Is it really the middle of July already? Time is flying by! I had so many ideas for posting this month, and I haven't gotten around to any of them yet! But... I at least can't let my monthly roundup pass by.
This is the official call for submissions for the July Read & Romp Roundup. If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave your link in a comment on this post.
Maybe you read a picture book about yoga that you'd like to share. Or maybe you read a poem that made your students want to get up and dance. All ideas are welcome! I'll round up all the links and post about them together in a few weeks. Can't wait to hear from you!Submissions are open until Monday, July 30, 2012.
By Laura Davis
You know that stress dream that everyone has at one time or another? The one where you’re standing up in front of a giant group of people and something goes horribly wrong? You forget your speech, your voice cracks, you’re not wearing pants. Well that dream became a recurring reality for me my senior year of college (not the pants part thankfully). Mine was the singer’s nightmare. The one where you open your mouth to sing and the voice that comes out is not your own.
As a child and an adolescent I loved to perform. Singing wasn’t something I thought about; it was something I just did and as a result I was totally fearless. When I got to college the concept of thinking about singing as a science was entirely new to me. My teachers taught me to release my jaw and tongue, to inhale into my back and belly, to use muscular antagonism of the inspiratory and expiratory muscles, to keep my larynx low and stable, to lift my palate, and many other mechanics of singing. At first this new focus on technique was interesting, but eventually all of the technical language resulted in confusion. Every time I opened my mouth to sing I was afraid I would do something wrong. The result was a voice that was only a shadow of the one I used to call my own.
What happens when we’re afraid? In his article “The Anatomy of Fear,” John A. Call discusses the body’s reaction to fear: the heart-rate speeds up, our muscles tense, and the breath becomes fast and shallow.
The implications of this for a singer are huge. In singing the first rule of the inhale is release low. When a singer releases and expands through the lower body (belly, low back, and intercostals), it allows these muscles to work in tandem on the exhale. This gives the singer the ability to manage the air much more efficiently than if he/she had begun by expanding through the chest and clavicles. If a person is experiencing fear, the ability to take a low and relaxed or released breath becomes quite difficult.
Certainly singers need to learn proper singing technique, but sometimes I wonder, what is all of this focus on the physical costing us as artists? There was a time in my life when I operated solely on musical intuition. But as I learned more and more about the mechanics of singing I began attempting to operate on facts and science instead of artistic impulse. I don’t mean to suggest that I didn’t need to learn the mechanics—I had plenty of technical issues. But perhaps there is a more holistic approach to teaching singing that could facilitate proper technique without the loss of instinct.
After I graduated from college I took some time off from singing. When I decided to return to it I knew I needed a different approach. I had been practicing yoga as a form of exercise for a few years, but I felt confident that with the right guidance it could really help me as a singer. So I sought out a voice/yoga teacher.
Yoga session at sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park – Warrior I pose. Photo by Jarek Tuszynski. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons
My new teacher, Mark Moliterno, taught me that yoga recognizes that tension in the body is often a result of physical or psychological blockages to the breath. The practice of yoga seeks to release tension and free the breath. When properly implemented in the voice studio, yoga can be a pathway to efficient vocal technique and artistic freedom.
Mark pointed out that all of the confusion and fear that had built up during my college studies had caused me to physically disengage from the lower half of my body. So we set to work using yoga to reconnect me with my lower body and help me feel more secure in my singing.
We used postures like Tādāsana or Mountain Pose and Vìrabhadrāsana One or Warrior One to release tension in the body and connect me with the ground. Feeling my leg muscles engaged and my feet planted firmly on the floor helped me to feel more secure. We used pranayama or breath exercises to release tension within the muscles of the respiratory system. We used hip openers to release the tension in my jaw, and shoulder openers to release the tension in my tongue.
We did yoga and made music. Not once in this entire process did I think about any of the mechanics of singing. My technique improved because my body was open and the breath could function naturally and efficiently. Yoga was like this miracle that freed my voice and allowed me to trust myself again. But it isn’t a miracle, it’s a science that takes into account all parts of the person, and not just the anatomical.
Carrie -Yoga shoot #002. Photo by Joel Nilsson. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons
When singers start trying to function as anatomical machines, seeking after flawless technique, we can lose the ability to sing authentically. Yoga helped me to learn to sing with good technique without focusing on it, and dissolved the fear that kept me from trusting my musical instincts. It released the tension in my body and mind, unleashing the breath, and offering me a pathway to artistic freedom.
