Yoga Relief for Anger and other “Negative Emotions”, followed by Chai

This past weekend we held 2 intensives on Kundalini Yoga at 3rd Street Yoga Studio in Edmond, Oklahoma where we covered a wide range of material.  For those of you who attended, see below for some of the sets we did….and for those who missed it, try out some of the techniques on your own.  Looking forward to seeing you all again!

On Super Saturday Sadhana we did a few standing sets including “Yogaerobics” while chanting “Har” numerous times (see Dr. Gururattan Kaur’s book “Relax and Renew”), “Healthy Body Kriya”, Kriya to Make Your Skin Radiant”, and ‘Total Balance Kriya”.  Apart from having a stronger nervous system, the participants will at least have some toned arms after that last challenging one!

Sunday’s workshop honed in on dealing with “negative” emotions like anger and fear as well as bringing more positivity into your life.  Being positive is good for your health, which is not just unfounded, new age/yoga talk, as you can see for yourself by clicking on this link from the Mayo Clinic.

After a variety of Kundalini Yoga warm-ups, we took Miracle Bend, Tranquilize your mind in 3 minutes, Meditations for the first and fourth chakras and Meditation for Glandular Balance and Bliss (all three of those from the book “Meditation as Medicine” by Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, which I highly recommend for any Kundalini Yoga practitioner).

The Last Meditation” made several of us laugh as we tried to chant Wahe guru/wahe guru/wahe guru/wahe jio several times in one breath AND we finished with a meditation to make the impossible possible (check back in a few days…we will update this with a link to the mantra we used so you can do an 11 minute meditation with a voice recording).

A few people were wondering about the delicious chai we drank after class…noting that many of us are sick of spending $4/cup on boxed chai.  I personally never measure how much of each ingredient I put in…I just put in stuff until it tastes right..so here are approximations: 3 inches of FRESH and preferably organic ginger root, peel, chop and put in boiling water (a bit more water than you would want to drink…so for this recipe, I made enough chai for about 14 servings!), 4 cinnamon sticks, 2-3 bags of organic black tea, a tablespoon ish of cardamom, a dash of black pepper and honey or agave syrup to taste….for this weekend I used organic rice milk in place of some of the water but you can use cow milk, soy milk, etc. Keep heating and stirring and send out some good vibes into your tea.  Then turn down the heat to low and let simmer, covered for 30 minutes or so.  Drink then or drink later.  It becomes spicier the longer the ginger soaks.  Drain tea/spices/ginger away before drinking. Cheers!

Spring Fever: dealing with anxiety for preteen and teens

We once again feature blog guest writer Zara who created and writes for urban practice.me.  Of course, the yoga sections below are for adults but you’ll find a lot of these symptoms in the kids you teach in the spring time, so consider using them on your middle and high school classes. Enjoy!

One Thing You Should Try This Spring

To Really Enjoy Spring Fever

Spring!

Spring is here!  For me this is the best time of year, when everyone springs out of winter hibernation mode and gets their minds and bodies moving again.  Compared to my winter self, I have so much more energy to work, socialize and pursue new hobbies.

But I also notice that my mood and emotions are all over the place during Spring, and even though I’m not anxious by nature, my anxiety levels shoot up like the arugula seedlings sprouting in my kitchen right now.  

I get all the tell-tale symptoms of Spring Fever: hyper active energy, restlessness, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat.  On the one hand Spring Fever is simply the mind/body’s reaction to the changing weather; on the other hand, it can be quite distracting and stressful.

Over the years I have discovered the BEST way to ease myself through Spring Fever (or through anxiety and restlessness at any other time) is through practicing yogic breathing techniques.

I could swear it’s magic, but actually what is happening in yogic breathing techniques is stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of your “fight or flight” system) so through practice you end up calm and relaxed.

