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

 

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

 

Allow me to re-introduce myself…

When I started this blog back in January, I had a very grand, yet specific plan for it. The header states proudly, ↑”the ultimate cheat sheet for yoga, childcare, and fun,” which I reiterated in my first post by writing, “this will be the most organized and sensible haven to come for all things related to yoga, childcare, food and fun.” And while it seemed helpful at first to have such a specific purpose when it came to my topics… it feels restrictive now. I’ve focused a lot on yoga, I’ve focused a lot on child care, and I’ve focused a lot on the combination of the two. And now, It’s hard to not feel redundant, when in reality, my life and my interests are not.

In the past 7 years, I have gone from a college graduate with a psychology degree➝ to a bartender and restaurant manager➝to a nanny and yoga instructor. And lately, I’ve gotten reeaaally into cross-stitching. I mean really into it… I do it more than yoga. Not that I’m going to make that a career now as well, but it’s something I’d maybe like to share, ya know? And while this platform didn’t seem like the place, I’ve started to think, “why not?” Why not just throw out the guidelines? Why not write about all my passions, instead of just a few? Why not share more instead of just some? I don’t plan on going completely rogue here… just expanding my blog horizons.

So, allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Cathleen and I live in Annapolis, MD. I’m a full-time nanny to adorable twin girls, a yoga instructor and eager student, an avid reader and sometimes writer, a cross-stitching fiend and crafty queen, and depending on the day a million other things. I love having a space to explore and share all of these interests and hope you’ll continue to follow along on this ever-expanding journey of mine.

Namasté,

yogi-nani

Bullsh*t Breaths

Most of the time, I step out of yoga class feeling like the world is my oyster and I’m just the shiniest damn pearl to exist. Last week, however, was not one of those times. In fact, I felt more like the mud you find on an oyster as opposed to the pearl. If you follow my personal Instagram account, you may have a little insight as to why this yoga class was particularly difficult. But if you don’t, please enjoy the following story…

I have the uncanny ability to roll over screws and nails and, therefore, get flat tires on a regular basis. As I was leaving work last week to head to a yoga class, I thought to myself, “Ya know, Cath, it’s been a while, you must be due for a flat soon.” Not even five minutes later, I’m rolling into the studio parking lot with a flat tire. Rather than do what everyone (including myself) thinks I’d do and FREAK OUT, I tell myself this situation will seem a lot less annoying post yoga, and decide to head into the studio and deal with it after.

Sixty minutes later, I’m peacefully lying in savasana when the instructor opens the back door just above my head to cool the room down. It was in this moment of cooling bliss that a McDonald’s cup came flying through that back door, landed just above my head, and splattered Kool-Aid down my entire body. And mat. (And no – I cannot make this up.) To my complete and utter surprise, I still didn’t FREAK OUT…

Ironically enough, the instructor had been sharing the origin of Virabhadrasana I,II, and III (the “warrior sequence”) throughout class that night. The story is dark and seems completely contradictory to the peaceful practice of yoga. At the end of class, she finished with a tie-in speech about how “not everything is always sunshine and rainbows, and it’s ok to be in a place of darkness.” And that’s when I finally freaked out. Ok, I’m exaggerating. I didn’t freak out, but I did start crying. She then asked us to dedicate our practice to someone and unfortunately, the little sh*t who had just thrown that cup of Kool-Aid at me popped into my head. I took a deep frustrated breath in, and exhaled with the thought, “This is bullsh*t.”

I’ve written a few posts now about breathing exercises. This is not one of them. Yes, the breath can calm the mind; yes, the breath can steady your body; yes, your breath is your life. But the breath can also be used to recognize the “bullsh*t.” Because most of the time, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. In fact, sometimes it’s lying in a puddle of sugar water on your sticky yoga mat with tears streaming down your face with a flat tire parked outside. But you keep breathing. You just keep breathing. Through the good, the bad, and the bullsh*t.

Namasté,

yogi-nani