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We are what we practice!

We are inundated with information. We get a lot of information daily. We have blogs, groups, webinars, and many other ways of acquiring information. But what are you practicing daily? Regardless of the information that we get, learning happens through practice.

Information is not equal to learning!

A lot of information does not make you more knowledgeable or more skilled! It may even get in the way of becoming knowledgeable and skilled.

In 2023, we are focusing on improving our methods for practicing. We are paying attention to the tools and techniques we are using to organize practice.

Our first and most successful effort is organizing dance practice. Thank you Vinayak Raj and Jaya Mulraj for this colorful picture of a dancer!

Smile Brightly and Dance

  1. We have started a 100-Day Smile Brightly and Dance project. While practice is an ongoing daily activity, creating a timed project (100-Day project) is useful. We set and refine goals for this project. We track progress. The key outcome for this 100-Day project is improvement in our daily practice routines and habits.
  2. We have created a Wakelet to organize practice.
  3. We are working with Ananth’s teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, to create resources in way that makes it easy to organize practice. Since December, Ujwal has been creating short 3-5 minute videos. We are compiling these videos in Wakelet. We choose videos and practice with ease!
  4. We are adding information about what we practice daily to our practice Wakelet.

Review our Wakelet here to see how we are organizing and documenting daily practice. You can use some of these resources to do your own 100 Days of Smile Brightly and Learn project!

Once we developed a clear practice approach for dance, we started replicating the same approach for coding and other activities.

Tip of the Week: Set clear practice goals for yourself and your child. Do not just think about making your child practice. There are many things that parents have to practice to become better guides and advocates for their child. What are you practicing daily?

Our Journey to Bharata through Natya

I started referring to Ananth’s journey as A Journey to Bharat through Natya. Later, I realized that it is my journey too. I started tuning into mindful practice with Bharatanatyam. I was fascinated by how instruction was organized around aduvus, structured movement patterns that are the building blocks of Bharatanatyam. The building blocks of teaching and learning are well-specified in Bharatanatyam. Hence, it is not surprising that the first process that fell into place for practice for us was Bharatanatyam. We are grateful to Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for following this basic structure and working with us to create short videos as building blocks of our daily practice.

Announcing our New YouTube Channel: Ananth’s Adventures

Ananth’s Adventures will be used to share small daily explorations that Ananth and I do. Our focus will be on improving practice. We will do a series of 100-Day projects to continuously improve how we practice. Watch our first video on Ananth’s Adventures Channel below!

Smile Brightly and Dance: Practicing Pada Beda (Movements of the Feet) with Ananth

Rama’s Notes on the Video

A new phase in Ananth and mom’s theater explorations! Ananth has learned Bharatanatyam for over 10 years. Rama has observed and given suggestions to Ananth from time to time. We have acted together for many years. Ananth enjoys acting Ananth and mom stories. Now, Ananth is immersed in varied theater experiences through RASA. He is exploring dance from a Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) perspective. Rama is doing a parent certification in TAHD. We are exploring theater a bit differently now.

I am #notadancer and not aspiring to be a dancer! But TAHD approach is relaxing. I would feel more intimidated by traditional Bharatanatyam that I would have to be perfect in the movements etc.

The Four Es of TAHD

Exploration, Experience, Expression, Enjoyment

Ananth and I are having fun trying out some things together. I feel free to express myself. While following what was taught, if I forget something, no worries. Make something up đź™‚ The point is to explore together and create a positive experience!

Benefits

  1. Ananth’s teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru, emphasizes smiling while dancing. But it is hard for Ananth to practice smiling in front of a computer screen. So I started doing the basics with him.
  2. I don’t get enough time for exercise. We walk daily, I have started yoga, the aduvus add a bit more movement into my life.
  3. I keep saying don’t just make your kids do things. Do things with them. Action is better than talk. So Ananth and I can just demonstrate this in action through our new channel.
  4. I think TAHD has great potential to enhance the quality of interactions between parent and child. Hopefully, when parents see our video, they will get a glimpse of possibilities.
  5. I don’t want to just say do TAHD, it can really help your child. I believe people respond more to action than words.
  6. As a teacher, I am intrigued and fascinated by aduvus. What an elegant way of organizing teaching and learning! So I have an interest in aduvus.
  7. The 100-Day project format also increases my comfort level. I have committed to a 100-Day exploration of aduvus with Ananth.
  8. There are many small movement videos in our Smile Brightly and Dance Wakelet. Any parent can pick up some and try. Hopefully, if we share a few explorations, it will motivate others to try.
  9. Ujwal has started including simpler versions of the aduvus and telling Ananth “let us do this simple one so you can practice with amma.” So hopefully Ananth gets the message that he can teach something to others as well! It also means that the videos in our Smile Brightly and Dance Wakelet are easier versions for parents to try a little at a time.