My all time favorite technique for calming my body and mind is the Double Exhale.  It’s as simple as picking a daffodil, but it has an enormous effect on your complex nervous system.  After a few minutes of practicing you will feel as calm as the glassy surface of a pond.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Inhale and exhale a few times through your nostrils without thinking about it
  • Then, on an inhale (through your nostrils), count silently to yourself as you fill all the way up with air; the final number can be anything at all, but my students commonly count to 4, 5 or 6
  • As you exhale (through your nostrils), count silently to yourself double the number that you counted on the inhale
  • Repeat for as long as you need, but at least 5 mins

As you get used to lengthening your exhales, you can gradually increase the count on your inhale and the double count on your exhale.  If you like, you can add a brief pause at the top and bottom of each breath, letting yourself be aware of the still moment that transitions your in and out breath.

RelaxAnd if you are having a particularly hectic day, doDouble Exhale lying on your back for an extra calming treat.

Another relaxing breath is the Bumble Bee Breath, known in the yoga world asBhramaree breathing.

The technique is to inhale through the nostrils then exhale through the nostrils while at the same time making a humming sound like a bumble bee.  The vibration created in Bhramaree soothes the nerves and muscles in the face, throat, neck and chest and so it is a sweet antidote to tension, anxiety and restlessness.

To try it, begin by inhaling through the nostrils for a count of 5 and then exhaling though the nostrils while humming for a count of 10 (like the technique above, make the length of the exhale double the length of the inhale).

Now I want to hear from you, do you have trouble breathing during Spring or any other time of year?  Tell me about it at sara@yoginizara.com. You can also join me for daily meditation/movement tips and musings with a Facebook “Like” here or on Twitter @MyUrbanPractice.

Questions on teaching kids yoga answered!

The director of Asana Alphabet receives an average of 10 emails or phone calls per month asking for advice on specific yoga for kids situations.  We’d thought we’d share a few as they come in!  From this morning:

Q: Tomorrow I am having my first class with to brothers age 6 and 11 and would love to ask for advice from you. I feel challenged teaching these two at the same time because of the age difference! What/how would you set up a class in a situation like this?

A:  In general, you’ll have to see what happens on day one because privates are so different…if these brothers get along well, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  If they do not get along, the parents may want to consider doing a half hour separately for each child (if you are there for an hour).

Since a lot of the regular games may be too childish for the 11 year old (but you never know…my middle schoolers do like a lot of those games), you’ll want to drop the songs/storytelling stuff.  Start with the regular sun salutations, time to see how long they can hold a balance on each foot for diagnosis.  I think bringing a ball along would be fun for the 6 year old as well as for 11…they can balance and toss the ball back and forth, pass it back and forth in navasana, hold a stretch and toss it back and forth…something they both will probably like.  If they get along, some partner yoga may work well too (especially down dog on down dog, double balances, double triangle, double plank).  After day one, you’ll probably have a good sense as to what they will enjoy together and be able to tailor accordingly.

Here’s our questioner’s experience after receiving advice:

Thank you so much! I used your suggestions and the kids were so happy and excited for 60min!

Advice post-training: Your questions answered

Asana Alphabet regularly receives emails and phone calls on specific questions for teaching kids yoga.  Though you may have taken workshops and have even taught classes before, there is always room for growth and more questions.  We’d thought we’d share them as they come in so you can take advantage of the advice too. From today:

Q:  Tomorrow I am having my first class with to brothers age 6 and 11 and would love to ask for advice from you; I feel challenged teaching these two at the same time because of the age difference!  What/how would you set up a class in a situation like this?

A: In general, you’ll have to see what happens on day one because privates are so different from one another…if these brothers get along well, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  If they do not get along, the parents may want to consider doing a half hour separately for each child (if you are there for an hour). 

