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Monday, November 12, 2007

It was really sweet to see that one boy, Ethan, brought in his own puppet and case for it to use in yoga. He emulate my Lalita the Ladybug, who comes out of her box and opens and closes the class. He introduced it to the class, and it's his companion now for yoga! Kids really love puppets. I do to!

The fun thing was that Ethan told his dream at the beginning of class, and we made it into a warm up! He dreamt he was driving in a car and it was raining cats and dogs. So we scootched and walked on our bottoms with legs extended and pretended to drive a car. Or course we used cat and dog pose, but threw in cows, camels and other things that rained down! it rained so much we had to get in a boat, and used boat pose.

Another boy who typically has a hard time focusing, did very well to led the sun salutation chant. It made me realize that these kids, especially boys, need more leadership or activities to do during class. I noticed this as well in storytelling classes, that the boys definitely need more physcial movement. I don't think we should be drugging kids, they just need more movement! I think even some running around in the gym or wherever, active games, is almost a necessity. I told the story Raven Brings the Light and it went well, doing a lot of fun poses like crow and eagle to represent Raven.

I did my last live Storytime Yoga teacher training this weekend. It was a great group, including two school psychologists. In the family class, we had two babies. but they did great! Of course they don't get the storytelling, they are too young. But the parentsdid the yoga and these kids absorb it through them. I teach the parents to always tell stories to the kids - poetry, songs, stories - no matter what the age. It really helps the language development.

The second cycle of e-courses has started, and we have a great group as always. It's wonderful to have people from around the world! We have people from all corners of the U.S., and one from Canada and one from Australia!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In Mondays’ class, during snack children talked about their dreams and also what yoga they had practiced during the week. Many used breathing, to calm down anger or fear. Many did the sun salutation. Seems to be the most favored yoga at home!
The kids wanted to start with relaxation again, as many seemed tired after school. I am fine with this, considering how over-scheduled and stressed kids are. Jean-Jacques the pirate introduced the Muslim story of Mohammad and the Cat and the theme of kindness. I had children imagine a favorite path to walk on, then lie down in a favorite place on that path to relax. Up in the big sky was a blue bird. I asked them to think kind thoughts to the bluebird, kind thoughts to the sky, ground beneath them. Then I told the story. We slowly got up, and started some warm ups. The Prize winning warm up, with lots of lunges and switching legs quickly. I’ve noticed that children of this age, at least all children below age 11, no matter how many times you tell them knee over the ankle for alignment, they fail to remember it. I don’t have a problem with it. It bolsters my theory that children’s yoga at this age should always be fun. We don’t’ expect alignment, we present body mind connection. The alignment we present, but don’t make it too technical and focused, lest we lose their interest. All I want is for children to get in their bodies. While I believe in helping children who cannot seem to grasp the pose at all, I will remind children only about the knee subtly, rather than continually correct them. I think this sets it up to be too technique focused, heady, and boring. I find the only necessary prop in children’s yoga is an eyebag. I ask children to bring in clean socks, a washcloth, or a beanie baby to cover their eyes. This cuts down the distraction a lot, as kids are still wound up and unable to lie still much of the time. Another child led the sun salutation chant. We did many poses, focusing on kindness to our bodies, not straining into the pose, kindness in the thoughts about oneself. We did the cat/cow pose, balancing poses, such as tree and eagle. The class still seemed to have focus issues, as one boy continues to wander. I had him sit in rock pose, but he wandered away again. We had to go through the rules, and my Lalita puppet helped. The one boy with behavior problems last week, after the parent call, his behavior turned around immensely. I will have to call the other boy’s parents, but he turned his behavior around at the last minute and I prasied him for it. I believe also that he should be more engaged in showing kids poses, etc. as he is older and perhaps needs the role.

The Storytime Yoga sun salutation chant is catching on in popularity! You can hear it in the background of Fox News about yoga and schools. http://www.myfoxcolorado.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=4778319&version=2&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.5.1

The First E-Course wrapped up last week. It was an incredible experience, and I love the connection. Many of the participants are continuing on for Part II this November or January, as the momentum continues toward full Storytime Yoga training, culminating in a train the trainers live training with me here in Boulder this August.

