Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wanderlust - Yoga and Music Festival!

Back from what can only be described as one of the most amazing weekends of my life thus far, I'm on what they call a "Yoga High"! I spent the weekend at the beautiful Stratton Mountain in Vermont with several of the Alluem teachers and a collection of some of the world's most renowned yogis - such as Sean Corne, Bryan Kest, John Friend, and so many more!
I not only walked away from this weekend with a wealth of knowledge in regards to my practice, but I am also able to notice the light within me shining brighter. I often refer to this light with the Alluem Kids as our "Heart Light". It is the light that is within all of us that glows bright when we do what we love, spend time with people we love, and share our love with others. It's also used to send love to people we care about and people who need a little extra love - maybe even people we don't know personally.
I think it was said best in the "Play. Love. Serve." class that I took with Suzanne Sterling and Kerri Kelly, as we were encouraged to find our inner 5 yr old and set her free (which is really not hard for me at all!), in the quote we chanted in a woven human community circle - “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." - Rumi
How we live, how we work, how we play, how we show up in the world - makes a huge impact in our lives and the lives of those around us. Let the light within us be what drives us forward. Amen to that.
Just a few of the amazing lights from Alluem Yoga enjoying class with
Sean Corne and Michael Franti!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Time for Bed

Just like Savasana is one of the most important parts of our practice, sleep is one of the most important parts of our day. Without sleep, we couldn't function. Our bodies need rest.
It's great for children to set up a bedtime routine:
-Make sure the bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark.
-Try to go to bed the same time every night. Your body will get used to winding down to get ready for rest.
-Do plenty of moving during the day. Play, run, dance, ride your bike, take a walk. Get that energy out at least 3 hours before bedtime so your body will be ready for sleep.
-Don't eat a heavy meal before bed. Make sure you eat dinner several hours before lying down to sleep. If your body is concentrating on digesting, it won't be able to concentrate on sleeping.
-Don't drink sodas with caffeine in them, expecially in the evening. Caffeine makes you hyper and jittery - exaclty how your don't want to feel before bed!
-Have a bedtime routine. Do the same relaxing activities before bed - read a book, take a warm shower or bath, draw or journal, listen to quiet music, meditate.

There are also some Yoga Poses to help ease you into sleep - poses you can do right in your bed or bedside!
-Fists of Fire: If you have a crazy amount of energy that you just need to burn off before lying down, come to stand up into a Lunge Pose. As you raise your arms up, just like you would for Warrior 1, take a deep inhale. Quickly pull the arms back down drawing your fists to your sides and take a forceful exhale! Inhale up, exhale pull! Repeat going faster and faster. Come to Mountain Pose, close the eyes, even the breath, then repeat on the other side.
-Slow Down: Take some easy stretches to slow down the body. Do whatever feels good - Forward Bends, Cat and Cow, Knee Down Twists, Nose to Knee, Child's Pose, Reclined Butterfly. Listen to your body.
-Open Your Heart: Many times our days are spent with our bodies hunched over - at our desks, carrying heavy back packs, doing homework, playing video games. Come into a Bridge Pose right in your bed. Bend your knees and place your feet flat. Lift your hips up to the sky, leaving your head and shoulders down, getting a slight arch in the back. Open the shoulders, clasping hands and straightening arms underneathe your body. Breathe.
-Deep Belly Breathing: Lying on your back, place your hands on your belly. As you inhale watch your belly rise, making room for your lungs to expand. As you exhale, watch the belly fall pushing out all the stale air. To make it a little more interesting, spell your whole name - first, middle, and last - as you breathe. Inhale deeply and on the exhale say the first letter of your name silently to yourself. Inhale deeply and on the exhale say the second letter of your name silently to yourself. And so on...
-Legs Up the Wall: We've all had that restless feeling when lying in bed - the feeling like your feet will never stop moving. When this happens, take a Legs Up the Wall Pose. Sit as close as you can to the wall, and swing your feet up the wall as your back lies flat on the bed or the ground in an "L" shape. Let the blood flow from the feet. Relax into it.
-Relax the Mind: Sometimes it seems like we will never stop thinking. But when it's time to sleep, it's time to quiet the mind. Visualize a most peaceful place - somewhere you feel safe and calm. Imagine every little detail. Go there in your mind. Use a mantra - find a calming word or statement, like "peace", "love", or "I am safe.", "I am calm.", and repeat them in your mind over and over again. Try Sa, Ta, Ma, Na.
Just be aware. Help ease your child into a more restful sleep so he or she can shine bright every day!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Balloon Ride