Since a lot of the regular games you would play with a 6-year-old may be too childish for the 11-year-old (but you never know…my middle schoolers do like a lot of those games), you’ll probably want to drop the songs/storytelling aspects of class.  Start with the regular sun salutations, time to see how long they can hold a balance on each foot as an initial diagnosis and intro to yoga.  Bringing a ball along would be fun for the 6-year-old as well as for age 11…they can balance and toss the ball back and forth, pass it back and forth in navasana, hold a stretch and toss it back and forth…something they both will probably like.  If they get along, some partner yoga may work well too (especially double balances, double triangle, double plank).  After day one, you’ll probably have a good sense as to what they will enjoy together and be able to tailor accordingly.  

For more questions or to take a training where many answers are received, email us for information at AsanaAlphabet@gmail.com

Namaste, Ann 

Director, Asana Alphabet

A Stand Out Training for Kids Yoga!

In this blog post, Maisah Hargett, “T is for Teacher” workshop attendee in February of 2013, shares her thoughts on her experience training to be a kids yoga teacher with Asana Alphabet!  She currently volunteer teaches NYC students through NYCares organization too.

Have you ever left a training and felt frustrated that you don’t feel more empowered with more practically-applicable information than you were when you went in? If so, then Asana Alpabet’s teacher trainings are for you.Frequently, especially when it comes to children, trainings regarding how to work with them are super-theory based. All of the information sounds interesting, but how to apply said info in a practical manor seems daunting. My favorite thing about the Asana Alphabet T is for Teacher training was how empowered I felt to use the information following our last session.

The training was so helpful to me because it was such a good blend of the experiential and the explanatory. Ann and Kenzie taught several sample classes to the group, so we could get an idea of how to present information and facilitate activities for a variety of ages. This experiential portion helped to give me a sense of the time and the energy needed for different portions of the class. It also helped to remind me of how fun yoga can be. I think often yoga is used so much for an end (whether it be to calm, to energize, to promote fitness) that it can be easy, for me at least, to forget about the amount of fun that can be infused in the journey. We also watched footage of actual kids classes, which I think really is a must. To see what kids actually look like in the midst of a class, and to get a sense of how many kids’ attention you can hold at any given moment; the attention span of children differs greatly, not only developmentally, but individually. Regarding classroom management, watching the videos gave me a better sense of what needs to be addressed to maintain order, and what I can let go for the sake of class flow.  All that being said, trainings that are solely experiential frequently leave me feeling unclear about how to apply the skills demonstrated beyond the training experience.

Thankfully, this was not the case with the Asana Alphabet training. We went over how to plan a class, individual activity ideas, and ways to modify activities for a range of age groups. We even had a chance to put some of what we learned into action, by planning and executing (with our peers), a portion of a lesson plan. In the past I’ve been hesitant to take positions that required lesson planning, but the way Ann broke down the structure of the lesson means that hesitancy will be a thing of the past.

In addition to the time period of the scheduled training, Ann, Asana Alphabet’s founder, is also amazing when it comes to follow-up, and addressing any question or needs that arise. She keeps her trainings small to ensure that she can give each student the support they need, and it shows. In this day and age, with yoga is taking such a commercial turn, many trainings are just feeling like one more way for people to make money, but such is not the case with Asana Alphabet’s “T is for Teacher” training. Ann’s commitment to putting together a training that leaves you feeling like you have the training AND support you need, both before, during and after the weekend’ssession, really stands out.

 Asana Alphabet presents frequent trainings through out the U.S.  Coming up are an Intensive Training on Teaching Yoga to Teens (April 21-22 at Kula Heart Yoga in PA) and The T is for Teacher basic series at Jaya Yoga in Brooklyn (June 16-17).  Take note, school teachers and early bird registrations usually receive great discounts!

 

Teaching Yoga to Female Teens

Asana Alphabet™ been embarking upon another semester of teaching yoga to teens.  Last year, our class had a near equal mix of male and female students, but this year the class is 100% female, all respectful and truly interested in finding the heart of yoga.

