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The One and Only Ivan Family Yoga

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Each year Little Shop of Stories, a bookstore in Decatur, has a city wide reading initiative called On the Same Page.   Readers of all ages enjoy the same book and for several weeks, activities are planned for the schools and the community leading up to the grand finale which is a guest reading by the book’s author.  The selected book for 2016 was The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

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The One and Only Ivan was inspired by the true story of a silverback gorilla, who spent 27 years of his life alone in a cage in a circus themed mall in Washington. After Ivan was featured in a National Geographic special he was placed on permanent loan to Zoo Atlanta where he was finally able to be outside and live contently with other gorillas.

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Grounded Teachers completing Refine your Teaching Step 3 earned their green bandanas with a service learning project by combining literature, music, art and yoga into a Family Event.  Participants (adults and children 4+) were invited to connect with their inner Ivan, Julia, Stella, Ruby and Bob on the mat and then create their own inspired piece of art by drawing with their breath.

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Almost 100 participants arrived at the Renfroe Middle School gym on a Sunday afternoon.

Parts of the book were read aloud as instrumentalists from Winnona Park Elementary played music to accompany poses that symbolized the characters in the story.

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Ivan the Gorilla- An artist with patience

“I am Ivan. I am gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks. People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback. The names are mine, but they’re not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part. I suppose you think gorillas can’t understand you. Of course, you also probably think we can’t walk upright. Try knuckle walking for an hour. You tell me: Which way is more fun?”

*Down dog – knuckle walk*

“I am mightier than any human, four hundred pounds of pure power. My body looks made for battle. My arms outstretched span taller than the tallest human. My family tree spreads wide as well.”

*Chest beat – tall mountain*

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*Sa Ta Na Ma – I am what I am – I am friendly, I am brave, I am patient, I am real*

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“My visitors are often surprised when they see the TV Mack put in my domain. They seem to find it odd, the sight of a gorilla staring at tiny humans in a box. Sometimes I wonder, though: Isn’t the way they stare at me, sitting my tiny box, just as strange?”

*See It From My Side *I See It From Your Side*

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Stella the Elephant- Old and Wise

“Stella says she is sure I will see another real, live gorilla someday, and I believe her because she is even older than I am and has eyes like black stars and knows more than I will ever know. Stella’s trunk is a miracle. She can pick up a single peanut with elegant precision, tickle a passing mouse, tap the shoulder of a dozing keeper.”   *Warrior 1 Up, Warrior 2 With Clarity, Triangle With Wisdom*

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“A good zoo,” Stella says, “is a large domain. A wild cage. A safe place to be. It has room to roam and humans who don’t hurt.” She pauses, considering her words. “A good zoo is how humans make amends.” *Soapbox Freedom*

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Bob the Stray Dog – Street smarts

“Bob is a stray, which means he does not have a permanent address. He is so speedy, so wily, that mall workers long ago gave up trying to catch him. Bob can sneak into cracks and crevices like a tracked rat. Bob is tiny, wiry, and fast, like a barking squirrel. His tail moves like weeds in the wind, spiraling, dancing. Bob’s tail makes me dizzy and confused. It has meaning within meanings like human words. “I am sad,” it says. “I am happy.” It says, “Beware! I may be tiny, but my teeth are sharp.”

*Dark Seed Light, Down Dog, No Whining, Flip Dog, Double Dog Dare*

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Ruby the Baby Elephant – Young and playful and curious

“Stand back, everyone!” Mack yells. “We’ve got a new arrival. This is Ruby, folks. Six hundred pounds of fun to save our sorry butts. This gal is gonna sell us some tickets.” *Rock and Roll*

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“Ruby pokes with annoyance at her roped foot. She takes a breath. “Ivan? Do I have to do the shows with Mack today?” *Calm Down*

“I think of Ruby’s endless curiosity, and of the questions she loved to ask. Have you ever danced with a tiger, Ivan? Will your fur turn blue? Why doesn’t that little boy have a tail.” *We Will Rock You*

Julia the young girl with a dream to free Ruby and Ivan

“Julia is ten years old. She has hair like black glass and a wide, half-moon smile. She and I have a lot in common. We are both great apes, and we are both artists. Julia’s drawings are wild with color and movement. She draws things that aren’t real: clouds that smile and cars that swim. She draws until her crayons break and her paper rips. Her pictures are like pieces of a dream.”