I will also be offering a special Teleconference and E book about putting on a Holiday Class. My intention is that our culture return to community, celebrating together to mark the rhythms of nature, that are within us. To focus on the spiritual gifts and giving and experiencing joy, love, friendship and the gifts of each other and nature, rather than consuming a holiday. I believe the time is ripe that people are turning away from the propaganda of consumption and capitalism, self-indulgence and self-gratification that plaques the American consciousness. Following this path has only led to depression, self-destruction, isolation and loneliness. We truly seek the gifts within, that joyously radiate without. By returning to ritual, the body, nature, yoga and community, we can have peace on earth, because there is peace within each and every one of us.

In my storytelling classes, I have been giving each child a finger puppet and they must come up with a name, where it’s from, what its problem is, what happens next, and how the problem is solved. The elements of the story. After each child told, all the children renacted the story out with their bodies. We used some yoga, but more dramatic play, of wild animals, sad emotions, etc. This was done to bring the body in, and also to accommodate the overactive boys in the group. I also brought photos of my ancestors and told a family story. About how my Bohemian ancestors lived in St. Louis and had a painting company. My great-grandmother would marry off the women cooks to her nine sons. Word got out in the newspapers, and girls from all over the world would contact the family to try and get hired as a cook, so that they could be a bride. I urged kids to ask their parents to tell them a story about their ancestors, or where their name came from, or a funny story about when they were a baby, or a funny story the parent can remember from their own childhood.
Afterwards, the children drew a part of their story, and wrote down words about it. Then they took them home to tell the story to parents.

As for my own practice, I am enjoying taking classes with Richard Freeman at his studio here in Boulder. I go Sunday mornings, it’s like church to me, for his Level 1 class. I enjoy this pace, starting over, aligning with breath and finally understanding my own alignment. I’ve always been a slow learner. Richard repeats everything over and over each class, and things sink in slowly. My dear friend, Yoga Teacher Dennis Tenney, is an amazing yoga therapist, and has given me work to do for my back pain. Yikes! It happens! I discovered about my pelvic tilt, using inner spiral more, and moving the energy more in my pelvis, sacral area, as well as my feet and ankles. I see a profound improvement in my energetics, groudedness to the earth and connection. I love yoga, yoga therapy and stories!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In Monday's yoga class, we were in the choir room because of a theater rehearsal in the gym. We didn't use mats again, which lead to children losing their sense of space and making it unruly. After snacks, talking about dreams and what kinds of yoga kids did at home (sun salutations are tops) we started with relaxation. if there were any prop that I could get en mass it would be eyebags. I don't need straps or blocks, just EYEBAGS. I'll ask kids to bring in a washcloth or something, just because they are always so distracted. But Lalita came out and we first had to review the rules (one child's parents I had to call that afternoon, and another kid who is difficult has really made good improvement) I used the nonsense poem "the animal fair" which is like a song and many kids knew it. Mr. Bones talked about healthy eating and drinking water, as usual, and Jean-Jaques told people that last week we had a Jewish story, and the week before that a Buddhist, and now we would have a Christian story. I started with relaxation, having the kids relax to the glockenspiel sounds and then also visualizing the sun's rays on their body. I counted backwards with them, and then had a bit of silence, before I told the story of Jesus and the storm. I emphasized the symbols of the story, rather than any religious idea. Water, a boat, the waves getting bigger and bigger, and 12 men getting very afrai while Jesus, calmly slept. The peace inside Jesus was reflected on the outside. We practiced the sun salutation, we talked about how our lives can be rocky with waves, but we can be calm. We focused on the breath, that is like a wave, and finding the calm within. We moved through the boat pose, with many variations to strengthen our core, our sense of self. We did bow pose, pigeon pose. And in the end we did partner poses for the fun of it. As well as the balance game, running around wild, then stopping to be in the tree pose. Games are important. Break up any seriousness. I firmly believe that at this age, until they are in middle school, yoga is fun. No worry about big alignment, who is doing it wrong or right. Have fun, believe in yourself, be in the body, begin to get a glimpse of awareness to who you are, and that we always do yoga, we always breathe, we always mediate, relax and we always tell stories and love our neighbors.

