yoga

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.

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Addressing Violence in the School

After last Friday’s tragedy in CT, we were grateful to receive the following guidelines on addressing violence with students from a wonderful lower school principal. We hope these are helpful to teachers (both yoga and classroom teachers) and that we continue to spread the word of peace through our daily actions. -Namaste, Asana Alphabet

Helpful Guidelines to Keep in Mind
1. Any conversation with a student must be developmentally appropriate.
Young children are not able to process the complexities of violence in the same way that adolescents and young adults are prepared to discuss the issue. Young children often gauge how threatening an event is by adult reactions (i.e., if caregivers act scared and frightened, young children will view the event as scary and frightening). They may be confused by what they hear and may have basic fear responses such as bad dreams, resistance to separate from their parent, and/or crying and clinginess. They respond well to basic assurances by adults and simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
Older children and teenagers may have more information about an event as they are commonly able to access information independent of adults via the internet and television. For these youth, it is important to discuss issues openly emphasizing the efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools. It is also important to emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
2. Communicate to parents about the conversations that you have had with students.
It is important to keep parents informed about how you are responding to student questions and any type of support that has been made available for students struggling with the crisis. Additionally, if teachers working with older students choose to have classroom discussions about the event linked to their instructional activities, parents should be made aware of these activities and any suggestions for following up at home should be offered.
3. Guidelines for talking with children about violence.
Encourage parents to talk with their children and validate their feelings. They should let children’s questions guide what and how much information to provide, be open to opportunities to talk when children are ready, be honest about their own feelings related to violence, and emphasize the positive things that child/family/school can do to stay safe. They should be aware of signs that their child might be in distress, e.g., changes in behavior, anxiety, sleep problems, acting out, problems at school or with academic work. Remind parents and teachers to be conscious of media exposure and what they say about the event. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
4. Reinforce student strengths and focus on normal routines and activities.
It is important to know that one of the best ways for students to recover from the effects of a tragedy is to maintain or return to their normal school routines. Normal routines help establish a sense of calm and predictability important to maintaining effective learning environments. Schools should recognize that depending on the impact of the event on individuals, not all students will quickly be able to make these transitions back to the normal routine and that counseling services should be available for those continuing to require some support and guidance
5. Consider the cultures, traditions, religions and family/community values of students in any school response.
It is important that schools respect the values, traditions, beliefs and customs of the students and their families impacted by the crisis.~ Remember not everyone processes strong emotions through conversation. Some children and adults may need to respond through art, poetry, prayer, meditation or activity.

Black Friday Yoga Style

Yes, it’s Black Friday and there simply are not enough articles on where to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  Not only are we supposed to boost the economy by buying, but it probably gives many of us a distraction from having to continue entertaining friends and relatives.

As a yogic shopper, the mantra is “less is more”.  Do you really need to buy things in order to achieve greater happiness? Probably not.  If you’re a shop-a-holic, meditating on the roots of the desire can be of great help or at least you can consult a Yoga Grump here on the topic. 

So if you can’t resist shopping today, here are some holiday gifts you may want to consider that have a “lower impact” on the environment and will make others feel good too.  How Yogic of you!!!  Here are 3 categories of shoppers reading this blog:

 

  1. Buy nontangibles. 
Image

A young reader loves his yoga book!

This could be a yoga, dance or music class from a favorite instructor (good for kids and adults) where you give a gift that lasts while giving a freelancer a job, a donation to a favorite cause (hello Hurricane Sandy relief), or my favorite, a massage with a certified practitioner.  If you’re reading this blog because you’re into yoga, you can even send one of our amazing teachers to a local public school to give an afterschool class—we’ll take a photo and send a thank you to the recipient.  

 

  1. Buy almost nontangible.

You need the necessary equipment in order for these to work, but purchasing music online is another way to cut down on unnecessary packaging.  Browse local bands on Bandcamp.com.  For children, we of course recommend Asana Alphabet’s Yoga Songs for Kids.

