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Finals Exams: This too shall pass (and so will you!)

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I was asked by a high school media specialist if I would be interested in helping their students deal with the anxiety of final exams. “Of course I would, that’s what I do” was my response. On a side note: Witnessing students transform fear into freedom in a matter of minutes is something you can’t un see. Nor can you then deny the potential  value that even more minutes of yoga on a regular basis would have on these kids.  If you want to teach more kids more yoga, volunteering is visible value.

My plan was to teach our Focus Ten: Time and Again series and also base the teaching on their answers to my opening question “How are you feeling about finals?” I spoke about how motion helps us move through emotions and the temporary nature of exam triggered panic. We got real about self care strategies and awareness boosting techniques that help minimize chronic stress so we are better able to handle situational stress. And finally, they felt the instant gratification of a 3 minute Savasana. yoga-cartoonizer1

I am so grateful to Buffy Hamilton, the dedicated media specialist who shared these photos, vine videos and school newsletter write up with the  families and staff of Chattahoochee High School and may it lead to more.yoga2

Below is an excerpt from The Hooch Learning Studio

Today’s Winterfest “De-Stress” activity during our lunches was “Yoga and Breathing for Relaxation” with Amy Haysman of Grounded, a group and studio that works with young people. Their core belief is that “yoga can have a profound and positive effect on kids and teens. From our foundation as professional educators we have embraced the principles of yoga to create a program that enables instructors, school teachers, and even kids and teens themselves to “ground” themselves and others through yoga, laughter, and elevation.”

These beliefs were put into action with an overwhelmingly positive impact today in the Chattahoochee High School Library Learning Studio! Amy led students in our 4B, 5A, and 5B lunches through a yoga session that emphasized stretching, relaxation, and stress relief all grounded in a positive framework that she related back to the everyday academic and social challenges teens face, particularly here during finals time. Most of our students were new to yoga, and she did a fantastic job of providing them a great yoga experience at their point of need. We worked through a range of series of gentle movements and breathing exercises. Some students enjoyed the session so much that those with an hourlong lunch returned to do a second session!

img_4093Amy’s good humor, her ability to relate to our teen students, and her expert instruction created a phenomenal experience for our students here today. I am so impressed by the reaction and response of our students that I hope to get a grant to provide this kind of yoga experience for our students during lunches on a regular basis. Many thanks to our students who participated and to Amy Haysman for such a positive and energizing day!

 

 

 

You get what you need…

TS30_WarriorIIDecide_outlineThis is the time of applied, intuitive consciousness.

This is the time we let our hearts open up.

This is the time we need our children to experience reality through the compassion of the heart.

This is the time I asked our Fernbank Yoga Club Students~

What do you need to feel more present?

This is the time to state your needs so we can better serve our yoga club…

 

 

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Celia, fourth grade

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Ellis, third grade

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Beverly, fourth grade

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Julia, second grade

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Elena, first grade

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Emily, second grade

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Audrey, second grade

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Lauren, kindergarten

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Lucy, first grade

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Jack, third grade

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Brooklyn, kindergarten

…This is the time to strengthen our nervous systems, so the power of the magnetic human heart can be the force of peace.

Peace has a force to it.

It’s not passive.

This is the time to create a peaceful force to help us navigate through ups and downs, so we can really move mountains.

 

Let there be Peace
Let there be Peace of Mind
Let there be Peace with Mankind
Let there be Peace of the States
Let the World dwell within the Force of Peace~ Yogi Bhajan

Thank you, Traci Childress, The Mindful Reflection Project, for the “What are your needs?” inspiration.

Sat Nam

 

Grounding Educators and Kids Through Peace Circles and Yoga

I love using Yoga, especially Grounded Kids Yoga poses in my role as a certified Peace Circle Trainer with educators. It such a natural fit as the philosophies of both are about tapping into that ever present true or best self. Creating a sacred and safe space for participants to practice using their deep and rich reservoirs of wisdom and compassion for self and others is the foundation of both Peace Circle (P.C.) practices and Grounded Kids Yoga.

