Monday, 3 October 2011

Yoga Sparks Intent

"If God created everything and everyone, then who created God?"
AND " I like jello!" (Both said by Mr. Sphinx above)
Yoga is full of thought provoking contradictions.

  • Go deeper into the pose AND at the exact same time relax into the pose
  • Be completely aware AND at the exact same time do nothing
  • Inhale AND at the exact same time exhale (ha just kidding).

One contradiction that came up several times during our yoga teacher training was how do you set goals when yoga is supposed to be all about staying in the moment.  How do yoga and goal setting, lesson planning and long range planning work together?

Yoga Contradiction #948: Plan ahead AND at the exact same time stay present.

As I went to write my professional development goals this year I was faced with this paradox. Reflecting on past goals, my reasons for setting a goal has often been about controlling a situation in order to create personal growth. It seems like I need to refigure why I am writing goals in the first place. As my yoga practice develops and every day teaches me more and more about surrendering, I find my purpose for setting goals is shifting.  Shifting from wanting to feel in control to wanting to see what unfolds if I resolve to do something.

So this year as I set my professional development goals I want to set an overall intention for setting goals.  A goal for my goals.

  • I will watch what unfolds as I work towards my goals. (ha it even almost rhymes)

And here's the spark.  It's all about intent; my purpose for working towards a goal creates the space for being able to stay present with what is happening.  If my intent is only about outcome then it doesn't matter what unfolds in the moment, but if my intent is to watch, well really there's no way not to stay present.  Yoga Sparks Intent.

How has yoga shifted your intent?  How has yoga changed your goals?  What does yoga spark in you?  Let me know I'm listening,
Intent is everything, (AND nothing).

With love and a special thanks to Melissa, Peter and Sam,

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Yoga Sparks Crying

As some of you know, there is a gigantic poem that hangs in my room at all times.

Mistakes are good they help us grow,
They show us what we want to know.
So if you make a mistake don’t cry,
You’ll do better if you try.
(author unknown)

As some of you may also know, I have been crying a lot lately, it’s all good!

But this has led me to want to alter this poem a little.  There’s nothing wrong with crying.  I find myself telling kids more and more, “It’s okay if you want to cry, listen carefully for when you don’t feel like crying anymore.”  This is what I’ve been doing and I don’t know how to tell the kids anything different.

Also the line about doing better somehow seems to imply that the mistake wasn’t actually good.  But mistakes are SOOOOO good, and I say this so many times during the day, (a lot to myself).

So here’s what I’m thinking:

Mistakes are good they help us grow,
They show us what we want to know.
So if you make a mistake and cry,

You’ll feel better if you try.
You’ll feel better reaching for the sky.
You’ll feel better just like pie. Mmmm
You’ll feel better as you learn to fly.
 Listen carefully and you’ll fly.  << Favorite so far

I still don’t really like the last line, and am completely open to changing it somehow.  Please send me all of your suggestions (silly and serious) on facebook or email

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Yoga Sparks Sound

Yoga Sparks Sound

I have been struggling lately with asking kids to be quiet. Not so much with the kids that are sitting and chatting, but asking the ones that are making the no sense noises to stop making the noises.  I’m sure you can all think of a kid (or adult) you know that sits and hums to them self or sits and hums the same pattern over and over again.  I’m fairly certain my husband Andrew was one of these children and that’s why he spent most of his grade two year out in the hallway.  (He says it was because of moving trauma). He’s actually doing it over and over in the kitchen right now, maybe this time because of marriage trauma J

Anyways, my point is, the more I learn about energy, the more I’m learning that kids know exactly what they need and sometimes in order to balance their self they need to make certain noises to feel okay.  This makes it hard to teach, hard to not react and hard to stay sane throughout the day.

