Oh, Mindful Day!

Even though I am a yoga teacher on the side, as a first-year elementary school teacher it is rare that I can and the day feeling like I am truly practiced a large amount of mindfulness. But today was different.

I did what I usually do in the morning. I woke up, showered, made and eat breakfast and got to the school that I am an assistant teacher at. In the morning I put my lesson plans together and even got the flat ladder ready for when I would teach health last period.

Health Class

Fast forward to the health class I teach to the whole third-grade. I am constantly gratified but the freedom my house around the curriculum. It allows me to fused together a wide variety of passions: pedagogy, curriculum, yoga, overall health and well-being, and the work I did all year in physical therapy that made me oh-so-aware of where my body stands in space on a daily basis.

For these two weeks my lessons are about proprioception. I begin by teaching the kids that large, impressive word. Then we do our first routine of health class: the check-in. For this check in because we were talking about how we move in the spaces we are in each student has to call out to an emotion word that represents how they’re feeling and Perritte with an action physically that also represents how they’re feeling. As the check-in progressed, we each acted our emotion in motion plus all the emotions that preceded them in the circle. When I was in my kids yoga teacher training I believe we called this “mudra vinyasa” and that term has stuck with me to this day.

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Our second routine of health class is the yoga deck. The yoga deck, formally called “Yoga Pretzels,” is definitely the kids’ favorite part. The most well-behaved student (oh, hay positive reinforcement) gets to come up to the front, close their eyes and pick the card we use. Then, we all do the pose / breathing exercise / meditation / yoga game together. This week, the kiddos were being particularly rowdy so after they chose their card from the yoga deck, I chose one for them as well: Rainbow Meditation (i.e. a guided savasana). And wow, did that work!

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The third routine we have in Health Class is Freewriting! I introduced Freewriting on the first day by saying that me and one of my best friends from middle school, T, freewrite together every Sunday night. We’ve been doing this for over seven years and create our own prompts and our own rules. I wrote those rules into this poster that I carry around with me everywhere.

After Freewriting, we do our activity. This lesson, on proprioception, involved me leading the activity I did for months and months for physical therapy. The thing with breaking your leg is that you kind of regress in terms of remembering where you are in space. The thing about physical therapy is that not only do you re-learn it, but you get even better at it! The thing about Third Grade is that these kiddos are constantly growing and their relationships to the spaces they occupy are constantly changing. Teaching proprioception as a skill is hard work. To make it easier, I snagged a floor ladder from the high school football coach. The name of the game? “Quiet Line.” Students couldn’t touch the ladder with their feet while doing a repetitive movement. When I said LINE, they had to freeze. It was the most fun I’ve had teaching health so far!

Mindfulness 101

After teaching Health and dismissing all the kids on their buses, I headed downstairs to the cafeteria for some scheduled professional development. We had a woman from The Mindful Classroom give us a mindfulness 101 presentation. Here were my main takeaways:

  • Do body scans with the kids lying down / with heads on desks.
  • No one pays attention by being told “pay attention.” Instead, we can teach kids how to pay attention and that is profound.
  • Tell kids that mindfulness is paying attention with awareness, curiosity, and kindness.
  • Mindfulness is a set of skills.
  • Hourglass timers can give kiddos a point of focus.
  • Do Metta meditation with the kids! Have them develop their own lovingkindness mantra!

I highly recommend taking a workshop with this fantastic educator. All the teachers left feeling so relaxed (it was like an extended savasana). I’d take that over a regular old faculty meeting any day.

Lotus Flow

I walked to the subway stop with the school guidance counselor, so I had a chance to debrief our PD workshop after it occurred. A lot of it had to do with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). unfold, the Portland studio I worked at last year, focused heavily on MBSR. I struggled with that focus because I de-stress at times by moving so fast that I forget what I was worrying about before I started moving. And this very reason is why I love Lotus Flow. This very reason is why I became a member at Laughing Lotus this year, my first year as a full-time teacher. It is the antidote to my brain at times. That night, I went from the beautiful stillness of the mindfulness workshop to the gorgeous fluid movement of Lotus Flow vinyasa with the fabulous Sheri Celantano. She centered the class around Mary Oliver’s latest poem. Let us end this post Mary’s mindful words:

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

A (Yoga) Room of My Own

When I decided to move back to New York City from Portland, OR, the last thing I expected was to find more space in my Manhattan apartment, compared to what I had in my Portland one. But Harlem was kind to me and my roommates, and we found (well, correction, they found it while I was still living in PDX) a fantastic four-bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms just happened to be a “railroad room,” meaning it has two medium-sized rooms attached to one another. It was a no-brainer; I decided to make one of those rooms my Yoga Room.

