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Engaging the Heart on your Mat

I began to practice yoga consistently almost four years ago. Although I was first introduced to it around the age of fifteen and practiced on and off during my dancer years it’s benefits didn’t dawn on me until I was pregnant with my son. When I first started to practice I had great teachers such as Bertha (From Firefly) and so many others at Dharma Yoga Studio in Coconut Grove (Cat, Natalie, Loree and more). However, one of the teachers that truly inspired me to go deeper into yoga was Jason Lawner. About six months after I began to practice with Jason my family and I moved to Pembroke Pines Florida.  I had to re situate myself in the yoga community and then I decided to get certified. As I began to look for a good, well rounded certification I came across other studios and teachers. Then one day I walked into Yogi Hari’s Ashram and immediately knew that was the place for me. There I began to study intensely and for almost the last year I’ve taken class no where else but at the ashram. Recently as my teaching schedule picked up my classes interfered with the classes offered at the ashram. Although I do self practice almost daily I wanted a class, plain and simple. I tried a couple and felt dissatisfied. Not by the asana practice but by the way yoga was presented. Physically I was challenged but that was about it. This past weekend I attend after many, many months one of Jason Lawner’s workshops at 305 Yoga. For the first time in a long time I laid on my mat at the end and felt satisfied, it felt like home. Thank Jason for sharing yoga with such sincerity, with all its depth and knowledge. Namaste.

 

To know more about Yogi Hari’s Ashram visit: http://www.yogihari.com/

To know more about Jason Lawner visit: http://www.jasonlawner.com/

 

Posted in Yoga Tagged , , , |

Breathing and Meditation Exercises for Children

There are so many creative ways to teach children breathing and meditation techniques. With the way society is unfolding these are tools they will be using for the rest of their lives, not to mention the physical and mental benefits. These are a few of my absolute favorite exercises:

 

*These exercises are designed to go from easy to difficult, notes will be made for modifications.

 

Feathers (most of these exercises can also be done with the following materials:Puff balls (which come in a variety of sizes and shapes in order to make it more difficult), cotton balls, leaves etc.)

-Laying on your belly at the back of your mat place the feather in front of your mouth take a deep breath in and see how far it goes.

-Sitting hold the feather over your mouth take a deep breath in and simultaneously let go and blow out, try to catch it. (Once the child can do this comfortably have them to Kapalabati breathing through the mouth. Breathing quickly trying to keep the feather up in the air.)

-Using straws do the same first exercise. (Once they are comfortable breathing and blowing the feather through the straw challenge them to breath it in. See if they can hold the feather at the tip of the straw. You can also buy straws with different thicknesses to make the exercises more difficult.)

-Lay on your back place the feather on your belly and watch it go up and down as you breath deeply.

 

Hoberman Sphere

-The Hoberman sphere is a wonderful tool to further teach children how their body functions when breathing. You have them imagine that it is their abdomen, close their eyes and breath deeply simultaneously doing the movement with the sphere. It is a tool that I recommend doing after the children have some knowledge on breathing exercises.

 

 

 

Balloons

-Balloons are great in small groups or pairs. They require more, stronger breath in order for it to be passed to one another. In large groups I have them lay on their bellies in a circle. In pairs one can sit on one of the mat the other on the other end meanwhile the ballon begins in the middle as they take turns blowing it to one another.

 

Pinwheels

-These work very nice in pairs. The children have to take turns and coordinate have to simultaneously blow it in one direction to make it go fast.

 

Inhale & Exhale

-With children I do not say at first inhale and exhale. Often I say for some time breath in and breath out. When they have reach a proper level of understanding using the hoberman sphere etc. Then I bring in coloring pages, coloring in the image of and inhale makes it a tangible action for them (particularly for those 5 and under). Afterwards, I begin saying inhale and exhale and they get it, they understand what I mean. (Best coloring pages can be found in The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids book).

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation/Breathing Exercises

 

The Mind Jar

-Prior to doing the Mind Jar everyone should read the book: Moody Cow.  It is an excellent way to set the tone for the experience. The mind jar in essence is a jar filled with water (a symbol of your mind) put sparkles (or something similar) inside the jar little by little while saying negative or angry thoughts the child may currently be experiencing. Put the lid on the jar close your eyes and take deep breaths. The child is not to move from this position until the sparkles have all reached the bottom. I usually like to ring a bell to end the meditation. Signal the jar and the ending of all the negative thoughts and emotions with the sparkles being at the bottom of it.

 

Stone/Pebble 

-Have the child lay down in savasana and place the stone on their third eye (right between the eyebrows) have them focus on that area repeating the word “peace”. (You can play soft music or a guided meditation).

