Explaining the Yamas and Niyamas

15348945554_cd67a6d837_zAs a kids’ yoga teacher we can have the amazing responsibility to introduce children to the ideas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. About 1600 years ago in India, Patanjali condensed two different traditions (Ashtanga Yoga and Karma Yoga) to compose the Yoga Sutras, the foundational text of Yoga. He divided Yoga into eight limbs. The idea of the Eight Limbs is to provide a structure for our lives so our poor habits will simply drop away from us. Two of the limbs I like to teach kids are the Yamas and Niyamas (the other limbs include postures, meditation, concentration, and breathing, as well as other practices). Yamas and Niyamas provide lists of behaviors to encourage and sustain for a fruitful, happy life. Far from being strictly religious practices, when explained and practiced within a kids’ Yoga class, the Yamas and Niyamas are basically rules, like the Golden Rule, to be present, mindful, and whole:
YAMAS– Restraints
Ahimsa- In thought word and deed, act with non – violence15630662808_3d149ee634_z
Satya- Be honest, truthfulness
Asteya- Be generous, do not steal
Brachmacharya – Be moderate in all areas of your life
Aparigraha –Have gratitude, be un-attached to expectations.
NIYAMAS– Observances
Saucha – Cleanliness of mind and body
Samtosha- Find contentment, trust in the bigger picture
Tapas- Acceptance of uncomfortable parts of life
Svadhyaya-Study and learn about yourself and the world around you
Ishvara Pranidhana- Trust the source in yourself and surrender to the will of the universe
There are countless interpretations and commentaries on the Yoga Sutras available. My favorite interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is The Secret Power of Yoga written by Nichala Joy Devi. This is a woman’s guide to the heart and spirit of the Yoga Sutras. I have found it helpful to spend a little time each day reading and thinking about the Sutras and have found this book helpful. I also encourage you to find a Satsang, or a group, to discuss the Sutras and how to implement them into our daily lives.
As a Sunday school teacher I enjoy teaching svadhyaya (study and learn about yourself and the world around you) by acting out Bible stories and incorporating Yoga postures. I also find teaching in schools or libraries that by using books and poems about nature, we can invite nature’s presence into our own lives. The recent gem I found in my local library is a book called The Happiest Tree by Uma Krishnaswami. This book is chock-full of Yogic wisdom for adults and children building a road to self-confidence.
To use this book in your Yoga class, find a spot to read this book under the shade of a tree. Ask the kids to sit in padmasana (lotus pose) pretending to grow roots into the earth, while they listen to the story. While18941373351_ea46a22d1b_z reading the story, or when the story is finished, spend some time practicing the poses in the story.
Cat – Marjaryasana helps massage the belly and spine. This pose warms the abdomen and stretches the back as well as the torso.
Cobra – Bhujangasana strengthens spine. It firms the buttocks, stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. Cobra can Relieve sciatica and be therapeutic for asthma.
Frog – Mandukasana stretches the inner thighs, groin and hips. By allowing chest and shoulders to expand, it relieves stress, anxiety and depression. Offer the kids the idea that their Yoga mat is a lily pad.
Tree – Vrksasana increases balance, focus, memory and concentration. Tree also strengthens ankles and knees. When practicing tree it is fun to ask the kids to circle up and practice standing as a forest of trees. Allow the branches to rest gently on the neighboring tree and close their eyes. Make sure to do the tree on both sides!14752128015_56c0f0a520_z
Lotus– Padmasana increases mobility and releases tension. A common meditation pose, it steadies the body so the mind will follow.
Finish your class by asking the kids to share what their favorite part of the story was. I like to do this while enjoying a healthy snack. The following recipe is one of my favorites. It is nut-free, dairy-free, and fun to make because there is no need to bake!
Sunflower Sassies
2c GF whole rolled oats pulsed in food processor until fine
½ c coconut flour
1 c GF rice crisp cereal
½ c chia and flax blend
½ tsp salt
In a mixer with the paddle stir the first 4 ingredients, for about one minute.
½ c maple syrup
½ cup molasses( this is why they are sassy)
1 tsp vanilla
½ Tbsp. coconut oil
½ c sunflower seed butter
½ c chocolate chips
Add the 6 remaining ingredients. Stir until the mixture becomes crumbly and press into a 7×11 wax paper lined pan. Chill for ½ hour in the freezer. You can cut and individually wrap with yarn or serve family style.