On my yoga mat I’m often encouraged by different teachers to groan, hum, sigh or release any sound that just feels right at any moment of practice.  In my circle of yoga friends we often practice what is called a toning circle.  One person starts a sound and everyone else follows, it flows in and out of tune and comes together and dissolves in this way that you can feel throughout your whole body.  So why not let the kids release sound in this way while also learning the sounds of the alphabet.

There are tons of links to the Alberta music curriculum as well as several in the grade one language arts curriculum.  Here’s what I did in my class.

Right now I am using this sound circle just for the special sounds, the vowel sounds.  Perfect because it really sets these sounds apart from the other sounds in the alphabet and emphasizes that vowels are important, different and special.  I give the kids some examples of how they can show the sound with short/long, legato/staccato, fast/slow or low/high.  We have only done the sound for the letter A (/a).  The first time I did it, I didn’t put any parameters on volume control, the only parameter was it had to be /a.  I found that right away that all students loved this!  However there were a few students (and myself) sensitive to noise that were overwhelmed by how loud it got.  To solve this I put a volume control on and the kids had to watch my hands, as they got bigger they could get louder but as they got closer together students could get quieter.   This worked ridiculously well and without even talking about it, students came to complete silence when my hands touched.  If you knew my class this year you might think this was a miracle J

Yoga sparks using the ‘noise’ that is inherently part of being a child and yoga sparks harnessing these sounds for learning.  Eventually, when all the vowel sounds have been taught, I hope to be able to have the students change sounds during the sound circle according to what visual letter is shown to them.  I also hope to be able to record and share this with you.  So far I have never had a group of kids remember the first vowel sound so quickly and consistently. 

How could you use a toning circle in an older grade? What does yoga spark in your classroom? If you are having troubles posting here, please email me I’d love to listen to your ideas.

With love,


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Yoga Sparks Efficiency

Warning: This blog post contains no solutions. This post is more of a gentle reminder to my ego :)

I am feeling rushed.  Most years, one of the first concepts I teach the grade one students is efficiency because it results in transitions going faster. I thought I was teaching them what efficiency looks like and sounds like.  I thought I was teaching them what being efficient means but now I'm having second thoughts. I have been focusing only on the time aspect of efficiency and  I am slowly, not very efficiently, realizing that You Can't Rush Efficiency, (thank you Melissa), yet I constantly find myself asking kids to hurry.  (I'm pretty sure I already mentioned this a few posts ago, like I said, not very efficient right now).

In yoga a lot of things are about efficiency.
- Stack my knee on top of my ankle so that my quad doesn't die (as quickly).
- Mindful movements on my mat equal no wasted energy.
- Moving with my breath moves my body.
None of these are about going fast, hmmmm...

The more I hurry students the more things go "wrong", the more time it takes to fix the "wrongs," the less time I have to teach.
Which leads me to something that Shirley Chief Moon told me my first year of teaching grade one, (but had forgotten and now remembered).

Slow is fast, fast is slow.
Slow down Ames! Things will start to flow.

How has yoga made you more efficient?  What has yoga sparked for you?  Let me know and if posting here isn't working, please email me: I am in need of inspirational efficiency stories :)

with efficient love,

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Yoga Sparks The Total and Complete You!

I was writing a lesson plan for my final teaching practicum when I wrote something that unexpectedly made me spark inside.  The lesson I was writing is based around a book And Here’s to You! By David Elliott.  The book begins with celebrating different animals and ends with celebrating you. The last page goes like this:

And here’s to you!
The You Person!

Here’s to the sweet you,
The messy and the neat you,
The funny-way-you-eat you,
The head to your feet you,
The bones and the meat you,
The total and complete you.

Oh, how I love you!
The You Person!
You Person You!

I love You!

From this I thought it would be nice for the kids to each make up their own page to a story and we could make a class book.  Well I wrote one about myself to use as an example and was surprised at the emotions that came up. 

