Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Tribute
Memorial Day marks the start of the summer, but it's not just about BBQs and the beach. The Alluem Kids recognized the soldiers who serve our country and the fallen soldiers who fought with honor.
They are our heroes.
For them we are grateful.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alluem Kids Memorial Day Picnic!

Memorial Day Family Picnic!!!
Sunday, May 30th 12pm
Celebrate the unofficial start of the summer by the river! Bring your family and join your child after the Alluem Kids Class for a Memorial Day Weekend Pot Luck Picnic outside on the patio! Please arrive at 12pm to join your child by the river for a special dedication to our fallen soldiers. Show your gratitude for those who fight for our freedom.
Please bring a dish or dessert to share with the group! Beverages will be provided! Raffle prizes and loads of fun!!!!
Former Alluem Kids are welcome to join the fun for Sunday Morning class - $15 to drop in! Then stay to picnic with us!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Think, I Am

Louise Hay has been spreading the word that "Your thoughts create your life!". Through her books, she has been shaping the lives of adults since the 1970s. Her first book "Heal Your Body", discussed the mind body connection long before it was a hot topic. She introduced positive thought patterns to replace negative emotions, healing yourself body and mind. I presented her children's book to the Alluem Kids this weekend, I Think, I Am. We discussed the meaning and power of affirmations and there is no better book to discuss this topic with kids then Louise Hay's. Kids are introduced the difference between negative thoughts and positive affirmations. It's filled with examples on how to make the change from negative thoughts into positive actions. After reading the story, I had the kids come up with their own affirmation and make a little sign that they could take home and hang on their mirrors, over their beds, or on their doors. Repeating an affirmation over and over again can promote change. And that's exactly what they did during their 3 minute and 30 second meditation. Adding some play to the lesson, we put together our own Affirmation Web. The kids passed inspirational affirmations around a circle using a ball of twine. Taking hold of one end and rolling it from child to child as the twine criss-crossed it's way around, we came up with a web of affirmations - perfect for practicing Spider Pose in!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer Clothes

School will be out soon and your kids are going to want to let go and play. Your kid need summer play clothes.
Why not make it an Alluem Kids Tee???
Lightweight - Durable - 100% Fine Cotton - American Apparel
Available sizes - 8, 10, 12, and adult small

Saturday, May 22, 2010

All the sounds in the universe...even cheesecake.

During my teacher training with Little Flower Yoga, we were taught to describe the meaning of Om to children by telling them that Om is the sound that is made when all the sounds in the universe come together. I love it and the kids get it. Sometimes we name all the sounds we hear in that moment and then add our voices to those sounds bringing them all together to make one sound - OM. A Karma Kids Trainee who I met last weekend taught me a great little way to bring that definition to life. Ask the kids to each pick a 3 letter word (the, dog, cat, pie, bob). If we all sing our chosen word the same way we sing Om, the sound that is made from the mix of words will sound exactly like the sound of Om. We tried it and it worked! We then tried it with any one syllable word and that worked, too! Then I had a student who wanted to try it with a 10 letter word...but I didn't think "cheesecake" would quite fit. ;-)
I talked a bit with the kids about the power of sound and the power of speech. Speech is a very powerful thing. What we say to other people can have the potential to impact a person in a good way or a bad way. Our words can encourage...I asked for some examples. "You are beautiful.", "You are smart.", You have a lot of talent." Our words can hurt...I used one of my student's tee shirt as an example. Her tee shirt had a picture of a muffin and a cupcake and it said "Muffins are just ugly cupcakes." I asked them to think about how the muffin would feel after being called ugly. I mean, muffins have feelings, too. I reminded the students that we want the words that we chose
to influence the world, then we should strive to stay positive.
Word stay with us. The more we hear something, the more it sticks, the more we believe it. Mantras are sounds or words that can create change. The use of a mantra varies according to different cultures, but in yoga we mainly use a mantra privately during meditation or in a group to join together as a unit. A mantra can be something many use, such as Om, Peace, Love, Amen. Or a mantra can be something that is very private to you - a favorite quote, a poem, a prayer. I shared a mantra with my class that my teacher uses at the end of every class:
Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bahvantu
May all beings everywhere be filled with peace, joy, love, and light.
I broke it down with the children and we sung it together. A mini kirtan if you will. Being a first year teacher, I'm never sure how kids will respond to the new practices that I bring into their worlds. These kids have such open hearts, they never cease to amaze. Their voices were beautiful and filled the room! As we were leaving class, I even heard one of my students humming the tune...and my other student was still after cheesecake.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another way to see...