-Have the child sit in wise pose holding the stone in their hands. Saying the following or something similar: “Imagine all the things you don’t like, things/actions that make you feel bad, that may be getting in trouble arguing with the friend. Send all those feelings to the stone. Let the stone take all those bad thoughts and feelings. Stretch your arms out, inhale and on the exhale let go of the stone. Now you’ve let go of all those negative feelings. Fill your mind with all the things that make you happy, your mom/dad, playing etc. Slowly open your eyes and give me a huge smile”.

 

Color Visualization

-Have them lay down in savasana with eyes closed. Call out different colors, placing them in a particular body part for example, “feel the color blue coming out of your toes”. Go through standard colors (about 5-6) including black and finish with white filling their hearts and minds. Have them open their eyes and share their experience.

 

Savasana

-Prior to beginning a full savasana (which for most children 5 minutes is too long) tense all the parts in the body try to bring them up off the floor, feet, hands then release, open your mouth stick your tongue out and say ahhhhh, take a deep breath in hold it for a second open your mouth exhale and relax. Start relaxing the body parts starting from the toes to your head, say each one. Then have them concentrate on repeating the word “peace” have it fill their hearts and minds.

 

 

*Other tools that are helpful for relaxation: Essential oils, eye pillows, blankets, guided mediation music,  and bells (for signaling the beginning and end of the exercise).

Posted in Movement Yoga, Yoga Tagged , , , , , |

Making your own Headboard

 

My best friend is an incredible “do it yourself” home maker. With her expertise we made a headboard for my king size bed. It came out beautiful and would love to share with you all how easy it truly is. The two of us even carried it up a flight of stairs.

Step 1 – Measure out the height and width of the headboard.

Step 2 - purchase the materials.

  1. 1 sheet of plywood (cut according to the measurements of your bed can be purchased at any home improvement store)
  2. One 2X4 support board (52″ you can have the store cut these if you don’t have a saw)
  3. Two 2X6′s for the legs
  4. staple gun
  5. wood glue
  6. drill/screws
  7. foam (about 4 yards)
  8. fabric (about 5 yards, I wanted a little extra to make a matching pillow)

Items 1- 5 cost about $35.00.  Foam can be expensive but I purchased a full size bed foam at Walmart cost $13.00.  However, the main expense is the fabric. I really wanted intricate good quality fabric which cost me $40.00  The total cost of the headboard was $$88.00.

 

Step 3 – Glue and drill the 2X6′s to the edges of the plywood to create legs for the headboard. We had to measure and cut them first.  Then place the 2X4 at the top in between the legs.  You can also add a 2X4 at the bottom but I was trying to be as thrifty as possible.  Flip the whole thing over and get ready to attach the foam.

 

After the cutting, gluing and drilling it looked like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4 – Use spray adhesive to attach the foam to the plywood.  Because I was using a mattress pad, I made sure to have the pointed edges facing down. However, if you have very thick fabric it won’t make much of a difference which side you use.  Spray both the plywood and foam as you attach it.  Also, it may be best to do this a little bit at a time.  Don’t try to spray the entire thing all at one time. Also, make sure to stretch it as you glue do don’t want any bubbly areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5 – Now its time to start the fabric! Start from the center.  I did this for both the horizontal and vertical edges.  Then work your way out from the center making sure that the fabric is smooth and free of any buldges or ridges.  Note: you’ll want to staple the fabric from the back. Also, take note of the legs, they are upholstered separately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6 – Wash and iron the fabric before you upholster it to the headboard (if you purchased new fabric you can probably skip the washing part).The back doesn’t look really fancy but that’s because I opted not to cover it.  No one is going to see it anyway.

Headboard is complete!

   

Thank you so much Emily for all your help it came out awesome!

*To see more details and the original Headboard Do it Yourself tutorial visit: http://sawgrasshome.com

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Posted in Home Improvement Tagged , , |

Yoga as a Dancer

    I’ve always believed that I was born to be a dancer, a mover. Since I was very little my curiosity led me to listen and move my body to all sorts    of music, from opera to polyrhythmic Afro-Cuban music. I did become a dancer later in life not like most dancers who start training before five years old. I danced until I was five months pregnant. Then I thought for some reason, “maybe I should try something else, something more reliable and responsible”… I did, I became a teacher. In the meantime my study for yoga began and deepened with that constant need to move. I had begun to truly study yoga and it’s benefits during my pregnancy and I was doing yoga till the very end of my labor.

 

Three and a half years later I’m a certified 200 hr yoga instructor and children’s yoga instructor and I’ve started dancing once more. I left teaching a year ago and started my own yoga organization. I’m in the best shape and health condition I’ve ever been in my life and not to mention the happiest. Still, I thought maybe I could take up dance again…. I took on a project with a mixed abilities dance company (Karen Peterson and Dancers). Although at first I was hesitant.  My technique maybe a bit off or my spatial awareness may not function anymore etc. Those things did happen.  It was like riding a bike; soon after the ‘dancer’ muscle in my brain began to function and all those issues ceased to exist. However, what did happen was that I was a completely different dancer.

