|Posted on November 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
By Jessica Brown
Learning about the word Ohm is critical for every yoga practiotioner, especially when teaching children. OM is a sacred sound gnerally known as the sound of the universe. Its vibration begins in our solar plexus (third eye) and ends in the chest.
Most people know it as the part of a routine as the way we begin and end a yoga class. However I am here to tell you that the word OM also has super powers! That's right...just like superman!
This week I was teaching a mommy & me class with 12 adults and many very wiggly toddlers. Some may wonder how its possible to teach a class when as 1 year old is trying to fold up your mat that you are sitting on. I like to call this "oraganize chaos" in the yoga classroom. As usual we began class centering our minds, while the little ones scurried about the room. It was then that I challeneged the grown ups to close their eyes for the opening OM. Admittedly not all of them were as trusting of the process as I was. However when the first OM rang through the room, the children just stopped. No noise. No movement.
It was a magical moment where even very young brains knew it was time to take a pause.
At the end of the class we paused again for our closing OM and again everyone stood still. So it goes without saying that OM is the super power of yogis of all ages and the best part is that it can be used anywhere!
I challenge you next time your little one is mid tantrum, start chanting calm OMS and see if it works for you.
|Posted on November 8, 2019 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
Last week I taught yoga to a class of 6th graders and a class of 7th graders, back to back. As part of our centering (and empowering) process, I went around the circle and asked each student to tell me one reason they are awesome. The 7th graders had no trouble with this whatsoever, as they clearly know they are awesome. The 6th graders, however, were interesting because in addition to telling my why they were awesome, they also wanted to tell me why they were not awesome.
Hold the phone! (Do people still say that?) This is not empowering. We can’t make ourselves feel powerful by admitting our weaknesses. Or can we? This little group of 12 year olds really made me think. For starters, I tweaked their narrative just a little. Instead of saying “I’m not awesome,” I had them say “I am awesome because XYZ, but I would like to work on ABC.” This sounded much better and much more empowering. Not to mention, just plain honest.
None of us are perfect. We all have things about ourselves that can use some improvement. That does not make us any less awesome. We maintain a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect. We can come to yoga and find that we are awesome at some poses, and less awesome at others. Just because we need to work on one area, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel great pride in the areas where we excel. This is true whether we are talking about yoga or about life.
In life, we don’t always get it right every time. But that’s okay, because we keep trying our best. Recognizing one’s limitations is part of being awesome, but so is trying to overcome those limitations. I was actually quite proud of my 6th graders for listing realistic things that they wanted to fix about themselves. Nobody said they wanted to work on becoming a famous or rich or popular. They wanted to work on things like getting to bed earlier and doing better on their math tests. These were all realistic goals, and I predict that these kids will feel a great sense of empowerment once they achieve them.
Most importantly though, when we assess where we need work, it is important to remember those areas where we are strong. This way, we see that there is balance. If we can succeed in those areas of strength, there is hope for those other areas as well. The key is not to define ourselves by what needs work, but to take pride in what makes us awesome. Doing that gives us a great sense of power.
|Posted on November 1, 2019 at 12:50 AM||comments (0)|
Free Topsy Turvy Yogi Children's Meditation at: https://youtu.be/x16CDKMVLHU
By, Jessica Brown
If you have been following our social media lately you know that we are currently working towards our 200-hour adult yoga training with the very talented Sinda Anzovino from Yoga Journey.
To quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long strange trip it’s been.” When I say “strange” I mean that in the best way possible. As working moms who wanted to explore all there was to know about yoga, the best way for us to get our training was a non-traditional path with a very traditional curriculum. Sinda, who has 20 plus years in the field, was just the right person to take us on. Since we began last May, the program has been extremely comprehensive, fun and challenging in all the right ways. All this while still allowing time for kids, husbands, work and everything that happens in life in between.
Amongst all of our assignments we keep a weekly journal of our learnings, experiments and of course feelings as we progress.
In this next series of blog posts Diana and I will share some of what we have been learning and how it applies to our first love....teaching kids!
I’ll begin my week with meditation. A few weeks ago we began practicing the different forms of meditation for adults. Not having many adults to practice on under my roof, I thought it would be a good idea to practice on my best guinea pigs…my kids.
I started with the “progressive meditation” since she is only 10 years old and has the attention span of a fly.
