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

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

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