New Year, Same Me

“I am unique. I am creative. I am bold. I am ME.” These were the affirmations we modge-podged onto the back of mirrors in kids yoga on Sunday. Later in the class, we practiced reciting our affirmations while looking at ourselves in the mirror. Each time getting a little louder- a little bolder. As I led the students sitting in front of me; however, my attention kept being pulled to one student who was taking bold to the next level- we’ll call him Mr. Bold- opening doors, picking up blocks, inspecting holes in the wall, anything but staying on his mat.

lrg_dsc04006This is not the first class I’ve had a friend who didn’t want to follow along the entire time and I’m certain it won’t be my last. Thankfully, I had been warned by his mom that he needs a little more structure than most and had my sister come along to assist. She spent the class following Mr. Bold around as he decided when he wanted to sit with us and when he wanted to stray. (And quickly capturing photos for me when he did want to participate.) Despite his restlessness, my other students remained engaged, so we carried on with class and used the Yoga Pretzels deck to help create stories we could act out in yoga poses.
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After movement, we played a mindfulness game called “Pass the Squeeze.” It’s usually played silently, but I started it off with a question- “What would you like to bring with you into the new year?” As they took turns answering, they squeezed their neighbor’s hand. Answers included “more dancing,” “hugs for the whole world,” and a very enthusiastic “beach toys!” When it was my turn to answer I had planned on saying “more yoga,” but surprised myself by saying “compassion- for others, but also myself.” I don’t believe in the saying “new year, new me.” I think there’s about as much of a chance of me waking up as a new person on January 1st as there is of Mr. Bold leading us in a meditation. And while there were moments I was frustrated I couldn’t keep his attention, it occurred to me I didn’t need to. I only needed to provide a safe space – a space in which he could be himself- unique, creative, and BOLD.
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My next class will be February 3rd at Prana Studio in Annapolis. Namasté!

yogi-nani

kids yoga- new year, new story

 

Falling into Fall: Trust & Openness

This past weekend in kids yoga, I started out by reading a book about Sally McCabe– The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade. While Sally went unnoticed, she noticed everything– from the leaves as they “turned green to gold in the fall” to the time “Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall.” Fed up with seeing cruel words and actions continue to pile up, Sally finally stepped out of the lunch line one day, reached her arm tall, and declared, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!” After reading, I had a chat with the kids about trusting our instincts when it comes to standing up against bullying and then we practiced trusting our instincts with some yoga and fun.

With the help of Laurie Berkner’s “Dance for the Sun” song, we warmed up our bodies with a few rounds of sun salutations and then added in a little challenge- blindfolds. I explained to the kids that without their vision to rely on, they would need to be extra mindful of their movements, to trust their instincts, and to be open and communicative with their fellow yogis. They were then paired up and handed wooden dowels for the game “Stick Together.”
LRG_DSC03923I think I’ve written about this game in a previous post, but in any case, it’s a great game to encourage teamwork. The kids have to move around the room while keeping wooden dowels balanced between their pointer fingers. I’ve never done this activity before with blindfolds (and I’m not sure I would have attempted it with a larger group for safety reasons), but it was hysterical and the entire room was in a fit of giggles trying to navigate the space. (The detailed lesson plan can be found attached below.) Then, we wrapped up class by making bookbag keychains. Each yogi chose a bead for a fellow yogi, held it in their palm and infused it with love, positivity, and well wishes for the school year, and then passed it off to be added to that yogi’s chain.
LRG_DSC03950While it wasn’t my intention, this theme is relevant not only for school-age children, but for adults in our current political climate. A record number of women were elected into the House of Representatives this week. A record number of Sallys standing up to make a change. I can only hope that we respond as Sally’s classmates did– “Like waves rolling in, one after another – first Molly rose up, then Michael’s twin brother. It was Tyrone and Terence, then Amanda and Paul, who pushed out their chairs and stretched their arms tall.”

Aren’t we all tired of seeing this terrible stuff? Let’s stop hurting each other. It’s time to stand up.

yogi-nani

kids yoga- falling into fall

Comfort Amidst the Chaos

The past month has brought quite a bit of chaos.

Three weeks ago, I woke up at 2 A.M. in an unfamiliar bed and spiraled into a full blown panic attack. Brian and I had just moved out of the house in Annapolis that we’ve shared with friends for the past 3 years and into my parents’ house in Baltimore. It’s been a few years since I’ve had to count my breath and wait for my heartbeat to slow. I almost felt silly as I flipped onto my belly, created a little pillow with my forearms, and told myself, “Take a deep breath, you’re home.” My fingers inched across the bed and found his.

Two weeks ago, Brian and I got married on my 30th birthday in Rincón, Puerto Rico. I could feel my lungs constricting as I approached the beach and caught a glimpse of all our wedding guests. But once under the arbor with his hands in mine, he gave me a look that said, “Take a deep breath, you’re fine.”