10. Finally, remember that you are not here to fix your child. Your child has their own path. They might well lead you to change your path! I am an engineer and an academic. The sum total of my dance experience is one folk song I did while in college đź™‚ We can always try new things and enjoy. #happiestsaathis

Practicing Coordinated Movement

Analyze the coordinated movement in the video above.

Consider related movements: 1) setting up the IPAD for recording and laptop for playing music, 2) setting up IPAD so both are visible, moving nearer or farther way, 3) coordinating (I will play the video, you start recording), 4) stopping the IPAD and laptop.

To create this short clip, we had to do quite a bit of coordination!

Sitting tolerance or engaging through movement? What should parents focus on?

Parenting and Perfection

Finally, I was thinking parenting and perfection may be on the opposite sides! As a parent, there is much to gain by quickly adding to my movement vocabulary and improvise while interacting with my child. If I were aspiring to be a dancer, then I would go much slower to develop each movement to perfection…

Think about all the different foot, hand, face/eyes and other movements in this short clip. As parents, we are free to just play with these movements.

Thanks Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Vaishnavi Poorna Ujwal Jagadeesh Hopefully, we will get more parents trying TAHD and benefiting from RASA’s work over the years.

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Smile Brightly and Dance – Part II


Exploring Theater as a Tool for Stress Management 

Many neurodivergent individuals and their parents face significant amounts of stress. This stress arises not only because of challenges that an individual has in areas such as motor functioning, executive functioning, and communication but also due to the environment. Finding the right environments for neurodivergent individuals to thrive is not easy.

Can Theater Arts for Holistic Development be used to teach stress management?

This is the question that I have been mulling since Ananth started his Bharatanatyam lessons with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, a senior faculty and artist at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL), Bengaluru.

Ananth has been learning Bharatanatyam for more than 10 years.  Even during the first lesson with Ujwal, I felt a striking difference in his approach from Ananth’s past experiences. I had connected with him through the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) program by RASA India. So I already knew that his approach was shaped by TAHD. As lessons continued, I realized that his approach represents an integration of The Ramana Way and The TAHD Way! Ramana Maharshi is one among the great spiritual masters of India who has guided the world to get back to their own nature which is divine and blissful. Thank you Morpheus for your amazing artwork for our blog posts! Ananth and I are happy you shared your portrait of Ramana Maharshi with us for our blog.

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

The question below and the response (emphasis added) is from Ananth’s blog post yesterday that included an interview with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh.

4. Did you start incorporating Ramana Maharshi’s life and teachings in dance before integrating TAHD?

Yes, Ramana came first and with it came the understanding of the true purpose of dance  which is to realize our true nature. I loved listening to stories always. After the training of TAHD the primary goal of all the lesson plans was to understand that our true nature is happiness. These lesson plans includes song, dance and stories.

The first time I observed Bharatanatyam lessons at RMCL, I was struck by the opening lines:

Omkaranai idhayathil ninainde

Mahizhudun Punnagai Purinthen

Thai ya thai ennum spurana thudane

Thataduvai nam saidiuvum

Lyrics by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh Tamil Translation: Dr. Sarada

These lines invite the student to think of God’s power within themselves and smiling before starting dance. We did four lessons during our first visit. Somehow, these opening lines caught my attention each time. Later I realized that these opening lines shifted aduvu (small patterns of movement and expression that are the building blocks for Bharatanatyam) practice in a subtle but important way.  I continued to observe aduvu teaching during online sessions. The theme of being attentive to God’s power within you and smiling brightly were a part of every lesson!

Smile Brightly and Dance – A 100-Day Project is Born

Over the last month, I have been considering the possibility of TAHD as a tool for practicing emotional regulation and stress management. The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) video on Strengthening Stress Resilience and Immunity is a useful resource to think about aduvus as a stress management practice. 

Stress is an internal state of the organism and mental processes. A need or demand that is perceived to exceed the resources available to effectively deal with it at a certain time or disease can cause stress. The description of the video notes that MNRI® offers new approaches to enhance stress resilience and immunity, as we contend with the neurodevelopmental impact, the emotional/physical trauma, and the panic from the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty and challenges during the pandemic and other situational factors have resulted in a period of stress for Ananth.

So I was intrigued by the possibility of Smile Brightly and Dance as an approach for teaching stress management while teaching dance. Since MNRI is not easily available in India, TAHD and especially the aduvu practice as a way of affect regulation and stress management is a possibility worth exploring.  Even if MNRI were readily available, dance brings the practice into a fun and engaging activity for the learner to take ownership of this practice rather than a therapy organized by others.