Mango Mania!

In Florida, summertime means mango season and they are very plentiful at this time. Even if you don’t live in Florida, you can still enjoy a mango either fresh or frozen.

Mangoes have many health benefits. One cup of mango contains only 100 calories. Each serving is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free! There are 20 different vitamins and minerals, making it a superfood. There are more than 13 varieties to mango-642957_1280choose from all with their own different taste. When selecting a mango don’t focus on the color but on how they feel instead. Just like a peach or an avocado, go for the soft feeling as they ripen. Ripe mangoes will sometimes have a fruity odor from their stem ends.
Summer and ice cream are synonymous, but what do you do when you’re lactose intolerant or just cutting out dairy products? Make coconut milk mango ice cream! The other great thing is that you don’t need an ice cream maker to make this ice cream! It’s easy and a fun project to do with the kiddos at about 3 pm when it’s too hot to venture outside. The kids can pretty much do the entire recipe under the guidance of an adult. Cooking teaches children many skills: reading, measuring, writing, math and communication. And, at the end you get a nice treat!

Coconut Milk Mango Ice Cream

  • Food processor or blender
  • cutting board
  • spoon
  • Knife
  • measuring cup
  • plastic container with lid
  • 5-6 ripe mangoes
  • raw local honey
  • 1 can Thai organic full fat coconut milk

You’ll need to select, cut and peel the mangoes the night before. There’s no easy way to cut and peel a mango. I’ve tried. The best I tip I can offer you is to peel it in your sink! There’s less mess to clean up this way. Use the ripest mangoes you can find. After you have them cut up, place in a container and freeze overnight. The next day, about 15 minutes before mixing up your ice cream, allow the mangoes to defrost a little. Once beverage-909517_1280they can break apart, place them in your food processor or blender along with the can of coconut milk and ¼ cup of your local honey. Blend up until smooth and creamy! Tasting is always encouraged! Then transfer the mixture to a container and freeze until ready to enjoy! It’s that simple. I’m thinking about trying with other seasonal fruits!

The one thing that I noticed when comparing our own ice cream to store- bought coconut ice cream is that you don’t really have that much of a coconut taste. It definitely is a very creamy ice cream. This ice cream is also paleo friendly, which in our house is a huge bonus!
While your ice cream we can even do a little mango- inspired yoga!25529846162_2e25cf3d3d_z
Begin in forward fold slowly make your way up bringing your hands up to the sky. Salute the sun! Thank the sun for helping everything grow. Go into mango tree pose. Do each side. Make your branches big and stretch them up to soak up all the rays from the sun. Forward fold. In forward fold, move your arms around signifying the rain that the tree needs to grow. Come down to mango pose (child’s pose). Take five breaths here. Then come to table top. This is the table where we enjoy our mango ice cream. Sit in chair pose with a big smile on your face! You can grow a mango tree, care for it, and then harvest your own fruit and turn into a delicious treat to share with others!

Going Paleo as a Family

**Our blog author, Jennifer Sacket, is a green-market booth owner, cooking teacher, and kids’ yoga teacher**

Several years ago, I embarked on a lifestyle change. I found out after years of battling with an upset stomach that I was gluten and lactose intolerant. I came home and fruit-924937_1280emptied the cupboards of all goldfish crackers and practically everything else in the cupboard. It brought cries and protests from my two children. It meant that we had to find a new way of eating. This was about eight years ago and the marketplace was not that gluten-free friendly as it is now. The majority of the gluten free products tasted like cardboard at best. Gluten is a sticky substance that holds most baked goods together and gives them their elasticity. I decided to play around in the kitchen creating different snacks for the kiddos.