At nearly the same time these yoga sessions started, I had the good fortune of receiving Dr. Guru Rattana’s latest book in the mail, “The Gift of Woamnhood: Inner Mastery, Outer Mystery” .  If you already use Dr. Rattana’s books as a teacher or yoga practitioner (Relax and Renew, Opening to a Heart Centered World, for example), you will be pleasantly surprised to find that she has truly outdone herself in her latest volume of kriyas and advice on Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.  If you’re new to her books, I highly recommend them for anyone who is interested in going beyond what yoga poses should look like and get down to the energetics of the beautiful art and science that is yoga.

The Gift of Womanhood by Guru Rattana PhdThe Gift of Womanhood is creatively laid out into 30 lessons that give you a wealth of information, inspiring quotes and methods for coming into your true self as a woman as well as reaching out to female students that you teach.  Each of the lessons comes with corresponding kriyas (yoga sets) and meditations to give you the experience of each lesson.  What’s so great about this is that it lays out a very clear plan of creating a practice for yourself, or if you already have a regular sadhana (daily practice), enables you to intelligently select the set or meditation that you need at the moment.

As for teaching teenage women, and women of any age, everything is relevant.  Since our trimester will be relatively short, I will be referencing the chapters, “Experiencing my beauty, happiness self-love and ME” (what a great title) and “Beauty, Impact and Power of a Woman’s Presence”.  Since teenage females can often be overly self-conscious about looks and often deny their inner beauty, both the language Dr. Rattana uses as well as the recommended sets will reach this set of teens at a powerful yet accessible level.

In all, this well-researched and written collection is empowering and direct as can be felt in the enclosed quote from Yogi Bhajan: Woman is created to cultivate inner balance and to find happiness inside herself.  You can get yours too at www.yogatech.com. Sat nam.

Yoga and Religion: What’s up California?

Recently, in San Diego, parents are upset claiming that kids should not be taught yoga in the classroom because it is religious…more specifically, preaching Hinduism.  You can read about that here:http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/parents_claim_grade_school_yoga_classes_are_first_amendment_violation/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email
  We only wish this was exclusive to this one school in California; however, this is a grave misunderstanding that we have encountered in NYC as well.  In 2005, our founder went to over 10 parent meetings at one public charter school in an effort to share what was being taught in yoga class during the school week.  A few, but very vocal parents, threatened to toss the program out claiming it was a class promoting the work of the devil and that yoga could place students in Hindu-style trances (after 20 years of teaching, I still haven’t seen one of my youthful yoga students go into a trance such as the parents above had claimed).
 I cannot speak to how religious or not the style of kids yoga being taught in the San Diego school is since it is not a part of Asana Alphabet…there are always more than one side to each story, but having been a yoga teacher and director who has had to defend yoga for kids, I cannot help but respond in defense of the teachers providing the yoga for kids program.
Religion and state in the United States are supposed to be separate in the public schools.  Yoga for kids in the school, especially public schools, should not include chanting to Hindu dieties or other Gods, just as we also wouldn’t quote the bible, encourage a Jewish prayer or bow to Allah during a kids yoga class in a public or nonreligious school. Schools that are privately run and include religion as part of their schooling have more free choice on the religious content of their classes. Several religious-based schools (none of them Hindu by the way) namely Catholic, Christian, and Jewish schools in NYC include yoga in their regular school day because they see the benefits the students receive from the practice.
We know many yoga teachers and students who are Christian, many who are Jewish, some who are Muslim, a few who are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and several who claim to be of no religious background. Though people are religious about their practice, Yoga is not a religion!  Yoga is a means for strength, flexibility and coordination of the body which builds a strong body. With the right teacher and mindful student, it can boost self confidence and promote clarity of thought. In the classroom setting, it can promote cooperation and understanding of the diverse people we all are. It will help you to realize that all humanity is connected. We all share strife and we share our joys. These things are taught in yoga class as well as in many common team sports and other school friendly activities. So if yoga is too religious for school, then these parents should start rethinking many other things students are doing in schools these days.
The nice thing is, yoga can be done as a way to positively influence your health. You can make it religious if you want by thinking of the God you are devoted to while practicing, for instance, but this is not something that is the usual practice of children yoga teachers both with my company Asana Alphabet nor with many other teachers I have observed who have not been trained in my program.  In this age of promoting diversity and mutual understanding in the classroom, I’d like to argue that yoga is the perfect way to facilitate cooperation and respect of others who are different than oneself.  Open your heart and open your mind.  Now is the time to give students the tools to be at peace in this world…peace no matter what religion or no religion you adhere to.

