Friday, March 30, 2012

Why I don't like The Hunger Games...

I will admit, I didn't read the book before going to see the movie. I didn't have a deep attachment to the story like others, but I understood the premise of the book thanks to one of my friends who sent me The Hunger Games for Dummies article. I knew the hype and stayed open to going because, well, all my friends were doing it. I will say, the movie was compelling and portrayed an interesting view of a post-apocalyptic society and the extremes we go to for reality TV...but when asked if I liked it, without blinking, I said "No." I felt it was too violent for me (someone like me who steers clear of conflict and gets nightmares from such images) and much too violent for the 50+ CHILDREN who were in the theatre that evening. This was a movie about kids killing kids. A week after seeing this movie, I still can not shake the image of the one child beating the other child over the head with a bloody brick. I can only imagine what is happening in the mind of a child who saw the same image. Or are we just that desensitized to images of violence that we think this is okay for children to see? I listened to my friends' (some of which are elementary school teachers) views of the movie and their responses to my shock of all the children who had come out that night to see it:
"Classrooms as young as 5th grade are reading this book."
"I know of one school who is taking their 5th graders on a class trip to see The Hunger Games."
Are you kidding me?? I'm a nurturer at heart. I teach children concepts of peace, compassion, respect, love and empathy every day on their mats, so that they can go out in the world and share it with everyone they come in contact with. Children are very impressionable and I see the way they cope with the world around them.

Some of my students in the 7-9yr old kids class came in this week talking about the movie...
"I saw Hunger Games!" "Yeah, me too!" At that point, one of 9 yr olds leaned over and whispered to me..."Those wolf-dog things gave me nightmares." I'm not surprised. Know any children with a fear of dogs in general? Well, I imagine them never stepping foot near a dog again after this. In the movie, not only do these "wolf-dogs" they chase the kids through the forest while foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal would, but they also rip apart Cato, the male tribute from District 2. To the audience, that's okay, because Cato is in essence the bully. He is described as "brutal and blood thirsty". The anger in his eyes scared me during the movie. I know, just a movie...but we often see this look in the eyes of troubled children and teens who take their anger and pain out on other children. Why waste so much time on the anti-bullying campaign if we're just encouraging our children to watch and read such stories packed with violence? Bullies? If we can't fight to the, let's just sick wild dogs on them? Problem solved. Oh, and how nice of the main character, Katniss, to shoot him with an arrow to put him out of his misery and pain after the attack.

Speaking of arrows...during the same class the other we're moving through Sun Salutation, we drop into Warrior 2 pose - arms out stretched, wide legged stance, strong and focused. While in the past I may have included the Bow and Arrow arms, today one of the 7 yr olds took it upon herself to add them. She pulled back with one arm as if holding a bow and arrow and shot the imaginary arrow across at another student. "I got you right in the heart!" she exclaimed. She thought this was funny. Oh. Dear. God. I quickly took them out of Warrior 2 and gave them the talk on violence and how unacceptable it is, especially in the Yoga studio. Another 7 yr old chimed in, "Yeah, that's not practicing your yoga!" I'm sad I had to even have this conversation on how violence is not funny. Time to breathe.

To the parents who are considering letting their children go to see The Hunger Games: This is not a family film. Please know what you are getting into...understand the dark plot surrounding this movie. Yes, children are exposed to so much these days, as we live in an age of information, but before you allow your child to see this movie, ask yourself - is this the message you want to convey to your 7 or 9yr old? Or even to your 16yr old? The Hunger Games grossed $155 million plus in the box office over the past week. It is one of the most circulated books in the library systems. Scholastic has sold over 17.5 million copies. My question...what does this have to say about our society and how we are raising our children?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mindfulness and Meditation Activities for Children

Looking forward to a great workshop this weekend with my teacher, Jennifer Cohen Harper!

Mindfulness and Meditation Activities for Children:
Every day children are told to pay attention, yet we never actually teach them how to do this! This course offers you ways to introduce children to a mindfulness practice that both engages them, and gives them space to listen to their own thoughts and feelings. Includes both still and moving meditations. Help children tune in, focus better, make sense of their emotions, make good decisions, and experience a richer and more fulfilling day to day experience of life.

If you're in the area, I highly recommend you attend! Register here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

8 Limbs of Yoga Obstacle Course

Yoga is not just about the poses - it's a way of life! The 8 Limbs of Yoga are guidelines on how to live the best life we can live. They teach us about ourselves, others, the world we live in and how we can connect with it. They teach us awareness, control, balance, focus and health. The Alluem Kids mastered the 8 Limbs of Yoga - one limb a week for 8 weeks!
We celebrated with an 8 Limbs of Yoga Obstacle Course!

Music by: Grace Jeanette - This is Me

Sunday, March 18, 2012

8 Limbs of Yoga in Review!

We did it! We learned the 8 Limbs of Yoga in 8 weeks!
My favorite Limb of Yoga is:
"Pranayama - sometimes I get very nervous and if I do slow deep breaths it makes me feel calm and relaxed." - age 10
"Asana - the poses are what bring out my flexibility." - age 12
"Pratyahara - we use our 5 senses all the time so it's good to slow down and be aware of them one at a time." - age 10
"Niyamas - I like to know that I care for myself." - age 10
"Asana - I like bending myself into yummy pretzels." - age 10
"Pranayama - breathing is very important." - age 7
"Yamas - I like to care about people and have awareness" - age 9
"Dyhana - it helps me calm down and clear my mind. This way I can concentrate on my school work, falling alseep, etc. without any worries or concerns." - age 11