Mezzo-soprano, Laura Davis, is a singer, conductor, and voice teacher. She holds a Master of Music degree in Voice Pedagogy and Performance from the Catholic University of America and a Bachelor of Music degree in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College. Recent performances include Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Dina in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, and Third Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. After spending 10 years on the east coast conducting, performing, and teaching, Ms. Davis has returned to her home state of Colorado where she is in the process of opening a voice studio based on a holistic approach to singing.
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Welcome to the February Read & Romp Roundup! As usual, we have a nice mix of submissions this month, including some poetry. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the reading -- which will hopefully lead to some romping as well!
Amy at Picture-Book-a-Day
is back to share a short review of the new picture book A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream
by Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper. The book is set in the 1950's and tells the story of a fictional African-American girl who sees the first "colored" prima ballerina --Janet Collins -- perform. The review is part of a roundup that includes some other recent picture books: Don't Play with Your Food, Mr. Flux,
and Yellow is My Color Star.
Amy was also featured in the February Book to Boogie post
at The Library as Incubator Project. In her post, she summarizes the picture book Move!
by Robin Page and Steve Jenkins and describes her ideas for using it to inspire movement during library story time.
Elly at Yoga & Creative Movement with Elly
suggests retelling the classic picture book Fortunately
(by Remy Charlip) through movement games and yoga poses. She also suggests having kids tell, act out, or write their own story in a "fortunately…unfortunately" format. Check out her post for all the details!
Kathleen at Wild Things Yoga
is a kindred spirit with a love for picture books and movement, especially yoga. This month she shares a lesson plan -- a shorter version for preschoolers and kindergartners and a longer version for first and second graders -- for combining yoga with the picture book The Leopard's Drum
by Jessica Souhami. The book, which is a West African tale about a leopard who doesn't want to share a huge drum he makes, also lends itself to discussions about fairness and problem solving.
And last but not least, two guest dance educators join Maria's Movers
to share their experiences using different kinds of poetry in their creative movement classes. Becca Beck and Kerry Bevens discuss building dances around poems, using poems as warm-ups, exploring nursery rhymes in class, and more!
A lot of movement-themed picture books are not the best bedtime picks because they can rile up little ones and make it hard for them to fall asleep. But Good Night, Animal World
-- a new children's book by yoga teacher and independent author Giselle Shardlow -- was written to be read specifically at bedtime.
The yoga-inspired text and the illustrations by Emily Gedzyk are all meant to help wind children down at night so they can relax and sleep well. What a great premise -- and one that definitely got me excited (especially as a mother) to look inside this book!
Inside, six characters take readers to six parts of the world -- Australia, England, Guatamala, India, Tanzania, and the United States -- to say goodnight to animals from those specific regions. Each page shows an illustration of an animal, accompanied by some simple text (some imagery about the animal and a goodnight message) and a yoga pose. The 13 poses in the book, chosen for their calming potential, include forward bends, restorative poses, gentle twists, and some inversions.
Below is the "turtle" page from the book, followed by a book trailer that includes other images from the book plus some book reviews -- all set to relaxing music, of course!
It's actually hard to see how children wouldn't be calm after finishing this book. "Embrace their creativity and let them experiment with the poses. Whatever helps them release extra energy before bedtime is the perfect pose," says Giselle. The poses are even laid out in a sequence that facilitates flow from one pose to the next. And my favorite part of the book? The resting pose at the end! Just thinking about it is making me super sleepy… I think I need to take a rest!
OMG, this video had me bawling. So great. Love this whole idea of making the sky rain goodness over one person.
While everyone else seems to be making those pesky resolutions for the New Year, I'm working on some life resolutions instead. It's just going slightly slower than I expected. I have some good reasons for this but then everyone usually does because they generally fall into the category of life happens.
Mine include an unexpected business trip, my 16 1/2 year-old dog is ill and may not recover, the pace at work seems to continue to increase, and - well, you get the point. Life Happens!
I did write down some goals, or resolutions, such as: write more, travel more, better organization at work and home, yoga everyday, enjoy life wherever possible, and so on, and so on. I've come to the conclusion, however, over the many years of making New Year's resolutions that what I need is Life Resolutions - in other words, add/subtract things from my life that make sense for the rest of my life.
One of those "things" is yoga. I like the philosophy of yoga and the opportunity for growth and awareness. With New Year's resolutions, a very small percentage, including me, are able to keep them. I've always felt like a failure by February because for the most part, the resolutions weren't reasonable and didn't take into account that life happens.
With yoga and it's many forms of practice, the fact that life happens is part of the process. Besides, it's more workable to fit my goals above into the rest of my life instead of a year.
Happy writing everyone.
"Yoga keeps us focused and calm."