*Camel, Play with Fire, Laughter Hero, Do the Twist*

The afternoon ended with a Breathe and Draw art lesson.

We breathed back to back..

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and drew with our breath..

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“It was a day of collaboration, connection and celebration of a compassionate book.

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Thank you Katherine Applegate for the story.

Thank you Little Shop of Stories for the collaboration.

Thank you Sarah Coleman for the Renfroe Middle Gym

Thank you Kelley Sue Hardin for capturing the radiance of the day.

and Thank you Grounded Teachers for Grounding and Elevating this day. Great to be on the same page with you all…”

~  Sat Nam….Cheryl Crawford

See this link for more information about On the Same Page.

 

http://weareonthesamepage.org/about-the-book

 

UP-UP-UP With a Fish!

At the local Barnes & Noble families joined together for storytime and yoga to celebrate Dr. Suess’s birthday and Read Across America Day.  I was inspired by Dr. Suess’s “The Cat In The Hat” and Co-Founder, Cheryl Crawford’s Grounded Blog Post, “Suess Sutra 1-1: Big Picture Play of Conciousness”.

We tuned into our highest Self and listened to our small, limited and fearful side, inviting both to play with one another in a little game of “UP-UP-UP With a Fish!”. In Cheryl Crawford’s blog post, “Suess Sutra 1-1: Big Picture Play Of Consciousness” we are reminded that once we tune into our Highest Consciousness we begin to understand why we are here and where we should go. Our Highest Consciousness watches over us and helps steer us in the highest direction. By creating a lesson with a series of poses families invited their Highest Self (The Cat) and limited Self (the fish) to play together. By doing this we created space within ourselves by getting wider with each breath in and taller with each breath out. Now that’s elevation!

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”

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Close your eyes if you wish and breathe into your heart. Lets introduce 3 tricks along with the Cat that will help the fish along the way. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Breathe into your heart. Breath out through your nose. Continue to follow your breath. By bringing your hands together and placing your pinky and thumb fingers together, opening your three middle fingers in Lotus Breath lift the fish Up-Up-Up and support him along the way. Remind him that he will not fall,

“Have no fear!
You will not fall.
You will not fall.
I will hold you up high…”

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Yoga Montclair Summer Camp 2014

What I did and did not expect. A paradox.

I expected Dr. Seuss books to be the inspiration for planning our week of yoga camp. I did not expect to discover the richness and fullness of ideas and themes that could be found in just one of his books.

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I expected the kids to journal, to reflect on the yoga teachings, and to record their thoughts and feelings in some way. I did not expect the amazing, wonderful journal that the amazing and wonderful BobbiJo created for them.

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I expected the children to be able to create a list of feeling, emotions and heart qualities that they would refer to for their art projects. I did not expected the length of their list, 50 words long, and the depth and quality of the words that they called out, one at a time as they lay there on their mats that very first morning. Words like; grateful, sensitive, passionate, guilty, warm hearted, trusting, confused, dis-connected.

I expected the designing and making of tags for their banners and their community project to be enjoyable and fun. Why wouldn’t it be? Who doesn’t love a bit of coloring, sticking and gluing every now and then? I did not expect the limitless creativity, the focus, the concentration and the pleasure they found in sitting around each morning, creating something from themselves.

