A Moment of Pause ~

It’s December! Can you feel it ~ the decorations, shopping, baking, planning, traveling? Our children can feel it too. They may be feeling it differently (cue: how many more days until….?), but as they feel our joy for the season they too may feel our stress. During this month of celebration, crafting, and gifting I try to take a moment of pause with my kiddos.

andrerestorativeWe stop.

We check in.

This is also a great time for restorative yoga for the family. One way we can practice and pause is with a gentle savasana. Here are some suggestions to set the space.

~ Introduce this ritual with a brief explanation of what you’re going to do. “Let’s take a moment before we __________ to rest our bodies and minds together. Let’s check in.” Incorporate a breath if you wish by blowing up an imaginary balloon over your head (raise your arms) and slowly let out the air with your exhale (hands come to heart).

~ Lay some mats on the floor (or towels, blankets) and pillows for our heads. If you have an eye pillow or soft beanie stuffed animal you can lay this down on your eyes. Also, slide a pillow under your knees if this feels OK on your lower back.

~ Perhaps infuse an essential oil, light a candle, or spray a pleasant scent in the air. Lavender is wonderful.

~ Lay a blanket gently over your yogi.

~ Play a mantra or soft soothing music. My family loves “Ra Ma Da Sa” by Snatam Kaur, Grace.

bethfootrub

~ Now, before you settle in for your savasana, take a moment with some lotion to gently massage your yogi’s toes, feet, ankles.

~ Gently lay down next to your family. Perhaps it’s just 2 of you. For a larger family lay in a circle. Hold hands. Snuggle. Whatever feels right.

~ Spend as much time as you wish here. If your children are younger and their flow is to move around, be OK with that. Ground yourself and your children will take notice, feel your energy, and maybe return to you or their mats.

~ When you’re ready to come back, do so with grace and ease. Gaze into each other’s eyes. Check in. How do you feel? You are ready to continue on with your day, week, month, season. Mmmmm….can you feel the shift?

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We’ll be incorporating more restorative yoga in all our Yogi Playground classes this winter. Next Generation Yoga is also offering a wonderful lesson plan for your home or classes which can be purchased here.

Wishing you all a peaceful, loving holiday season!

Namaste ~ Miss Beth

Peace Begins With Me ~

powerpeaceToday was an uplifting day where I taught 2 yoga classes back to back at our local library. I love Mondays at the library, and this week in particular is full of light as we prepare to gather and give gratitude for all we have. Yay for Gratitude Yoga! In addition to sharing for what we are thankful (our bodies, families, yoga, dancing, and treats, to name a few), we included the powerful meditation of “Peace Begins With Me.”

This mantra is magic on so many levels! Following our high energy practice and Monday morning dance party, we found our way to the floor in either “criss cross applesauce,” aka easy seated pose, or in Hero Pose on our knees. Tapping each finger to our thumbs, one at a time, we repeat “Peace Begins with Me” ~ Peace (pointer finger) Begins (middle) With (ring) Me (pinky). As we chant we grow louder and louder, raising our voices in unison. Then we begin to grow quieter, quieter still, until we are saying it on the inside. It is in this moment where we close our eyes, move inward, feel the peace we’ve created within us. As we open our eyes, we smile and look around the circle. The room is still, silent, at peace, with only our smiles and our eyes to share our light. And yes, these are 2, 3, 4 year olds! And we are meditating!! Feeling the power of meditation, the magic of looking within.

We followed this practice with Resting Pose or savasana. Today we imagined we were floating on a cloud high above our town, over the ocean, across the world. Just as rain gently falls from a cloud, we showered the world in Peace. My heart is full.

I give gratitude every day for sharing this practice with our children. I feel grounded and optimistic. Our future with these kiddos is truly bright.

Let’s try this meditation at home! And please do let me know how it feels for you and your family.

Happy Holiday Season to all, and to all ~ Namaste & Peace.

Love, Miss Beth

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Bringing Yoga Home

Happy 2013 Friends! I read that the coming year “holds the vibration of home and family.” In this spirit, I’m often asked by parents and friends, how do we bring yoga and meditation into our family lives? As a new year’s gift to all of us, here are some thoughts on creating a yogic rhythm in your home for the whole family.
But what does this mean to bring “yoga” in? For some who are familiar and have our own home practice,  we seek to incorporate our children into our routine. This could be as simple as pulling out two mats and inviting your child to “do some poses” with you, or meditate with you on occasion (while also allowing and finding time for our own private practice!). For others who are not so familiar, this is a learning process together. How beautiful! And what a valuable lesson for our children to learn we don’t know everything…yet!

Yoga as a whole includes poses (asanas), wellness, nutrition, peaceful well being, spirituality, connection to nature and planet, and the potential for truly meaningful time together being fully present…the best gift we can give. So let’s all put our smart phones and tablets aside and start to dive deeper…..

