rEvolve

yoga & doula stories to inspire

I Teach Postnatal Yoga

Which is probably why it’s been 6 months since I’ve blogged.  All this wiggling and hopping and downward dogging keeps one REALLY busy.

Actually, I really dont have time to say much except that working with families as a Doula and an instructor for Prenatal, Postnatal, and Kids Yoga is AMAZING!!

Mom’s are strong and sensitive and silly. Image

Babies are patient and adorable and…

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Hard to describe with words.

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Which reminds me that I need to take more pictures!

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four days to doula

I just spent an incredible four days at Portland’s Mama Baby Center training in one of the oldest professions: birth partner.  Deb Catlin of Side by Side Birth Doula Workshops led 11 doulas-to-be through the physical, intellectual, emotional & spiritual aspects of pregnancy, birth, and beyond.  Each day she nourished us with incredible food as we talked, questioned, role-played, and experienced the trials and triumphs of birth.

I’m exhausted and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude at the miracle of life!   Much like a new mama must feel the minute her tiny baby is placed in her arms: mission accomplished!  Deb’s lessons and tools have given me considerable faith in the awesome power of the birth process and for the first time in my life I feel certain that I will know this process…someday.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to supporting families as they welcome their newest addition.

I love babies of ALL shapes and sizes!!

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Mandala Poses

Last week we created beautiful mandala images from My First Mandalas Coloring Book, and this week we did yoga poses in the round. Mandala shapes can be medatative and relaxing to look at or color, and students really became immersed: listening to soft nature sounds and drawing quietly in thier own corner of the room.  We talked about how improtant it is to give our minds a rest in helpful ways instead of just turning on the TV or playing video games.  Art, singing, dancing, playing in the park are things that students suggested to help them to be more “mindful” – a vocabulary word they are now using quite comfortably!! Awesome!!

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Mandala Pose! Oh, how I will miss those toes…

This week it was fun to play in Buddy Poses – especially those requiring balance or stamina!  After joining everyone in to a circle, students enjoyed suggesting poses that would make cool Mandalas with our bodies. We learned some challenging new balances like Temple, Crow, and Half Moon!

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Yoga Homework

As my After-School Yogis put on their shoes and backpacks I hopefully asked the 3rd 4th and 5th graders, “Okay, what’s your yoga homework this week?” and was surprised to get a variety of spot on answers:

“To think of each thing as we do it…?”

“To sit up straight!”

“Be a Mindful Monkey!!”

I high fived and marveled at their listening skills. Seriously? We read the book “Mindful Monkey Happy Panda” by Alderfer & MacLean ONCE and they actually got it.  The story is short and sweet, teaching the simple lesson of mindful living in our daily activities.  A distracted and wild-minded Monkey asks peaceful Panda for his secret to happiness.  “True Happiness…comes from bringing all your attention to whatever you are doing right now…” says the Panda and provides a variety of examples: “When I eat I am just eating… when I play, I am just playing.”

Of course as I was reading this book, my mind was busy planning how it would work into my lesson for yoga class and whether students would think it was cool or not.  It wasn’t until I was sitting on a linoleum floor in a public school surrounded by eager adolescents asking insightful questions that I really was able to enjoy reading the book as I was reading it.  It was a fantastic reminder that a childlike curiosity is a powerful tool for living mindfully in the present.   Watching, (just watching) older students help younger ones double-knot their shoe laces and gallop off to meet their parents confirmed the deep gratitude I feel (just feeling) to have wise young teachers all around me every day.

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Sparkle Motion

As spring approaches and the days get longer, the demands on our busy lives and minds seem to increase exponentially.  Even my young students acknowledge that their minds are full of thoughts ALL THE TIME!!  Using an adaptation from Kerry Lee MacLean’s book Peacefully Piggy Meditation I created a glitter jar to encourage kids to focus their thoughts and allow them to settle a little.

