children

Connecting with our patients through exercise

Our first guest blogger, David Haas of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, shares an article he wrote on how physical fitness and sports can help cancer patients.  I think the part on being involved in a community setting is particularly poignant.  Yoga class, apart from physical activity, can also provide a sangha, or a supportive community setting, where people can connect with one another.  Of course, yoga has also been used as preventative medicine for cancer and other ailments as well.  Enjoy!

Fun Sporting Activities Provide an Enjoyable Fitness Workout for Cancer Patients

Sports are a great way for people with cancer to get involved socially and to get the exercise that can help them to fight the disease.  Mesothelioma cancer, and any other cancer, can affect the body in severe ways. It is vital that people who are battling this disease try to get regular amounts of exercise on a weekly basis.

Medical researchers have proven repeatedly that when a person is able to incorporate exercise into his or her normal routine, the individual will have better circulation, stronger heart, and stronger muscles. Increased physical strength is often just the thing that many people who have cancer need in order to withstand long months of cancer treatments.

When a person makes a commitment to begin a new physical fitness routine, try mapping out a weekly schedule of fitness events or activities. Writing down the fitness times will help an individual to remain committed to the routine and also to be reminded of any physical fitness goals that are set.  

Including sports as a main activity may be ideal for many people who have cancer. Sports are an ideal way for people who are ill to socialize and connect with others. When a person is going through constant rounds of chemo or radiation, it can be easy to become depressed and listless. Getting in regular amounts of exercise and social activity will help to provide coping measures.

Physical sports played with family or friends can be a great way to laugh, let off steam, and get active. This can result in a much needed stress reliever, as well as resulting in increased amounts of energy from the physical exercise. Basketball, softball, volleyball, and tennis are fun and interactive activities that provide a great way to enjoy exercise.

Physical fitness routines, when monotonous, can quickly grow boring and the person may lose interest in activities quickly. Combining exercise with socialization helps to keep a person interested in getting active. This can lead to an increased quality of life and a healthier person who is able to face serious cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Other sporting events that can be fun to participate in for cancer patients, or people who are recovering from cancer, include running, rowing, golf, and bowling. Because every person is different, every single one of these activities may not appeal to the same person. However, people can choose a few sporting activities they enjoy the most and alternate participating in these sports as often as they like.

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports has comprehensive information on how to begin a solid fitness program. Data is also provided to help people with cancer to create a routine that they can slowly progress with and build upon.

KIDZ ZUMBA!!  Free trial in April!

Kids just want to have fun…a great way to get your cardio then take kid’s yoga for the relaxation! Zumba mixes fun Latin rhythms and songs with dance steps that improve the cardiovascular system, help to release pent up energy, and help the brain work in tandem with the body. Asana Alphabet’s teacher Daniela, a rock star of a dancer leads this amazing class. See the photo for all the info or check out http://www.kidsfunhouse.com

Yoga as Cross Training for Teen Sports

There are many avenues in which to introduce yoga into a school.  Often, the preschool and kindergarten classes want yoga as a regular part of their school week.  From there, afterschool programs are a good fit since many times the families pay for the program (rather than the school having to foot the bill).  Both health and PE programs also benefit from yoga. And now, we are helping to cross-train some high school teams in the spring.
Here are some basic yoga poses we’ll be using for the cross-country team at a local school soon.  Enjoy!
1.  Cat/Cow:
Version One: Hold your uttanasana/standing forward bend for some extra time.
Version Two: Hold downward facing dog for extra time.
Version Three: In forward bend, take left arm into air as you turn torso open towards the left (so an upper body spinal twist)..repeat on right.
3.  “Runner’s Lunge”; primarily to open hip flexors. Both sides.
4.  From “runner’s lunge”, bend back knee to straighten front leg. Both sides.  Hello Hamstrings!
5.  Triangle Pose/Trikonasana…for a nice leg stretch but also for core torso strength.
6.  Pigeon Pose or seated bodakonasana
7.  Legs up the wall pose…let weight and blood out of the feet.  Help reduce any swelling in ankles/knees and a nice relaxation, particularly before bed or post-running.
Teaching yoga to preteens and teens (middle school and high school) is alot of fun and you can readily see the benefits on the students.  Want to know more? Take an upcoming teen teacher training with us (Miami: March 17-18; NYC: April 14-15, 2012). www.AsanaAlphabet.com.