I think it was the part that made me think of something good and something not so good about myself that got me, (The messy and the neat you), and then how it is followed by The total and complete you.  The messy parts are so important too, and without those parts this person wouldn’t be complete.  I know this was supposed to be a grade one lesson but it really ended up showing me complete love and acceptance for myself, messy bits and all.
I will post my poem below and I challenge you to make one about your self and read it to your self.  Notice what it sparks for you inside? If you want please feel free to share and post it after mine, it would be kind of neat to have a “book” of Here’s to Yous!

With so much love,

PS I’ll share the complete lesson for this book soon J

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Yoga Sparks Chaos :)

Whenever changes are made to anything, things usually get "worse" before they get "better”. For example:

·      Cleaning: Mess hidden in closet, reorganize closet, take everything out (worse), reorganize, throw out, give away and put back (better).
·      House: No walls in basement, drywall the basement, mud the walls, sand the walls, entire house gets covered in layer of dust (worse), vacuum, dust, mop, paint (better).
·      Coaching volleyball: Ball served over net in large arc, adjust the contact point on the ball when serving, ball goes into net, too far, too short (worse), practice, practice, ball whizzes over and down (better).
·      Eating: Eating no sugar for months, eating (at least) 30 wedding cupcakes over two days, trying to stop eating sugar and met with intense sugar cravings (worse), eventually... sugar cravings cease and ice cream at 1:00 in the morning with colleagues does not appeal anymore (better).

·      Classroom:  Three rules. 1. Raise your hand. 2. Keep your hands to yourself. 3. Ask permission to leave your desk. Change to one rule, Work Towards Harmony, students learning what harmony means, how it applies to their life, learning through mistakes and testing what isn't harmony (classroom behaviours get worse), well this one is still unfolding...

What I'm trying to say is that there are many things in my life that I can see that there is a period of adjustment.  There is a period where things might be uncomfortable for a bit but I trust that because of the changes being made, because of the effort being put in, in the long run things will most definitely get better.  So why then does it surprise me so much when this happens in my classroom? It seems so much more uncomfortable to make these changes in my classroom.

I changed the rule in my classroom because what I had been doing wasn't lining up with what I felt to be true anymore. In changing the rules I was allowing harmony within myself. In changing the rules I am challenging myself to align what I believe will bring the world to a more peaceful state, with what I actually do in my classroom.

I find myself thinking, "Is what I am doing bringing harmony to this classroom?" and if I'm honest, sometimes I am definitely not bringing harmony. When I don't have set rules to fall back on it takes more conversations, more time, more thinking on my part and the students' part in order to see if what we're doing is creating harmony.  Teaching and learning harmony for all involved.  Which leads me to, it's going to get worse before it gets better.  It's going to get chaotic before it gets harmonious. But I am choosing to trust that this will happen, things will get better and not only better but I am trusting that things are going to get exponentially better because you can't go wrong when you're working towards harmony. In the end we will have a group of people that can choose to listen because they realize the value of listening rather than just putting up their hand to follow a rule. 

It's through embracing this chaos that our classroom will be led into harmony.  Yoga sparks the chaos that with trust will lead to harmony.  

What have you seen get worse before it got better? What chaos arises in your life from yoga? What does yoga spark in you? Let me know, I'd love to listen.

With much love,

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Surrender

Dukha is the sanskrit word for suffering, pain, misery or frustration.  Today there was a little dukha, but it was completely me.  The beginning of the year is always a little bit of a shock for me.  Thinking... "What? Why wouldn't this adorable kid not want to do what I'm asking him to do? Last year the kids always listened."  Well by the end of the year they did, but that was because of all the hard work of developing a relationship with them. Not to mention that they are 10 months older by June.  Yes, the beginning of the year can be a little shocking when you grasp at the past.  Dukha, a little bit of frustration because I forgot to drop my baggage.  It's only in grasping at the past that there is any Dukha.

It is what it is. I love saying that, and for whatever reason that didn't come to mind at all today.  First day of school, for sure! With out a doubt, (now that I look back), it is what it is.  There are so many unknown things happening, about to happen and happened at seemingly the same time, that I'm not sure how I thought that I had any control over the unfolding.