We used the glitter as a metaphor for our minds with all their shimmery blue thoughts swirling around – some crazy, some smooth and swooping, seemingly unstoppable.  As we gathered in a circle around the jar I asked them to take some deep breaths and just let their minds focus on the glitter; as it settled, so would their thoughts.  They crawled forward on their bellies to get a closer look, relaxing into a minute or two of stillness for their bodies and brains.

It’s okay if it takes several shakes to feel settled, but after three or four times, the “frequently asked questions” (Where did you get this?, Can I shake it?, etc. ) begin and the desire to reach out and touch the jar takes over.  Even after informing them that for the next activity we would be using only our eyes, not our hands, most students felt compelled by curiosity and the sheer mystery to touch, grab and even lick the jar of glitter.  While I can’t blame them, I wanted to avoid a situation in which a dozen 4 – 6 years olds began pulling and yanking at the jar until it exploded all over.   So with some trial and error, I’ve learned that as the third shake begins to settle  it’s best to acknowledge how quiet everyone’s body has become and remind them to take another big breath as I lean in to grab the jar and – without shaking it – softly ask students to say good bye to the glitter jar until next time.

Now, if students want to make their OWN glitter jar, they can hold it, lick it, and swirl it until the cows come home!!  It’s easy to do, you need:

A Jar – it can be glass or plastic, but should have good visibility.

Water – hot but not boiling so that as it cools it creates a nice strong seal with the lid.

Glycerin – I just used a squirt of clear hand soap.

Glitter of your choice – I prefer the very fine glitter because I think it stays suspended longer in the liquid.

Start by putting 2 tablespoons of glitter in the bottom of your jar, fill with hot tap water to the VERY top and add your teaspoon of soap or glycerin carefully.   Make sure that there are no pieces of glitter on the rim of the jar before you screw the lid on so that you can achieve a nice, tight seal.

Explore different occasions to use the glitter jar to help quiet and calm.  At a workshop recently someone said they knew a child who had various colored glitter jars: one for relaxing at bed time, a dark one to absorb her anger, a multicolored rainbow to energize or motivate her.  Soon, she learned to identify tension within herself and used the jar when she needed it.  I feel like some adults could probably start taking lessons from this child’s self awareness and ability to cope – me included!

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Suddenly Upon Us!

Wow! It’s a busy Friday anticipating my birthday weekend filled with celebration AND the first “Me & My Grown-up” yoga class in a month long Saturday series at Honeydew Drop Daycare.  This combination of activities means that I’m hopping around my kitchen to fun, kid-friendly tunes while wisking up some healthy Black Bean Chaco Coconut Cupcakes.

Hopefully you can check out one or the other!

Starting This Saturday!

And for my big girl birthday…

Black Bean Choco Coconut Cupcakes

Makes: 18 small cupcakes*                       Oven 375 – 400

 

Mix dry ingredients in medium sized bowl:

½ cup flour of choice  (I used sprouted grain flour)

1 cup sugar of choice (or equivalent; I used combination of stevia & pure cane sugar)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

 

Blend until smooth: (in blender, or using large saucepan w/ hand blender)

14 oz can black beans 

5 eggs (I used 2 eggs & equivalent of 3 egg whites)

2 tbs cottage cheese

 

To the black beans add & blend thoroughly:

6 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil

1 tbs vanilla

 

saucepan + hand blender = easy black bean cake!

Stir dry ingredients into black bean mixture. 

Pour into baking cups, bake for 15 – 20 minutes (my gas oven tends to take a bit longer than others) or until cake springs back easily when touched.  The texture of this cake is remarkably unique: spongy, light, & dense all at the same time.  Tastes like chocolatey goodness, not a hint of legume!

Let cool completely.  I’m embarrassed to say that my esophagus sustained third-degree burns because I ate an entire cupcake straight out of the oven in a moment of weakness.

Top with powdered sugar or preferred frosting. I purchased something unspeakable from the grocery store without glancing at the list of ingredients, but I know it’s got TONS of sugar and enough coconut flakes to mark the passing of another year.