Asana Alphabet Teacher gets started in Atlanta, GA

We’re really going to miss Nicole Levin here in NYC! Nicole recently gave up a somewhat “corporate” career for teaching kids yoga and she really came out of the gate running.  Shortly after taking Asana Alphabet’s certification program, she found herself teaching yoga at our open classes in Soho, at a Williamsburg YMCA and at a Sheepshead Bay summer camp.  Let’s just say she works hard, is super creative and her love for kids really shines through.  Nicole has relocated to Atlanta recently to study towards a degree in nutrition where she also plans to continue teaching as well (and perhaps leading some Asana Alphabet trainings too, we’ll see!).

Our best wishes to you!!Image

The Joy of Giving

ImageThis Thanksgiving, Liam, a brand new yogi, received Asana Alphabet’s yoga book, “Yogi and Yogette Learn the Asana Alphabet”.  With a yoga pose for every letter of the alphabet, it helps kids reinforce the alphabet through yoga and movement.  As many of us already know, young children learn best through movement so this book canbe especially inspiring as it encourages you to try out the poses yourself. Since English is Liam’s second language, that’s just another bonus as he sounds out the letters of the alphabet.  His favorite pose in the book? TREE POSE!  Apparently was so excited about the book that he had to transfer his love along to his sister afterwards (see below).

“How can I give one of these?”  you ask…go to our shopping tag at www.AsanaAlphabet.com or sometimes you can find them at Amazon.com (title: Yogi and Yogette Learn the Asana Alphabet).  Order by Dec. 14th for holiday deliveries.  50% of all sales on our website go to providing more FREE classes for our kindergarten students on the lower east side.

Image

Bilingual and Foreign Language Yoga for Kids

Though New Yorkers have been used to living side by side with people who speak languages other than English, bi-lingual education is becoming more prominent through out the United States in general.  By offering bi-lingual programs in yoga for kids, we are able to reach even more students and possibly bring those who feel isolated into a greater community of understanding.

What’s so great about teaching yoga and other movement modalities is that we speak primarily in body language.  So even if you can’t understand, “put your head to  your knee in janusursana”, certainly watching a teacher do the pose is an easy way to begin to figure out “how to”.

So what are some of the options for including yoga in a bi-lingual setting?

  1. Give a class in English for non-English speakers (the primary form given in schools now).
  2. Give a class in English with the help of a translator.
  3. Give a class in the native language with English-only speakers welcome to join in.

In NYC schools, we often encounter students who speak Spanish or Mandarin  amongst other foreign languages.  The yoga teacher who only knows English must rely upon doing more experiential yoga and techniques rather than relying on lecturing and with kids’ yoga, that’s the best technique to use anyway. Keep them moving and stop talking!!

A yoga teacher at La Escuelita demonstrates the pose rather than just talking about it.

Of course, if the yoga teacher knows even a few words of the other primary language other than English, this is helpful in the role of managing classroom behavior and attention. Visual aids such as flash cards or an illustrated yoga book can also help you manage a class with children who are non-English speakers.  Children are also very smart and can fool  you too…there have been several instances where a child actually does understand what is going on and pretends not to (since perhaps their parents do not speak English at home) in order to play and get around the rules…it takes a very keen teacher to spot these students!

Though it would be great to have a bi-lingual teacher in these classrooms, it also becomes tricky as populations change somewhat rapidly; for instance, at a local East Village public school where Asana Alphabet teachers volunteer yoga, we have seen it go from a primarily Latin American population five years ago to now a 90% Mandarin speaking population.

At La Escuelita on the Upper West Side, children aged two to four are given class solely in Spanish to students who are both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers.  Though some children may respond in English (and if needed the teacher may help them out with some English), most children readily take to the Spanish classes and in the oldest classroom, it seems that the majority of the children are bilingual from being placed in such an environment.  All of the teachers at La Escuelita are fluent in both Spanish and English. Yoga en Espanol at La Escuelita over the past years has been an incredible experience.  In this case, it is absolutely essential that the yoga teacher can speak Spanish in order to be in alignment with the school’s goals (learning enough Spanish to get by as a tourist in Cancun would not be enough).  Just like many other young kids, the students at La Escuelita love learning about the animal yoga poses like el perro (dog pose), gato (cat), vaca (cow) y la cobra!  Many of the stories and games you use in English are applicable to a yogic Spanish translation, but incorporating Spanish songs into the mix or looking at specific stories from Latin America is where that extra special touch may come in handy.  This bi-lingual school has been quite successful since their opening in 2002.