Last week, during our honeymoon, I was convinced I was going to suffocate in the crowd gathered at Voodoo Festival. One second we were dancing to Odesza, and the next I was pushing my way through people in search of fresh air. Just as I could feel bile creeping up my throat, I felt Brian’s hand in mine and heard him say, “Take a deep breath, I’m here.”

Today, I taught my first yoga class in months. I was beginning to feel nervous and a little anxious as I began to center my students, but then I asked them to think of someone who brings them comfort amidst their chaos. Someone who feels like a deep breath of fresh air.

In my head, I could hear Brian say, “You’re home. You’re fine. I’m here.”

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JUNE Bugs and Boldness

I attended a social event with my fiancé last week and found myself chatting with a girl who attended the same college I did. After inquiring what year she graduated, she asked my degree and I could immediately feel shame bubbling up. I heard myself say, “Psychology…” and trail off with…. “but I don’t use my degree I’m just a nanny and yoga instructor.” My fiancé interjected with “she’s not JUST a nanny and yoga instructor, she is THE nanny and yoga instructor.” I chuckled and changed topics, but was left wondering later why I had been embarrassed when I’m proud of what I do. I asked myself– Why is it so difficult to be confident?

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Can you think of the last time you ran in circles for no reason, unabashedly made funny faces, created something silly, or held hands with someone you just met? One of my favorite things about teaching kids yoga is how unself-conscious kids can be and, in turn, how unself-conscious I feel in their presence. I certainly wouldn’t get the same reaction from my adult students if I asked them to wrap themselves in their mats like a cocoon, but cocooned in yoga mats is precisely how my yoga buds laid in savasana at the end of our “JUNE Bugs” themed class (class plan linked below↓). At the start of class, I had run around the room with them “buzzing like bees”, wiggled on the floor with them “squirming like worms”, and crawled across mats with them “marching like ants”, not once feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or silly. But try to have a simple conversation with a peer and my inner critic rears her ugly head.

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A few days ago, I put a flower clip in one of my nanny-babes’ hair and she looked up at me and said, “I look beautiful like a movie star.” It made me ask myself again– Why is it so difficult to be confident? How do I invoke the confidence of a 2-year-old, the determination of a 4-year-old, the adventurousness of a 6-year-old? If all those quotes about “becoming who you surround yourself with” are true, I must be on the right track. And in the spirit of being more confident and bold, I’d like to take this moment to say– I am a da** good kids yoga instructor and an amazing nanny. I hope you all embrace your inner child today and walk boldly into this week.

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KIDS YOGA- JUNE bugs

Namasté,

yogi-nani

 

Magic in Me

Before the start of my magic themed kids yoga class, one of my students walked into the studio lobby a bit weary to say the least. Tears built at her lower lid as she clutched a stuffed animal in one arm and her mother’s leg in the other. It took some coaxing, but she eventually released both before following me into the studio to pick a mat and get herself situated in the circle of other students.

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“When I say ‘MAGIC’, what comes to mind?” I asked to kick off class and the first response was, “shoving cake in someone’s face.” Certainly not the response I was hoping for, but kids yoga classes have taught me this: expect the unexpected. I ventured on, “Well, I have a magic wand and I had planned on bringing it to show all of you today, but it seems I left it back in my tree house in Fairy Forest. Would you guys be willing to travel back there with me to get it?” Naturally, I received some skeptical looks, but kids yoga classes have also taught me this: keep calm and carry on.

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Our journey to the Fairy Forest was a long one that required us to warm up our bodies before beginning. We traveled through the Troll Trap, Hobbit Hollow, Dragon Dungeon, Merman Marsh, and the Talking Trees- each stop including a challenge or an obstacle for us to overcome. When we reached our destination, the magic wand helped us fulfill some of our wildest dreams: becoming unicorns, flowers, snakes, and much more. Then, I gave the kids the opportunity to craft their own magical wands to bring home before finding some magic in movement.

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I will use any excuse to have a dance party. (True story: I have one every night with the twins I nanny before I leave work.) With that being said, I segued in to a little dance party by explaining to the kids how movement can make some magical things happen in our body. We found our pulses and took note of the slow and steady beats of our hearts before I passed out flowy scarves, turned up the tunes, and we moved our feet to the beat! Afterwards, we took note of our heart rate again and talked about how movement helps make our muscles strong, especially our hearts. We played a few more games and did a “magic rainbow meditation” before ending class. (You can find more details in the lesson plan linked below.)

