Back to School Breaths

Hello friends!

Is everyone else in disbelief it’s almost fall?? Not only did my summer fly by, but the bugaboos are about to turn two! They’re getting bigger and smarter by the minute and my job has become less nanny, more ring leader. And while I told myself I’d be resuming my Yoga Buds classes this fall, turns out doing that while also balancing a life, a job, a practice, AND planning a wedding is a lot for one plate (can I get a “HALLELUJAH!” from all my engaged and married ladies!?). It’s difficult to not be hard on myself for this decision (because, hellloooo, I’m lucky to be planning a destination wedding in the first place, reality check!), but in truth, it has left me feeling like I don’t have much to write about on a platform I originally started to share my experiences in my kid’s yoga classes. Thankfully, my best friend cut my absurd guilt/pity party/writer’s block short this past week.

My bestie, Kate, is a pre-school teacher, child whisperer, and the reason I started nannying.  Last week, we were talking about her back-to-school preparations, and how she recently attended a meeting about how to introduce meditation and mindfulness into her classroom. She had shown her coworkers my blog, and wanted to pick my brain for more ways to integrate a daily practice into their morning routine. *cue angels singing and the lightbulb going on* I may not have students of my own, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help other teachers with their students!

A few weeks back I had the chance to lead an 11-year-old’s SUP yoga birthday party. As you all know, I love to incorporate crafts in my kid’s classes, so we created Mala bracelets and necklaces with wooden beads after coming off the water. I called them ‘Breathing Beads’ and explained to the kids they can use their bracelets or necklaces to count their inhales and exhales; how simply counting their breaths can help calm their mind by pulling it away from outside distractions to focus on what’s on the inside. Kate’s request immediately reminded me of this mindfulness tool and set my mind spinning with ways to personalize it for preschoolers.

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The birthday party making their bracelets.

In addition to using them at the beginning of the day to settle in at school, I love the idea of encouraging their use throughout the day. The beads can stay in a special place to be taken out for silent time or can be used to provide comfort and focus if a child acts out or seems overwhelmed (similar to the “breather breaks” the bugaboos take as opposed to “time-outs). The beads can also be creative in size, shape, and texture to provide tactile stimulation or aid with lesson plans. For example, a rainbow meditation could be used while the kids hold each colored bead if the lesson plan is focused on colors and feelings. (Another great rainbow meditation can be found in the Yoga Pretzels card deck.) The possibilities are endless, and I hope this gave you some inspiration to practice mindfulness with your minis at home or with your students in the classroom!!

Namasté!

yogi-nani

Nani-Foodi Friday: Ham & Spinach Quiche

The twins looove eggs, so when I decided to give this recipe a try I thought it was a shoo-in. Since they also love to be unpredictable when it comes to eating, it was a shoo-out. They basically said ‘shoo’ to everything in the dish other than the eggs. I; however, had to stop myself from eating the entire thing in one sitting.

I found the recipe here, but used spinach rather than asparagus. I also bought a pre-made pie crust because ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ when you’re trying to cook a meal during nap time. I hope your taste buds enjoy this one as much as mine did!


Ham & Spinach Quiche

Prep time: 25 mins       Cook time: 50 mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup of preferred cheese, shredded (I used a blend)
  • 1 cup chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1 unbaked pie crust

Instructions:

  1. Allow pie crust to thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. (This prevents it from cracking when you roll it out into the pie dish.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350°.
  3. Whisk the eggs and half and half in a bowl and then stir in ham, cheese, and spinach.
  4. Roll out the pie crust into the pie pan and mold to fit.  Then, place in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill.
  5. Pour the pie mix into the crust and bake for 50 minutes. (I baked mine a little longer because I may or may not have taken the twins on a walk and was late taking it out of the oven.)
  6. Enjoy!

 

yogi-nani

Baby Yoga: Expectations vs. Reality

Hello friends!

Since beginning this blog, I’ve had multiple people reach out to me about writing a ‘Mommy and Me’ post detailing specific poses to practice at home with their mini-yogis. At the end of this post, you’ll find just that, but I also want to give a little background story that hopefully has some humble and helpful advice for all mommies, daddies, and nannies out there who are trying to get that precious partnered mat time with their babes.

