Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yoga at TLS

You can be a cobra, a camel, a cactus, or a crocodile. You can be a majestic tree or a mighty lion. Who doesn’t know the warrior or the downward facing dog? But do you know the reasons why yoga is so endlessly good for you?

At this early age yoga incorporates the development of so many important skills! It fosters creativity of expression, strength and flexibility, coordination, body awareness, concentration and focus, social skills, listening skills and power of observation.

It inspires the imagination, promotes balance and breathing, builds self-esteem and fosters a non-competitive spirit.

“Yoga helps you to move and think in a new way, a way that puts thought into movement and movement into thought.” (Idiot’s Guide to Yoga with Kids).

“I find wrapping my trunk around my feet helps to stretch" (Babar’s Yoga for Elephants)

“It makes a big difference when we adults make efforts to give direction and show what habits lead to a vital, healthy, and happy life.” (My Daddy is a Pretzel)

Meet TLS’s Yoga instructor, Ms. Kiera:
Kiera's yoga practice began in 1990 with master yogini Kali Ray in Santa Cruz, CA while performing as a professional ballet dancer.

She has devoted her life to the study, practice and teaching of yoga, has lived in ashrams immersed in the study and practice of Bhakti Yoga, and currently teaches ballet and performs Indian Classical Dance.

She teaches at Hillsborough Yoga and Healing Arts (just down the road on Becketts Ridge Dr.) as well as at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill. She currently teaches pre-ballet to 3-8 year olds and has been teaching ballet for past 10 years. She loves sharing her two passions with children.

How Ms. Kiera describes yoga at TLS:
We start out yoga class by sitting on our mats in our yoga seats (a.k.a criss cross yoga sauce, pretzel) and begin to center ourselves by focusing on our natural breath.
We begin to feel ourselves more calm and grounded.

We then learn how to utilize our complete breath (filling our balloons up with air), which has many benefits, such as opening the chest and freeing the breath, going beyond our normal shallow breathing, massaging internal organs, reducing anxiety and stress, and much more.

The children have been learning many yoga asanas (postures) which build strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. Some of the regular favorites are butterfly, cat, mountain (or dog), cobra, tree and waterfall.

Sometimes we are very quiet and sometimes we use our louder breath as roaring lions, hummingbirds, buzzing bees and bursting volcanoes. Frequently we use themes with relating asanas such as; exploring outer space, visiting the beach farm, desert, rain-forest and going on a picnic.

We end with a quiet relaxation and affirmations to enhance self confidence, good health, and positive social & emotional well-being.

Some links from Ms. Kiera:

Benefits of yoga for children:

Quotes from the “yoginis” in Lauren and Diana’s class, on their favorite pose:

Emmet: “Tree pose, because I keep falling over and I need to practice my balance more.”

Leo: “I like the Helicopter, because I get so dizzy."

Xavier: “I like the airplane, because I balance really good.”

Isa: “I like yoga, because you can get healthy.”

Other highlighted poses include the Lion, the Butterfly, the Seal (=clap hands and feet :)

A discussion followed about yoga and setting a good example for your friends and “making your own choices”. The children spoke about learning to listen to Ms. Kiera, to watch Ms. Kiera and to focus. They talked about closing their eyes and covering their ears to hear their breathing (you should try it!)

Why yoga at TLS?
In efforts to help her oldest son through a chronic illness, Ms. Christa - together with her son - learned about deep breathing and mindfulness techniques at the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine. These techniques helped Grayson be more in tune with his body and regulate his breathing. It was very educational for both of them and it seemed that over and over again it all came back to yoga. As much as it has helped them both, Ms. Christa thought that it would have been such a blessing to Grayson if he had had an early experience with yoga going into it. It is likely that the deep breathing techniques taught in yoga would have given him tools that would have eased parts of his illness.

At the same time that Ms. Christa was reading about yoga and deep breathing, she and Ms. Jennifer began reading about Conscious Discipline and learning more about the techniques that we are now using in the classroom. It seemed like a completely natural addition to TLS’s program to add a piece like yoga that teaches the children how to breathe in a group, as well as individually and to give the gift of physical and emotional self-regulation.

Yoga and the Conscious Discipline connection:

Conscious Discipline is grounded in self-control and composure (the first of the seven basic skills!) The first step in any discipline encounter is to take a deep and calming breath (three deep breaths shut off the fight or flight response in the body).

The four core active calming techniques used in Conscious Discipline are S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax), balloon, pretzel and drain. These are the images that you see posted in our classrooms, especially in each Safe Place.

The balloon is an exercise that helps us practice breathing. We create a balloon with our hands placed together, then as we reach over our heads, the balloon gets bigger, and so does the diaphragm as it fills with air. Letting the air out with sound effects is especially fun and a great de-stresser.