"Let go Amy."  There is a voice in my head that says that to me, but today I was not listening.  I found it very hard today to hear anything above the excitement of new Transformer lunch kits and the chaos of 18 kids asking to go to the bathroom at the same time and then taking them all to the bathroom at the same time. It is what it is, it is the first day of school, let go Amy, let it unfold.

Yoga sparks me remembering after the fact that I don't have control of how things unfold, even if the end of the year last year led me to believe I did.  Ah well, tomorrow's a new day, it is what it is.

How was your first day?  What does yoga spark on your first day?  Let me know, I'm listening and would love to hear.

With love,

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Pattern Recognition

I am a pattern expert! (I thought I was anyways.) I teach grade one, how can I not be an expert at patterns?

Girl Boy Girl Boy  
Red Red Green Red Red Green  
Unicorn Hyena Zombie Robot Unicorn Hyena Zombie Robot

I should have learned all about patterns back when I was in grade one but it's taken yoga for me to recognize that there are patterns within me.

Right now, I am at school getting ready for the first day of school.  I am going to keep this really short because, well, here's the pattern: I left a lot of prep till the last minute and I'm going to be here really late finishing. Hmm, this sounds familiar, like it's been repeating my whole life, oh wait it has, hmmm isn't that the definition of a pattern?

In yoga your patterns or the things that you just naturally fall into are called Samskaras.  They are the deep imprints that are in our life that we just can't seem to get out of and into different habits.  What yoga has taught me about these Samskaras, even though I may not know how to implement this, is that if we catch these patterns right when we are beginning to engage in the pattern, right when we are opening the bag of cookies without thinking, right when we are about to put a plate in the dishwasher without rinsing it off first, right when we are about to write on our blog instead of getting ready for the first day of school... (All my samskaras :) ), if we catch them right at the start point and then consciously choose something different our patterns start to change, gradually, gradually start to change.

Yoga sparks pattern recognition, gotta go back to work :)

What patterns has yoga sparked in you?  What patterns have you seen in yourself through yoga?  I'm listening, let me know :)

With love,

Monday, 29 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Responsibility

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to step back and see potential. When you start looking to the future there are just so many possibilities, so much information, so many opinions and so many directions, that it can seem impossible to move forward. It's easier to just stay in a little bubble and work on your own. It's easier to dismiss others' ideas because they don't work with how you are already doing things.

Today we had our first meeting of the year as a complete school division, a pep rally of sorts designed to get us motivated and excited for what is to come. Followed by a pRep rally, where our professional learning communities met.  But instead of leaving the meeting peppy, I felt drained and down.  And that’s okay.

As I get deeper into yoga I realize that yoga is not about staying in happiness, it’s about staying present for whatever comes up. And when a “bad” feeling comes up it can be easy to disengage, to protect our selves by choosing to sit doing nothing rather than participating and productively contributing. There were points today that I heard my mind saying, “Whatever, I’ll just go along with this and then do my own thing in my classroom (bubble).”  I had to make a conscious effort to work through that initial voice in my head and still engage with what was happening.

Now when I say engage, I am not talking about fighting or arguing or being stubborn.  I mean be truly present, truly listen to others, consider what others are saying and then respond in a gentle way so others have the opportunity to listen to you.  This involves a certain amount of vulnerability.

In the past I have put my opinion out there, in a gentle way, but still to convince people that my way is right or maybe that my way is best.  And thought that just because I was being gentle meant that of course they would agree. And when people don’t agree with me my ego immediately jumps in telling me that I need to be offended or that there’s something wrong with me. And after I’ve gone through that exhausting process a few times it seems like the only other option would be to disengage, “Fine I’ll just stop caring, I’ll sit here at this meeting but I won’t really participate.”