Let me back up and explain as a semi retired school Counselor of 38 years who has used circles in classrooms and groups for the last 20 years, I now have the privilege and the skills to train any community group in Restorative Practices, especially Peace Circles. Many schools here in western N.Y. and more specifically the Rochester City School District are embracing these trainings and incorporating them into their school environments in an effort to uplift the school cultures for both students and staff. More and more evidence is now available to show that these experiences build relationships, reduce violence, harm and conflict and when wrong doing does happen using Restorative Practices is a humane way to hold those accountable. Harm can be repaired with this process with support instead of punishing and alienating people, most often students. Its an honor to be a part of this cause and using Grounded Kids Yoga in these trainings is extremely helpful and a wonderful tool to use and to teach others to use for themselves and their students.

BettyI am happy to say I when I began working as a trainer 3 years ago I started using the Grounded Kids Yoga in most of my workshops and now many of the other trainers are incorporating some of the poses as well. I always begin first by briefly explaining the philosophy behind Grounded Kids Yoga as we all know there are many different types of yoga. Since doing openings and closing for every P.C. session is an integral part, I teach participants Just Breathe, “I am”, Lotus Breath and Namaste’. (I also add my own success stories using this yoga with kids.) I explain the mind jar when we do JB and have one available to demonstrate. Many educators have since adopted this for their classrooms and counseling groups. Tree Friends is a favorite to use as a closing (as in the picture above with educators from July 2015). If time allows we do Mountain, Tall Mountain, Breath of Joy and Half Lift. I use a chime for some added mindfulness and talk about ways to use this in the classroom. Dark Seed Light might be hard to do in the classroom but having the kids do a quieting, centering breathing pose with the chime is what I teach educators to use as great substitute and a positive way to facilitate kids managing their own behavior.

The list is growing and I find teachers have become more open to all of these practices as they recognize the value of connecting more with their kids, co-workers and themselves. Its exciting that many of our city schools are actually building in time for teachers to this. By the end of a training they all seem so appreciative for the experiential learning process, feel more connected to each other and are encouraged to have practical and new ways to create a more positive atmosphere in their own groups and classrooms. I walk away so grateful that two of my loves have come together to give me such purpose as well as hope for many of our struggling schools.

 

For more information on Restorative Practices and Peace Circles:

http://www.pirirochester.org/

http://www.iirp.edu/

 

Oh, Say Can You See, the Sacred and the Silly…

 Part of my practice is to create sacred spaces where I honor my guides, my teachers, a theme, what I am manifesting, what I am inspired by, and what I am teaching.

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This ritual helps me remember my intention, connect to the deeper teachings which I take quite seriously, and to myself {which I don’t }.

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My routine usually entails selecting pose cards or chips, children’s drawings, a poem or passage, photos of my heroes and heroines, and my particular notes and books about the message I am working on to share with my students.  I usually add stones and malas.

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When I gaze upon these creations, I see the world differently and know what I’m opening to.

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When I then close my eyes, I see myself differently. I know what I’m stepping into.

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I hold this space to focus my intention on the best outcome for my creations and projects. It works to enliven and build more life force in my body, lift the clouds of doubt, and sharpen my mind so it can penetrate beneath the surface.

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I start to gain a higher perspective and feel brighter and more clear and present~ and perhaps a bit silly. That just happens to be my wish for the children.

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Joseph Campbell says, ​”​[Sacred space] is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.​”​

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I want my students to experience themSELVES. I do this practice so I can give them that.

Oh, Say Can you See? The Sacred and the Silly~ Please share your sacred {and silly} spaces with us. What objects have you brought together to manifest your creative projects?

Sat Nam

 

Photos by Rachel Schattle & Annabelle Finley, my brilliant and creative interns.

Inviting Athletes to the Mat

A few years ago I was approached by a mom of a former yoga student who inquired if I might consider teaching yoga to her son’s soccer team. I was intrigued but had lots of questions: would the kids come to the yoga studio where I taught? were they wanting to join an existing class? what were her goals in my doing such a class? When we talked by phone she said her main goal was for the kids to have less injuries while playing soccer. She mentioned that the kids loved the game and gave it their best…but in her opinion were sustaining injuries due to their lack of flexibility. She had observed many of the classes her son was in with me and knew that yoga would be just what they needed….on many levels!! ! The mom felt the kids would resist coming to a yoga studio….and inquired if I would consider coming to them.

