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

Showers, Flowers, and an Engagement

Hello all!

I’m trying to get back into the swing of things after taking a brief hiatus from teaching, but life keeps intervening. To say Sunday was a busy day is a vast understatement. In addition to teaching an early morning meditation class and afternoon kids yoga class, it was my boyfriend Brian’s 30th birthday and I was in charge of hosting a party for him that night. If I hadn’t started off the day with meditation, I’m not sure I would have survived. In order to give you an idea of my stress level, I’ll tell you this – I was not born a multi-tasker, I was born a sloth. 

My theme for the Yoga Bud’s class was “April Showers bring May Flowers.” We celebrated the appearance of Spring and praised the rainfall that makes it all possible. As a simple craft, we also made “May Flowers” with a few supplies I had laying around (popsicle sticks, muffin pan liners, and googley eyes.) The class was adorable and particularly special since my old nanny-babe, Nora, was in attendance.

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Afterwards, I rushed home to prepare for the big party and was hands-deep shredding chicken for tacos when Brian asked me to step outside with him to open his present. As I mentioned, I am not a multi-tasker, so I told him he would have to wait. After a bit of back-and-forth, he convinced me to step away from the chicken by telling me “he had gotten me a small present for all my hard work on the party, but it was down at the marina.” (Side note if you don’t know us personally: we live behind a marina where Brian’s paddle board shop, Capital SUP, is located.)

Brian instructed me to wait on the dock while he ran into his shop to get my present. In full disclosure, I was thinking he had bought me a paddleboard… in hindsight, this thought was ridiculous since in addition to not being a multi-tasker, I am not an avid paddler. Instead, he came back empty handed (or so I thought) and started opening his gifts. After he was finished, I told him I had one more surprise for him in store once everyone arrived at the party. However, he surprised me first by kissing me and saying “your gift now…”, before getting down on one knee and asking if we could spend the rest of our lives together. I proceeded to go into shock and have no recollection of my exact response, but “yes” was in there somewhere.

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After taking a few pictures on the dock together (in which I was still in shock and wearing my ring on the wrong hand), we walked back up to our house filled with our family and friends to share the news. We watched the surprise birthday video I had put together for him, drank a little too much tequila, and celebrated into the wee hours of the morning. I may have a fridge full of taco toppings now since I never did finish setting out the food, but I also have a heart so full of love and gratitude for the man I get to spend the rest of my life with and all of the loved ones that shared this special day with us and showered us with well wishes.

Namasté a fiancé!

yogi-nani

Nani-Foodi Friday: Baked Chicken Nuggets

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to share this recipe since I keep an endless supply in the freezer, but look no further for the best chicken nuggs in all the land (after Chic-fil-a, that is.) Trust me when I say I have experimented with A LOT of chicken nugget recipes. I’ve put chicken breast in a food processor and patted it into nugget shapes, experimented with different seasonings, and cooked them every way possible. However, after much trial and tribulation, this is the easiest and most delicious recipe… the twins could even make them. Just kidding, but ahhh wouldn’t that be glorious? IMG_3976


Baked Chicken Nuggets

Yields: 30-40 nuggets    Prep time: 5 mins    Cook time: 15 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1.5 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • coconut oil spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with oil.
  2. Combine bread crumbs and seasoning in a bowl.
  3. Cut chicken breast into preferred nugget shape and place in a separate bowl.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over chicken and toss.
  5. Coat each nugget in breading and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Spray top of nuggets lightly with coconut oil spray and place in the oven.
  7. Bake for 5 mins and then remove from oven and flip nuggets. Place back in the oven and bake for additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is golden brown and cooked through.

I usually make a batch at the beginning of the week and keep some in the fridge to serve with ketchup and a side or to throw into various meals for both the babies and myself (chicken quesadillas, wraps, chicken parmesan, chicken and waffles, salads, etc.) and keep the rest in the freezer.

Enjoy!!

yogi-nani

Nan-ecdotes: Teething and the Tough Times

Hello friends!

Sorry I’ve been MIA the past few weeks. Spring Break was a great excuse to take a break from Yoga Buds classes, to take a break from the blog, and to take a break to Puerto Rico. Upon my return to work last week, I was greeted by teething-tortured twins, and promptly started planning my escape back to Rincón. I’ve never seen a rabid raccoon firsthand, but I imagine it closely resembles a teething baby.

In addition to gaining new pearly whites while I was away, the twins had started to rebel against their afternoon nap. I basically felt ambushed by sleepy, angry, tiny humans, and to top it off, my car got a flat tire and my lip broke out in cold sores. When it rains, it pours. Right before I booked my one-way flight back to paradise, I came across an Instagram post by @karlareed that helped put things in perspective.

In regards to raising her three children, she wrote, “I’m realizing how at their most difficult it’s almost always a cry for help and a desperate need for connection. I can’t always give them everything they want or even make life easier for them in some ways, but I can enter into their worlds and tell them that they matter and the things they love matter. And that’s how we’ll get through the tough times.” I immediately wanted to give Karla a hug for the pep talk and give the twins hugs for dismissing their misery and wanting to escape them. I can’t help the fact they’re teething (other than with some Motrin), but I can comfort them while they fuss and gnaw on everything… Because times may get tough, but the storm always passes.

yogi-nani

P.S. I was able to bump their nap back an hour and they slept two and a half hours every day this week! I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. 

Nani-Foodi Friday: Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

It is my first breakfast post and I am super excited for two reasons: I did not create this recipe and; therefore, I can not be blamed if you fail in its execution. I hope I didn’t get anyone’s hopes up with my last Nani-Foodi post because I do love mixing up my own concoctions, but I also want this space to be an archive of insanely good recipes I have found. Ironically, the recipe I want to share is from SkinnyTaste and it’s titled Insanely Good Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins.

I was watching Chopped the other night on Food Network and one of the chefs was reprimanded for using the wrong descriptive adjectives to label her plates. If Gina (the creator of SkinnyTaste) were to go on the show and present these muffins to the judges with the description ‘insanely good’, I believe they’d applaud her accuracy. But seriously, even the twins would agree if their vocabulary extended past “mmmm” and “more.”

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I made these muffins to give the girls a little variety in their morning diet. They usually eat blueberry oatmeal, so I reaaallly stretched it here. Regardless, any change in diet is tricky with the picky eater (it could be hiding broccoli). She refused to eat it, as expected, while her sister scarfed her muffin down without pausing for a breath. Two can play this game, though.

While she continues to fight my attempts at expanding her palette, I’m learning new tricks. I waited about 20 minutes and then walked into the living room eating a muffin. The girl came running with her mouth open like a baby bird. Now, neither of them can get enough nor can their Mom and I. These will definitely be a new breakfast staple and I can’t wait to throw in new ingredients like Skinnytaste suggests!

Enjoy !!

yogi-nani