For the Spanish-language storytelling last wednesday, I started with relaxation. I've noticed with these kids they are higher energy, more get into your stuff and take it out without permission, etc. I find it harder to hold them in. Perhaps because I'm not 100% fluent, and although I can understand Jorge Ramos on Univision every night clear as a bell, I have trouble understanding these kids. But this was powerful for them to just lie down and listen. I told the story of the Three Colored Horse, a magical story. They held their attention. Fewer drew pictures of the story; many wanted to draw what they wanted to draw, but that's ok. I still wrote down the words in Spanish and English for them to take home and tell parents about their pictures. As always we sing Cucu Cantaba La Rana, and they now know it by heart and love it.

In English storytelling today, we celebated Colorado's first snow, and that we can tell coyote stories, as we are respectful of the Native American storytelling tradition. I told the Zuni story of how Coyote stole the sun and moon, and how it brought cold into the world. Then I had them choose if they wanted a story about cold again in the world, or how fire came to the world. FIRE! was the answer I told the Brazilian story of Botoque, the Jaguar and the Fire, and they were all mesmerized, even the wiggly kids. Then we did the drawing and writing. Early on, one girl brought in an object, a small alien, and told a story from it. Kids are encouraged for next time to bring an object to tell a story about, as well as bring in the story of their name. What does it mean? Who are they named for? Any other family stories? I told them my own story, and that Sydney is my middle name, and if anybody can guess my first name, a la Rumplestilskin, they will get a prize!

On the home front, we had finished the Halloween costumes. I made the Pippi Longstocking wig with my mother-in-law with a coathanger and a red wig from the thrift store, and glued patches on her dress. My son's Pokemon card salesman now has my hat i got in Paris 11 years ago decorated with Pokemon cards, and the overcoat from the thrift store has plastic sleeves for the cards glued on to it. My step-daughter took her corpse bride outfit to her mothers, so hopefully they finished that there, for her sake. I love October, the dying time, as things pass away and we get ready for the solstice, that rememberance that there is ever lasting life within us, no matter how the outer form changes shape, and that we are reborn in the spring.

The online groups have amazed me. Such talented people committed to children and yoga, and their own self improvement. The online course has proven beyond my expectations in closeness, intimacy and intuitiveness. Being in touch with people over the internet I thought would be difficult. But with story, yoga and children in common, we are all the more close.