:: First, as we do with all yoga practices, we establish an intention. Why are you interested in bringing yoga into your home? Take a look at your family “portrait,” your rhythm. What do you wish for your home? What works for you? Where can we shed some light or focus? What does it mean to bring yoga into your family? For some, this means a morning yoga practice, others meditation, for some a moment of absolute harmony, togetherness.

:: Please don’t give the process too much power. YOGA. The word, for some, is so natural. For many, so so daunting. Images pop up of 2 hour daily practices, standing on our heads with our legs wrapped like a pretzel while chanting strange vowel sounds. Let’s just toss, for the moment, the idea that it must be so regimented. This is not yoga bootcamp (there are classes for that if you are interested). If the idea of yoga is so daunting, we just won’t make it happen. Remember, it’s about our children and family. Let’s make it fun, natural, sometimes chaotic, and silly. Again, let it all evolve naturally.

:: But how do we know what to do? Videos are a great tool! And ooh child, there are some wonderful ones out there. Again, if videos aren’t your flow and you want something with less instruction, we enjoy following books together to learn and develop poses. At night, my son has taken to pulling out Babar’s Yoga Book, along with his mat, and stretching a bit before he settles in. Books are a wonderful tool to open the imagination, follow without fear of doing it “wrong,” and to expand on the stories with the poses.

(see some links below)

:: Meditation is a whole other blog post! If you have a practice again let your child sit with you for a moment, or repeat “Peace Begins with Me.” Breathe in Peace, breathe out love. Afterwards, play some music and draw together.

OK, but how are we supposed to get into the groove of all this? With school, sports, meals, carpooling, homework, oh my! It’s important to remember that small steps go a long way over time. Begin with simple things, not all at once, little by little. Here are some suggestions for placing one yogi toe in front of the other….

1. Establish a quiet space in your home. This is where you will stretch together, perhaps meditate together. Nothing fancy needs to be placed here. Perhaps just your mat, a wonderful reminder to practice!

2. Consider incorporating some small changes to your routine, in hopes of bringing more peace and harmony into your home. For example, make your bed, eat a meal together, ask questions, listen. What about our days was good/bad/happy/sad/silly?

3. Try creating one small change in your routine. Perhaps, for example, when you child wakes up, you practice one sun salutation. Or after homework, before dinner, you stretch together for 5 minutes. Before bed, you read through a book together to get your yoga. Maybe this happens only once a week, maybe every day. A little yoga is better than no yoga (at least in my world)!

A few more thoughts to ponder…

:: Have fun and be creative.

:: Let your child lead once in a while. Twisted upside down piggie pose? Sure! Let’s give it a try!

:: Sunrise and sunset are special, serene times of the day. Sunrise is hard to capture in our home, but try to get outside for the sunset when you can.

:: Dance, be silly…after dinner dance parties!

:: Play more music.

Most importantly, do what feels right for your family. I’d love to hear some more ways you bring yoga into your family’s life. Please do share! And Namaste dear friends…

Yogi Beth

Resources (Please note this is an ongoing list. Feel free to add your personal favorites in the comments!)
Videos
Books

Yoga in the Schools, Let’s Talk….

I’ve been meditating on writing this blog post for a while, and today, during an intense morning yoga practice, it all came to me, and well…here ‘tis.

Having just moved to our sweet new town of Encinitas, I would be remiss not to talk about the controversy and impending lawsuit surrounding yoga in the public elementary schools here in town. It seems quite ugly, pinning parents against the school administration against yogis, all the while portraying children’s yoga in a negative light. So I channel my old friend Winnie and think, “oh bother.”

I don’t wish to review the controversy here in this space.  And I want to take caution as I write this, especially since I do not know all the facts and I am the “new kid on the block” so to speak. Rather, I will write from my heart, experience, passion, and observations.

Yoga comes in many forms (Hatha, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Iyengar, to name a few).  Each of these practices stems from a certain set of beliefs, of traditions, and are practiced in different ways. As an adult, I enjoy mixing up my practice – chanting, “keeping up” in Kundalini, and the moving meditation of a good vinyasa flow class. For me, I find connection to a Higher Source. My intentions become clear. I am inspired to take better care of myself and my family, to eat healthier, and am reminded to be patient, compassionate, mindful, and grounded.

For me, a children’s yoga program (in particular a preschool program in the case of Yogi Playground) is a heart based program, rather than spiritually based. That is, a program in which children learn and explore that their actions, choices, and wellness begins at the heart. What we do affects others. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and the world around us. A children’s yoga program connects one to nature, follows the seasons, fosters self-esteem, teaches balance and coordination, and teaches us how to be still, how to breathe.