After a visualization or meditation with children, it is always good to reflect. Give time to the children to express what they are feeling in the moment. Let them tell you if it was difficult for them or easy and enjoyable. Let them tell you what they saw, what they heard, and most importantly how they felt. Allow them to write or draw their experience. For the "Balloon Ride Script" mentioned below, I put together a guided Free Draw Worksheet - great for the little ones!
And just for fun...balloon-asana!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What's that feeling?

It was his first yoga class and he was bouncing all over the place...understandable for a 7 year old! Not a problem at all - it's how children that age figure out to be in their growing and changing bodies!! And you've got to love the energy! At the end of class, like always, we ended in Savasana - deep relaxation. We take this time to slow down our bodies and minds and give ourselves the rest we deserve after what may have been a challenging class.
We closed our class and he approached me polite as can be, "Excuse me - after we laid down and stayed still, why did I feel so weird when I sat up?" as he made his arms look limp along side his body to emphasize the feeling. "Oh," I said "you felt relaxed." Relaxed. "Oh. Okay." he said. And when I asked him if it felt good, he nodded. It dawned on me that this child may have never experienced the feeling of relaxation. So this week, I'm dedicating all my classes to relaxation!
One of my favorite books, "The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids", is packed full of help for children to cope with stress, anxiety, and transitions in life. And for kids, if you make it creative, fun, and imaginative, then it will be effective.
This week in my classes, I've been using "The Balloon Ride Script" (with my own little twist here and there), which has captured children of all ages (and has even sent some into a light sleep). Relaxing on their backs, hands on their stomachs, they began with some deep belly breathing:
Did you ever see someone just let go of a balloon on a string? Did you watch it float up? It's hard to take your eyes off that.
What if we could let go of our worries, problems, and mixed-up feelings, and allow them to just float away out of sight? That would feel awesome. OR we could take a trip up in a balloon ourselves, the kind you can ride in. We are going to relax our bodies and out minds and see where the wind takes us. Ready?
First, just let yourself get comfy. Feel all your muscles relax and let go. Feel your heartbeat slow down and say to yourself, "I am relaxed." Take 3 long deep breaths.
Imagine you are in a big field, and in the middle of the field is an enormous hot-air balloon. The balloon has so many different beautiful colors and a comfy basket for you to ride in. The basket is safely tied to the balloon, which is controlled by hot air inside it. Just stay relaxed and notice what is going on around you. There is no right or wrong way to imagine this. Do your best to imagine what colors you can see on your balloon. Listen to the sound of the whooshing air filling the balloon. It makes a wonderful sound, long and slow.
You are feeling completely safe and relaxed on this trip, and maybe you will want to go with a friend or grown-up that makes you feel safe. Maybe you want to bring your dog or cat. Or maybe you just want to go by yourself.
As you get into the basket, you can hear the great whooshing sound of the balloon's air, almost like deep, slow breaths in and out. The big ropes are released and you are lifted off, going up, up, up. And you are feeling completely safe and relaxed. The field, the big trees on the ground, the houses, everything below you seems to be growing smaller as you float higher and higher. Can you see anything else below you? Clouds? Birds? Boats on a lake? Just notice it all and say to yourself again, "I am relaxed." It feels so good to just float away. The sky is like a big, blue dream, and you can feel the gentle wind blow across your face. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. It feels good. You can hear the creaking of the ropes and the quiet whoosh of the balloon. As you rise, you feel every muscle become loose and relaxed. Anything the you were worrying about before left, any big feeling you had, any problems are just getting smaller and smaller, and it feels so good to just let them go, and you say to yourself, "I am relaxed."
As you look out over the edge of the basket, you see that you are floating over the tops of the highest mountains. Passing by the tops of the tallest buildings in the biggest cities. Flying over the bluest oceans. There is only wind and air and a light and happy feeling of being safe and free. Notice how this feels in your body. Just enjoy how good it feels.
Now slowly, slowly the balloon begins to gently descend, to get lower. You begin to see shapes on the ground, the tops of trees, and roofs of houses. Cars on the street look tiny, but are slowly getting bigger. Remember as you come back you are bringing that magical, peaceful feeling of relaxation and calm. You see the field beneath you as you gently, gently move nearer, downward toward it.
Finally you are almost on the ground. With a gentle thud, the balloon basket touches, and when you are ready, you step out. (Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground.) Feel the bottom of your feet touching the earth. It's been a wonderful ride. You say to yourself, "I am relaxed." Slowly wiggle your fingers and begin to stretch your arms. Notice how good you feel when your body and mind are relaxed. Remember that anytime you feel worried or feel like problems are too big, you have the power to relax and make them get little. Remember this special balloon ride and what you saw and how good it felt. And know you can return here and go up anytime, using your breath. It's all yours."
Enjoy and share this great visualization with your own kids!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bonding Through the Tween Years