 

I wanted to feel others, dance with others, look at them and feel their body even if I wasn’t touching them. Over three years on a mat by myself creating a different kind of awareness led me to this urge to understand, to sense those around me. Surprisingly I even came to the conclusion that what I liked most was to dance with others as opposed to doing choreography side by side, even if the movement feels amazing and is beautifully crafted it is the physical connection with another human being in this different realm that I am most interested in.

 

Yoga I believe has not only made me more aware of myself (I don’t’ get ‘tired’ by dancing, I can control my breath making it even and steady) but it has led me to become more aware of others. Through movement I could feel the other persons intention, emotion and connection (or no connection) to me. In a world where technology seems to dominate more and more people touch and feel each other less and less it was pure bliss to have this experience.  I thank yoga and all my teachers for assisting in my journey to further understand myself. Now as a dancer I feel so much more fulfilled and joyful as I connect with others.

 

*A special thank you to Karen Peterson and all the dancers I was able to share this experience with.

For more information on Karen Peterson and Dancers visit: http://www.karenpetersondancers.org/

 

Posted in Yoga Tagged , , |

The Warrior Who Knows

This is a very short Movement Yoga story I made up early in my teaching days. I want to share it with other teachers and parents. It’s meant for children preschool aged as it is very short but, they seem to love it!

 

The Warrior Who Knows

There was once a warrior he would pick up all the good and  nice things people would say and (triangle) place them in his heart (prayer). All the negative and  not so nice things people would say (triangle) he would throw them away (elephant).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the story or at the end of the class you can have a variety of discussions regarding The Warrior Who Knows:

-What do you think Warrior knows?

-Obtaining good habits and getting rid of bad habits (What is a habit?)

-Good actions vs. bad actions (name a few and discuss)

-We all have a Warrior Who Knows inside of us

 

If you use the story in any way I would love to hear your experience!

 

 

Posted in Children's Book Journey, Movement Yoga Tagged , , , , , , |

Can yoga be a sport?

I recently came across an article about the Yoga Championship held in Washington DC. Immediately, I had a negative feeling towards it and questioned why?

 

The idea of Yoga becoming a “sport” is concerning.  In my personal life yoga is a practice and way of living.  When you see others who can do certain poses to their full potential you have great admiration but, never a sense of envy.  In labeling Yoga as a sport and placing it in a competitive arena you lose the essence of yoga, it is actually no longer yoga. It disturbs me that many individuals will be introduced to yoga in this fashion losing the beauty and true essence of it. I hope other true yoga practitioners will also speak up towards this issue.

 

What a contradiction a competition is to yoga… when your students sit or lay down at the beginning the class one of the first things a true teacher is taught to say is, “yoga is not a competition, listen to your body be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.”

 

Read more about the Yoga Championship here.

Posted in Yoga Tagged , , , |

Can Yoga be Harmful to your body?

Can yoga be harmful to your body? 

 

I observe individuals all the time in yoga class as they literally hop into a pose with no awareness of how their body is feeling.  On top of that they’re holding their breath. Yoga, like other sports and wellness exercises, can be harmful to your body if not done properly.   However, there is a lack of proper guidance in the western yoga world today.  Individuals are getting certified left and right with no prior knowledge or experience in yoga or teaching.  In addition, people often get certified and as time passes, do not not stay up to date through self practice or professional development.

 

My advice is that if you’re encountering yoga as a form of recovery or for simple exercise make sure to do your research.  Look up teachers, their background, experience and make sure to maintain awareness during class.  It is easy to forget that yoga isn’t a sport.  It is not a competition but, a journey into being more self aware.

 

Someone I truly admire shared the following two articles to me. The articles inspired me to write this brief blog and share them with others who are on a journey with yoga.

 

Who should be allowed to teach yoga?

How yoga can wreck your body?

 

 

Posted in Yoga Tagged , , , , |

Children’s Book Journey

After years of working with children and exploring movement I’ve decided to write a children’s book on Movement Yoga. I would like to share this experience with others and invite you all on my journey.

 

This blog should serve as a form of documentation. Not only in the analysis of the process but in documenting experiences in Movement Yoga and the yoga community. The information can vary from an in classroom experience to healthy food recipes and I am always open to advice.

 

I enjoy sharing articles, facts, theories etc. However, I would enjoy it further if there were an exchange about the information. Learning from one another is a concept we do not take enough advantage of.  I would like to be in tune with the thoughts of those around me particularly the parents of the students I teach on a weekly basis and share so much with.

 

I look forward to sharing my thoughts and Movement Yoga with you all.

 

Bernardette

 

Posted in Children's Book Journey Tagged , , , , , , |

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