So Why Should Children Practice Yoga? Oh goodness, why shouldn’t children practice yoga?! Yoga, or we can call it Wellness, is a way of life, on and off the mat. Yoga improves concentration, focus, and balance. It promotes healthy choices, and greener choices for the environment. It’s living mindfully and presently, promoting positive self esteem and body image, body awareness, and impulse control. Children who practice yoga fare better academically as they have better concentration and focus. It builds a sense of community. And it empowers with the tools to make healthy choices, and to manage childhood stress and emotions through the breath.

 All this is done through story, games, song, and movement. We stretch like animals, we emulate the natural world, standing grounded as a tree or tall as a mountain. Sometimes we stray from our mats for a fun game of Yogi Yogi Dog. We use crazy amounts of props. We laugh. We talk. We dance.

In my classes we put our hands on our hearts and say “Home,” representing that we can always return to the safe, comfortable place in our hearts. We may repeat, “Peace Begins With Me.” We say Namaste, as a way to thank each other for a great class. If one parent expressed concern over any of these practices, I would modify immediately as it’s my passion to bring yoga to children, to build a positive, strong yoga foundation for our preschoolers. In no way do I want to jeapordize this opportunity by making parents uncomfortable.

Children’s yoga brought into public school should not include Hinduism, chanting, prayer, spirituality, or discussion of the divine in any form. My training, through MiniYogis, reinforces this idea of keeping these aspects out of our programs. There is room for this, of course, in a private class if the parents or caretakers ask for it.

 The reality is that teaching children is very different from teaching adults. And what’s more is that parents are trusting us with their children’s education. This is a grand responsibility! Most of my classes last school year were in the schools, preschool and a private first grade. As a parent myself, I do not want religious ideals imposed upon my children, particularly in the school setting. I can certainly empathize with the parents in the Encinitas public school district. I have heard (via parents) that the program, funded by one foundation and employing only teachers trained by the foundation, did introduce some fundamentals of ashtanga yoga, as well as postures. I’m curious to know exactly what was being offered. What were the elements of the program? After parents expressed concern, the principal stated that all aspects of Hinduism and devotion were taken out of the practice. Whether this happened before or after concern was expressed is unclear to me. I’m wondering if the program was presented in full to the parents prior to it’s inception. Was there a  frank, open conversation, to demystify children’s yoga, to clarify that it is not a religious practice, nor would it include any devotional aspects?  This would have helped set a positive foundation between the school, yogis, and parents. After all, yoga means union.

Children’s yoga is growing and I am so excited to be part of the progression. My sincere hope is that the Encinitas school district and the parents can find common ground, and that ultimately, perhaps with a change in the program and a better understanding of yoga for kids, yoga will continue as part of the school day for these children. At the end of the day, yoga is only positive, promoting and cultivating healthy lifestyle choices through creative movement, song, fun, and games.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my thoughts on all this. As a member of the Encinitas community, I will do my part to promote open dialogue among parents and educators. I would love to hear your thoughts as well. Please do share. And as always, dear friends, Peace and Namaste.

*Please note I do not take photos during my classroom sessions, out of respect for our special circle time together.

Friday’s Blessings…

Today I am thankful for

:: Breakfast with my sons. After a challenging morning preparing for another open house, my oldest son did not want to go to school. I debated keeping him home, but I knew he would have more fun at school once he got there. So instead I surprised him with breakfast at Fix in Echo Park. A little sweetness and Mama Love goes a long way. He declared, “I’m ready for school now Mama.”

:: Our Daycation with friends in Laguna Beach! What a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday, swimming and playing with friends above the world.

:: My meditation practice.

:: Our collective health.

:: My new Hoberman Sphere which I found for $3 at The Awesome Playground in Highland Park! Not only have I been using it in my classes, but I’ve stumbled upon both my boys taking deep inhales/exhales throughout the day. What a wonderful visual for breath. Time In, indeed.

:: My 5 year old son…5! He just celebrated his birthday last week, and I’m in awe of how sensitive, inquisitive, creative, and full of heart he is. Shine on Sweet Boy.

:: My almost 2 year old son! Such an independent spirit indeed. Lately our favorite outing is taking walks around the block, well actually I walk and he “drives” his ride-on truck. I smile from the inside out as I listen to him sing and drive. We culminate our walks with swinging and kisses in the backyard. His Light radiates, my beautiful angel.

:: My foundation. Yes, the foundation that we just spent sooo much money to fix and firm. But more so, the foundation I have with my husband, my partner. Throughout this whole process of selling and fixing and spending….oh my….we’ve remained solid, strong, a team. No matter how stressful life gets, we always manage to spend the evenings cuddled together with a glass of wine and a good laugh.

:: My son’s preschool. Lately they’ve been snacking on their harvest of snap peas, lettuce, and grapes, washing it all down with homemade lemonade. I couldn’t be happier with the lessons learned.

:: Friends. True friends. Nothing sweeter.

So many more Blessings I have in this life. These are just a few on which I’m vibing at this moment. Please do share your Blessings here or in your own space. Perhaps just  a moment of reflection.

*Namaste*