At an Early Head Start Center on the Lower East Side, parents and kids aged 3 months to 2 years come in for “Parent and Child’ yoga classes with the majority of the parents (and sometimes grandparents) speaking Mandarin, though there are a few Spanish-speakers in the room.  In this instance, the yoga teachers deliver simple instructions with lots of visual reinforcement in English and a Mandarin translator is provided.  The translator is very helpful in communicating the benefits of some of the poses and techniques and giving the class in English even allows some of the adults to learn simple English words such as the numbers and letters of the alphabet as many of the adults are new to the United States.  A yoga teacher in this type of classroom situation may take a few weeks to get the “rhythm” of using a translator and, as stated before, show many of the techniques instead of talking about them in detail (so parents do the yoga instead of listen and wait for translation).  These are truly joyful classes as the parents are full of hope and encouragement towards their children and they truly participate with 100% effort.  One way the yoga program is differentiated is also to take into account some of the special holidays they celebrate, like Chinese New Year.  When the kids’ showed up wearing Rabbit Ears in honor of year of the rabbit, we sang the bunny hop and incorporated simple yoga poses into the song. This family program is extremely popular with a  waiting list of over 300 families! Clearly there is a need and desire for these types of alternative physical education classes and family providers.

As an aside, being able to communicate through body language and spoken language also helps us bring teachings abroad, as you’ll see here in the small beach town of Puerto Cayo where an Asana Alphabet’s director shares a yoga game in Spanish.

And new to the Princeton, NJ area, we find Yoga in French at WildChildYoga.

Recent scholarships and work-study options have been given to trainees under Asana Alphabet’s yoga teacher training program in an effort to keep these programs alive.

Teacher of the Week combines yoga and pedicures

First off, all of Asana Alphabet‘s teachers are great and creative in their own ways. But here is one approach I hadn’t thought of yet!

Marianne Giosa was reaching the end of a semester with a group of middle school girls from the Cornelia Connelly Center so they decided to show their families some of the yoga skills they had learned; however, Marianne came across a challenge. The girls wanted to have the yoga  showing but were resistant because they did not want to take off their shoes or socks  (they said their feet were not pedicured to performance standards).

What’s the teaching solution? Marianne gave each girl a bottle of fingernail polish as an end of the semester gift. Brilliant!

Learn how to find your own creative teaching solutions at an Asana Alphabet teacher training.  We have one tomorrow, Feb. 5 in NYC followed by a February minicourse at WildChildYoga in Princeton, NJ, and an April weekend intensive at 3rd Street yoga in Edmond, OK.

Yoga meets Kids’ Architecture

How can a book festival inspire a kids’ yoga teacher? Today I (Ann, the founder of Asana Alphabet) had an inspiring time at the Brooklyn Book Festival where I visited Isabel Hill’s talk on how she went from idea to page in the creation of her children’s book, “Urban Animals” (click on title for purchasing info).  This is a fun and creative book which meld rhyme, architecture, animals and photography into one smashing book!

Urban Animals By Isabel Hill

As a creator of programs for teaching children’s yoga, I am always looking for ways to bridge kids yoga with other aspects of our world and I feel that creative and educational lesson planning comes down to that.  It would be an easy and effective lesson plan for prek and kinder classes to do a vinyasa of downward dog pose, cow pose, alligator/crocodile and other animals featured in “Urban Animals” and then follow it up with a reading of this story during savasana/relaxation time.  I think I will try it out soon with my freshly autographed book! If you have come across other non-yoga children books that could help to lead a kids yoga class, please do make a suggestion by posting or emailing me at asanaalphabet@gmail.com!

Upcoming Teacher Certification Programs!

Asana Alphabet’s next teacher trainings and certification programs for teaching children’s yoga are held to kick-off the new school year for 2010-2011.  Learn to teach kids yoga in a fun and meaningful way by studying and working in live classroom situations.  Our early bird discount deadline is July 31st for summer and fall registration! Find out more by emailing AsanaAlphabet@gmail.com.

Finally, here is a review from a recent graduate.