I taught family yoga classes (ages 4-7 with a parent) in the past, but that time was cut short. Soon after beginning, I stopped. While I always felt the kids enjoyed the classes (and of course I always enjoyed the classes because of the kids), I couldn’t help but feel that most parents left disappointed because the class didn’t meet whatever expectations they had created for it. Even an old classmate of mine explained how she felt underwhelmed by how little she had interacted with her baby in her first experience with a ‘Mommy and Me’ class. I recognize and completely sympathize with this disappointment because I felt the same way after the first few family classes I taught. In March, I even wrote about how I was disappointed with my kid’s classes because they weren’t meeting my expectations. I was throwing out whole lesson plans within the first 5 seconds of class based on the energy levels and attention spans in the room. I learned the hard way to go with the flow… to treat each moment on the mat with little ones, as new, fresh, and unpredictable. When people ask me, ‘How do you get kids to do yoga for an hour?’ my response is, ‘I don’t.’ I no longer set ANY expectations when it comes to practicing yoga (with or without babies), and neither should you.

Some days I can touch my toes in a forward fold, and other days my hamstrings yell at me. Some days the babies want to join me on my mat, and other days, they want nothing to do with it. But when they DO decide to join me, I try to make it fun for all of us… whether it be singing songs while holding a pose, using them as props, or allowing them to climb all over me like little monkeys. Below are the yoga poses I’ve tried out with the twins. I hope you enjoy trying them out as much as we have and I’ll continue to post more as the girls continue to grow!

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Push-Ups (top left): Lying on your back, engage your abdominals to flatten your lower back to the mat and lift and lower your babe. 
Leg Lifts (top right): Balancing on your sit bones, flex your feet to cradle your baby on your ankles, hold hands, and lift and lower your feet to the floor. Play around by lifting your legs high enough that your baby can somersault onto your stomach.
** (bottom) I’ll also combine the leg lifts and push-ups with the twins, but this can get pretty tricky and requires A LOT of abdominal work to balance on the sit bones.
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Cat/Cow/Camel (top left): Place your babe on your back and use one hand to provide support while moving through cat/cows.
Baby Bridge Lifts (top right): Lying on your back, place your babe on your lower belly and hold hands as you lift your hips into a bridge. *Be very mindful of your lower back.
Goddess Squats (bottom): Cradle your babe in your arms as you straighten and bend your knees into a goddess squat.
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Plank to Downward Dog (top left): Place your baby on your mat beneath you and come into a plank position. As you lift your hips and come into a downward dog, blow raspberries on your babe’s belly. (I sing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down.’)
Sit-Ups (top right): If you can get your babe to stay still for long, place him/her on your legs as an additional weight while you lower and lift your low back to the mat. Your hands reach to the sky as you lift and move to your sides as you lower.
Double Boat (bottom): Hold hands and put the soles of your feet together while balancing on your sit bones. (I sing ‘Row Your Boat.’)

Namasté!

yogi-nani

 

 

 

Nani-Foodi Friday: Cheeseburger Cheeburga

I’m sure everyone has a meal that takes them back to childhood. I have two: grilled barbecue chicken and Sloppy Joe. I remember eating barbecue chicken so often I could probably go without it for the rest of my life (sorry, Mom!) Sloppy Joe; however, gives me all the warm, fuzzy feels and transports me back to a muuuch simpler time (when I had people making sure I was fed instead of the other way around.) As I was browsing for toddler-friendly ground beef recipes, I came across this Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet by Ready Set Eat. The twins love cheeseburgers and pasta, so I gave it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised when the meal ended up tasting like Sloppy Joe pasta. While it may not look or sound appealing, it tasted d*** delicious! I did make a few adjustments to the recipe based off of reviews and I also cut the ingredients in half. Feel free to follow the original, mine, or get creative on your own!

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Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet

Yields: 4 servings      Prep time: 5 mins      Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 of an onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 6.5 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 oz favorite marinara (I used Rao’s sensitive formula marinara because any other kind tends to make H’s sensitive skin break out in a rash. This ingredient is also optional, but several reviews said there wasn’t enough seasoning simply using tomato sauce.)
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1/8 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend

Instructions:

  1. Heat skillet over medium- heat and add onion, beef, and garlic salt.
  2. Cook until beef is crumbled and no longer pink and then drain grease.
  3. Add tomato sauce, marinara, pasta and water. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook until pasta is tender (about 10 mins.)
  5. Stir in ketchup, sprinkle with cheese, and serve!