This lady turned out to be a very determined, focused and resourceful person! She had approached the owner of a large local family sports center about having the yoga classes there. She managed to strike a promising deal in which we could get a large, comfortable space rent free and she offered me a gracious salary for taking this on. We were ready to roll in just a few weeks!! ! I was so excited….but very nervous to start! I felt comfortable with my yoga teaching abilities but a little worried about my relative lack of knowledge about soccer. I reached out to my son-in-law who had played soccer for the University of Pittsburgh and had coached many youth soccer teams since. He was able to tell me what skills the kids needed to develop and I extrapolated what we might do in yoga to strengthen those skills. My husband (who frequently helped me teach yoga classes) has a strong knowledge base of sports and is very skilled in working with youth so he was an invaluable resource as well. ! ! The mom who had set this up explained that she envisioned the first class being offered for free. Afterwards any players wanting to join the class would be paying weekly. It was obvious that much was resting on “hooking” those athletes in a big way during that first class.

My husband and I were determined to entice those youth to embrace the many benefits of yoga in a single hour! This is what we did:! ! 1. developed a great play list of songs that would resonate with this age group (10-12 yr olds) & that were appropriate for a yoga class! 2. put together pictures of famous athletes (including soccer players) who do yoga! 3. put together pictures from our local newspaper of action shots of youth playing soccer (some from their own schools)! 4. prepared a handout: ”Benefits of Yoga for Athletes”! 5. developed a lesson plan that we HOPED would be interesting, fun, challenging (but do-able for newbies!) and truly reflective of the expansive benefits of yoga.! ! On the day of the class we arrived early to set up what turned out to be an awesome space: clean, spacious, well lit & warm (it was a typical winter day in Syracuse, NY). We put out our yoga mats “just right” and waited to greet our athletes. We were surprised (& thankful) when several parents chose to join the class. They were curious about what would happen in yoga….and wanted to be a resource should there be any behavioral concerns (spoiler alert: there were none!!). We ended up having about 20 youth….mostly boys, but some girls. They initially appeared to be excited, curious….and a little nervous. ! ! The class began with talking a little about yoga, inquiring about their knowledge & past experience (very limited). They were pretty impressed to hear about famous athletes who make yoga a part of their training. When we showed them photos from the local paper we asked: “what do you think you need to be able to do this?” (i.e.: 2 players attempting to head the ball; a goalie stretching to make a save; a player kicking the ball in an attempt to make a goal, etc).

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The response varied from you need FullSizeRender 3
to be really you n strong” to “you would need to be able to focus well” to “you would have to be really flexible”. Our response to each of their comments was “interestingly, yoga can help you be____” (i.e.: strong) and we would then teach them several yoga poses that involved strength, flexibility, concentration, etc. (i.e.: Down Dog, Pride Plank, Warrior 1 Up, etc). The kids loved all that we did! They enjoyed being challenged, showing their strength, partnering with teammates and finally relaxing!

We led them into Savasana with a version of I Am What I Am: our affirmations included: I am strong; I am smart; I am a good team mate; I always do my best. They especially loved their relaxation which included the gentle placing of eye pillows, relaxing music and a brief neck massage with essential oils. Following our closing words almost all the kids came to inquire about when the next class would be and to ask for info for their parents. Afterwards we were exhausted and ecstatic… as was the mom who had organized this! The parents who were in attendanYoga for Kids-204ce made a point to tell me how impressed they were with the class & how much the kids needed this yoga ….whether they knew it or not!! ! The class continued successfully for several months until many of the kids were unavailable due to the start of their spring outdoor soccer season. Looking back I see this experience as a turning point for me as a yoga teacher. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone & in doing so helped me believe in my ability to teach a wide variety of kids in what may be an unfamiliar setting… with authenticity, grace and self assurance.!FullSizeRender

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