Yoga sparks being present for the “good” and the “bad”. I have the responsibility to not disengage.  I have the responsibility to watch my ego jump and then from a place of watching engage some more.  I have the responsibility to speak my truth and then not take it personally when others don’t agree.  I have the responsibility to myself, my students and ultimately the world, to completely engage in life. And the best part is that I can still protect my self by choosing to not see rejection as something that defines me.

As we head into a new year I want to challenge teachers to stay completely engaged with your colleagues. Engage outside your bubble of a classroom with people that maybe don’t always agree with you, and then be open to whatever comes up. Yoga sparks the realization that your truth and my truth can exist at the same time.

Take what rings true for you and leave the rest :) And then of course let me know, what does yoga spark in your teaching practice?  What does yoga spark within your teaching relationships?  

With love,

PS Seriously excited for exposure to little people on Wednesday!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Mosquito Bites?

Today a mosquito landed on my arm and I noticed it.  I mean of course I noticed it but instead of reacting to it and slapping it away or even gently blowing it off I just watched.  It was kinda neat, she actually got pretty comfortable and dug in a little deeper and then moved on down and dug into another spot, three times she did this and then… I tried to blow her away.  Didn’t work, so I gently nudged her with my fingertip off of my arm.  Hee, hee, okay, why did I suddenly have the overwhelming need to get her off my arm, I got scared.  Really Amy, scared of a mosquito, but yeah, I started thinking, “What if I get West Nile? What if this mosquito bite is intolerable?”  And so on…. I was not present in that moment anymore.

Why am I writing about mosquitoes?  Well it occurred to me that this is very similar to teaching children.  Okay, I realize that this sounds like I’m comparing children to an insect that most people would describe as annoying, but that’s not my intent.  As some of you may know one of the programs that I draw from for my classroom management is Love and Logic.   One of the main concepts in Love and Logic is:

Powerful teachers allow their students to solve problems in ways that do not create additional problems for anyone on the planet.
Smart teachers step in only when a student’s problem…or solution…is likely to cause lasting harm to the student or others.

It occurs to me that essentially this is the same thing as watching a mosquito.  Sometimes it’s really hard to watch students try to solve their own problems.  Our ego or fear can get in the way. It can be hard to watch a child choose a solution you wouldn’t have chosen.  It can be hard to watch a child make a mistake.  It can be hard to watch a child feel disappointment.  And if I am being truly sincere, sometimes my ego can even find it hard to see a child succeed if it wasn’t something that I had something to do with. Ego thoughts such as, “Maybe I’m not doing my job, maybe I’m not needed anymore, maybe other people will think that this child’s mistake is my fault, ” come to mind.

After the mosquito bit me and I let fear in and nudged her away, it was equally hard to not give into the new itch.  Today though I chose to sit with this itch and see what happened. Was I going to die because I didn’t scratch the little bite?  Was it going to be intolerable? As I sit here typing I still haven’t scratched it, I do however keep looking at it, seeing how it’s changing, seeing what an unscratched mosquito bite looks like.  I’m fairly certain that I have never before had an unscratched mosquito bite, I have the tendency to not stop scratching, not caring if it itches more because then I can just scratch it more anyways and the bites almost always turn into big ugly inflamed masses that end up looking like I’m allergic to mosquitoes.

Spark!  I can’t even see the bite anymore and it does not itch anymore. The more I can stay present in each moment of my students’ actions, the less likely I will be to react.  The less likely I will feel a need to rescue students from their lessons.  My job is to allow students to find their own power even if it makes my ego itch. Yoga sparks allowance.

What does yoga spark in you?  Has your yoga practice sparked anything in your classroom management? Write to me and let me know, I’d love to hear, .

