Kids Yoga Bowl

When I plan my kids classes, I usually try to weave a message into the mayhem. For instance, in my January class, I suggested choosing an affirmation for the year instead of a resolution. So when I sat down to plan out my February class, I had allll sorts of ideas related to love and open hearts. And then I realized it was the same day as the Super Bowl (I’m a huge sports fanatic, obviously) and I took all those plans and threw ’em out the window- just like a football. I kid, I kid, but I did take those plans and modify them to create the …*DRUM ROLL PLEAASEE*… KIDS YOGA BOWL!!!!

Our teams were a bit slim, but my dear friend (who is awesome and just finished her RYT 200 – WAHOOO!) brought her niece and stayed to help keep the teams even. To kick off the Yoga Bowl, we made footballs and then put a line of tape down the center of our yoga mats for strength and agility drills. We did lateral jumps, pushups, squats, and lunges to warm up and then moved through some yoga poses while trying to keep our hands and eyes on the ball! Finally, we were ready to put our focus and balance skills to the test with a few games.

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I was particularly proud of myself for coming up with the first game. I lined up yoga mats across the room as if they were yard lines and placed an action card on each mat (i.e. 10 jumping jacks, do tree pose, high knees for 30 seconds, etc.) There were also a few “Go back to the start” cards. The yogis took turns rolling a die and moving that many yard lines. When they reached the end zone, I may have been yelling “GOOOALLLL” like we were playing soccer (again, huge sports fanatic). Then, we played “Keep it Up” with balloons- which is pretty self-explanatory.

When I think back on my favorite teachers throughout the years, I can’t remember one specific thing they taught me. I do; however, remember how passionate they were about their subjects. And how that passion and energy was contagious. This occurred to me recently as I was writing a note to the dear friend I mentioned earlier. As a gift for completing her RYT 200, I passed along a book of readings that I used when I first started teaching. It helped me find words when mine seemed inadequate. However, I’ve learned in the past few years that there doesn’t always need to be a deeper meaning or subtle message in the class – just a teacher who cares about sharing his/her love and passion with the students.

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Namasté,

yogi-nani

kids yoga – kids yoga bowl

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

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 😉

 

 

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