Our 100-Day TAHD Project Begins

Once I saw the possibility of using aduvus as a tool for practicing emotional regulation, I started thinking about a 100-Day project.  Aduvus struck me as a powerful tool for creating opportunities for learners to practice facial expression.  Facial expression is also practiced in storytelling and drama but aduvus provide a systematic, incremental, and consistent way of practicing affect regulation daily.  

Hence, the 100-Days of Smile Brightly and Dance project was born.

Day 1: 12-15-2022

Pay attention to God’s power within you.

Ananth is beginning to internalize this message.  Today, he told me that he had a hard time with fast transitions because he was not paying attention to God’s power within him!

Building Positive Thinking Trails

Today, I had an aha moment. Ananth has a tendency to get stuck on negative thoughts/experiences.  So I suggested that the next time he has a negative thought, tell himself that God’s power is within him.  Since Ujwal brings this message daily in one or more ways, this thought (and related thoughts) can provide an alternate path for thoughts.

What we did

Ananth and I did the following together

  1. Vyayama
  2. Tattaduvu  (We tried the Aduvu Adaivu video in the morning but for our purpose, the one Ujwal and Ananth did at RMCL works better.  It is slower and repeats Omkarane twice.

I have decided to practice the exercises and aduvus with him.  While he is doing fine with a teacher or in a group, his attention and concentration have been significantly affected during the last year.  In the early days of learning dance, I used to practice parts of the lesson with him.  For this 100-Day project, I will be doing exercises and some aduvus with him as I think it will help get the most benefit out of this practice.

Day 2: 12-16-2022

Ananth learned one more aduvu in a slower format in his class. We will add that to our daily practice for the 100 days.

Day 3: 12-17-2022

We practiced the mettaduvu. We are seeing a goal for skills practice. Side bending while doing mettaduvu is our goal for the coming week!

The poster below shows our project timeline.

We invite you to create your own Smile Brightly and Dance 100-Day project or some other 100-Day Theater Arts project and share your journey with us in our LIFESMART groups!

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BloggerSaathi CreativeSaathi

Gurus who Believe – 1: Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh


Learning Bharatanatyam from Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, RMCL Bengaluru

In this blog post, I am exploring two new techniques.  First, I interviewed my dance teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty and artiste at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL), Bengaluru.  Second, I am using folded circles to organize what I learned through the interview and from my experiences to show how my Bharatanatyam experience is evolving now.

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

About Ramana Maharishi

Ramana Maharshi is one among the great spiritual masters of India who has guided the world to get back to their own nature which is divine and blissful. Ramana Maharishi  showered his love on all living beings. He has been guiding seekers of truth to and rejoice in the power within. 

Thanks to Morpheus Nag for this beautiful portrait of Ramana Maharshi.

A Visit to RMCL 12-08-2022 and 12-09-2022

I visited RMCL to learn from Ujwal anna when I visited my uncle and aunt in Bengaluru. When I visited RMCL, I wanted to see the auditorium so I can remember the arangetram that I attended in October. Ujwal anna took me to the big photo of Ramana Maharshi, and showed me that Ramana Maharshi has a walking stick in one hand, and a kamandalu in the other hand. He showed me this because we had been practicing Ganesha Stuti where one of the steps included showing Ramana thatha with his walking stick and kamandalu. We then went up to the meditation hall. We then came back the auditorium. I also wanted to see the steps to the dining hall where my mother sprained her ankle.

The next day, it took us about two hours to get there. I did not have breakfast thinking I would have breakfast at the Udupi nearby. Therefore, we had to get a parcel, pack some food, and dash to RMCL. I learned a new pada beda song. We then taped a body parts song for parents to try with their children. I enjoyed my visit to RMCL.

Interview – Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh

Ujwal Jagdeesh

Here are some questions I asked Ujwal anna to explain more about his approach to teaching Bharatanatyam and theater arts.

  1. When did you start participating in RMCL (Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning) activities? How did you start integrating Ramana Maharshi’s life and teachings in dance?

 I was a participant in the Inter-school Competitions and dance competition conducted by Ramana Maharshi Centre for learning.  Then I started participating in the dance ballets of the centre.  These dance ballets gave me an insight in to the teachings of Ramana which reminds us realize our joyous divine nature within.

This made me realize the purpose of all sadana including the dance is to realize our true Self which powers everything

2. How did you start introducing Theatre Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD)?

We were introduced to Theatre Arts for holistic development by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar and we also completed the P. G. Diploma in TAHD.  At the treat after our TAHD course convocation,  we were asked to share how we will take TAHD further. I didn’t have a right answer but I said I will incorporate TAHD in my dance classes

3. How do you integrate TAHD in your teaching?

Only after a few years of teaching and various discussions with Dr Sarada Natarajan,  President, RMCL it took the shape of children’s rhymes and new dance songs Atma Darshana songs where the focus is on Self-awareness.

