Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Poetry of Yoga

The other morning, when doing a search for yoga poems, I discovered The Poetry of Yoga, “a creative multimedia project and book anthology, beaming with voices from around the world”. Two poems caught my eye, and I shared them last week during our last two yoga sessions before December vacation.

I DON’T WANNA by Zaccai Free (of Solar Publishing)

I don’t wannt do yoga everyday

Sometimes I run out to play
climb a tree
watch a bee
fly from flower to flower
tree to tree
imagine what could be

Then I breathe

this yoga cannot be escaped
it’s in every move I make
literally every breath I take

harmony reached in perfection
relaxing deep into the right direction

Then I realize
yoga is everything around me
the flow attainable by simply being simple
taking a moment to tune the temple
realize that the world is an extension of my being


TOE EYES by HawaH 

I stand on my head
To see you through my toes
I breathe in through my nose
Gravity is my best friend
Keeps me grounded when
I feel like my legs
Are falling from me

I stand on my head
To see you through my toes
This is how we flow
Between asana sequences and glasses of red wine
I write poetry by candlelight
Because it feeds my insides

I stand on my head
To see you through my toes
Twist and unravel
Warrior stances
And moon dances
At being sore the next day
From a class I wasn’t ready to take

I stand on my head
Stare at you with my toes
The feet are a gateway to the soul. 

I’m Still Learning

Teaching and doing yoga with 8th graders who did not sign up for yoga is not the same as being in a class of adults who all chose to attend their yoga session. I know that, and I understand that. My challenge is to learn to make yoga class enjoyable and fruitful for my eight students, who on most days are participative, but on occasional days are disinterested. Ahhh.

I had a tough class at the beginning of the week. Although the kids were antsy, what made it difficult was the presence of their alternating days sports teacher. At one point, as I was assisting a student, apparently two other students were clowning around. The visiting teacher, rather than bringing this to my attention, opted to discipline the students. She and I have different approaches, and hers was direct and loud. After her commentary we all froze, and I was chagrined at how quickly a feeling of discomfort moved in. 

The positive side was we wound up having a conversation about class; the unfortunate aspect was the injection of a negative tone of voice. I’m not referring just to the physical tone, but the atmosphere in general. A few days later I talked with this teacher, and explained my approach and that I appreciate her looking out for the kids, but next time please clue me in first and then I will handle the situation.

Despite this, nothing deterred me from reading a poem!

The Student Theme by Ronald Wallace (from poetry 180)

The adjectives all ganged up on the nouns,
insistent, loud, demanding, inexact,
their Latinate constructions flashing. The pronouns
lost their referents: They were dangling, lacked
the stamina to follow the prepositions’ lead
in, on, into, to, toward, for, or from.
They were beset by passive voices and dead
metaphors, conjunctions shouting But! or And! 

The active verbs were all routinely modified
by adverbs, that endlessly and colorlessly ran
into trouble with the participles sitting
on the margins knitting their brows like gerunds
(dandling was their problem, too). The author
was nowhere to be seen; was off somewhere. 

Restorative Yoga & Reiki For Well-Being

I took an amazing two hour workshop at The Yoga Sanctuary last night (see below). Having taken a few restorative yoga classes over the years, I had an inkling of what to expect and definitely knew the session would be relaxing; however, the Reiki component was new for me.

My Mom died on October 16 of this year, just shy of eight weeks ago. This workshop freed my mind to think of Mom, and conjure up memories and images of her. I was contemplative, not sad, though gentle tears did flow. As Reyna said, this practice “can bring up stuff.” I felt good thinking of my Mom, and returned home to a cup of hot cocoa, a hot shower, and a sound night’s sleep. 

p.s. And Ellen coddled each of us still hanging around at the end with a cinnamon-chocolate-butternut squash truffle…a recipe I’d like to get my hands on…mmm.

And this morning the sunshine beckons ๐Ÿ™‚

In this workshop, Reyna will guide us into Restorative Yoga postures that will help to facilitate a deep state of relaxation.  When the body and mind are freed from tension, Reiki can be more readily assimilated into our beings.  This life-force energy can aid in reversing the negative effects of stress on our systems and replenish its energy.

 * Release pain created by muscle tension.
 * Increase circulation.
 * Improve your digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
 * Relax into Restorative Yoga postures with pillows & blankets.
 * Receive the replenishing effects of Reiki on your physical, emotional and mental well-being.

 Reyna Gonzalez, Reiki Master , Certified and Nationally Registered Yoga Teacher has been teaching adult and kids yoga classes for many years throughout Westchester County.  In this workshop Reyna will facilitate healing Reiki energy as you relax in yoga postures supported by props.  Join her for this opportunity to be nurtured and rejuvenated.


A Poem for Tuesday Afternoon

A friend of mine, my first yoga teacher, came to my rescue and provided not one but 16 sample sessions for me to use in planning my 2:15 yoga classes. Ah, can you hear the release of my nervousness, for the sequence of poses was the most difficult part for me to figure out. Thanks to Deb, I now have a sequential model to follow. I have to plan, but I now have a guide.

I also like to plan a poem for the close of each session. Here is Tuesday’s poem; Thursday there was no class as I was home nursing a sore throat.

The Hand by Mary Ruefle (from poetry 180)

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air. 


My Music + Their Music = Our Music

I enjoy music in the background during my yoga practice. Half of my yoga teachers feel the same way; the other half prefer no music. Either way is fine with me. 

With that said, the 8th graders definitely like music! They were not thrilled with my collection, so I suggested they send me lists of music they like, keeping in mind that the words had to be appropriate and the rhythms had to facilitate a yoga flow.