* It may have been possible to get 24 cupcakes out of this recipe, except that I ate quite a large percentage of the batter. Here’s hoping I don’t end up with salmonella poisoning on my Birthday…


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Oh, St. Valentine…

I didn’t really get Valentines Day until 2003 when I was teaching in the Chinese city of Dalian and one of my curious students interrupted our valentine making craft project to ask why Americans celebrated this holiday.  I had no idea. As far as I knew, Hallmark actually constructed Valentines Day to increase first quarter revenue and alienate single people. The students shrugged it off and we continued to cut hearts, paste doilies and write loving notes in English.  However, the answer to this casual question changed my life: to this day I celebrate the remembrance of St. Valentine with a zeal that draws spite from the large majority of friends and epic eye rolling from my teenage students.  Of course this year I have the pleasure of singing, dancing, and crafting with the 0 – 6  year old crowd and that is FUN STUFF!!

Valentines Day takes us back to 200’s BC when Roman laws disallowed soldiers to marry due to the distracting nature of families and the disincentive they provide a husband and father.  Who wants to go battling for years at a time with a high likelihood of death when you could be changing diapers?  However, Valentine, a priest with a soft spot performed secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers who swore to be truly in love. He was eventually put to death (on or near February 14th) for his transgressions, but wrote many letters from prison asking his friends, colleagues and relatives to embrace the power of love and “remember their Valentine”.

This year I adapted my St. Valentine celebrations from a high school audience to a much younger crowd.  We observed Valentines Day by dancing to the Beatles “All We Need Is Love” and Marley’s “One Love” in our yoga-pose-freeze game.  We also created some unique 3D Valentines: each student decorated 2 -3 pieces of a puzzle according to a theme of love and appreciation.  Lots of students practiced writing their names and L-O-V-E of course!!  After some finishing touches I will bring in their completed Loomi Light creation – a very unique take on Valentines Day! To make your own, check out Loomi Light.

I feel truly full of love and entirely grateful as I bask in the fading light of another warm winter day (which I adore).  Not only do I have the love of family and friends, I have my health, meaningful work and fulfilling projects.  I also have Little Man,  a roomba robot  who cleans the house while I do other deeply important things, such as writing blog posts. True love for sure…
“Where there is love, there is no question.” ~Yogi Bhajan

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” ~ Tom Robbins

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Sunny Day Surprise: Massage Solves All Problems Everywhere!

A little TLC for toes

As Winter continues to bring sunny and mid-50 temperatures here in Brooklyn I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the way things work themselves out so wonderfully.  As I was planning this week’s theme of “Relaxation”, I doubted whether I could pull off an appreciation of breathing, “noticing”, and actually convince 4, 5, and 6 year old students to experience a relaxed state.  The answer after 90 minutes of afterschool Yoga? Yes – you can do ANYTHING as long as you remember the pomegranate-scented lotion!

We started by exploring different ways of breathing, new poses & poetry from the ABC’s of Yoga for Kids.   We boogied to various lyrical songs in a game that asked students to freeze into their favorite yoga pose whenever the music stopped.  Students were really good about having silent mouths AND bodies during this, except for the occasional excitement related: “LOOK! I’m in kangaroo pose!!”, after which the other students happily blurted out their own adorable made-up pose. I gladly praised their creativity and enthusiasm as I hit play and the skipping, swooping and bouncing to French accordion music continued.

When it was time to read Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacKean everyone was ready to sit quietly and focus, and after that we circled up so students could enjoy giving themselves a loving foot-rub to repay their feet for all the hard work they do.  When one student asked if she could have more pomegranate lotion for her feet every student waited patiently, palms silently upturned, for another dollop and continued massaging…really?! Who knew? It’s true that humans are wired to respond positively to loving touch.  Massage heals a myriad of physical and psychological problems and it was powerful to see such a diverse group of students with different needs, abilities, backgrounds, and preferences all immersed in self-care.  A simple hand or foot massage may be something to incorporate into a quieting, centering bedtime routine for the reluctant, overactive, or anxious child at home.  For information, check out the gazillion websites dedicated to training, certifying, and educating on the benefits of infant and child massage.  I found Liddle Kidz particularly compelling.