If you could make a 9th Limb of Yoga, what would it be?:
"Wallianah - making change in the world one person at a time." - age 10
"Denyana - helping the poor and others who do not have a lot of food or money." - age 11
"Aelmanieana - giving back to the community." - age 11
"Namasteana - helping people in need." - age 9
"Mooseyathara - to be aware of the people who care for you." - age 10
"Miayamas - levitating." - age 10
"Funayama - having fun all the time no matter what." - age 10
"Briyama - finding your limits." - age 12
"Yasana - being yourself." - age 8
"Latepian - trust in everyone and trust in yourself." - age 10
"Chlonayama - thinking of others." - age 10

Thursday, March 15, 2012

8 Limbs of Yoga - Week 8: Samadhi

Here's where we put it all together - the 8th limb of yoga is Samadhi - union - true yoga. This is what we work for in our practice. The asana (poses) and pranayama (breath work) prepares us for dharama (concentration). Once we have dharama, dyhana (meditation) comes easier so we can find samadhi. Samadhi is the connection that first happens between our mind and our bodies. We find peace in ourselves and with that comes joy and fulfillment so that we can see our hopes, wishes and dreams even clearer. These things cannot be bought. They can only be experienced. And we must realize this takes practice. We practice on our mats and off our mats every day. Once we find the peace within, we can find the peace in the world that already exists, but may be masked by every day trials and tribulations. When we find that peace in the world, we realize there is no me or mine. No us verses them. There is no separation. We accept what is with grace. This is samadhi.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

8 Limbs of Yoga - Week 7: Dhyana

The 7th limb of yoga is Dyhana - Meditation. Meditation is a single-pointed focus. It is a practice that takes complete concentration. When we find that point in a comfortable seated position, we can find a peace with in our minds and our hearts. Meditation helps us cope with feelings that seem beyond our control - with anxiety, anger, sadness, shyness, fears. The longer we sit, the more in control we become of our minds and emotions.
But of course, meditation does not have to happen only when you're sitting! You can meditate while walking, running, or riding your bike. You can meditate while creating art - painting, drawing, coloring a mandala. So many ways!
Some great books to help kids with meditation:
Teaching Meditation to Children: The Practical Guide to the Use and Benefits of Meditation Techniques by David Fontana
Under the Rose Apple Tree by Thich Nhat Hanh
Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee Maclean
Relax Kids: The Wishing Star: 52 Magical Meditations for Children by Marneta Viegas

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Purpose and Focus

I know it's not yoga related, but PS22 of Staten Island is blowing my mind right now! I've never seen a group of more passionate (not to mention talented) kids! See what happens when you bring focus and purpose to your children.
PS22 Chorus was formed in the year 2000. We are an ever-changing group of 5th graders from a public elementary school in Staten Island, New York. We are NOT a school for the arts or a magnet program.
PS22 Chorus has been featured on Oprah, Nightline, Good Morning America, The Today Show, MTV, Sesame Street, and, perhaps most notably, at the 2011 Academy Awards, closing the show with a stunning rendition of "Somewhere of Over The Rainbow!"
The chorus has performed for President Obama, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Stevie Nicks and a host of others. The kids have sung with Katy Perry, Queen Latifah, Tori Amos, Kylie Minogue, Celtic Woman, Crowded House, Freelance Whales, Little Dragon, V V Brown, and many more amazing artists! They even sang backup vocals on the critically acclaimed album Manners from Passion Pit!

A couple more of my favs:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

8 Limbs of Yoga - Week 6: Dharana

Sometimes it can really feel like we're living in a video game. Lights, sounds, shapes, and colors flying at us head on. How hard it is for us to concentrate when we live a world of over stimulation! This week is 6th limb of yoga, Dharana - concentration. Concentration is like a muscle - it takes some training if you want it to be strong. There are many ways to practice concentration in the yoga classroom:
1 - Drishti - Our Drishti helps us to focus and balance. When working with balance poses, such as Tree or Eagle, it is important to find something in the room that is not moving and stare at it with all our might. This is our Drishti. When we focus on our Drishti, our balance improves and our ability to focus increases.
2 - Memory - What we do on one side of our Sun Salutation, we must do on the other. String a series of 3 - 4 poses and see if the kids can remember what needs to happen on the other. Let them call it out!
3 - Visualization - When we're in a state of relaxation, our minds are clearer and more able to think, dream, and create for mental pictures like we do for visualizations. My favorite guided visualization...The Balloon Ride.
4 - Buddha Board - The Buddha Board is a Zen concept based on living in the moment. After painting a design on the surface with water, the design slowly starts to evaporate. The challenge is to sit, focus, and watch. This can take 5-7 minutes and can be quite the challenge at any age. How often do we just sit? Practice. The longer you sit, the more peaceful you become. And as the Buddha Board slowly clears, so does your mind.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss would've been celebrating his 108 Birthday today! In honor of his birthday, 108 Sun Salutations!! Who's in??
In yesterday's article in the Huffington Post, author of The Mindful Child, Susan Kaiser Greenland writes:
"Dr. Seuss has demonstrated time and time again that, when it comes to teaching abstract concepts to children, it's OK to set the bar high. Tomorrow marks his 108th birthday and his books have informed my work in ways that I doubt he could have imagined. In his unique and playful style, Dr. Seuss translated big ideas, ones that adults often struggle to grasp, into language that even young children can understand. For instance, in one of his most famous books Oh... the Places You Will Go, Dr. Seuss articulated two key, universal concepts quite simply: That suffering is part of life with "I'm sorry to say so / but, sadly, it's true / that Bang-ups / and Hang-ups / can happen to you;" and that a moderate or middle approach to almost everything tends to be a good idea with "Be sure when you step. / Step with care and great tact / and remember that Life's / a Great Balancing Act."
To read here