 

I ended up using the other 1/2 lb of ground beef I had to make little cheeseburger stackers for the girls (which I forgot to photograph, grrr.) They’re starting to talk a lot more and it’s the cutest thing hearing them say “more cheeburga peas.” I hope you enjoy this childhood classic!

yogi-nani

 

Just. Keep. Breathing.

Hello all!

Thanks again for your continued patience! I spent all of last week typing and deleting the first sentence of this post, endlessly distracted by the ticking blue lights of the baby monitor (that were in tune with my rising blood pressure). Has anyone ever heard of baby/toddler sleep regressions? Yup, me neither! If you’re with me, educate yourself with this article. The twins’ mom found it and sent it along to me … And here we were thinking temper tantrums were enough to put us over the edge. If you ever experience this nightmare, take solace in the fact it will come to an end. Thankfully, our bedtime/naptime battle only lasted a week, so I’ll get on with sharing some breathing exercises for you and your littles, since they certainly helped me this past week.

Before I dive in, I want you to tap into your breath. Right this moment. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest (just below the collar bones). For 5 to 10 breaths, simply watch how your breath fills your body. Is it filling your chest or your belly? I ask this because most of us are completely unaware of our own breathing habits and their repercussions. When you breathe into your chest, you’re taking shallow breaths that induce stress. When you use your diaphragm, you pull the oxygen into your lower lungs where there is more oxygen exchanged with the blood, which calms the nervous system. This post by ‘In Pursuit of Yoga’ does an amazing job at explaining the differences between the two.

In yoga, we’re constantly being reminded to bring awareness to our breath because we want to maintain a diaphragmatic breath (unless we’re practicing other breathing techniques, but that’s for another day). Below are a few of my favorite exercises to strengthen the diaphragm and train ourselves to breathe in the most beneficial manner for our mind and body…


Diaphragmatic Breath in Crocodile Pose:

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  1. Roll up a blanket and come down on to your belly, placing the blanket just below the collar bones and tucking the ends under your side ribs. (This prevents the chest from moving and gives the belly a slight lift away from the floor.)
  2. Stack the forearms to create a pillow for the forehead to rest on.
  3. As you inhale, observe how the belly inflates and meets the floor, the lower ribs expand and push into the blanket, and the back gently lifts … as you exhale, the navel draws back towards the spine as all these areas contract. Notice how there is no movement in the chest region.
  4. For as long as you wish, continue to focus on these deep breaths and how each inhale flows into the exhale without pause or sound. The breath will take on a natural, steady rhythm that creates a sense of calm in the body and promotes relaxation.

Diaphragmatic Breath in Corpse Pose:

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  1. Come down onto your back with your arms resting at the sides and your feet relaxed and falling out towards the bottom corners of the mat… perhaps place a thin cushion under the head to support the neck and a small object on the belly to direct your focus. (I call these “breathing buddies” when I’m teaching this exercise in kids’ yoga.)
  2. Soften the abdomen and become an observer of your breath, witnessing the rise and fall of the belly on each inhalation and exhalation. Remember, you are making no effort to “puff up” the abdomen, it occurs naturally with the movement of the diaphragm.
  3. In this pose, the abdomen moves with minimal movement from the lower ribs and low back.
  4. Rest your awareness on the cycle of breath for about 10 minutes or so. The breath becoming deep, smooth, and continuous… without pause and without sound.

When you are finished with either of these exercises, take a full body stretch to “wake up” the body.


While they may seem easy and straightforward, they’re more challenging than you’d expect. Bringing awareness to the breath can often cause us to make changes to it rather than allow it to flow freely, especially if we’re in the habit of using our chest muscles to breathe. Regardless of your experience with pranayama, or breath training, I highly suggest practicing these exercises a few times to reap their endless benefits.

Namasté!

yogi-nani

 

Taking a “Breather Break”

Hello all!