I like this form of meditation personally because I myself am no stranger to having the wiggles during savasina. With a progressive meditation you begin by physically releasing the tension in each major part of the body before actually resting. Of course, this also applies to the brain, the one most of us have the hardest time shutting off. Or at least putting on mute for 10 minutes.
This all sounds good for a grown up, but I wasn’t sure if this would hold up on a 10- year-old. After a few nights of experimenting, I like to say that for it to be successful the secret is in the sauce. My daughter like the scrunching and releasing of her body parts, but it wasn’t enough to completely relax her. Still determined to make this work I decided to add in some imagery. More specifically a short story or visual to give it a little bit more entertainment value.
Children, especially young ones, love when they are being told a story. That is basically the entire basis at which Topsy Turvy Yogi exists. When children are lead to believe they are having fun they are more likely to loosen up mentally and physically.
I know what you are thinking. Isn’t the point of meditation to loosen up? Not really. That is actually what yoga is for. To stretch the limbs, muscles and organs so that when you get to savasina you are ready to rest.
Children are no different. They just require a little more imagination than grown-ups do.
Then there is the key ingredient for children to be able to relax and that is the feeling of being safe. Very young children, think toddlers, love visuals that they can connect with to feel safe. Often in our classes we have rubber duckies, feathers or pom poms that serve as meditation tools that sit on their bellies. They are in charge of making these items move with their breathing, but they can’t touch. I know what you are going to ask. Yes, some of them DO touch. We aren’t miracle workers, though we’d like to think we are pretty close..ha! The point here is the connection with an object so that they can turn off for bit or at the very least keep their wiggles and giggles in check for a bit. Does this work you ask? Like adults it takes practice.
Over time they do understand that when that object is in place, it is time to rest.
The last ingredients are the sprinkles and cherry on top of the meditation cake. We all learn quickly with new babies that a soft touch and calm voice can be powerful super powers. I can still recall MANY afternoons during the witching hour sitting in my glider and holding by little one close to me singing John Denver for what seemed like close to an hour. Perhaps sometimes even longer.
For older children this might not be a reality (oh but how much we wish it still was!). That said, I challenge you to play with it a little.
Notice that I used the word “play.” If we combine all these things to traditional adult meditation practices, you may find that the result is quite successful.
For fun I added a video/audio of one of my progressive meditations that I put together for my daughter. Adding in the soothing effects of a color changing night light, I found that perfect recipe that helps my child relax after a long day.
Progressive meditation, dash of color, pinch of a soothing safe voice. Mixing it all together with some fun imagery and a sprinkle of love.
|Posted on May 24, 2018 at 10:20 AM||comments (3)|
By, Jessica Brown
Dear Judgemental Members of Society,
Let me put it simple. WE ARE TIRED!
Since they were two years old people have been telling us our perfect little angel is …..well…not perfect.
Since they were three we have been compensating by overscheduling them with activities so they could make up these imperfections.
Since they were four we have been playing catch up with all those who we believe our kids have to be in par with.
Since they were five we have been trying to make the choices that we are told will shape their entire academic and social futures.
Since they were six we have been shuffling them back and forth to make sure they don’t live inside their Ipads all afternoon.
Since they were seven …yes…we’ve been noticing those academic challenges. We’ve just been busy praying that they will sort themselves out.
Since they were eight we’ve been pushing back bedtimes just so we can spend one hour with our kids, spouses or just take a shower while everyone is being quiet.
Since they were nine we’ve been arguing over Minecraft while debating the necessity of making our kids take a bath. I mean…they just took one yesterday right?
Since they were ten we’ve been on Google searching for the best way to keep up on social media so we can keep tabs on them online.
Since they were eleven we’ve been once again praying that we have the strength to deal with puberty and where that may take us. So you see society, I’m trying hard to be just me. Sometimes that’s not pretty and I make mistakes.
All I can do is move forward and pray tomorrow is better.
Sincerely, A Mom
|Posted on May 9, 2018 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
By, Diana Scharf
Ever wonder what your kids think you do all day? As we approach Mother’s Day, we asked our students, ages 2-6, “what do mommies do?” Here is what they said:
THEY DO HOUSEWORK. We got a lot of answers relating to housework, with cleaning leading that category. Big shocker there! (I’d kinda like to know why Daddy doesn’t clean, but that is another blog for another time!) Other answers included washing dishes and doing laundry.
