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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/

 

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

Teaching Children in India

Thank you, India

for teaching me how to feel in my bones

the truth of my purpose

and my presence

here and now…

DSC02936 - Copy…How to build on my prana, on my vitality behind my communication….

 

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…How to refine my

communication

so it is effective and precise…

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…That I don’t necessarily need to speak the language,

{or even use words}

to share steadiness, compassion and connection..

 

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…I do need to do the {yoga} work beforehand to intuitively tap into the  children’s NEEDS…..

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and collaborate more and more and more with other like-minded individuals. Through what Yogi Bhajan has called the collective pool of intelligence……

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Because wherever passion and inspiration flows, connecting with  others creates an even  greater flow…

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and breathing

and chanting

and laughing

and moving together

is Universal…

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…And moving through the pairs of opposites without struggle or being affected by them is the universal teaching…

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… We need to receive in order to hold space…

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Love is a creative force within us that makes the impossible, possible.

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May we love deeply both which feels like hurt,

and that which feels like nourishment.

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 I bow to the subtle and not so subtle, {more like intense}, teachers inside and outside…

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…especially this one….

IMG_8836…who taught us

NOT to feel sorry for someone,

it’s diminishing and never helps.

Turn that energy into prayer.

Think, “How can I serve them?”

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself feeling sorry for them.

Serve them.

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May we  remember that LOVE is a creative force in EVERY human being.

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Thank you, Somer, Katia, and Kasia for teaching with me.

 Thank you, Somer for capturing the beautiful experience with your camera.

Thank you, India for your Grace.

Sat Nam

Glinda’s Guiding Light

Glinda-2The art of yoga teaches you to trust your gut, your intuition, that mystery feeling that you’re heading in the right direction. In January 2013, at the mere mention of Grounded, my gut was telling me that I needed to cancel the yoga workshop I was already registered for, find a 2 hour ride from Telluride, CO to Durango, CO, purchase a ticket to Atlanta from there and register for a kids’ yoga training with teachers I had yet to meet who would share a program I knew nothing about.  I had a million rationalizations for staying put in sunny Colorado, but I knew better than to deny my most authentic inner voice. I was in the calm before the storm; I could feel the energy for change building, and when I found myself in the Grounded classroom I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. After the whirlwind of travel, I immediately felt more grounded and self-assured that I was in the right place.  I really connected to the Wizard of Om series, particularly the section on Glinda the Good Witch. It was then that Cheryl and Amy dubbed me “Glinda,” and I felt like I was really being seen. I would like to share some of my journey down the yellow brick road, and how I’ve come to trust the Glinda guiding light within me.

 

Like most children today, I was bullied in High School.  My anxiety continued to grow with the anticipation of some new slander on the bathroom stalls, loogees on my locker handle, a push down the stairs, an assortment of condiments and sodas spewed on my car. Hateful words were thrown at me from across the halls and through anonymous telephone calls.  There was a song written about how I liked to masturbate with a television remote performed at a local show. I couldn’t understand why I was such a target, and I assumed that there must be something innately wrong with me. The weight of my harassers’ hate sunk me into a deep depression; in my dreams I was drowning. I developed nervous tics, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, cystic acne and irritable bowel syndrome. I suffered from insomnia, ringing in my ears, and chronic neck pain from grinding my teeth. During this teenage turmoil I received a harrowing blow. My sweet, beautiful Aunt Wendy was found next to a dumpster, beaten to death with a tire iron by her husband of 3 days.  The trial for her murder was continually postponed for 12 years, so without any closure, I added the grief of this tragedy to the collection of hurts that I kept hidden just below the surface. This was obviously a very hard chapter of my life, but it’s never all bad! I found my silver linings along the way, including my first yoga dvds. I began to practice regularly and took my first yoga class in college. I experienced tremendous growth in my early twenties, and in the summer of 2012 I took an intensive 21 day 200 hour yoga teacher training. Through extensive meditation and pranayama I explored different layers of myself, and the floodgates that I’d been holding back finally opened. It was then that memories of my grandfather molesting me rose to the surface and I had the familiar feeling of being pulled out to sea. But this time it was different. I had an anchor in my practice, I had the tools I needed to process the darkness, and I had faith in the light within me to transform that energy into something good. It was that light that gave me the fortitude to not only forgive the people who had hurt me, but to feel love and gratitude for each of them, because without them I would not have experienced the extraordinary healing powers of yoga and I would not feel so ardently compelled to share it with the world. It was that light that led me to Grounded, where I have been embraced by a loving and nurturing community, and have been given endless opportunities to learn, grow and share. No one could have told me the direction to take, no doctor had the antidote to cure all my symptoms of stress and sadness (goodness knows what I would have been prescribed in High School!), and no one could possibly know what would bring my heart peace and joy. I found the answers when I turned inward, and realized that the most crucial component of my dharma is encouraging people to look inside themselves and trust the light that shines within them. It is my wish to be Glinda, a source of loving support and guidance, reassuring you that “you’ve always had the power my dear, you just have to learn it for yourself.”

I am making this self-awareness the focus of my current classes at Decatur Yoga and Pilates and at Fernbank Elementary School. I recently completed the Grounded training for Pre-Grounded, Special Needs, and Trauma Sensitive, and I plan to apply the powerful techniques I learned with the empathy I’ve gained through my personal experiences towards healing and empowering our youth. Shine on!

namaste, Erin

A fifth grader practices yoga at a Men’s Night Shelter

Katie Bashor, Humanitarian, Director of Central Night Shelter (CNS), PE Teacher at Fernbank Elementary, and a Yogi recently told our yoga club all about the yoga program at the shelter. She told the children that the men are so much fun~they laugh and moan and sweat and laugh and LOVE partner poses. We explained that our dream is to make the yoga class (every Sunday from 5-6) a community event where everyone can practice together.

{Read more  about yoga at the shelter here: https://bashorkatie.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/namaste/}

 

So, Isabelle, Certified Grounded Kid, (pictured here with Katie Bashor) told her family about shelter yoga and here’s how it went down…

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“My Experience at the CNS by Isabelle

Last Sunday, I went to the CNS and took part in their Yoga night. It takes place every Sunday from 5:00pm to 6:00pm. It was started by Katie Bashor and Cheryl Crawford and is open to everyone. It is a nice way to start off your week and is a fun and challenging alternatative to sitting on your couch and watching TV.  It brings homeless men and women together and also pulls in members of the community. When I simply walked into the room, I could feel an aura of serenity between people. Our place in the community didn’t matter, we were all there for one reason: to do yoga. To me that was just so great, just a couple of handfuls of people there to do yoga. I think that this is an amazing thing, I hope you share my opinion. ” Isabelle

 

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Atlanta! Come practice yoga with this amazing, supportive, fun-loving community.The teachers are stellar.  http://www.cnsatlanta.org/

 

Let us know how it goes!

 

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