Love and Peace,
Sydney Solis

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I had a fantastic after school yoga class Monday, and I'm wondering if I've discovered something that helps kids focus. The theme of today's class was SLOWNESS. To slow our minds down and get in pace with our body.
We started with snack and checking in to see how kids did this week with practicing yoga at home. Some kids did the sun salutation at home, others breathing. I brought out Lalita to emphasize correct behavior, since last week we had a rather unruly class. Jean-Jacques the pirate puppet came out early this time to talk about stillness, finding time to SLLLLLOOOOOWWWW down. I drag my words out. I ask them where are they in between their thoughts? Using big pauses, in between the words. We did the kitty cat warm up, and the serpiente, serpiente, como estas warm up, as did we a sun salutation. I had one boy, who is usually the most difficult in terms of blurting out and having trouble controlling his body, lead the sun salutation. It was his request. He's in second grade, and he did it amazingly well. I praised him. As I've learned from a preschool director that only rewarding the well behaved kids sets up kids who have a really hard time behaving for failure. I find some exceptional improvement in all kids to reward their progress, no matter how diffiult the child. We did the breathing song standing in mountain pose, and SLOWLY, feeling our feet, feeling our hands, being here now. Breath was emphasised. I also did another slow warm up of just slowly lifting arms, stretching them overhead, connecting breath to body, doing arm circles slowly. Jean-Jacques came out again to tell the Jewish story of Standing Still. We talked again about how last week we had a Zen story and looked on a map of what countires practice Zen. We looked at Israel, the U.S. and Europe. And I also said that there is a Buddhist version of this story, so it doesn't even matter what you beleive, the truth is the same! We did the staff of brahm vinyasa, which is in my second book Storytime Yoga: The Treasure in Your Heart - Yoga and Stories for Peaceful Children. This slow vinyasa makes kids focus on their body and breath. Their minds glued to their actions. Kids were so attentive and quiet. I even had an observer and she was amazed. We focused on grounding ourselves and doing the poses slowly, with breath. Again, I engage children by always asking questions, telling them to feel their body, but their breath in their movements. We did Warrior I and into Warrior III, shooting rays of love to a person across from you. We did tree pose, finding balance within, finding stillness within. Even though we are moving, we can find a still point. My son was in class, so he wanted to show his favorite pose, locust pose. He can do the advanced version. All kids tried it, and I emphasized finding stillness in learning new things! We did crow as well, and found stillness in confronting difficulty. Kids who are normally wiggly were calm and attentive. Focused on the practice. I had children show their "favorite yoga pose" which picked up the pace a bit, and the energy, so I returned to talking slowly. then we had relaxation, just letting go and finding stillness in the body, in the earth. Afterwards kids talked about how they felt, good! And I retold the story, so that they can practice at home, remember stillness, and tell the story.

I've had many yoga teachers tell me they have trouble with their own kids in class. Mine were always not the best behaving. They haven't come to my after school classes, now that my son is in the 4th. I was surprised he wanted to come today. He did very well. I think there comes a time when they pick it up from their mother/teacher by osmosis, and as they grow older begin to appreciate it. Even my daughter came, who is in the second grade and is again, usually not very behavior oriented around me. She did well. Amazing class!

On the home front. I went to my first Bar Mitzvah Saturday for a friend's son. I thought every child should have this! There are so many people who are not religious that need ritual. Children especially. Joseph Campbell said that rights of manhood are so important, because it is a psychological experience for the child to become an adult. The ritual provides the experience that he will never be a child again, dependent on mother, etc. But not a responsible, self-sufficient adult. If there is no ritual to create this shift, children are still psychologically dependent on mother, and have a hard time moving forward and become neurotic. I think we see this in American boys today. Backwards caps, infantile behavior, not taking responsibiity for themselves. Of course our market-driving economy wants infnatile teens, because it's a $60 billion a year industry for music, teen stuff. 100 years ago, teens were adults. For an interesting article on this, see March 2007 issue of Psychology Today magazine. But this Bar Mitzvah celebrated the boy's life. He shared his passions and interests, (recycling, global warming) and used a variety of quotes from Buddhist to Native American. He chose the story of Noah's Ark, and I thought, global warming! It's in his consciousness. The dinner and dance for the teens and adults was another joyous event on focusing on what is really important in life -- love, children, family, community, celebrating life together.

My rattle gourds are almost ready for picking in the garden. One pumpkin was ripe, and is now on the front porch along with old corn stalks. We have a lot of racoons visiting us lately. They like the compost bin. Will have to cover it! The school's fall festival is on Friday. Again, another wonderful opportunity to be together. I'm so glad our school is in our neighborhood. Many people opt out because we have a high number of free and reduced lunch and ESL learners. They are missing out on the roots of life. The joy to walk down to your local school, eat with people and children in your own neighborhood. What a joy!

Let's all call our congressman to override Bush's veto of the SCHIP. Bush saves stemcells but vetos children's heath care! As always, visualize impeachment!



