Monday, 30 March 2009

Storytime Yoga


A Review by Michelle Morgan

Storytime Yoga is the brainchild of yoga teacher and mother Sydney Solis, who set up the company after the death of her husband, in order to make a living and future for her children. She began teaching Storytime Yoga classes to local children and in no time at all her hard work paid off and her company became not only successful in the area of teaching children, but also she was able to branch out into books, lectures and a series of E-courses.

Sydney offers three different courses: Awakening the Storyteller, Stories from the Heart and Mythic Yoga. All of these courses are run over the Internet, and you have to complete all three before you are eligible to become a member of the League of Yogic Storytellers and go onto live training with Sydney herself.

I recently undertook the first part of the E-course: Awakening the Storyteller, and I greatly enjoyed my experience.

The course lasts four weeks and during that time each student has access to Sydney’s knowledge through emails, podcasts and two live tele-conference calls. However, if you are not able to take part in the calls, Sydney’s very efficient assistant Gina will send you the MP3 version, so that you don’t miss anything that is said. This makes it very easy for International students like myself, who can’t take part in the call due to time difference and expensive call charges.

There are a maximum of 15 students on each course and a special forum is set up so that you can keep in touch with each other, share notes, questions and ideas. I found this very useful and inspirational, to be able to hear from other like-minded people, and I was very glad to share my own knowledge of teaching children over the past four years.

Preparation for the course involves posting your introduction to the forum, taking part in the telephone call and listening to a specially-prepared audio lecture, which explains the course and goes into the benefits of telling stories both for children and adults. You should also purchase a copy of Sydney’s beautiful book, ‘Storytime Yoga: Teaching Yoga to Children Through Story’, which is not only insightful and informative, but also acts as the course manual throughout the four weeks of study. Alternatively you will receive the E-version of this book, though of course it’s always nice to hold the hard-copy in your hands when working.

You will also receive some MP3 recordings of stories and songs, along with a video download of a Storytime Yoga class. The MP3 audios were great, but unfortunately for me I couldn’t get the video to work, though I’m sure this was merely a technical problem on my part, rather than a problem with the file itself. (Incidentally, when you go onto course two, you will receive Sydney’s second book, ‘The Treasure in Your Heart: Yoga and Stories for Peaceful Children’, but I would suggest you don’t wait until the next course to buy a copy, as it is a very useful investment for anyone interested in stories and yoga.)

When course one started I was terribly excited, and for good reason. I found the coursework to be varied and insightful, with notes and tuition on setting up classes, how to find stories, techniques for teaching children of all ages including teenagers, meditation, warm-ups, games and so much more. I decided to try out one of the stories, ‘The Peddler’s Dream’ to my older yoga children one Friday afternoon, and the response was amazing. They sat enthralled as I told them the tale of the Peddler who kept dreaming he should go to London, and at the end of the story every child was eager and happy not only to tell me what specific yoga postures they would use in each part of the story, but also what dreams they have – either night dreams or life dreams – and the whole class turned into a lively discussion with many smiles, and much applause along the way.

The coursework is send out without fail every Monday morning, which was terrific for me because I teach yoga to junior school children every Monday afternoon, which gave me time to print the material and read it before taking the ideas into my classroom later in the day. There are assignments to undertake which are voluntary, but if you choose to do them as I did, you will definitely get a lot more out of the class. You need to do lots of reading too, but if you’re anything like me, it just gave me a good excuse to dive into the library and also order a few tomes from Amazon too!!

Each week Sydney sends a podcast to explain specific points and answer any questions students have brought up through the week. I thought this was really useful and really made me feel part of the Storytime team when I heard Sydney refer to me by name and answer a query or thought I had brought up.

When the course finished last week, I was really sad because I had enjoyed it immensely and will certainly miss receiving my coursework and notes every week. Being involved in the course certainly gave me a reason to get up every Monday morning!!

I would recommend part one of the Storytime Yoga course to anyone. I sincerely enjoyed taking part in it and hope that one day I’ll be able to do the second and third parts too.

The next course starts on 5 April and you can register at Also on the website you will be able to find out much more about children’s yoga, Sydney, the courses and her books. It is well worth taking a look, especially if you have an interest in stories, children or both!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Yoga 4 Teens

‘Yoga 4 Teens:
An instructor’s guide for teaching yoga to teenagers’

By Christy Brock and Jennifer Lightsey

Published by Yogaminded, P O Box 3072, San Clemente, CA 92674-3072
Year: 2005
227 pages
Price: 49.95 US Dollars

I have bought many (MANY!) yoga books in my time. Some are read and placed on a shelf forever more; others are dipped into every now and again; and one or two are forever on my coffee table, ready to be thumbed, read and digested whenever I’m getting ready for a yoga class.

‘Yoga 4 Teens’ is one of these books. After reading the information on Christy Brock’s website, I knew it would be good, but nothing could have prepared me for just how wonderful it really is.

The book is described as spiral bound, which brings to mind a flimsy, paper-backed manual which will soon start to curl at the edges. However, that is NOT the case with this book; it is spiral-bound with a difference. If you have David Swenson’s Ashtanga book, you’ll know what I mean when I say it is spiral-bound, but then covered with a hardwearing board cover. This ensures that the book can be carried around without getting damaged, which is good news for a teacher’s manual.