My 2009 illustrated book "The ABCs of Yoga for Kids" (written by Teresa Anne Power) has just won its 5th award,the Gold Medal in the Picture Book - Body, Mind & Spirit category in the 2010 Mom's Choice Awards!
You can also read a great review of the book here.
And order the book here.
If you've never tried yoga, it is a great exercise in strength, balance, focus, body awareness, and a great stress reliever. I always leave yoga class with a sense of calm and well-being, and ready for bed!
This post would not be complete without me mentioning one of my favorite sites to visit. It is the site of my friend Polly over at "Yoga is Yummy". Last year I designed a logo for her DVD. You can see her yoga demos, recipes, and even read snippets to nourish your spirit here.
Much like they describe stretching in yoga, love grows when moving in opposition. Love is this guiding force that roots you down deeper and more firmly so that you can stretch, grow and extend upwards into lightness, into yourself, into stillness. It's a push and pull, opposition and union, you and the divine... all part of the same big gobbledigook of energy pushing to let itself grow & vibrate!
Ah...conferences! So hard to sum up three days in short, easily digested blog posts. So I'm going to be brief and will post all week.
The Magic of Writing:
What did the faculty say they do when they get stuck in their own writing?
Gary Schmidt, author of 2008 Newbery Honor Award winner, The Wednesday Wars, and many other novels said there is no such thing as writer's block. If you are stuck on the main plot line write in the negative space. Get off 1st Ave. and write what's happening on 2nd and 3rd and 4th Ave. Might not use any of it, but when you find out what's on the other avenues you could find a surprise waiting for you.
Yuyi Morales, award winning storyteller and illustrator, said that she finds an image she loves and illustrates something similar, tries to copy the style, create like him or her. This pulls her out of her comfort zone and brings her out of her own techniques. She said that when we we find something we love about someone it's like we are looking in the mirror. This process usually brings out a nugget of voice.
Faculty Book Picks
Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
How To Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Staniford
Charles & Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker
Bigger Than Life by Carmen Bernier-Grand
Jeremy Draws A Monster by Peter McCarty
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Yesterday I practiced Yin Yoga for the first time and it felt SO amazing. Loved it:)
It's in pieces now but I have a feeling it'll be the prettiest yoga mat bag ever :)
I bought the silk in India!
If you order any of the books I have illustrated (click the links on the right margin of this blog), I will personally sign a book plate and drop it in the mail to you in time for the holidays. I am working on book plate designs for "The ABCs of Yoga for Kids", "Little Black Ant on Park Street", and "Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too!", and will post examples after the weekend.
I've wanted to try yoga for a while now. This wish was inspired by the calm and creativity of writer friends like Liz Garton Scanlon, who is so filled with peace and gratefulness and generosity that you'd think she'd be annoying, except that she's clever and funny and real, and you can't help but love her. The past year or two especially, my brain feels like a pinball, zinging from topic to topic, bouncing from task to task way too fast and violently to actually accomplish any meaningful thought. So, I finally went to a hatha yoga class at the gym one Sunday night a couple of months ago, and I loved it. I'm doing two classes a week now, and I want to add one more.
Lots of the moves aren't all that hard physically, because I'm flexible, and these aren't highly advanced classes. They're very "do what's available to you and don't worry about what the person on the mat next to yours is doing." I'm good at the moves (postures?), but bad at anything that stresses my wrists. I'm pretty wobbly at the balance stuff, too! So some of it's easy, and some of it's difficult.
But the most difficult part by far is focusing on the moment. Not letting my mind wander. Not thinking about my to-do list. Not mentally reviewing the budget. Not wondering if I'll ever sell another trade book. Not worrying about my daughter in her new apartment. Not thinking ahead to the manuscript that's due next week.
So that's what I'm most hoping to get: a refuge from the constant decision-making and chaos of real life, and, eventually, an ability to quiet my mind, focus better, and let my creativity run wild.
Here's my first submission...
I try to do taichi or yoga but don't get around to it very regularly. My ladies are very good at it. This one is a bit hippy but she's so comfortable with herself it really doesn't matter....
Hey, if these critters can do it, why can't I? New Year's resolution #1: Do more exercise.
This is my first post on M.A. - thanks for the invite! :)
visit my blog
surrender to nothing...
When you purchase an item from MY STORE, 10% of your purchase price will be donated to my favorite animal charities; Last Chance Animal Rescue and Horses Haven, both in lower MI. Which charity the donation goes to, will depend on the item purchased and I will love you forever from the bottom of my little black heart. ...and even if you don't purchase anything from me, PLEASE go to their site and make a donation! These animals deserve a chance!
Snuggle up by the fireplace, with a warm mug of something and browse through the pages of my website