever result is attained for the day is applauded. Happiness is a key goal here and I was seeing noticeable differences in the students after only class two. One eight year old student, a keen observer on day one with difficulty walking, began demonstrating log rolls and keeping his feet and back in a better alignment from one day to the next. Students who had trouble coordinating sound with finger movements were expert at class three. The combination of good teachers, a calm and relaxed environment and present-day acceptance were keys to success.

I have often found that the achievement-oriented mindset in New York (and other parts of the U.S.) seeps into attitudes when bringing students to class in the city. Are they getting better? How fast can the problem be fixed? are questions that often hover in the air. Though it is important to monitor progress and assess if treatments are headed in a positive and constructive direction, I can’t help but feel the pressure myself as a teacher to show that students have made great leaps and bounds in class one and if not, perhaps that student should do something else. On the other side, we have students with special needs overbooked into one activity after another designed to speed up progress. Classrooms are sometimes overcrowded and with simultaneous activities happening nearby, an activity center with a multitude of noises and distractions is created. Very recently, major construction with jack hammers was being made on the building during classtime so that teachers and students had to speak loudly for even the simplest of matters. How is someone with an attention deficit disorder supposed to improve rapidly in these types of conditions?

At Kupu Kupu, the atmosphere was relaxed, lingering on an activity such as puzzle work or playing a musical instrument for longer stretches of time with the quiet help of several assistants. If one student was disinterested, he/she had a few other related activities to choose from. Though a set schedule was in hand, the day was slow and allowed for rest at times as well. This time to process is vital in order for both the brain and the nervous system to digest new patterns.

I do feel that parents in New York have the absolute best intentions for his/her child’s well being. I write this in the hopes that we can look at how we are working with students with special needs and make simple changes that would be beneficial to both the student and teacher. I am sure some of these spaces already exist here.

When you can’t escape a noisy or other distracting environment, try out a simple yoga technique to help calm from within:

-Take 10 hissing breaths. Inhale through your nose, exhale and make an SSSSS sound. This will elicit an automatic relaxation response.

-If you are familiar with singing “aums”, try out 3-4 long ones. This will automatically elongate breathing to create a calm state of mind.

-Play calming sound or music in the background (to drown out other sounds) that is audible enough to hear but quiet enough so the teacher does not have to raise her/his voice.

Coincidentally, I was just given the book, “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Dr. Norman Doidge where some of these matters are covered—if you so choose to want to read more.