The time we spend with our children becomes more and more precious as they approach the teenage years. For two Saturday afternoons, I had the privilege to spend time with an amazing group of Alluem Moms and their tweens. Moving through breath work, asana (yoga poses), and communication activities - I loved every second of watching the bonds grow strong between these mothers and their children.
These tween years aren't always the easiest. Our children take this time of their lives in a search to define themselves, sometimes sending emotions to run wild. They form bonds with friends who you may or may not like. Their interests are just starting to set in and their strengths and weaknesses push through. They need independence and we need connection. Fortunately for those of us who practice yoga, we can learn to breathe through it all and find ways to deal from the lessons we learn on our mats.
-Take 5 Breathing: When the emotions start to get out of control, bring it back to the breath. Inhale to the count of 5, exhale to the count of 5. Even the breath and find balance. Deep breathing will automatically lower the level of anxiety in the body. And taking 5 seconds can help us regroup before we react in a way we may regret.
-Tense and Release: Practice creating tension to remind the body that you can in fact let it go. Make fists with the hand, tighten up all the muscles in the arms, raise the shoulders up to the ears, squeeze the eyes tightly shut, take a deep breath in, hold it - then LET IT ALL GO. Relax.
-Partner Stretching: Buddy up and work together through easy seated stretches. Be gentle and communicate with each other. Stretch the muscles and smile.
-Partner Balance: Lightly support each other into challenging balance poses. Be there for your child, palms open trying not to grasp or grab on tight. Let your child learn to lean on you for a little, but know when to let go and let them find their balance on their own. They will fall and you should let them. This is how they learn to get up and keep going. This will make them stronger.
-Mindful Listening: Take time each day to really listen to each other. For 3 minutes each, take turns sharing the reasons why you love them, what traits you admire the most, what makes them a special part of your life. Then let them share the same. Don't talk or interject, let them speak. Just listen.
-Relax: Be quiet and breathe together. Sometimes it's just nice to be there with each other, nothing to do, nowhere to go, just be.

While planning this workshop, there came a point when I started to cry. I was listening to Taylor Swift's "Never Grow Up" and just thinking about my own relationship with my mom - how she was always there for me, always encouraging me, always listening, always lifting me up when I fell. I've learned so much from her and still continue to. Her strength is unbelievable and she is my hero. I am truly blessed to be her daughter. Thanks, Mom.

Thank you to all who attended these workshops. If you are interested in the soundtrack, CDs will be made available upon request for a $20 donation to the Off the Mat Into the World - Seva Challenge Haiti (cash or check - please make checks payable to The Engage Network). Please email alluemyoga@verizon.net.