4. Did you start incorporating Ramana Maharshi’s life and teachings in dance before integrating TAHD?

Yes, Ramana came first and with it came the understanding of the true purpose of dance  which is to realize our true nature. I loved listening to stories always. After the training of TAHD the primary goal of all the lesson plans was to understand that our true nature is happiness. These lesson plans includes song, dance and stories.

5. I know that you were working for Infosys for six years before switching to RMCL full time. Why did you make this change?

I am very passionate about dance. I loved being a part of all dance ballet productions of Ramana Maharshi Centre for learning. After my course in TAHD,  I decided to pursue my service at RMCL full time as I enjoy it. I also enjoy teaching dance and telling stories.  

6. What advice do you have for neurodivergent learners and their parents?

Ramana says that there is God’s power within everyone of us and tells us to pay attention to it.

Theatre Arts for holistic development teaches us that God has given each one of us a perfect role to play and each role is equally important in the play called the life.

Visual Summary

I organized what I learned from the interview using a folded circle.  I have been folding circles using the Wholemovement approach (www.wholemovement.com) since 2007.  Folding is a unique way of organizing ideas by dividing a whole (the circle) rather than by adding parts together.  In the model below, the circle is divided into two parts representing dance and storytelling, the two parts that come together in every lesson by Ujwal anna. The center of the folded tetrahedron is the notion of paying attention to God’s power within us, an idea that Ujwal anna includes in every lesson.  Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) approach is used in both dance and storytelling (two bottom triangles). These elements come together in each lesson (upper triangle).

The poster below shows the development of Ujwal anna’s approach in terms of development of folding from first fold to tetrahedron.

Learning and Sharing

I am sharing what I am learning from Ujwal anna in many ways with our LIFESMART community as well as with the SpecialSaathi community.

I am participating in creating lesson videos for our 100-Day Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab for parents being organzied by RASA India. An example is shown below.

I explored storytelling at a SpecialSaathi webinar. Storytelling is a direction that I want to continue exploring in the future.

Hope you enjoyed reading my post and my visual summary!  I created the Fold, Color, Talk concept in an entrepreneurship camp in 2014.  This is the first SpecialSaathi story where I am using a folded circle. I am looking forward to storytelling in different ways in the future!

Author Ananth Raghunandan

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Parenting as Theater

Today, I want to start the discussion of parenting as theater. This week, I will present a webinar introducing the tools of theater. The Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) approach views theater in terms of the following components:

  1. Dance
  2. Drama
  3. Music
  4. Arts and crafts
  5. Storytelling

I invite parents to consider how these five tools can be used by parents to support their child’s development.

Join us for the webinar on 9th November to explore this topic!

The TAHD is the latest step in my use of theater arts tools. It has given me a framework to think about the use of theaters arts as a parenting tool. However, I have experimented with many elements of theater through various therapeutic and educational approaches. During this session, I will discuss the use of theater arts tools in relation to these approaches. I have listed the website for each approach and included a brief overview from the website. Listen to the webinar and check out the resources that interest you!

  1. Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

RDI®  programs teach parents how to guide their child to seek out and succeed in truly reciprocal relationships, while addressing key core issues such as motivation, communication, emotional regulation, episodic memory, rapid attention-shifting, self-awareness, appraisal, executive functioning, flexible thinking and creative problem solving. 

2. Waldorf Education

Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically rigorous approach to education. They integrate the arts in all academic disciplines for children from preschool through twelfth grade to enhance and enrich learning. Waldorf education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities.

https://www.waldorfeducation.org/waldorf-education

3. Enki Education

Enki Education offers a unique and innovative way to approach living and learning, parenting and educating. At all grade levels, whether in classroom or homeschooling programs, all academics are taught using a three fold process. This process begins with the arts and, through a series of steps, opens to full mastery of skills and concepts. In this way, we nurture the whole child, weaving together a coherent program including academics, arts, story, activities, movement, and exploration, to bring about deep learning and growth. 

www.enkieducation.org

4. Bharatanatyam and Natyashastra

The Natya Shastra is considered the sacred text for all performing art forms. One of the major aspects of Natya Shastra, the Abhinaya (ways in which an actor communicates or expresses) has been mentioned in great detail in this text. Other aspects such as the graceful body movements and postures, the mudras (hand gestures) and rasas (aesthetic experience) used in dance, drama and other performing arts have also been documented extensively.

https://indianculture.gov.in/stories/sadir-attam-bharatanatyam

5. Theater Arts for Holistic Development

RASA – Ramana Sunritya Aalaya was founded in 1989 by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar with the vision to empower one and all, through the Theatre Arts experience. Today, RASA stands as a 32 year old organisation with a multi-pronged approach to inclusion and transformation. 

https://rasaindia.org/