The Alluem Little Kids and I have been working on our 5 senses over the past few weeks. The first sense we worked with was sight and this past weekend we worked with touch. We read from a collection of pet storybooks such as Extraordinary Pets and my favorite Dr. Seuss Touch & Feel Book Wet Pet, Dry Pet, Your Pet, My Pet. We discussed how all living things, pets, plants, and ourselves, need to be handled with care.
This past weekend, I pulled it all together and learned my lesson...after class I took nap. About 20 minutes into my nap I woke up with a sharp pain in my contact had adhered itself to my eye, a problem I've had before. In a rush to relieve the pain, (warning: not for weak stomachs), I ripped my contact out of my eye, tearing my cornea right along with it. Needless to say, I did not handle with care and for the next 4 hours I cried as I sat waiting for the doctor to see me in the Emergency Room. Since the pain was too much when the lid passed over the eye, I held it closed with a cool compress. When the doctor finally came to exam my eye and forced it open, I found my perfect opportunity to practice my deep breathing through the tears and tremors. Inhaling to the count of 4, exhaling to the count of 5. Long deep breaths helped slow down my heart rate and calm me down. Thank you, yoga. The doctor confirmed I had a severely torn
cornea in my right eye and sent me home with a patch and drops. For the next couple of days at home, it still hurt to blink, even with the patch helping to keep my eye I left both eyes closed the majority of the time. In all honesty, I have a new found respect for the blind. I could not imagine what it would be like to permanently be without sight. We often take these things for granted - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting. It shouldn't take a torn cornea for us to slow down and appreciate what we have...I really don't recommend it!!
To bring this appreciation of sight to our children, I recalled one of the most beautifully illustrated children's books - The Seeing Stick by Jane Yolen. In this book the Emperor of China has a daughter who has been blind since birth. Her father wants nothing more for her to be able to see, so he offers up an award to anyone who can make that happen. He is surprised when a ragged old man approaches them with his Seeing Stick - a stick in which the old man has carved the saga of his travels into. When he explains how you do not need only your eyes to see, but can use your hands to feel, another way of seeing is revealed. It is a beautifully written story that goes right to the heart. And as the young girl grows, she shares her gift of sight with other children just like her.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The World Needs Your Kid

I recently came across an amazing book from Me to We Books - "The World Needs Your Kid":

Me to We is a social enterprise that challenges people to help change our world by using their daily choices...and it starts with our children. This Canadian based organization is doing amazing things to help shape children not into the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today. Children have a voice and Me to We is helping them find it in each child and teen that they work with. I was truly in awe when I learned of Craig and Marc Kielburgers' story. I encourage you to visit their site as well as their charity partner Free the Children. There is an overabundance of information, inspiration, and tools to empower your children or your classroom. Visit the site, read the books, get your kids involved! Incredible stuff here!!!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bring your Mom to Yoga!

Motherhood, n. 1. The origin of life. 2. The shepherding of hope. 3. The teaching of love. 4. An example of selflessness. 5. A chance to positively change the world. (No Greater Love by Loren Slocum)
Sunbathing on a Rock (aka Mom)

Family Down Dog!

Headstands with a little support from Mom.
Happy Mother's Day to all the Alluem Moms!!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mindful Yogis

As the Alluem Kids arrived to class, I wanted them to start warming up their mindfulness skills. I had them write down all the sounds they heard around them (even helped them out by fake sneezing, whistling, etc.). When I ask the kids to be mindful, I'm asking them to tune in to what is going on right here, right now. How do you feel right now? What do you hear right now? Moving into our meditation (we're right at 3 and a half minutes now), I told the kids I would be creating noise to distract them. Realizing a sound can trigger a thought, that becomes another thought and another thought, I asked the kids how we could stop that snowball effect of thoughts from interrupting our meditation time? One of my 9 yr olds said, "By focusing on one thing." I asked what that one thing could be? And a 10 yr old proudly answered, "Your breath!" Awesome.
In Linda Lantieri's book Building Emotional Intelligence, we are told to think of our breath as an anchor. I had the kids describe the function of an anchor to me. "Someone on a boat drops an anchor unto the water when they want the boat to stop. When the anchor hits the ground, the boat can't move." I told the kids that today our breath would be the anchor. Our thoughts drift around in our head, like a boat drifts around on the water, but we always have the ability to drop the anchor, coming into our breath.That is being mindful.
In Lantieri's "Pay Attention" exercise, the kids are reminded to focus on their breath throughout the meditation. As distractions are added to the mix (ringing a bell, knocking on the floor, clapping, whistling, etc.), the kids are to acknowledge the sound by simply saying the name of the sound (or even just saying "Sound") and then bringing the focus back to the breath. They can even encourage the breath by silently saying "Inhale...Exhale...".
To further the mindfulness focus, we talked a bit about how we can be mindful in our every day tasks. There are a lot of things we do everyday without thinking because they tend to be mindless tasks...brushing our teeth, eating, walking a familiar path to school. Maybe we are distracted by our thoughts or by external influences. Practicing mindfulness in the simple things in life by bringing our full attention to whatever the task is, can help prepare us when we need to be fully aware of a challenging circumstance - like doing homework, taking a test, learning to drive, public speaking, performing surgery (things your child may eventually do!). So, starting small we began with the good ol' "Pat Your Head and Rub Your Stomach" in Mountain Pose. While this may come easy to some, this often takes focus and concentration for children. To make it harder, we tried it in Tree Pose adding balance to the mix. Next we broke out the blocks and put all of our attention on balancing the block in Mountain Pose...then Tree Pose, Chair Pose, Warrior I, Warrior II, and finally walking around. With all the focus on balancing the block in the poses, the kids barely noticed they were also working on good posture! Double whammy!
The proudest moment of the class came when it was time for our Sun Salutations. I did the first round with them, as I always do. For the second round, I decided that it was time for them to put on their mindful ears and listen to my vocal instructions instead of watching me as they normally do. They flowed through the whole round beautifully and I almost cried as they lowered their hands to their hearts at the end. So proud of my mindful little yogis!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yoga Stones

