La pleine conscience – French for “mindfulness” – is something that many of us became more familiar with last year. Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” (Merriam-Webster, 2021).
It’s something that I think can bring about a lot of healing, judging from what we all had to experience in 2021. As many of us remain at home, I feel is it important to look after our mental health as much as our physical health. One thing my assistant Kate and I started doing is keeping mindfulness journals – each day, we write about something that we experienced that we felt grateful for – whether it was a certain thing we felt, tasted, or appreciated. It could even be a new French expression we learned!
Below is a picture that always helps me to feel mindful – from the week I spent in Nice a few years ago. I hope you all can find something that connects you to la pleine conscience as well 🙂
“On ne peut pas arrêter les vagues, mais on peut apprendre à les surfer”, Jon Kabat-Zinn
Another day, another cycle of social distancing. While you’re trying to find ways to stay busy at home, check out some of our favorite French films. You can practice your French without ever leaving chez vous!
De rouille et d’os (Rust and Bone) (2012)
This is a great film about a down-on-his-luck boxer who begins a courtship with a paralyzed former animal trainer. It’s a powerful and emotional work, with an amazing performance by Marion Cotillard. Available for rental on Amazon Prime.
Le Grand Bain (Sink or Swim) (2018)
This charming comedy centers around a handful of 40-something men who are looking for something meaningful in their lives – which comes in the form of their local pool’s synchronized swimming team. It’s full of heart and laughs, a great way to spend an afternoon and pick up some new French vocab. Available for rental on Amazon Prime.
Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément (Blind Date)2015
Personally, I could watch this film over and over and never tire of it! A puzzle-maker and a pianist start dating…even though they’ve never seen each other in person. Sound like your typical romantic comedy? Available on Netflix.
While many (if not all of us) are inside looking for activities to do while at home, I made sure to include something for the kids. My assistant, Kate, teaches Technology at an elementary school in Alexandria. She often uses the website / app Epic! with her students, and you can use and enjoy it too.
Epic! is designed for children ages 3-12, and includes a wide variety of subjects. Subjects include (but are not limited to) History, Language Arts, Mathematics, and of course, World Languages!
There are three world languages total: Chinese, Spanish, and naturally, French. There are some really outstanding French children’s books that I know your children will love. I put the link in this post, so you can get started with your student. Be sure to make an account – parents get 30 days free, and teachers can use it for free.
I think that we can all agree that this has been a tough year…but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate a meaningful Thanksgiving together. While we all have struggled this year – due to financial stress, school closures, or family upheaval, we can still find things to be thankful for.
Personally, I am thankful for all my fantastic students, and the joy I get to share with them while teaching French. Although we can’t be in person this year, we can still share many warm, pleasant moments via Skype. As long as we can still reach each other, that’s what counts.
However you are celebrating this year, have a wonderful Thanksgiving chez vous. Joyeux Thanksgiving!
With a pandemic on our hands, it can be difficult to find social outings where you can learn new things and meet new people. But there are still great opportunities out there!
Alexandria, Virginia, located six miles from DC, has a sister city in Caen, France. The Alexandria-Caen Sister Cities Committee hosts French cultural events.
This coming Thursday, November 19, the Alexandria-Caen Sister Cities Committee will host a virtual wine tasting for the 2020 Beaujolais Nouveau. There will be four fantastic wines featured: a red, a white, a sparkling rosé, and of course, the 2020 Beaujolais Nouveau! The link for tickets is below. We hope to see you there!
Please see below our interview with Ginny Wilcox from Gigi’s Table, a fantastique bakery on Etsy. I met Ginny when my sister and I bought my father one of her cookie-of-the-month subscriptions; we gave him a six month subscription but it has now become life-long because he loves it so much we can’t imagine ever having it end! Ginny was generous enough to donate some of her amazing cookies to one of the teachers who participated in our summer conference “Teaching World Languages in the New Normal”. Read all about Ginny and Gigi’s Table below. Even better, click here to order some of her magnifique baked goods:
What are some of the products you sell on Gigi’s Table?
I sell baked goods, aka cupcakes, cookies, bread, scones, and muffins, etc in my shop. I ship all over the United States.
What made you want to start Gigi’s Table? When did you start selling on Etsy?