Needless to say I had to promise that I would bring the yummy smelling lotion EVERY week and I’m okay with that!  It seems a very easy way to end class with joy all around, and it will fit right in to our theme next week: Love & Compassion.  Awwwww….

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Both Feet In – Reasons to Donate Your Time

"Limber Up for Literacy" at Brooklyn Public Library, Kensington Branch

It’s hard to find a job, make friends, or even get a decent haircut when you are not really sure you like the place you’re living. I learned this in the first several months of my difficult transition to Brooklyn, NY from my outdoorsy Idaho community of 20,000 people.  Really, in order to create a meaningful and rewarding community you have to be invested.  Like it or not, my insistence on keeping one foot out the door was clearly compromising my efforts to move on in the world.

Probably the most convincing invitation to jump in to my new life with both feet is the time I have spent volunteering to teach yoga for kids at the Brooklyn Public Library.  I contacted the director of Children’s Programs at the nearby Kensington Branch and offered to donate my time each week to teach “Limber-up for Literacy” a story-based yoga class with toddlers and their grown-ups.  This is hysterically fun and it helped me realize some things about how lucrative volunteering can be, despite the fact that you’re not making any money – directly.

  •  Volunteer to do what you love! Even if you’re not getting paid, it will behoove you to share your passion with others.
  • Align yourself with people and organizations who can be references or write letters of recommendation for you later.  In a city like Brooklyn, very few things of quality come for free and you will be greatly appreciated for sharing your energy and knowledge.
  • Meet potential clients/employers who will want to use your skills in the future or pass your contact information (and a good word!) to someone who will.  In the past month I have had numerous people contact me with a job offer based on my volunteer programs – they are a friend or a co-worker of someone who has enjoyed them.
  • Volunteering gives you the opportunity to explore and expand a new practice and gain validity so that you can charge a competitive rate when the time comes.
  • Don’t over- do it: limit your free giveaways (to avoid resentment or spreading yourself too thin)!  Volunteer for a few quality organizations that you believe in with a large reach that will help you gain access to the professional – and paying – roles you seek.  Preferably, in fun communities with people you connect with.
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I Heart NY…?

Prospect Park Zoo won me over!!

After a year long void from blogging I first thought of taking it up again when I arrived in New York City and found myself scoffing at all the I Heart NY paraphernalia.  Seriously?  Why does everyone just love this place that is SO overpriced, SO crowded, SO agressive, SO competitive and cold?  In the midst of having my bike stolen, adjusting to financial dependence on my partner, and spending HOURS everyday on craigslist looking for anything from a new career to bedbug free furniture or maybe a friend I was definitely NOT Hearting NY.

In my head I would post on my imaginary I HATE NY blog about accidently taking the wrong train, or over-hearing haughty parents ruining their snotty children with uptown expectations.  One post recounted me literally crying in a hungry rage when I got to the floor of Trader Joes that held the mile-long checkout line and realized I was going to DIE in it.  I actually thought that an I HATE NY blog would be wildly successful despite all the people who appear to LOVE LOVE LOVE the place.  I knew there were plenty of other disgruntled metropolitans out there.  And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to hate all over in a public format. It just seemed too negative and downward spiraling.  What would I create?  A hateful community of haters, hating deeper and deeper in such a large hate-bed of adversity? So, I chose to sob, rant, and seethe in a lonely puddle on my crappy couch in my tiny Brooklyn apartment (that cost more than a root canal EVERY MONTH).  Don’t get me wrong, I also unloaded to anyone who would pick up their phone.

Eventually, it got better: I explored fun new routes to yoga classes and adorable markets on my brand-new bike (which I don’t let out of my sight). I took some Yoga Training workshops and started teaching a few classes in my lovely neighborhood.  I made several friends and connected with old ones.  I even learned to knit and ordered a canning kit on Amazon, enjoying things I’d always wished I had time for.  Today, it all seems okay and I’m relieved to say that occasionally I DO heart NY.

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