Author Archives: Grier Cooper

Exercise With The Whole Family

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Every Sunday morning in the Bay Area, more than one hundred people gather to dance and sweat their hearts out. What makes the event even truly unique is the eclectic mixture of the group.

Grandmas dance alongside glittery, hoola-hooping twenty-somethings, a sprinkling of enthusiastic children flit throughout the crowd and balance on their parent’s backs and shoulders, and there are even a few young babies strapped to their mothers or fathers (with proper ear protection, of course). Scanning the crowd and taking it all in suddenly gives the term “all-inclusive” an entirely different meaning. As a parent, it is a wonderful reminder that it is possible to share many of our passions and interests with our children, and while parenting does often involve a certain level of sacrifice, there are some things that we cannot and should not give up, because they hold something of value for the whole family.

In the end, the deeper message is this: while it is a given truth that being a parent means there is a whole lot less “my time”, perhaps there is a way to think a little bit more creatively and expansively, in terms of “our time”. For instance, instead of foregoing a home yoga practice in the living room because of potential interruptions from your kids, try putting the yoga mat down and letting them join in. Try working out when and if you need and want to, with your kids by your side. All too often parents have the ingrained belief that exercise needs to be something they do without kids.

However, an important opportunity is lost in the process: children miss out on the benefit of a positive example of seeing the adults in their lives make physical health a priority. By sharing that time together, everyone wins, and positive lifelong physical habits are born.

NOTE: This week I am very excited to be taking part in a blog chain that is sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center. I invite you to visit the next link in the chain, a blog written by Terri Forehand, whose many years as a nurse and teacher bring depth to her writing!

Click here to visit Terri’s blog!

A Calming Exercise For Children

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Every now and then, sitting still and being quiet can get old. After all, human beings were not meant to be sedentary creatures, which means that being still at a desk for hours at a time is actually counterintuitive. With kids most especially, when it’s time for a break, it’s time for a break, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Happily, it often only takes a few minutes to move, stretch, reground and refocus. Here’s how:
Each of us is rooted to the ground by our feet. Deepening our roots can begin with a simple visualization: stand still, with the feet planted firmly on the floor, directly under the shoulders, hip width apart. Have the group close their eyes, and imagine that roots are growing from the bottoms of the feet, through the floor, through the ground, and through the earth, where they wrap around Earth’s molten core. Then, begin to feel the points of contact where the feet touch the floor, and imagine all four corners of the feet are stapled to the ground.
Once roots have been firmly visualized and established, the focus can be placed elsewhere. Breathing deeply can both be powerful yet calming to explore. Have the group breathe together, inhaling deeply, then exhaling deeply, for several cycles of breath. Next, guide them through simple movements that are coordinated with each inhale and exhale. For instance, on an inhale, both arms reach up to the sky, and on the exhale, fold the body forward and touch the floor, (or knees, ankles, or toes). Inhale and twist the body to the right, exhale and twist the body to the left, and so on. Think of it like “Simon Says” with a twist. If the group is really overly energetic, have them finish with “shaking it all out” moving and shaking the whole body, while imagining that they are releasing the extra energy out through their roots and down into the ground.
To finish, root the feet back into the floor firmly, close the eyes, and take three more deep breaths, humming during each exhale.

Tap-Dance Fever

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Title: Tap-Dance Fever
Author: Pat Brisson, Illustrator: Nancy Cote
Ages: 4-8
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press, 2005
ISBN: 978-1590782903
Annabelle Applegate has a one-track, tap-dancing mind, with feet that just won’t stop. Her exuberant tapping starts to cause problems at home, at school, and all around town. The townsfolk decide to put a stop to her dancing, but everything they try fails. However, Annabelle saves the day when her tap dancing mesmerizes a group of rattlesnakes, and the whole group becomes town celebrities, drawing audiences from all over. Tap-Dance Fever is a loveable, comic tale about the strength of desire and the power of dance.

Why We Dance

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For as long as we have been upright creatures, human beings have been dancing. Dance is a form of expression that supersedes verbal language; it is possible to convey far more meaning in a sweeping gesture than a simple phrase. But why do we dance? What compels us?
Celebration. Every culture across the globe celebrates for many different reasons. Social events, such as birth and marriage are two of the most common causes for festivity. There are also dances to praise the merits of each season. In Africa, for instance, there are dances of praise for fertility, of both crops and offspring. Other dances may be more specific to a particular area, or tribe, such as dances to celebrate a recent victory. One could argue that dance rituals of death fall in this category. While dancers grieve over the loss of a loved one, they simultaneously celebrate the life of that person.
Communion. Most humans believe in a Higher Power, and with this belief comes the desire to communicate and receive blessings from that entity. Sacred dances have been practiced for centuries, and are still quite common in places such as India, Asia, Indonesia, Africa and the Middle East. Dancing for communion is intricately linked with prayer, as well.
Connection. Humans are social creatures, and dance has long been a way for people to find connection and community. The array of group dances over time is staggering, from the simple maypole dance of spring, to waltzing, contra dancing, square dancing, and the ubiquitous conga line. Never has the old adage “no man is an island” ever been more correct than on the dance floor.
In the end, the simplest reason of all may be that it feels good to move our bodies to music. It is one of the most natural forms of expression, and a common language we all share. Young children are the most accurate barometers of how innate dance is for humans. If they hear a beat, they move their feet. Or hips, or anything else they can think of. Dance is not only our heritage, but also our birthright.