Here’s what we currently have on our yoga class playlist:

The only song I already had was I’m Yours. I’ll consider this a lesson in current middle school musicology! Under the Sea and Training were suggested by my 19 year old son; they are perfect for Savasana. 

Last Period on a Friday Afternoon

The kids all said they were tired. I was prepared with a selection of sequences from which to choose, having perused my copy of 30 Essential Yoga Poses: For Beginning Students and Their Teachers by Judith Lasater. I purchased and read this book over the summer, but only pulled it off my shelf to check it again on Thursday evening. I had forgotten the wealth of information covered by Lasater. She not only describes the 30 poses she considers essential, she also provides 17 sequences organized by:

  • Busy Days Practice
  • Day-of-the-Week Practice (consisting of 7 separate sequences)
  • Theme Practice (consisting of 8 sequences)
  • The 30 Essential Yoga Poses Practice

I opted to guide my students in a Practice for Relaxation. To warm up, we began with Sun Salutation A, which the kids were familiar with from the previous session. 

Sun Salutation A



UPWARD PRAYER (arms overhead)

SWAN DIVE TO RAG DOLL (standing forward bend)















Practice for Relaxation (with slight modifications)

Standing Forward Bend

Standing Forward Bend with hands on a block (we used a chair)

Elevated Legs-up-the-wall Pose

Elevated Legs-up-the-wall Pose with Legs in Bound-ankle Pose (forming a triangle with bottoms of feet touching)

Elevated Legs-up-the-wall Pose with Legs in Seated-angle Pose (legs split to form a V)

Head-of-the-knee Pose

Seated-angle Pose with a chair

Basic Meditation pose

We finished with 
Savasana, with everyone opting for an upper arm, neck and head massage, followed by a poem. Turns out the poem choice was quite fitting given our conversation about respecting one’s body. One of the kids had thought it would be impolite to say “no” when asked if I could touch them for the massage, or if they wanted a massage. We talked about respecting one’s own body, which includes saying “no” if they do not want to be touched, not just by their yoga teacher but by any peer or person. I am thinking of making this very clear next session by quietly (and just before class starts) asking one of the kids to say “no thank you” or “not this time” so that the rest of the group has a visible and audible lesson in saying “no”.

Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face by Jack Prelutsky

Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.

Within your ear, your nose would be
an absolute catastrophe,
for when you were obliged to sneeze,
your brain would rattle from the breeze.

Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
remains between your eyes and chin,
not pasted on some other place–
be glad your nose is on your face! 

It’s official! Days 2, 4, 6 = Yoga

Winter sports season began prior to Thanksgiving, and yoga began this week on Monday. To my delight (and slight nervousness) there are eight students who are taking Sports Conditioning, which means that on alternating days of our cycle (Days 2, 4 and 6) the students will be doing yoga.

Monday’s class was organizational in nature. We gathered in the meeting room of the Athletic Center, where there are desks and chairs to be moved at the beginning and end of each yoga session. For now, the students are using mats from the multipurpose room โ€“ big, blue, thick mats that do not go well with socks. Since the kids prefer to keep their socks on, I am extra eager for the arrival of our yoga sticky mats.

Sports starts at 2:00, and to give ample time for changing clothing, getting mats, and a bit of chit-chat, we begin our yoga sessions at 2:15 and go till 3:00. There are ten minutes to then return the desks and chairs to a classroom setting, put away the mats, and head out without feeling rushed.

My nervousness comes from inexperience in guiding yoga sessions, and more so from the equivalence of “writer’s block” in crafting sequences. Despite being an avid practitioner for the past six years, despite having a huge loose leaf binder from YogaEd, I was having a tough time putting anything down on paper. And this made me nervous.

Friends to the rescue! Thank you to Deb G, my very first yoga teacher, and to Libby B, with whom I did the yoga sessions a few years ago. Between the two of them they sent reassurance and an entire sequence!

Here is the sequence Deb sent. I modified it on the fly to accommodate the mood of the kids.

Start sitting, a bit of breath work, perhaps asking them to set an intention.
then some simple stretch w/arms and or neck…then an om.
move onto backs…perhaps bridge and stretches, a twist maybe.
then hands and knees…dog cat then thread the needle. table balance maybe.
into plank and or down dog. then onto feet.
mountain, half moon, standing squat.
arm swings…empty coat sleeves.
perhaps warrior 1 and 2.
a balancing post.
then bellies…roat, cobra sphinx..take your choice.
then backs…shoulder stand…a twist to end things
back to sitting…a poem or thoughtful
namaste or j’ai b’gwan(sp)

On Monday some of the kids asked about playing Twister as a warm up. Today, prior to beginning the above sequence, we warmed up with Yogi Benders, an alternative to Twister. Yogi Benders is one of the games in the extensive YogaEd binder.

Yogi Benders

This game is for any size group, but is certainly more fun as the number of players increases. You’ll need a large carpeted area, a wooden floor space, a grassy yard or mats. Players spread out in the space. The coach calls out the names of body parts, such as: one foot and one thumb, one heel and one hand, two knees, just your tummy, etc. The players must touch the ground or floor using only the parts called out by the coach.

Shavasana are those moments of relaxation at the end of a yoga session when you lie on your back, eyes closed, arms out at your side with palms facing up. Our last five minutes of class were spent like this, and each student was asked if they would like a little massage. All five said yes (three students were out today). Ah, upper arms, shoulders, sides of the neck, forehead and top of the head, followed by a poem. What a nice way to end a school day.

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins (from poetry 180)

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.ย