With love,

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Non Absent Minds

Usually I try to be very mindful about wording requests in a positive manner to kids. Please walk in the hall, rather than, please don't run in the hall.  Please use a kleenex, rather than, please don't use your finger :)  I'm not saying that it never happens where I say something as a negative phrase, but I am saying that I most definitely think about the impact of my words. (I am aware that my title is in the negative, but I wanted to put the sometimes overused word, mindful, out there in a different way). And this got me thinking, (with the help of my friend Amanda).  How mindful is this voice in my head when I am talking to myself? Do I put as much mindfulness into the thoughts I allow to continue in my head?  If I am honest with myself, I see that I have been absent minded with my thoughts.

A few weeks ago someone said to me, "You're not responsible for your first thought but you are responsible for the second."  (I can't find who wrote this or where it came from, let me know if you know). I have had a lot of people tell me recently that they feel their thoughts are out of control and very negative.  Oh I know this feeling, who doesn't know this feeling?  An ugly thought sounding in your mind, "Who are you to think you can do this? You're not good enough. You always start things but it won't go far."  All thoughts that have come into my mind lately.

And here's the spark.  In the past I believed these thoughts were true and then added to them with the thoughts I am in control of.  Sometimes this initial little thought snowballing into something huge and debilitating.  I'm gradually realizing that there is so much more to these thoughts than just ignoring them or pushing them away and that ultimately these thoughts are actually part of the path to inner peace. I read an amazing article back in March that felt like a turning point for me, this is where I started, Love That Little Voice by Dena Anderson.

As this new school year starts I resolve to be just as mindful about what I am thinking as what I am saying aloud to my students.  I can't wait to see how this unfolds within me and through me as a teacher.

What does yoga spark in your mind?  Write to me and let me know, I'd love to hear!

With love,

Friday, 26 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Unstillness

Yoga is typically thought of as something that brings you into stillness, but as I listen to more and more people I am starting to see a common theme.  People seem frustrated that their bodies are resisting this stillness. Yoga is sparking a new awareness of what their body needs: more movement before the stillness.

Many people are expressing that they don't know why their body doesn't "do" stillness when they try. Perhaps manifesting as not being able to sleep at night or not being able to sit and read a book. The thought that children need to be able to sit for long periods of time to be able to learn still seems present within schools. Even though for years there has been research linking learning to physical activity, I feel that this pattern is still engrained in some of our classrooms.  I know I catch my thoughts sometimes jumping to, "Oh why can't he sit still?" or, " I wish she could just sit still."  Is this really what I think? Really what I wish? No.  But it points out to me that this pattern is still within some of us.

So for me today yoga sparks unstillness, when your body needs to move, let it.  A line that came to mind today that I will try is, "Is there a different way that you can use that energy?"  Giving students freedom to move to the mat if they can't sit still, if they can't keep their hands to themselves or if they can't keep their voice down.  Behaviours that in the past I have maybe labeled as bad behaviour or not enough self-control, are truly just energy trying to move.  Giving kids skills to move that energy in appropriate ways and providing opportunity to move is my spark for today.

What does this spark in you as a teacher?  What does yoga spark in your classroom? Let me know, I really want to hear!

With love,

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Yoga Sparks Beginnings

I am a collector.  I collect many things and as it turns out I have also been collecting skills.  The thing about collections though is that a lot of the time they sit there under glass or in a box, still, unmoving, untouched.  Still and unmoving is awesome if you're in Savasana but I'm thinking my skills need to come out of their corpse pose and into more of a Surya Namaskara, "Hello Skills, how are you today?  How can we serve together?"

Yoga has sparked so much in me and my corner of the universe. I truly feel that our students are searching for a new environment to express their completeness.  And it is with this feeling that I am beginning to bring my collection of skills together into a vision of a classroom that is open, caring, loving, moving, expanding and continually changing to meet each and every level of need in my classroom.

My beginning spark is to put two yoga mats out in my classroom full time.  Dedicated space to yoga. Several ideas pop into my head of how the class could use these, but I'm more interested in watching what new ways unfold during each day.

Yoga in the library

What do you think?  What does yoga spark in your classroom? Let me know, I want to hear!

with love,

Next day: Unfolding of spontaneous yoga begins...