The friends of mine who showed up for our housewarming party joked and said it was my office. But really, they weren’t joking. When yoga is at least part of your line of work, a space to practice is also a space to prepare and study. My yoga room is all of three of those things. And I would love to give you a tour of this space I am so proud of on this blog!

Furniture

When you have a lot of space, you need a lot more furniture. I decided on a mini coffee table that I’m using as a sitting desk (i.e. it enables me to sit in lotus and get sh*t – read: blogging – done). I also got a bookshelf that I use to store all my yoga texts. Having these in a separate space is actually making these books, teacher training manuals and journals so much more accessible. (All the furniture, BTW, was brought to me by the lovely and stressful Ikea – my yoga practice after that shopping trip was on point!).

Books

I have developed quite the collection of texts over the years. More important, though, this summer I had the opportunity to practice the yama (“restraint”) called aparigraha, which, in English, translates to “non-hoarding.” When I moved out of my apartment in Portland, I had a slight problem: I forgot to ship half my books in advance, and I ran out of room in my suitcases. These were books I loved and annotated. They were about the chakras, the sutras, the Gita and more. But books – and especially yoga books – are meant to be shared, not hoarded. On my last afternoon in Portland, I took those books in my arms and walked down Division St until I arrived at unfold, the yoga studio I taught at all year. I left them on the desk for other students to peruse, use, annotate and learn from. Here are the books I am currently left with in my new yoga room:

  • Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij
  • Sacred Sound by Alanna Kaivalya
  • Love Poems from God translated by Daniel Ladinsky
  • The Red Book by Sera Beak
  • The Bhagavad Gita translated by Barbara Stoler-Miller
  • Yoga & Ayurveda (Frawley)
  • Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley Farrand
  • Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon & David Life
  • The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant
  • The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel
  • Narada’s Way of Divine Love by Swami Prabhavananda
  • be love now by ram dass
  • Tranquilista by Kimberly Wilson
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Babar’s Yoga for Elephants (De Brunhoff)
  • Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron
  • OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice by Cyndi Lee

Mat

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Now that I am an official “member” at Laughing Lotus, I store my big, heavy Manduka mat in a mat cubby at the studio. The one I choose to use in my yoga room is an Athleta mat that I was gifted upon completion of my 5k at the Wanderlust 108 Mindful Triathlon. I also have the tote bag that came with hanging on the wall of the room as a reminder that I DID IT, and to store my pink boxing gloves because hey, boxing is a yoga practice all its own.

Props

Next to my mat are two blocks, a balance ball, and a meditation pillow. I also have a strap and on my wish list is a bolster and blanket.

Office Supplies

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When yoga is my line of work, a lot more is involved than practice. I also have to promote what I am doing so I can better share it with the world. That is why I have a Blog Planner from Etsy (so cute!) and a Poppin’ to-do list.

Wall Decor

I have little hanging elephants (Ganeshas) hanging from a beaded string that an old roommate gave me, my bandana and number from Wanderlust 108, and what was probably the best gift I’ve ever received: my very own Laughing Lotus graffiti wall that my dear former roommate A made for me for my 23rd birthday.

Deities

Also adorning my walls are deities: Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards (Doreen Virtue) I’ve chosen and Sanjay Patel‘s big book of Hindu deities posters. Atop a storage bin, I have a mini Ganesha statue…because after last year, I need a remover of obstacles.

G.I. Yogis / Yoga Joes

When I left Portland, former roommate J gifted me the sweetest lil things she saw on This Is Collosal: yogi G.I. Joes. Different poses are hidden in nooks and crannies of this room and provide endless inspiration for the asana practice.

Bottom line, here’s what I’ve learned from creating a yoga room, after coming from being a bit…space-deprived. You don’t need a lot of space to create a room of your own, but compartmentalizing yoga can sometimes be an aid to focused practice. Take some time and carve out a room of your own.

“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own