I opened my shop in May 2014 after being pressured by my daughter to do so. I was very skeptical about anyone wanting to buy baked goods online so I started my shop with only 4 items. That was then…I now have over 100 different items and variations in my shop and yesterday I just reached my 3,000th sale!
What do you like most about baking?
I’ve always had a passion for food and face to face conversations; I think that’s part of my passion for food. What better way to get people together than to serve amazing food? When I bake, I think about you and you gather around the table.
What is your favorite thing to bake?
In my little bakery I love to bake things that I know people will love and will bring a bit of tasty yumminess to their day. As I’m baking, I often imagine the occasion in which these things will be served – will it be Cherry Scones with steaming hot coffee around the table or maybe Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins with some English Breakfast tea on the fly as they run out the door to work? Whatever the scenario, I always bake in some extra love for each item because really, we can all use a little more love.
Please tell me about Gigi’s Table subscriptions.
Most of my orders are gifts to someone else. Beyond ordering a single batch of something, I also offer monthly subscriptions. They can be for 3, 6, 9, or 12 months. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! The subscriptions can be for cookies, muffins, scones, or treats, which is basically having a mixture of everything.
All of the subscriptions are customized by the client. They get to pick what they (or the recipient) receives each month – It’s not a set thing each month. I can choose if the client wants me to, of course.
What is a unique thing about you or Gigi’s Table that you would like to share with our readers?
The unique thing about Gigi’s Table is I specialize in small batches. I do not have a storefront so that means I make everything to order, just for you. I don’t have anything premade to pull off of a shelf anywhere. Also, I ship every order the same day I bake it so my baked goods are the freshest possible.
Thanks so much Ginny! Please take a minute to check out Gigi’s Table and all the incredible pastries that they have to offer.
French In DC and Your Online French Tutor are hosting a series of online workshops and conferences for world language teachers to help them adapt their classes to an online platform and deal with the stress of teaching during the pandemic.
We chose 532 Yoga to be our official Yoga and Relaxation specialists to help us with this important project. 532 Yoga is located in Alexandria, Virginia but because they offer live-stream classes their classes are available to yoga enthusiasts worldwide in real time.
We are thrilled to be partnering with 532 Yoga and want for you to know how wonderful it is! We asked its founder Suzanne Leitner-Wise, to tell us about herself and 532 Yoga so we could best present them to you.
Please see our interview below and note that you can find out more about 532YOGA on their website, facebook and instagram pages. If you’d like to be added to their weekly email about upcoming classes/workshops etc. please email Suzanne@532Yoga.com
If you would like to be included in our nationwide database of French and other world language teachers and be included in our conferences, workshops and other offerings please email me at Melissa@FrenchinDC.com. We would love to have you!
Please also subscribe to our blog, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.
Right now though, let’s meet Suzanne!
French in DC: How long have you been in Alexandria / the Northern Virginia area?
Suzanne: I have been in Alexandria since my arrival from London in 2000, and opened 532YOGA in Old Town, Alexandria, in April 2012.
We are delighted to have been awarded ‘Best Yoga Studio in Alexandria’ (Alexandria Best Businesses) for 4 years and are a Mindbody Visionary Award winner.
532YOGA cares about, and is proud to support, the local community. We support local charities, schools, homeless shelters, benefits, Veterans, non-profit organizations, and more.
French in DC: How long have you been a yoga instructor?
Suzanne: I completed a 2-year Iyengar Yoga Training in London, England in 1998, and have been a full-time Yoga Teacher since such time.
French in DC: What made you want to decide to become a yoga instructor?
Suzanne: I didn’t enjoy my first ever yoga class at all, until we reached the end of the class, when we took rest in Savasana. I had the amazing experience of being fully present as a single entity in the world whilst simultaneously being a part of the whole world and being superbly happy. The next day, despite being 8 months pregnant, I signed up for yoga teacher training, and I have practiced (and taught) every day since.
French in DC: Can you describe some of the training that you have undergone in order to become an instructor?
Suzanne: Since my initial 2-year training, I cannot begin to list the further trainings I have participated in over the last 22 years!