In yoga we also do the balloon exercise. Incorporating yoga into our lives at TLS supports our journey with Conscious Discipline.

Stay tuned for the next blog, which will elaborate on Composure and our Safe Places at TLS.

Enjoy the slide-show and see if you can find the butterfly, the robot, the lion, the mountain, the tree, the helicopter, the crocodile, and more. Thank you Davian, Dana, and Lauren for your beautiful photo contributions !:)

And of course, don’t forget to BREATHE.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

One of the many treasures of Dr. Seuss lies in his respect for children as important people. Who can forget the great line from Horton Hears a Who: "A person is a person no matter how small". Dr. Seuss reminds us that reading is fun and that all of us can learn in joyful ways, even in nonsensical words and rhymes.

First, did you know that Dr. Seuss' real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel? In May of 1954, Life published a report on illiteracy among school children. This report suggested that children had difficulty reading because their books were boring. This problem inspired Geisel's publisher, prompting him to send Geisel a list of 400 words he felt were important for children to learn. The publisher asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and use them to write an entertaining children's book. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 of the words given to him, published The Cat in the Hat, which brought instant success.

The Cat in the Hat (and many other fun and fantastical books by Dr. Seuss) put reading on the map. Every year Read Across America day is celebrated nationwide on Dr. Seuss’ birthday and this year gave The Little School an opportunity to celebrate his work and read, read, read, read!

The two and three year old building decorated for the big birthday by placing wonderful quotes in the hallway. Here are a few of the Seussisms: “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one", “Adults are obsolete children.”, “I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells.”, and “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Then on March 2nd, the two and three year old building was a hub of activity.

Ms. Rose's class focused on My Many Colored Days. They talked about what makes them happy and sad, and drew happy and sad faces...

...and it might have been a yellow day in Ms. May's room as friends focused on hats, and hats, and hats!

There was fun to be done in Ms Davian's class with Oh The Places You will Go and musical chairs.

Fox in Socks was the tongue twisted star in Ms. Lulu's room. Friends made sock puppets and played in blue goop.

The Foot Book came to Ms. Arryan's room. Friends enjoyed painting with their feet and Ms. Melissa’s infant friends came to visit as well. They also read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

All of these activities went on simultaneously in the building and the teachers from each classroom hosted these activities for their neighbor classrooms. In our Soft Room, parents read to children from different classrooms, particularly our infant and one year old classrooms. Some favorite reads were Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, and naturally Green Eggs and Ham.

Ms. Laura and Ms. Kelly's class spoke for the trees and made Truffulo trees in honor of The Lorax.

Ms. Dana and Ms. Jennie celebrated the book Wacky Wednesday by wearing wacky clothes and creating a “wacky” classroom, and they also played “Stick the hat on the cat”.
Every voice counted in Ms. Diana and Ms. Lauren ‘s class as they made their own little Whovilles (represented by a bead) stored in clover (dried flower head) to protect the Whos in Whoville in honor of Horton hears a Who.

Thanks to Ms. Arryan who reminded us to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday and thanks to Ms. Lulu for coordinating the classroom visits in the two and three year old building. It was a great success, inspiring us to share activities across classrooms more often.

Thank you to all the parents who came to read and volunteered their time:

Jennifer Kusnyer (Annabel’s mother)
Anne Kenyon (Taylor’s mother)
Robbyn Davis Ellison (Zy’miraah’s mother)
Katriina Butornis (Lakshman’s mother)
Richard Zink (Eli’s father)
Leigh Anne Weisenfeld (Grayson and Ellie’s mother)
Tori Reid (Addie’s mother)
Lena Castillo (Gaby and Diego’s mother)
Rodney Beaver (Anna Leigh and Madison’s father)
Susan Baker (William’s mother)
Adam Buchanan (Megan’s father)
Audrey Davis (Ryan’s mother)
Sarah Tiana (Giada and Tristan’s mother)
Jessica Larson (Gus’ mother)
Bruce Aycock (Eva’s father)
Eric Hansen (Lillian’s father)
Eric Halvorson (Hayden’s father)
Emily Wilkins (Violet’s mother)
Sydney Wilkins (Violet’s sister)
Sarah Butler (Maddie and Emelia’s mother)
Janet Bettger (Alex’s mother)
Steve Feller (Jacob and John’s father)
Renee Ferrari (Brandon’s mother)
Chris Roman (Luke’s father)

Please remember that you are ALWAYS welcome to visit us at the Little School and READ.

Read To Me
By Jane Yolen
Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes,
Read to me stories of magical times.
Read to me tales about castles and kings.
Read to me stories of fabulous things.
Read to me pirates and read to me knights,
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights.
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then,
When you are finished -- please read them again.

Nothing without Joy in reading.

P.S. Thanks for reading the blog!
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