THEY FEED YOU. I personally consider cooking as part of housework, but we got so many answers about food that it really needed it’s own category. Mommies “cook you dinner,” “they make you lunch,” and “they give you breakfast.” Mommies “give you snacks,” and my favorite, “they give you gummies!” I know it’s a stereotype, but mommies really are viewed as the ones who provide nourishment. After all, we are literally build for it!
THEY WORK. Mommies work hard, and your kids know it! Mommies “go to work,” “work at home,” “work on the computer,” and “work on the phone.” Sometimes mommies “take us to work with them.” Good work mommies, you are inspiring the next generation.
THEY RELAX. Apparently, sometimes mommies “stay at home and don’t do anything,” “shop on Amazon,” or “get their nails polished.” Well! We’ve certainly earned some downtime haven’t we? Hats off to the hardworking moms who make it look easy!
THEY ARE AWESOME. Mommies “make toys appear!” They “make money and buy you things.” They also “take you to the aquarium and “comb your hair.” But most importantly...
THEY LOVE YOU. Mommies “love you” and “take care of you.” They “give lots of hugs,” and “give you kisses.”
At the end of the day, this is the important part of the job! When your kids know they are loved, they feel more secure and confident and become kind and loving people. So even though apparently lots of other stuff goes unnoticed, (like all the bedtime stories, endless shopping, brushing teeth, and getting up at the crack of dawn to get them to school on time), our kids do notice the stuff that counts. So well done Mommies, and happy Mother’s Day!
|Posted on May 2, 2018 at 8:40 PM||comments (0)|
By, Diana Scharf
Anyone else glad that we are FINALLY having spring? I love spring. I love the robins on my lawn, the tiny buds on the trees, and the tulips that crop up everywhere. It’s a perfect time to be mindful.
Spring is the most sensory season. (Or at least the most pleasantly sensory one). Step outside and close your eyes. What do you notice? Birds chirping? The sweet smell of flowers? The gentle breeze on your skin? The sunshine on your face? That itchy feeling in your nose and throat? (Mindfulness is about discomfort also!)
Kids are experts at exploring the sensations offered by their environment. Today my daughter sat underneath a magnolia tree and played with the fallen flower petals for a long time. She loves the sensation of the soft petals in her fingers. This is her own form of meditation. Not into flowers? Spring offers plenty of other beautiful sights and sounds to notice and appreciate.
So, this spring, I invite you to practice your mindfulness by enjoying the gifts of the season. At its very core, mindfulness is about stopping to smell the roses (even though those don’t really come out until early summer). Happy spring to all!
|Posted on April 19, 2018 at 11:00 AM||comments (0)|
By, Jessica Brown
I remember when I was little I used to have sleepovers with my friend Jennifer (Happy 34th Friendaversarry!). We would stay up for hours trading stickers…not the digital kind..lol
These stickers did not come off once you placed them in your sticker book.
What I remember the most is the games and stories we would make up simply by stuff that we already had. There were no trips to the toy store before a play date. Also, our mothers did not have crafting and baking ready to go for us. As I watch my own children grow up I am so amazed at their imaginations, but sometimes sad when it has to be forced. However just recently that sentiment has changed. Recently I was teaching a particularly rowdy group of toddlers who had a difficult time settling in for their shavasina (rest time) at the end of class. While this isn’t particularly unusual, it seemed that all my “go to” tricks weren’t really working. Even when I gave them coloring so they had something to focus on it seemed like they were just doing it because that’s what I expected them to do. So I went into my yoga bag of tricks and brought out my little LED tea candles. They did in fact rest for a little bit watching the flickering of the candle. Though after a few seconds one of the little boys took his candle up to the only bare wall in the room and was mesmerized by something. You could tell the others were curious, but thought I would be mad if they went to go see. Staring at me I gestured to them that it was OK to go over as well. What happened next was fascinating! Some were pretending to make “flames” while others discovered they could make shadow puppets. Two of the girls, who are the oldest in the class, were putting on a little puppet show together. Before I knew it we were way over the time for the class to be dismissed. If I didn’t have to pick up my own children from school I probably would have stayed! That day I learned two things. Children still poses that kind of imagination and it still comes from the most interesting of places. As I began to play with them a little myself, it reminded me that we all have that little spark in us. It may not come out as often. However, it is there and it can sometimes come from the most un likeliest of places.
|Posted on April 12, 2018 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
By, Diana Scharf
I love to google “Pinterest Fails.” There is nothing funnier than seeing a picture of some perfect Martha Stewart-like creation, followed by the picture of how it actually comes out when a mere mortal tries to make it. Some of them are pretty sad! I love that people take enough pride in these failures to post them online. Even better, I love that most of them add the caption, “Nailed it!” Because let’s face it, we should take pride in our hard work, right?