At the end of each class while the children are in Savasana, I come around with scented lotion for their hands if they want it. Before moving to the next child, I touch the center of the his or her forehead - the 3rd eye. I remember the first time this was done to me in my very first yoga class 8 years ago. I wondered why my teacher did that...was there something on my forehead? No clue. She continued to do this at the end of every class I attended and I accepted it as an endearing touch...a little hug of sorts. Through my years of yoga studies, I found that it had a deeper meaning.
This spot in the center of the forehead has been known as the 3rd Eye for centuries. It has also been called the "Inner Eye", the "Mind's Eye", the "All Knowing Eye", the "Higher Consciousness". In some Eastern and Western traditions, it symbolizes "enlightenment". In scientific terms, it is known as the Pineal Gland - the pea-sized spot between the two hemispheres of the brain. This gland is activated by light and releases melatonin during relaxation or meditation. When we deeply relax in a meditative state, we strive to become separate from all external hindrances. We block out all noise and all thoughts. We aim to stay in the present, focusing on breath. When our third eye is touched by our teachers, we are encouraged to go deeper into our consciousness - focusing on that which brings us light - the present.
Through research, we have found that this gland is larger in children and shrinks over time. There is no better time to start bringing attention to the 3rd eye in my young students then now! When deciding how to do so, I decided story-telling and guided visualization would be the best route.
I picked up the book Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. I chuckled the whole way through it as the main character gives you the 10 rules to picking a rock..."and not just any rock, but a special rock that you find yourself and keep it for as long as your can, maybe forever." As I read, the kids were amused by the rules, like "A rock as big as an apple is too big...a rock as big as a horse is MUCH too big." And as an illustrator myself, I must point out how Peter Parnall's line drawn illustrations in this book remind us that simpler can be better. These days when children are often taught bigger, better, louder...this book shows us, really, it's the little things that matter most.
After the story, I had the kids prepare themselves for Savasana and (with some inspiration from The Pranamama) took the children on a visual journey to find their own rock, or Yoga Stone, and ultimately bring attention to their 3rd Eye:

"Lay back and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Close your eyes and place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Feel your belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. As you slow your breathing down, feel your heart slow down. This is your time to relax…your reward for all the hard work you’ve done. Imagine yourself feeling more peaceful then you’ve ever felt before. Take a deep inhale and then exhale the word “peace”. Use your Peace Breath and imagine yourself walking through a field of the softest green grass you have ever seen under the bluest sky you have ever seen. The sun is shining down warming your shoulders and somehow you know this is your special place – a place no one else knows about.

You walk a little further and spot a tree. You decide to take a rest in the cool shade of the tree. Lay back on the ground and let the earth support you from head to toe. It is SO peaceful here. As you settle in for Savasana, you reach your hand over to the right. You feel something on the ground and pick it up. It’s a stone. You look at it closely feeling the smooth edges, feeling how it sits in the palm of your hand. You can tell it’s been shaped by the wind in the meadow and your hands are the first to have ever held this stone. Some may think – it’s just a stone. But it’s not just any stone, it’s a special stone – a Yoga Stone. What makes it so special? What makes it a Yoga Stone? You think about this and place the stone on your forehead – right in the center. Yogis say this is where your 3rd eye is – our internal eye – the eye that sees what’s going on in our heads. It’s also known as our conscious. Placing the yoga stone on our 3rd eye brings us awareness, allowing you to quiet your mind, allowing you to find complete peace and comfort. You are able to relax your entire body here under the tree with your yoga stone…inhaling and exhaling. And now that you’ve found this field, you know you can return here anytime you want or need to with your Yoga Stone to find peace and relaxation.

When you’re ready to go, you take your Yoga Stone in your hand. You hold it tightly and start to stretch. Arms over head, then hugging your knees into your chest. Slowly sitting up , take your Yoga Stone between both hands at heart’s center. Take good care of your Yoga Stone. Keep it in a safe spot. Sit up tall and take a deep breath in for the sound of Om."