Having studied with many different wonderful teachers and styles in both England and the USA, I am honored to teach Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation. My teaching style is based on my initial Iyengar Yoga training, which is all about the Alignment of the Body, and is influenced by my love of movement.
I am an E-RYT500 (experience registered yoga teacher), certified Ashtanga and Rocket Yoga Teacher, and Director of 532Yoga Teacher Training, a Registered Yoga School with Yoga Alliance since 2003.
I was a presenter at the First Annual Yoga Alliance Conference in Palm Springs, Presenter at the MindBody Conference Hollywood, 3 years presented at Yoga Jam and 4 years at DoahFest yoga festivals, and am a Manduka Mats Ambassador. I have conducted numerous workshops and retreats, both nationally and internationally, and have lectured for companies and organization such as the National Institute for Health and the Embassy of India, plus have published various articles on yoga.
French in DC: What made you want to start 532YOGA?
Suzanne: I had been teaching around 35 classes per week in Alexandria since my arrival to the USA in 2000, and I wanted a base to build a community in order to share the benefits of a regular Yoga practice. I happened upon the 532YOGA studio building one morning; a beautiful award-winning space that was/is perfect for the practice of Yoga.
We established this teacher-run studio with a group of the best teachers in the area with a mission to provide a first class service in a welcoming environment and to offer a diverse schedule of classes that is all inclusive, for all levels, and for all style preferences, both traditional and modern.
We want every ‘body’ to be able to enjoy the myriad benefits of health that a regular Yoga practice brings.
French in DC: What are some of the workshops you offer at 532YOGA?
Suzanne: Right now we are offering socially-distanced in-studio classes and are live-streaming each class so those that are not ready to come back can still participate. We also have a few teachers offering zoom classes from their homes. Pre-covid, we had workshops each weekend to further enhance learning of the importance of alignment of the physical body, plus other mind-body topics related to the practice of Yoga. We are bringing workshops back soon, starting with ‘Healthy Backs’; a workshop focused on practical exercises and stretches for the back, but also incorporating stress-relief and mindfulness techniques, which will be held on October 3, and we will be scheduling a Happy Hips Workshop October 24. We had also started our 22nd year of Yoga Teacher Training as a Registered Yoga School prior to the order to close our business, and have adapted to continue the training online.
French in DC: What do you like the most about teaching yoga?
Suzanne: I, and all of our teachers at 532YOGA, strongly believe in the power of Yoga and want to help everyone achieve their goals and improve their life through optimal alignment, postural awareness, and proper stretching techniques in order to build awareness, help body stability, flexibility, and strength, keeping the spine and joints supple, de-stressing, and helping them feel better and move more easily in everyday activities.
Those joining us in-studio and online are delighted that we have reopened, and we are so pleased to be able to serve our community again. We all have a passion to share our knowledge and to impart the importance of this practice to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
We are very proud to receive regular feedback and reviews on how we have helped our clients achieve greater health and wellbeing.
One delightful side effect of offering live-stream classes is that we are now serving clients across the United States and also Internationally; we have had clients live-streaming from England and Israel, which is rather exciting!
French in DC: Any tips to anyone who is new to yoga?
Suzanne: If you can’t touch your toes can you practice yoga? Of course you can! If you like coffee and hamburgers and wine can you practice yoga? Of course you can! Fact is the more mindful you are of ‘you’ you will begin to discern what is doing you good and what isn’t. It’s a natural process of looking after ‘you’ and being the best you can be ‘now’. That’s all. Just show up with the intention if being present and being the best that you can be and you will be practicing yoga!
The definition of Yoga is “a union of space and time and body and soul that enable you to be in the present moment.”
French in DC: What are the benefits of yoga / yoga workshops?
Suzanne: So many people have been impacted by the pandemic. It is a crazy stressful time for everyone, but our health is our greatest possession, and we must do our best to take care of ourselves. Stress is the modern day silent killer and 85% of all dis-ease is stress related! It will take a toll on your body, so managing stress will reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition. Yes, Yoga is, in part, physical exercise, but it is also so much more. Yoga, combined with breathing exercises and meditation, can help lower stress levels and hormones that compromise your immune system. It reverses the fight-or-flight (stress) reaction, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces the heart rate and the oxygen requirement of the body by 10-20%, which is the effect produced by medication to lower high blood pressure, without the side effects!. Stress affects each of our body systems and relentless exposure to stress can lead to serious illness. A regular Yoga practice offers a viable means of prevention and reversal of numerous ailments and diseases, including cardiovascular, stress-related illness, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
French in DC: Since we operate a language school, we work with a number of teachers and students. What advice / yoga techniques would you recommend to them, given that they are dealing with a great deal of stress, especially now, during the pandemic?