As a society, we often feel pressure to be perfect. However, when we strive for perfection, we leave no room for mistakes. This is a terrible thing because mistakes help us learn and grow. We should never be afraid of trying something new because we might make a mistake. Mistakes are part of life, and who wants to miss out on that?
Yoga leaves lots of room for mistakes! That’s why we call it a “yoga practice,” and not a “yoga perfect.” In yoga, we mess up all the time. I find that no matter how good one is at tree pose, he or she will always fall out of it eventually. But wow, what an attempt we made—Nailed it!
The first time I tried yoga on a paddle board, I attempted a spinal twist and ended up in the water. Nailed it! The second time I did yoga on a paddle board I executed a perfect Warrior 1...and ended up in the water. Totally nailed it! Maybe I wasn’t perfect, but I loved paddle board yoga and I’m glad that I tried it. I did notice that there were people on the shore laughing at us when we fell in the water—but they never even tried to get on a board themselves. So it’s true that they never made a mistake, but they also missed out on a totally awesome experience.
As I write this I’m listening to my daughter take her piano lesson. She just told her teacher “it’s okay if I make a mistake because I’m only in the first grade.” Wisdom from the mouths of babes! I give all of you out there permission to make a mistake no matter how old you are. So get out there and try that new thing that you’re just itching to try. Maybe you’ll do well and maybe you won’t, but at least you did it! And when you’re done, no matter how it went down, I expect you to be proud of yourself because you NAILED IT!
|Posted on February 8, 2017 at 7:10 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
My husband has me completely hooked on Netflix's Daredevil series. For those of you who don't know, Daredevil is about the crime-fighting adventures of the very sexy Matt Murdoch, who has been blind since he was nine. Luckily, Murdoch's other senses work in overdrive, and he relies on them to "see." He notices how many heartbeats are in a room, senses the movement of others, changes in breathing patterns. He notices the smells in the air, a person's body heat, and the like. This all comes in very handy when determining where the bad guys are, how many lie in wait, and where to throw a punch or block one. Have you guessed what his real superpower is? It's MINDFULNESS!
Well. We can't all hear a heartbeat from across the room, and we definitely should not use our mindfulness to dispense vigilante justice. (Actually, our legal department wants me to repeat that: DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT DISPENSE VIGILANTE JUSTICE. Please leave those matters to the police. Thank you).
But we can think of mindfulness as a super power. We can all become better people by just paying attention, being aware, and noticing the little things that tend to get overlooked. Does your friend's voice sound a little different today? Do you hear extra stress, sadness or happiness in it? Ask her what's going on--she will appreciate your kindness! Does your significant other carry a little extra tension in his shoulders today? Give him a hug and let him know that you love him--seems like he could use that right now.
For kids, the benefits of mindfulness are really amazing. According to a recent article in Time, kids who practiced mindfulness scored fifteen percent higher in math than their peers. They also showed better social behavior, were less aggressive and better liked. They showed improved focus in school, lower stress levels and overall improved well being. What a gift to give to your child!
As always, with very young children, the challenge is making it relevant so that they stick with it. So if your kid loves superheroes, point out how they use mindfulness: can your child also use super hearing? Ask him to really focus on what's happening around him. What does he notice? Is your child a super sleuth? Give her a magnifying glass and ask what clues she can discover. Maybe your kid can use fairy magic--what does it reveal? What can they notice in the world around them that other people ignore?
Yesterday my daughter decided she wanted to paint. She had a fantastic time (and so did my kitchen floor)! When she finished her painting, she turned her attention to her hands. "Mommy, this feels so good on my hands!" I asked what the paint felt like. "Squelchy." I asked how it felt when she rubbed her hands. Could she make a bigger squelch by squeezing her fists or patting her arm? I asked how how the brush felt, and could she notice the difference between the bristles, the metal and the handle. She didn't answer but I saw her very deliberately touch each part of her brush and take in the sensations.