     3.   I MUST give a tangle gift.  If you’re in this category, at least consider buying from a local artist or from somewhere that will not over-package your gift.  Though it’s a “thrift store”, The Angel Thrift Store in Chelsea (NYC) often has fashionable, brand new items that anyone with fashion sense will love.  Our favorite kid items include Annika Jermyn’s beautifully designed teddy bears (great for leading a children’s savasana or incorporating into a family yoga class), the yoga book Yogi and Yogette Learn the Asana Alphabet, or cool yoga cookie cutters designed by Karen La Du.

Well, if you just don’t want to give anything material, you can spread the word of yoga, starting by hugging yourself and twisting from side to side. Inhale left, exhale right. 3 minutes.  You’ll open your spine, your heart and make yourself feel good!

Emergency Yoga

Whether you have been affected by the recent east coast Hurricane Sandy directly or not, if you have been watching the news even, your body and mind could be reeling from the effects of traumatic shock.  Of course, a regular and consistent yoga and meditation practice are the best ways to stay calm, cool and collected in times like these but there are some techniques that work at a faster pace to rebalance your system. 

Here we have the “Earthquake Meditation” which really can be used for any major catastrophe.  Anne Novack does an excellent job of calmly leading us through the “how to” here: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdxqL_JsGD0

If you need something closer to a ‘workout’ feel free to do a search for Anne’s other calm yet challenging videos of Kundalini Yoga kriyas. 

Great for kids and adults, if you are facing a situation of grief, pant like a dog and “hit” yourself on the pecs with your “paws”.  This quickly alleviates severe depression, grief and anger, basically detoxing you physically and mentally.  Try 3 minutes and work up to 11.  

The 3ho yoga community also has some words of advice as well as volunteer and coordination of help here: http://www.3ho.org/ecommunity/2012/11/hurricane-sandy-support-tools-and-help-getting-to-winter-solstice/

For longer term anxiety relief, check out Mukunda Stiles’s book, “Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy”.  The vata series of hatha poses certainly brings calm with even one repetition. 

Many blessings to those of you suffering due to Hurricane Sandy. May we all cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” and recognize the other as you as we try to help each other in this time. 

Yoga for Creativity Workshop: Recap

If you couldn’t make our last workshop at 3rd Street Yoga this Sunday or you just want to remind yourself of what we did, here’s a little sneak peak of what you may have missed:

We started off class with an exercise that melds drawing with breathing, a nice way to center yourself because as we know, “a relaxed mind is a creative mind” (thanks Yogi Bhajan).  This wonderful kriya comprised the bulk of our physical activity, here taught by Sat Dharam Kaur.  Several meditations from Yogi Bhajan’s intellectual and inspiring book, “The Mind” had us chanting and holding our arms up in somewhat challenging positions….not that the arms or so challenging, but holding them up for 11 minutes can really create a nice burn! All to ignite more creativity.  We rounded out the class with a class-created visualization savasana, which is also a great technique to use with your middle school and high school students.  Hope you can join us next time.

 

 

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.

Yoga to Open the Creative Mind

We are looking forward to leading workshops on how yoga can help the creative mind at an arts workshop for teens at Mercer Community College in NJ this coming Friday! The techniques can help actors memorize lines, fight writer’s block and help recall of images for painters, choreographers and other visual designers.  Here’s a preview:

We will be working on poses that open the heart center, calm the chatty mind and visualizing with a yoga nidra session. Some points of inspiration include:
From
http://creationmeditation.com/2011/09/02/yoga-of-creativity/

“The yoga of creativity is the art of developing a relationship with and trusting the unknown. It is cultivating an inner state similar to that of the famous cinematographer, Ingmar Bergman, whenever he conceived of a new film. “It is a mental state,” he said, “abounding in fertile associations and images. Most of all, it is a brightly colored thread sticking out of the dark sack of the unconscious. If I begin to wind up this thread, and do it carefully, a complete film will emerge.”

And inspiration from: http://www.lovestroubadours.com/id29.html

“Whenever I have writer’s block, I come into child’s pose on my yoga mat or in my bed. Most times, I stretch my arms out in front of me. My fingers are wideneded and get a nice web-like stretch. Generally, I hold this pose for a long time (i.e. fifteen to twenty minutes) because it relaxes me and releases stress from my lower back. I love to focus my breathing on opening my third eye, the sixth chakra which governs my intuition and allows for clarity and understanding.”

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.