Yoga for Children on the Rise!

Great news! We always new that the kids we taught loved yoga, and increasing enrollment has confirmed that. Now even ABC news is covering it. Here are a few excerpts from Genevieve Shaw Brown’s (@gsbrownabc) latest article on the subject:

Yoga: It’s said to be the fastest-growing sport in America, with 20 million people practicing. But the latest trend among yogis is that an increasing number of practitioners are pint sized.

Kids – from newborns to teenagers – are learning the terms down dog, sun salutation and more in kids-only yoga studios and even in their classrooms. It’s also one of the only non-competitive sports available.

“More practitioners and more parents are becoming aware of the benefits of yoga and seeing their kids can benefit too,” said Liz Eustace, CEO of Alignyo, an online yoga community with a newsletter devoted to all things yoga. “The things that benefit an adult will also benefit a child. Stress reduction, mind- body connection, physical strength – these are things that benefit kids as well as adults.”

At a recent kids yoga class for 6-9 year olds, both parents and children were anxious to talk about the good yoga has brought to their lives.

“It clears your mind off something that’s really bothering you,” said one little girl.

So how does a kids yoga teacher keep the kids attention on the “oommm” for an entire class? While there are similarities between kids and adult yoga, a kids class is far more relaxed.

“[Kids and adult classes are] very different, but the foundation is always the same. There’s still the mind-body connection that is the foundation of all yoga,” said Eustace. “But what’s great is there’s a ton of creativity with kids yoga, like meowing like a cat, barking in downward dog or hissing like a cobra. There’s an incredible amount of creativity and playfulness within the foundation of yoga. And it’s these kids moving in such a creative and conscious way that makes it such a fun practice for children to get involved with.”

“My daughter’s in third grade,” said Gail Tobias, mother to one of the girls in the class. “There’s an abundance of homework already. After she’s done with the (yoga) class I find she’s much more eager to go home and sit and do her homework and be more focused. ”

A little boy – one of two in the class – told me yoga helps him forget what’s bothering him. “After class is over it seems like I’m not so worried about my problems as when I was in school,” he said. ” Like when I’m here I’m not thinking about oh how much homework do I have, or what do I have to do, what do I have to not do.”

Experts say parents should do their research before signing their kids up for a yoga program. A good place to start is the Yoga Alliance web site, where parents can search for a instructor that’s been trained in children’s yoga. The voluntary standards put forth by Yoga Alliance require 95 hours of training to become registered.

If there are no children’s yoga programs in your area, your kids can still benefit from the practice. “There’s great resources online and through books and through DVDs,” said Eustace. “Whether you’re in a small community or a larger community you can still integrate a lot of the practices and teachings of kids yoga.”

There are many kids yoga classes going on through out NYC and beyond. If you have a particularly neighborhood you want kids yoga class info on, feel free to contact us @asanaalphabet.

Happy New Year! Yoga Accomplishments

 
Taking a child's pose break during an Asana Alphabet basic teacher training.

Taking a child’s pose break during an Asana Alphabet basic teacher training.

It’s nice to use the holidays as inspiration for reflection  When you get involved with everyday, possibly seemingly  mundane activities, it can seem like your not accomplishing anything, yet when given the bigger picture, the results may be enough to fuel your soul. On the level of asana (yoga poses), it may be that you feel a little progress but then you may recall that now you can touch your toes in uttanasana and you don’t even remember when you made that transition.