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I expected the children to have fun playing ‘The Waiting Place Game’. We based the game on the part in the book ‘Oh, the places you’ll Go!’ where everyone is just waiting. The premise of the game was that you have to be daring; if your not daring, if you don’t allow yourself to be engaged and vulnerable then you are not centered, you are in a slump, you on the outside looking in, you must go to the waiting place. We dared the kids to try a new pose, we dared them to ask for help, we dared them to do a pose on the center mat and we dared them to teach that pose to others.

I did not expect how revealing the game would be. How Clara didn’t dare to do Mountain Laughter pose, it was too embarrassing, and went to the waiting place instead. How she laughed loudly while sitting there and shouted out “I need to un-slump myself!” How quiet and shy some of them were when asking for help and how great they were at making partner poses together.

How Lizzie whispered to her sister, “I am definitely going to the waiting place for dare #4” and then allowed herself to be daring and taught Dark Seed Light to the whole group.

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I did not expect to be lost for words trying to describing how amazingly brilliant they were at creating and sharing their own games.

I expected the children to need help with design ideas and the making of their t-shirts. I did not expect them to be so fiercely independent, so focused and so sure of how they wanted to create and express themselves.

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I did expect the banners to be great. I was excited about the project. The children were going to be working on them all week. They would be decorating their driftwood sticks with duck tape and ribbons, decorating both sides of their felt flag, hanging their heart quality tags from the flag and having a parade at the end of the week. I did not expect the sheer delight and excitement they expressed as they finally put all the different elements of their banners together. I did not expect them, on finishing, to go around the studio planting their banner on a yoga mat and calling out “My Yoga-land!”

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I did expect the adults at the studio to like the community project. It was something beautiful that everyone could connect and interact with. I did not expect the yoga teachers at the studio to be so touched by it, so much so that one of them wanted MORE and so we made some more heart quality sticks to span the entire length of the front windows.

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I did expect a good week. This was the second year of teaching a Summer Yoga Camp together and we had done a lot of planning, organizing and collecting materials. I did expect us to wear the same t-shirt everyday! (A tradition we have carried on since seeing Cheryl and Anabel do this at our first Grounded Training together)

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I did not expect the sense of ease I felt throughout the week. The comfort, stability and groundedness I found in our partnership, the way we fell naturally into taking on different roles and the fluidity of our transitions between activities.

Moving forward, I expect us to grow and develop the kids yoga program at Yoga Montclair AND I look forward to the wisdom, learning and growth to be found in the unexpected.

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Horton Hears an Om

hortonAs part of an online continued education program in Grounded Kids Yoga, I was invited to teach a class based on the story of “Horton Hears a Who,” themed around aligning for listening and using a clear centered voice. I found myself entranced by the opportunity to use music and movement to bring this centered, felt experience to life for families. As I pored through the sample lessons offered by Cheryl Crawford and Amy Haysman of Grounded Kids Yoga, lights started going off. I knew that this lesson was important for me and for those around me. My lessons with Roop Verma and the teachers of Ananda Ashram in music and Nada Yoga came through. My study with my teachers AmarJyothi Pariser and most recently the alignment of Naime Jezzany and Sue Elkind began to integrate as well. Integrating the teachings into my being to bring the lessons home is a teacher’s challenge.

A challenge and a practice. So why do we practice listening? In our relationships and our work, we can always use the reminder to listen. It is empowering to feel heard. As a teacher, parent, sister and friend, I am finding that fine-tuning these skills allow for easier relationships. Alongside the ability to hear others lays hearing ones own true, compassionate and clear voice. This voice is unique, has its own perfect noise and is a gift to find and when found, to share. Over the past few years, I have been increasingly aware of working with my own voice through teaching, singing and the study of Nada Yoga, the yoga of sound vibration and through the practice of right speech. Listening to the birds and music can be a fast path for many to a blissful feeling of unity and connection that a yoga practice provides.