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesdays' afterschool storytelling class went well. A second-grader brought in a story she wrote about lions. It was a book of pages with illustrations about lions she did, stapled together. She read and showed it to the class. I was delighted that she was so inspire to write her own story!
We started off with telling jokes, riddles and knock knock jokes. Especially with a Halloween theme. Whey didn't the skeleton go to the party? Because he had no body to go with!
For starters I told the Aesop's fable of the Sun and the Wind, in which the sun challenges the wind that he is stronger and can make the man take off his coat. I also told the Tailor, of how a tailor reuses his clothing from a coat to a vest, to a tie, to a hat, to a button, to nothing. A great engaging one, as we make scissors with our fingers, and act out stitching, and have repetative chants such as "All worn out" and "throw it out."
Then I tol the Grimms Fairy tale of the Lady and the Lion. It's about 12 minutes, and the kids sat rather still and listened to the whole thing. And these are second and first graders! Afterwards they drew pictures of the images they saw during their listening, and then talked about that part of the story. Then I wrote down words for them on their pages. And said, see! You are a writer!
Afterward there was the book fair in the library and I had fun checking out the books with the kids. My son is really into reading his Diary of a Wimp, and he said he's really into reading now because of the book fair. What a good thing!
Today I take my daughter's second grade class on a field trip hiking at Chautauqua. Again, such a beautiful time in Colorado to be outside hiking!


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In Mondays' after school yoga class at Creekside Elementary, I used the Zen story of The Cherry Blossoms. We used a map to find Japan and China and other Zen-practicing countries, I explained to the kids that sometimes we will use stories from the Zen tradition, and sometimes we will hear stories from the Jewish tradition, or the Christian, or Native America or Africa, or Sufi of Muslim or maybe we will hear stories from nature.
The Cherry blossoms story is about being positive and grateful for what you have no matter what. The Nun Rengetsu is in search of lodging on her pilgrimage, only to be refused. She sleeps in a cherry orchard, and is awakened in the middle of the night by the scent and beauty of the trees in bloom under a full moon. She bows in thanks to the villagers for refusing her lodging, so that she was able to witness this beautiful sight in nature.
I realized that I had to practice this story myself, as class was a bit unruly today. We went to the courtyard again and to be near the garden like last week, however, things were different. The leaves on the ground were a distraction, and even though I had a new assistant, several kids weren't either participting or wandering around. Mats are useful for this reason, to keep them in their space. Some kids definitely have attention issues, and they are a challenge, but others start to follow. I separated some kids and in a firm but calm tone and with the help of my puppet, asked those kids who did not listen to sit out. Some I told that this was the last warning and they would not be invited back to class and I would need to talk to their parents. This seemed to help.
So! The difficulty I told the kids I was grateful for! It taught me how to deal with things and also learned what works and what doesn't work. We went through the story and used warrior one and two poses, triangle and side angle pose for traveling, the tree pose for the cherry trees, but also went through a range of hip openers and chest openers to feel the courage and opening to trust that all is well. We did twists and forward bends, always brining up the theme of the story. During snack time before class, I had asked kids what they could be grateful for right now. Some said the trees, life, food. The focus was on gratitude and that whatever life gives you, you make lemonade with. And that to have radical appreciation for everything, regardless of what it is.
It was tiring with all the dicipline issues, but next week we are back in the gym with mats. I'm glad we could be outside in the beauty of fall for the time being.

I volunteered to be the school liason for Boulder Valley School District Family Resource Schools, which assist in creating quality after school programs for disadvantaged families. I'm looking forward to it, and to doing more translating for Spanish-speaking families at our School Improvement Team meetings. I'm hoping to soon put on monthly, bilingual family yoga programs at the school with Our Love of Children Foundation, and provide info on healthy eating, and perhaps a guest lecture.

At home, we have created our Dia De Los Muertos alter with all who have passed. We have my husband's pictures, and the kids and I will celebrate his birthday Oct. 13 to remember him. My step kids have also started putting obejcts on the alter in memory of their deceased grandfather. As the leaves fall and coolness fills the air, we can help children connect to the life/death/life cycle of the earth - and ourselves - as we march toward the winter solstice. More on that to come!