I’ve come to the official conclusion that “The Terrible Twos” should be renamed “The Terrible Indeterminate Age Range.” This realization coming from the fact that the twins have started to throw temper tantrums.

Fortunately, it’s only one of them that is actually throwing full blown temper tantrums. Unfortunately, I swear she’s harnessing the energy of the other one to really blow up. But maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. She does, however, end up working herself into such a frenzy she starts hiccuping for breath. At this age, they’re too young to really understand what a “time out” is, and in my experience, they don’t really work anyway. Luckily, I read this article a while back which prepared me for my “tasmanian tot.”

I call their time-outs “breather breaks” and “alone time.” I know it isn’t always best to give tots options, but I’ve actually had success thus far with this course of action. “Alone time” means they can cry it out in their crib and collect themselves alone. A “breather break” means they sit in their elephant chair and we take deep breaths till we can work it out together. Here is a play-by- play of how it usually goes …

  • D grabs a toy out of H’s hand
  • H grabs it back and runs away
  • D throws herself onto the floor in a fit of rage
  • I say, “Since H had the toy first, you can have it when H is done playing with it”– adding fuel to the fire
  • I ignore her for a minute or two (sometimes she gets up and carries on like nothing happened, other times she continues to act like the world is ending)
  • If she continues to carry on….
    ME: ‘Do you need alone time?’ D (invariably gets it together enough to mutter): ‘No.’ ME: “Would you like a breather break, then?’ D: ‘No.” ME (making the decision for her): ‘Alone time, then.’ D: ‘NOOOOOO!!’ ME: ‘OK, let’s sit and take some breaths then.” D: ‘Ok.’
  • She sits down and we either hold hands and inhale our arms up and exhale them down, or we place our hands on our bellies and watch our breath move our hands. Her vocabulary is obviously still pretty limited, but I acknowledge she’s upset and ask if she can try to communicate better rather than acting out.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been grappling to stay on track with this blog, yoga, and life in general, and some days are easier than others. I know my prefrontal cortex is more developed than the twins, but sometimes, I also feel like I’m on the brink of a major toddler-esque meltdown. Yesterday was the first Sunday in months that I didn’t teach a kids yoga class, or even have set dates for future classes on my calendar. I love teaching my Yoga Buds, but in addition to low class attendance, I’ve been feeling a disconnect with my personal practice. Ultimately, I’ve decided to treat my impending tantrum the same way I would with the twins… by taking a “breather break.”

Ok, maybe not in the same exact fashion… there will be no elephant chair, but there will be a break and a lot of deep breaths. I’m a firm believer the universe conspires to give us what we need, and just when I decided to put my kids classes on hold, I was offered a rotating position teaching “Community Yoga and Meditation” 945AM Sundays at Avalon Yoga in Catonsville and a permanent position teaching “Foundations of Yoga” 6PM Tuesdays at Prana Yoga Studio in Annapolis. In addition, I’ll be teaching SUP yoga throughout the summer at CapitalSUP in Annapolis. For now, I’ll be replacing games and galavanting with getting back to the basics because regardless of age or emotional maturity, we all need to pause, connect, and breathe.

In my next post, I plan on sharing some breathing exercises I have found helpful in Yoga Buds, with the twins, and for myself. Stay tuned and Namasté!

yogi-nani

Nani-Foodi Friday: Basil & Parmesan Orzo

Nani-Foodi Friday is here with a simple side dish that will please any palette. I made this last week for the twins to serve with the chicken nuggets from my previous post and it ended up being a hit for the whole family. When I arrived the next morning for work, their Dad apologized for eating all of their leftovers and put in a request for more.

I found the recipe here… and while the only change I made to the ingredients was using gluten-free orzo (which has a more sticky consistency when cooked than regular orzo), I’m positive it would be delicious with couscous, rice, or quinoa.


Basil & Parmesan Orzo

Yields: 3-4 servings    Prep time: 5 mins    Cook time: 15 min

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1 3/4 cup (14 oz) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add orzo and sauté for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes or until the orzo has absorbed all the liquid.
  6. Mix in parmesan cheese and basil. Serve and enjoy!

 

If you have specific ingredients you’d like to see in future Nani-Foodi posts, please feel free to send me a message or comment below!

yogi-nani