|Posted on April 15, 2021 at 1:05 PM||comments (5046)|
Today on our "yoga trip" to Israel we visited all the exciting attractions the country has to offer. As part of our adventure, we visited an Israeli army training site where we learned how to be strong and brave just like the Israeli soldiers.
To thank them, we decided to make a list of mitzvahs we would do today in honor of their bravery and sacrafices they make to keep Israel safe.
To view the entire list of mitzvahs here:
Writing letters to soldiers is a very MINDFUL way to show your gratitute. You can do it from the comfort of your own home at the following link:https://www.chabad.org/special/gazawar/letter.htm
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ISRAEL!
|Posted on January 23, 2020 at 6:30 AM||comments (46441)|
By Diana Scharf
By now you’ve probably heard all about how testicles have tastebuds and have been laughing hysterically at the idiots on TikTok who have been dipping their balls in soy sauce. Seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried: https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/people-are-dipping-their-balls-into-soy-sauce-after-learning-testicles-have-taste-receptors/
My first thought (after I laughed and rolled my eyes at the same time) was that a woman would never do something like that, even if she had balls. Women are just not that crazy. But then I thought, why aren’t they? They should be!
Boys have always been risk takers and experimenters. Boys will climb to the top of a jungle gym, even if it means they might fall off. They will climb to the top even after they just watched their friend fall off, or if they fell off yesterday. Boys try dumb things, like microwaving Peeps until they explode, making Coca Cola and Mento bombs, and apparently, checking if they can actually taste soy sauce with their testicles. Guess what all of these behaviors have in common? They are all SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS!
Boys experiment and take risks, and this translates into success later in life. Curiosity about STEM subjects leads to careers in STEM fields. They boy who made his Coke explode with Mentos grows up to be a man who studies nuclear fusion.
Girls, on the other hand, are not taught to take risks. Girls are taught to be smart, and to be safe. If a girl falls off the monkey bars, she probably learns not to climb them. (If that’s not a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is...oh please do teach your girls to climb!). Girls might engage in pretend play with those cute little chick and bunny Peeps, but they probably won’t put them in the microwave to see what happens to them. Girls are more likely to play by the rules, rather than to think outside the box. (Coke is for drinking, Mentos are for eating, Mom will make me clean up if i make a big mess). Growing up this way, many women avoid entering the higher paying STEM fields, opting for careers that, while just as challenging and demanding, don’t require as much experimentation and risk taking. Why gamble on the unknown when you can earn a living doing something safer?
While numbers seem to be improving, there are not enough women working in most STEM fields, particularly in Science and Engineering, where, according to the National Science Foundation, men outnumber them seven to one! Yes, microwaving Peeps is stupid and Coke and Mento bombs are messy, but we need to start cultivating this type of scientific curiosity in our girls. We need to teach them to take risks, and to follow their natural inquisitiveness. We need to get them interested and excited about STEM subjects so that they will work in those fields and eliminate the gender pay gap.
So let your daughters experiment with ideas that they come up with on their own, no matter how silly you, as an adult, think it is. It’s not silly to them; they legitimately want to learn about the world around them. For example, the other day my 8 year old wanted to know what happens to lotion when you freeze it. I thought it was a pointless experiment, but then I wondered, would all of it freeze, or is there some alcohol in there that wouldn’t freeze? Would the lotion feel normal again after it thawed? We were eager to find out! Maybe in 20 years this will turn into important cryogenics research, who knows? Great ideas have to start somewhere.
Conducting science experiments at home is also very mindful! Watching liquid fall from a dropper, filling and emptying containers, pouring liquid from vessel to vessel, all of these things help children calm down and give them the mental tools to increase their capacity for learning. So please, teach your girls to experiment. Let them get creative, let them get messy. (Maybe draw the line at soy sauce in the bathing suit area, but hey, who am I to stand in the way of science?) Messes can be cleaned up but the curiosity that you unlock will last a lifetime.
|Posted on November 27, 2019 at 7:00 AM||comments (12542)|
By Jessica Brown
Recently my daughter asked me what my spirit animal was. I was totally stumped by this question, mostly because admittedly I had no idea what a spirit animal really was.
I was curious, so I decided to go on Professor Google to see what they had to say. According to Dictionary.com, "In certain spiritual traditions or cultures, spirit animal refers to a spirit which helps guide or protect a person on a journey and whose characteristics that person shares or embodies. It is also metaphor, often humorous, for someone or something a person relates to or admires."