For those of you who do not keep up with Asana Alphabet (www.AsanaAlphabet.com)  on a regular basis, this is an opportunity to get to know us better and perhaps be inspired to get involved.  Here’s our year in review:
–Our founder traveled to Cambodia where she taught students in the Cambodia Living Arts program (http://www.marioninstitute.org/cambodianlivingarts).  What’s so wonderful about teaching yoga and movement is that you don’t always need to know someone else’s language in order to teach as the body shape and the resulting benefits are universal. We highly recommend getting to know this group if you travel to Siem Reap or Phenom Phen. Rumor has it they may tour the U.S. sometime soon and we certainly hope so.
–Our fabulous intern -turned marketing consultant -turned kids yoga teacher was a wonderful find this year.  She not only volunteers her kids yoga classes at one of our favorite Lower East Side schools early in the morning before school stars, she also introduced us to WIC (more at http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/wic/) where we attended their annual benefit and gave a free yoga class for their staff.  If you’ve never heard of the WIC before, it’s worth checking them out.  Our wonderful trainee Dianne at the WIC event
–We gave our first trainings at Jaya Yoga in Brooklyn (thanks Kenzie), Kula Heart Yoga in Nazareth, PA (thanks Rachael and Silver) and at Synergy Yoga in Miami (thanks Victoria)!
–We were also selected to give a workshop at the NJEA conference in Atlantic City (Thanks Sue!).  Due to Hurricane Sandy, this conference was cancelled but we will cross our fingers to be a part of next year’s conference.

–Congratulations is in order for our Brooklyn based teacher Sarah.  Sarah is one of our best baby and toddler yoga teachers. Sad for us but happy for her that she has been appointed the Executive Director of the Earth Dance Festival (www.earthdance.org) so she will be moving to MA  I’m sure we will miss her so much that we will have to go on retreat and visit her.

–After several workshops at Third Street Yoga in Edmond and practicum this year, we certified our first kids yoga teacher in Oklahoma.  Diana teaches yoga to kids in public parks in Norman (when the weather is nice) and teaches in local area schools. She’s also bilingual and comes with prior experience working in a Montessori school so this is one highly qualified and wonderful kids yoga teacher!

Asana Alphabet Certified Teacher Diana teaches yoga for kids in Oklahoma

Asana Alphabet Certified Teacher Diana teaches yoga for kids in Oklahoma

–Two students received full work-study scholarships for their Asana Alphabet Teacher Trainings.

–We donated 50 yoga mats to a new kids yoga program in the Bronx.

–The rest of our profits went to helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Though that’s not directly related to teaching yoga to children, we reached deeper into the meaning of Ek Ong Kar, everything is one thing, everything is connected, and decided that donations were needed most there for our side of the U.S.

And now…..what are the New Year’s Resolutions going to be?  Feel free to share your yoga and community volunteering resolutions with us.

Merry Yoga Christmas Activity

 

If your yoga studio or yoga in the school program is Christmas friendly, then the following ideas are great to use with The Night before Christmas. We like to read the poem while kids rest in savasana, then we do a stop and start version with the following pose/word match ups. Enjoy!  You can learn more about successfully integrating stories with yoga in an upcoming teacher training!  As always, we would still call the pose by the correct name…instead of saying “mouse pose”, you can say “child’s pose is like a small mouse”.  This will help to keep the yoga tied to its original roots.

House (triangle pose)
Mouse (child’s pose)
Chimney (o-shaped mouth breath…like blowing out smoke)
St Nicholas (warrior one giant step)
Wondering eyes (yoga eye rotations)
8 tiny reindeer (stick pose with antler like mudras at head)
A little old driver (sway from side to side)
Eagles (eagle pose)
House top (triangle)
Flew (warrior 3)
Belly was round (Hathaway camel pose)
Not a word (quiet mudra)
Aside his nose (alternate nostril breath)
Good night (savasana)