So, I’ve been carrying this elephant on my back for a few months now! We have quite a relationship! In my family life, I try to align my breath and body for deeper listening. When teaching, or when something important comes up that I need to use my own clear voice, I think of the physical alignment of my body, pulling into center, with an extra check in for an open throat and ear alignment. I have noticed that when I am practicing off of the mat, there is greater ease in my ability to hear other people’s needs and my own. When I forget, not so easy!

In planning this Musical Family Yoga Workshop, I asked my friend and recording artist Kira Willey if she’d join me in playing with Horton and write a song about voice. Kira wrote the song “Every Voice.”

 

It is an incredibly catchy and meaningful song that will be featured on her third CD release. I madly love the song and her voice. I am sure that people will leave the workshop humming its tune and well aligned for all of the work in hearing and speaking off of our mats. Recommended for graders six years and over through grandparents. I look forward to sharing this workshop with you. Come visit, you will absolutely DIG it!

Felcia and Kira

Horton Hears an OM!
DIG YOGA, LAMBERTVILLE, NJ SATURDAY MAY 3 from 3-5PM $20 per family

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Snow White and the Seven Chakras

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(Inspired by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Chapter II, v. 42
samtosad anuttamah sukhalabhah)

From contentment,
Highest happiness is obtained
Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs
Are invited to explain….

Consider us each a chakra
An energy gate of sorts
That we open, clear and balance
For optimal support.

Work on passing through
The seven chakras {or gates}
In order to visit the underworld
And ascend to blissful states.

Let’s begin in MOUNTAIN with SLEEPY,
Awaken abundant roots.
Stand with both feet straight
Ground heavy in your boots.

SG1_Mountain-Pose

Each time you inhale,
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE.
Each time you exhale,
Root your feet a little deeper.

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Reach up high with outstretched hands
FORWARD FOLD and touch the ground.
Prepare to balance GRUMPY
Who needs some healthy bounds.

SG2_Forward-Fold

Whenever you breathe in,
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL.
Each time you breathe out,
Circle your hips like a water wheel.

Step your right foot back
Into a STRAIGHT LEG LUNGE
Here we balance DOPEY
Soak up power, like a sponge.

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Each time you take breath in,
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACT.
Each time you release breath out,
Stretch your belly with great tact.

Step your left foot back
Press hips up into DOWNWARD DOG
Open up to HAPPY
Melt your heart free from smog.

SG9_Down-Dog

Receive your in breath and
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO LOVE.
Give your breath out
Feel Unworthiness? Get RID of!

Shift forward into PLANK
So BASHFUL can get clear.
Soften your throat back
And open up your ears.

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Each time you breathe in
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK WORDS.
Each time you breathe out
Say, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD.

Lower knees, chest and chin
GRATITUDE for SNEEZY’s insight and vision.
Draw back of eyes toward back of head
To focus on decisions.

SG6_Gratitude

Each breath in
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEE.
Each breath out
Cross your eyes to a degree.

Stretch your crown forward and up
To balance DOC in SNAKE
Straighten legs behind you,
Connect to what’s awake.

SG8_Snake

Each time you breathe in
Think, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW
Each time you breathe out
Stretch from head to toe.

Lower back down
Prepare to pose in reverse
Remember your rights
Remember to immerse.

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SNAKE back to GRATITUDE
Breathe into your poses
Up PLANK to DOWN DOG
Your rights are like roses.

STRAIGHT LEG LUNGE to FORWARD FOLD
And back up to MOUNTAIN
Keep moving and grooving
Till your rights flow like fountains.

SG1_Mountain-Pose

When we know our rights,
And pass through chakra gates~
We develop a sense of contentment
And more deeply relate.

Happiness is indeed obtainable.
When we follow the path of contentment
Accept the ups and the downs
of our very own presentment.

May we be content with GRUMPY work
Or no work at all~
DOPEY or HAPPY states
BASHFUL or baseball.

May we be content when SLEEPY
Or wide awake~
SNEEZY or Doc
It’s our right~For Goodness Sake!

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