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Every time I step on my mat I find magic in the mundane– I marvel at how my body moves differently each time, how my mind is busy or quiet, how my breath is fast or slow. “Magic is always there when we pay attention,” I told the kids as I opened the doors to release them to their parents. The weary student from the beginning of class rushed out to tell her mom, “THIS WAS THE BEST YOGA CLASS EVER! CAN I COME AGAIN?!” And let me tell you- there was magic in that moment for me.

Kids Yoga- Magic in Me

Namasté,

yogi-nani

Transitions & Finding Balance

The yoga studio where I teach in Annapolis does monthly themes. This month’s theme was transitions and finding balance. It seems particularly appropriate since the vernal equinox occurred this month. And as if to make a point that transitions can be hard as hell, it snowed last week and was almost 70 degrees yesterday.

Winters are always hard for me. I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal depression, but every December I can feel a sadness creeping in along with the cold. By the end of February, there’s a heaviness weighing on me like the fur coat I can’t seem to shed from my shoulders. Over the past few months, I’ve neglected my physical yoga practice. I’ve over-indulged on caffeine to get me going in the morning and wine to bring me down in the evening. I’ve avoided little things — like shaving my legs– and big things– like buying a new computer when mine finally bit the dust. I’ve read so many books and cross stitched so many patterns I’ve lost count. And just like I’ve been counting boxes and threading a needle repeatedly, I’ve been transitioning methodically… from one stitch to another, one day to the next.

In keeping with theme, I planned out a yoga class last week that included transitioning from virabhadrasana III (warrior 3) to ardha chandrasana (half moon.) I instructed the students to move slowly and mindfully, to steady their breath and gaze, to stack their hips and send energy out like the five points of a star. Some moved gracefully, with little struggle to hold the balance, while others repeatedly stumbled as I encouraged them to try again– reminding them it’s ok to lose balance in a transition.

Tomorrow begins a new month, and I can feel a blooming in my belly along with the flowers in my front yard. I’ve gotten back to my physical yoga practice. I bought a new computer. I just returned from a trip to visit my sister in Charleston. I shed the fur coat from my shoulders. I sat down to write. It’s been 3 months since I’ve posted on here and while I’m tempted to apologize for my absence, I won’t this time. I simply lost my balance in a transition. As I was putting the twins down for their nap yesterday, one of them handed me a small paper book that had come with their monthly Highlight’s magazine to read. The last page read, “As the seasons go a-spinning– night to night and noon to noon. There is one thing that steadies us– the great and shining moon.”

Namasté,

yogi-nani

P.S. Here are some of those cross-stitches… taking orders now 😉

 

 

Gift Ideas for Nannies & their Families

Hello all!

The first Christmas I spent with a nanny family I was utterly clueless as to what to get the children and their parents. I spent hours browsing the internet to no avail. I’ve never been a fan of gifting kids toys (when I know they eventually disappear into the black hole of their toy bin) and any sort of gift card for the parents just seemed too impersonal. So, I thought I’d help you all out by sharing some of my favorite gifts for holidays and birthdays I’ve given and received since that first year.

In my opinion, gifts made by hand come from the heart. I want to keep this post short and sweet, so rather than inundate you with all the details behind each gift,  I’ll simply share some pictures of gifts I’ve given to my current nanny family.

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For the twins’ first birthday, I created initial zentangles (abstract drawings made with repetitive patterns) that matched the nautical theme in their room.
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As a Christmas gift to their parents last year, I made hand print and footprint ornaments using air-dry clay.
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By cutting down two regular sized yoga mats, I was able to make personalized mini-mats for the twins.
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I LOVE these matching travel mugs I got the girls’ parents last year. I also did this for my previous nanny family and put it in a basket with coffee beans and teas.
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For the girls’ birthday this year, I cross stitched their names on Aida cloth and made them crib pillows.

I wish I could share what I have planned for this year, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises. I think there are three questions that should be asked before gifting anything: 1.) Is this thoughtful/personal?, 2.) is this useful?, 3.) does this show my appreciation? And I have really lucked out with nanny families,  because every gift I’ve received has applied to one of these questions. Here are a few…

Thoughtful/ Personal— Last year, my nanny family got me a beautiful necklace that was a half moon on a tri-metal chain in addition to an entire yoga outfit.

Useful— My previous nanny family gifted me a Manduka backpack that is crazy spacious and has a buckle to hook on my yoga mat. I seriously use this backpack every day.

Appreciative— For my birthday this year, I was given a gift certificate for a spa day. I don’t think I need to say how much I loved them for this.

In addition to gifts, I think it’s really important to write heartfelt holiday cards.  I’m lucky that my nanny-mom agrees and always writes me beautiful notes that make me feel appreciated and, more often than not, make me cry. Regardless of what gifts you give and receive this holiday season, I encourage you all to tell at least one person how much you value him/her.  I hope this has given all of you some inspiration and that you have the happiest of holidays!

Namasté,

yogi-nani