Then we cleaned up and ate dinner, and I have to tell you, that child was delightful for the rest of the night. She ate her vegetables, didn't fight me when I said it was time for bed and even skipped her usual bedtime routine of begging me to stay with her so she wouldn't be lonely. Super power indeed!
Before I kissed her goodnight, knowing that I was either about to sit down and write this blog or get back to watching Daredevil, I asked her to be still and tell me what sounds she heard. I am not kidding you, she told me she could hear her heartbeat! She didn't hear it from across the room they way Matt Murdoch can, but she's off to a great start!
|Posted on February 2, 2017 at 7:55 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
When Groundhog Day rolls around each year, I really have only one question on my mind: what time is the Bill Murray movie on? I suppose I also wonder when spring is coming and whether the groundhog will bite the mayor again, but these are really secondary.
Groundhog Day is an awesome movie and should be required viewing for anyone old enough to appreciate it. It tells the story of Phil Connors, played by the ever awesome Bill Murray. Phil is not a nice person. He does just about as little as he can in the world, and is unhappily settled in his mediocrity. His life changes when he goes to Puxatawney PA to cover the Groundhog Day festivities--or rather doesn't change. Phil becomes doomed to repeat February 2, living the same day over and over.
The obvious symbolism here is that Phil, like so many of us, is stuck in a rut. Just as we sometimes do in yoga, the movie explores how to get yourself unstuck.
After making a series of bad choices based on his existing personality, Phil decides to make a change: he decides to better himself. This is where his story starts to turn around.
In yoga, we begin our journey by looking inward. If we consider the seven chakras, or points of energy in the body, we realize that six of them solely concern what's happening in our own bodies. We can actually see Phil improve himself step by step as we watch him open each chakra:
1. He opens his root chakra as he accepts and becomes secure in the knowledge that he has infinite time. This is Phil's foundation in his new reality.
2. He taps into his creative energies by learning new skills such as piano playing and ice sculpting. This demonstrates the sacral chakra opening up.
3. He shows us his solar plexus chakra coming into balance as he begins to make better choices. No more "Thelma and Louise" moments with the groundhog for him! He is done robbing armored cars and bathing with toasters.
4. A balanced heart chakra allows a person to both give and receive love. At first this poses quite a challenge for our boy Phil. But once Phil begins to show kindness to others, he finally begins to earn the love of both the townspeople and his love interest, Rita.
5. He finds his voice by speaking to and engaging with the townspeople. He speaks the truth; he is no longer picking up women by pretending to know them from high school. By the end of the movie he talks to everyone as if they were old friends with an easy rapport. This demonstrates a balanced throat chakra.
6. The "third eye" chakra represents an inner wisdom. The introspective aspect is hard to pinpoint in the movie since it really translates into Phil growing into a better person overall. However, we do see him acquire wisdom as the movie progresses. He lets Rita teach him about the poetry she loves so much, and though we don't see it happen, they call him Dr. Connors by the end of the movie. So we know that this chakra comes into balance as well.
7. The first six chakras serve us inwardly. However, the seventh chakra looks outward: it connects us to something greater than ourselves. It is not just about the self, this is the energy that we put out into the world. We engage this chakra by becoming mindful of what's happening around us and performing acts of kindness. Where is there a need that we can fill?
Once Phil learns this lesson and brings his final chakra into balance, he finally breaks out of his rut. He realizes that the world is not just about him and his desires. He becomes a part of something greater--a community. He becomes mindful of other people's lives and other people's needs. He observes his environment and learns to really notice. He knows when a kid is going to fall from a tree, when a bunch of old ladies will need a tire change, and when someone will choke in a restaurant. And he makes sure that he is always there to help. All of these good deeds make him the most beloved man in Puxatawny, and teach him to be happy.
We learn from Phil that perspective means everything. He is always in the same place with the same people acting out the same situations. Yet he goes from being utterly miserable and unloved to being blissfully happy and beloved. Absolutely nothing has changed except for the way he now views the world.
Yoga teaches us to view the world in a positive way, with an open heart and an open mind. Yogis see every day as a fresh start, a new opportunity to pour our positive energy into the world. I like to believe that is exactly what the final scene of Groundhog Day shows us as Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell walk out into their snow-covered paradise.
So this Groundhog Day, I challenge you to become a better version of yourself. Be kinder, wiser, or more mindful. Learn to play piano. Try that kettle bell class at the gym. Just do something different. You might be surprised where your new journey takes you.