The book is divided into three parts: ‘What to know’; ‘Poses and teaching them’; and ‘Sample classes’. It is followed by an Appendix which includes charts, lists of postures, resources, quotes and more.

The three parts of this book are everything you could ever wish to know about teaching yoga to teenagers. (And incidentally while it is aimed at the teenage market, it is also a wonderful resource if you teach younger children too). Chapters in Part one include: Establishing a teaching position; Classroom space and props; Principles of teaching teens; Yoga philosophy in the teen classroom; Practicalities; and Class planning.

This part of the book is a fantastic resource for preparing yourself to teach teens, while part two is everything you need to teach the postures themselves – from standing postures to relaxation and everything in between. This part of the book takes up over 100 pages and is illustrated throughout with hundreds of photographs demonstrating all of the postures. There are even extra sections on menstruation, breath awareness and special cases.

Part three includes five sample classes and three objective-specific classes, all of which are illustrated and described with both the English name and the Sanskrit.

After spending an afternoon in the company of ‘Yoga4Teens’, I can truly say that I have never come across a teacher training manual like this one. It is concise, informative and hugely descriptive. As a yoga teacher I have spent many years teaching either young children or older adults, but I have always shied away from the teenage market, fearing I might not be cool enough for them! However, now that I have this book by my side, I really do feel as though I am now equipped with the answers to every question I could possibly have, and I’m now looking forward to teaching teenagers in the future.

As for the authors - Christy Brock and Jennifer Lightsey – their enthusiasm and love for teenagers comes shining through. Many, many hours must have gone into writing this guide and this really shows in the text. I think it is their passion for teaching (and for teaching teenagers in particular) that really makes this book so worthwhile.

And talking of passion for teaching, Christy has also compiled an e-book for those interested in teaching teenagers, entitled “Teaching Teenagers Yoga”. It is a combination of practical advice and inspirational guidance from many yoga teachers, all recalling their experiences of teaching teenagers and what has worked (and hasn’t worked) for them. At 19.95 US dollars, it is a great addition to your bookshelves – particularly because it’s an e-book so you don’t have to wait days or weeks for it to be delivered.

I’d recommend Christy’s books to anyone not only interested in teaching teenagers, but also anyone who actually has a teenager at home. The information contained in both books is tremendous and I for one am very proud to have both manuals in my collection.

‘Yoga4Teens’ and ‘Teaching Teenagers Yoga’ are both available from Christy’s website: and while ‘Yoga4Teens’ is also available at

Look out for an exclusive interview with Christy coming soon! If you have any questions you’d like to ask Christy, please let me know as soon as possible. Thank you.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Googies: Coffeeshop to the Stars

Googies: Coffeeshop to the stars
By Steve Hayes
Vol One ISBN 1593933061
Vol Two ISBN 159393307X
BearManor Media

Have you ever heard of The Corner? No? What about Ah Fong’s or Black Watch? Still confused? Well what if I add in the names Schwab’s or Greenblatts? Ahh, now I’m making sense. We all know Schwab’s and Greenblatts were a big part of Marilyn (and Hollywood) history, and together with Ah Fong’s, Garden of Allah and Black Watch, they made up an area known as ‘The Corner’, where people came to see and be seen in the 1950s. But while Schwab’s might have been the most famous of these locations, there was another coffee shop on ‘The Corner’ which was not so well-known but just as popular with the up-and-coming stars of the day – and that was Googies.

Googies was designed by architect John Lautner in 1949, with the idea that by using lots of glass, it would give the illusion of eating outside. It worked and was immediately popular with the Schwab’s crowd and those who hung around ‘The Corner’.

Many stars and starlets walked through Googie’s front door over the years, including James Dean, Errol Flynn and of course, Marilyn Monroe. Another budding movie star was Steve Hayes, who not only hung round ‘The Corner’, but also ended up managing Googies himself.

Some fifty years later, Steve opens the doors of Googies once again, by writing the highly entertaining two-volume book, ‘Googies: Coffeeshop to the stars.’ In the book Steve tells his own story of trying to make it big in Hollywood, and spills the beans on some of the secrets, stories and scandals surrounding his friends and acquaintances from ‘The Corner’.

Of course Marilyn was one of the people he encountered during this time, and she features in several chapters. Steve talks about the time he gave her a lift home to North Palm Drive, along with several stories from her days at Schwab’s and Googies.

The book doesn’t just concentrate on the famous people who haunted ‘The Corner’; it is also an autobiography of Steve himself. Married and divorced on more than one occasion, the book takes the reader on a ride through Hollywood and it’s history, while all the time telling tales of Steve’s life and loves.

The book is illustrated with loads of black and white photographs of old Hollywood (including some fantastic ones of Googies and Schwab’s), and many actors and actresses too, including Marilyn.

In my opinion, this book is a very entertaining read and is great either to dip into, or read from cover-to-cover. I would recommend it to anyone interested in tales of old Hollywood. It really is a journey through the ups and downs of the Golden Age of Movies, and since most of the people and places mentioned in the book are long gone, it is the nearest we will get to hanging around ‘The Corner’ ourselves.

Both volumes of ‘Googies’ are available from BearManor Media or at