I couldn't think of what my spirit animal was so I decided to choose my "spirit yoga pose". One of my favorite poses is fish pose, "Matsyasana" (maht-see-AHS-uh-nuh). Fish pose is a backbend that stretches the front of the body, particularly the throat, chest, abdomen and hip flexors. Traditionally a part of the finishng sequence of a vinyasa practice, I literally feel like my body is floating in this pose. It reminds me of the warmer months just floating in the water trying to catch the sun. Fish always look so peaceful to me just swimming around and around, being perfectly content with what they have. What is more yogic than that?
My daughter on the other hand did not want to choose a pose, but would say her spirit animal is a horse. She loves the free feeling of riding with the wind on her back and jumping through the air as if she is flying.
It is incredible to watch her form this bond with such a large animal. We often feel the same way about challenging yoga poses. Can we trust ourselves in a handstand? That is up to the individual yogi.
So tell us, what is your spirit animal or spirit pose?
|Posted on November 22, 2019 at 7:00 AM||comments (3009)|
By Diana Scharf
I’m really sick and tired of hearing everyone complaining about The Little Mermaid. People suddenly seem to feel that this adorable children’s story is anti feminist because Ariel “gives up her voice for a man.” Well, I’m sorry Keira Knightly followers, but this just shows me that you weren’t paying enough attention to the strength of Ariel’s character.
Before Ariel even saw the prince, she was obsessed with being part of the human world. (Cue song here). Like, hoarder-obsessed. Literally any human object she could find went into her secret cove, and her favorite past time was searching the ocean for human objects and then trying to figure out how to use them. She’s not content just sitting around the palace, looking pretty and singing in seashells like the rest of her sisters. She’s exploring sunken shipwrecks, finding hidden objects in the sea and narrowly escaping death while she does it. She’s basically Indiana Jones with a fish tail.
So when the opportunity presents itself to chase her dreams and join the world she loves so much, she jumps at it. Wouldn’t you? Why doesn’t anyone talk about how brave Ariel must be to leave all that she knows behind and go out into the unknown? What do we tell our daughters when they have to leave us to go to school for the first time, or when they go to sleep away camp, or even (gulp!) off to college? Be brave like Ariel! She left her home behind and got everything she wanted.
Why doesn’t anyone commend Ariel for making the sacrifices necessary to achieve her dreams? There’s a good lesson there for little girls: if you want to achieve something great, you need to make sacrifices. Nothing comes for free in this world. You want to get into a good college? Skip that party and study for the SATs. (Sorry baby, Mommy isn’t Felicity Huffman or Aunt Becky).
Why does nobody mention how Ariel saves the prince’s life twice, and not the other way around? She’s not waiting around for a prince to find her. She’s diving into fiery shipwrecks and battling giant sea witches! That’s pretty badass if you ask me.
Yes, there’s a prince involved—it is a Disney movie after all. But he’s not the sole reason for the transition; Ariel becomes human because she wants to be human. And not for nothing, but if anyone wants to bother reading the original Hans Christian Anderson, the little mermaid so badly wants to be human that she endures great pain on a daily basis and turns down her chance to return to the sea, even though she knows it’s never going to happen with the prince. In the end, she earns herself a human soul and that is her happy ever after. In both the book and in the Disney movie, she takes control of her own life and makes herself better. What is more feminist than that?
Anyway, my point is that I’ve always seen Disney’s The Little Mermaid as an empowering story, and it just bugs me when people belittle Ariel’s achievements just because there was a man involved. I’ve watched The Little Mermaid with my daughter dozens of times, and I don’t ever worry that I’m teaching her the wrong values. She sees me go to work and run my business. We have lots of conversations about how girls can do anything. And she also sees that I’m a wife who loves her husband. Nothing wrong with that either.
When I teach The Little Mermaid in my yoga classes (yes, you read that right!) I stress the female empowerment. We use yoga poses to triumph over hungry sharks and giant sea witches. We discuss Ariel’s bravery and put her in yoga poses that both require and build strength. We talk about what dreams the students have and what steps they might take to achieve it. (And we don’t even have to give up our voice, we are so lucky!). I can even find an asana to match it.
So please, go show your daughters this movie without reservation...and then call me so we can act it out with yoga!
|Posted on November 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM||comments (10500)|
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 (23997)|
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 (11098)|
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 (4160)|
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 (2422)|
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 (7646)|
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!