Suzanne: People now spend an average of two to four hours a day with their heads tilted forward as they check emails, send texts, read, and mark papers.
All this time we’re spending with our heads down has a big impact on our bodies.
It’s led to a constellation of symptoms that have become so common that a term has been coined for them: “text neck; (US chiropractor Dr Dean L. Fishman). As the head tilts farther and farther forward, the spine is forced to bear incrementally increasing weight. Eventually the cervical spine loses its natural curve. This can lead to increased repetitive stress on the neck muscles, excessive wear and tear on the spine, disc degeneration, and, in severe cases, even surgery!
The human head weighs roughly 12 pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds! – imagine carrying an 8 year old around your neck several hours a day!
Prevention is Key!
Text neck symptoms range from headaches, to a chronic, nagging pain to sharp, severe upper back muscle spasms, shoulder pain and tightness, possibly resulting in painful shoulder muscle spasm. If a cervical nerve becomes pinched, pain and possibly neurological symptoms can radiate down your arm and into your hand. The condition can also affect respiration, heart rate and blood pressure, and result in emotional and behavioral changes as the stress can affect the release of ‘happy hormones’. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”
What can you do?
Other than limiting the amount of time you spend hunched over a device, a few key alignment principles and simple exercises will help minimize any possible problems. On a physical level, the practice of yoga asana (postures) can bring your head and spine back into alignment. The spine resumes its natural curvature and your ears align over your shoulders. This optimal postural alignment leads to less strain on the intervertebral discs. Asana practice also strengthens the muscles of your neck and back, which allows you to maintain a more healthy posture on a daily basis. This simple awareness goes a long way toward avoiding the physical pain that results from poor posture and text neck.
Common Posture mistakes will lead to dis-ease in the body.
Sit up straight – adjust your screen, phone, or desk to eye level. Don’t roll your shoulders forward. A chair that’s too soft or doesn’t encourage good posture will create muscular imbalance. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and let your arms hang down at your sides. If your thumb points forward, you’re probably balanced. If your palms are pointing behind you, you probably have an imbalance. Don’t lean forward from your lower back. This posture puts pressure on the vertebrae of your lumbar spine as it will eventually compress your disks.
Stretch your hip muscles – the health and flexibility of your hips are an indicator of the strength and health of your whole body, including your breathing.
French in DC: Thank you so much! We hope that our readers will be able to take away some great tips and get started with trying yoga in their everyday lives…hopefully by studying with 532 Yoga in person on online!
Bonjour tout le monde ! We are so excited to announce our online Zoom conference will be held August 15, 2020. We will talk with French teachers from all over the United States on how to teach remotely during school closures. We will also welcome Charlie and Maïa from Street French as our keynote speakers.
In addition, we will have a speaker on wellness and mindfulness, to help teachers manage stress brought on by these challenging times. There will also be a databank where teachers can share quizzes, tests, and any other resources they might find helpful. Several teachers will present on how to make teaching online easier, and will give useful tips on how to adjust to teaching languages remotely.
Please see our ad for more information and we hope to see you soon !
What a year it has been. As educators, we found ourselves in a unique position. School closures made us get creative with how we teach our students. Online/remote learning became necessary, and so did our ability to adapt to an unprecedented situation.
With this in mind, we decided to host an online French teacher conference with teachers from all over the United States. We have been compiling a nationwide French teacher database, which allows us to connect with teachers from California all the way to Washington, DC.
During our conference (August 15, 2020) we will have presentations, keynote speakers, and an online forum that will allow us to share our ideas on how to teach during school closures. In addition, it will be free, so you have nothing to lose by joining us.
Please send us an e-mail (under ‘Contact Us’ tab) if you are interested, or if you are a French teacher who is interested in presenting. À bientôt !