A couple of months ago, my partner went to the doctor and the doctor suggested that he go on the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet is a diet that relies mainly on animal protein and eliminates sugary foods and starches. I can’t say that it’s been easy, but I’ve seen the benefits of this diet. You can eat most leafy greens and lots of protein. There is a twist here. I am a sometimes vegan and a vegetarian. For me, I eliminate some of the animal proteins, but will occasionally add wild caught fish to a meal. We’ve come up with a lot of pretty good and tasty dinners.

15455475349_bf316bf8ea_zIn combination with the paleo diet, we run several times a week, and eliminated a lot of sugar from our diets. Most people think that diets are hard. I think that it’s all in your perception. I like to look at it as a lifestyle change. Maybe, you’re changing your lifestyle for different reasons. There are many benefits to eating better. It’s not just one thing that promotes a healthy well being. It is a combination of physical exercise, diet, and meditation. Incorporating these things into your life and making positive changes can promote a healthy life style for anyone.

One of the biggest questions I always got at my cooking classes was: how do you get children to eat this way? It was pretty simple . I didn’t buy sugary treats. We substituted sugary , carb-laden treats with nuts, raw desserts made from dates, and nut milk ice creams if we needed a treat. It exposed the children to many different choices in foods.

Each body is different, so we shouldn’t all be eating the same things. There is a plethora of information and recipes on the internet for whichever lifestyle or combination of lifestyles you choose.

This is one of our favorites and it’s pretty quick and easy:
Spaghetti Squash and Sausage (vegan sausage can be substituted here)
Medium sized spaghetti squash
Coconut oil
Italian seasoningpumpkins-228505_1280
Handful of chopped fresh basil
3 – 4 chopped cloves of garlic
Vegan sausage or chicken sausage links

Directions:  Cut and seed the spaghetti squash . Oil, salt and pepper the insides of the squash. Place the squash face down in a pan of water. Place in oven which has been preheated to 375. Cook for 45 minutes or until the skin of the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, chop garlic and basil. Sauté garlic in a pan with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add sausage which has been cut up into bite size pieces. When squash is done roasting, scrape the inside of the squash out with a fork (squash will start to look like threads) . Place the squash threads into pan with sausage, basil and garlic. Stir to combine. Serve in bowls with vegan parmesan cheese sprinkled on top or vegan butter.

What I like the most about this recipe is that spaghetti squash is very inexpensive as compared to the price of pseudo, gluten-free pasta. You can cook the squash ahead of time and then add to the pan when you are ready to finish preparing the rest of the meal. It tastes pretty darn good! It’s filling, too!!

Healthy Treats – With a Few Tricks

marshmallowSchool is back in full swing, so days are packed and schedules are tight. The holiday season is coming on strong, too, with its own hectic fun. It all adds up to a recipe for junk food overload. To keep everyone satisfied and healthy, try these alternatives for after-school and party snacking.

Banana Ice Cream: Because bananas are very high in pectin, when they freeze they become creamy and a little gooey. This recipe makes about 1 cup, or 2 servings, of ice cream.
1 large ripe banana
(optional) Peanut butter, strawberries, cinnamon, cocoa powder, honey, Nutella, etc.

  • Peel the bananas and cut them into coins. Freeze them at least 2 hours, longer is better.
  • Blend the frozen banana pieces in a small food processor by pulsing. Keep blending.
  • The bananas start looking crumbly, then smashed. Scrape the walls of the food processor. The banana will start to look gooey. Scrape it again. The banana will start to smooth out but still have chunks. Scrape. Finally, the banana wil turn into soft-serve ice cream texture. Blend a bit longer to aerate the ice cream, adding any optional mix-ins at this stage.
  • Eat immediately or freeze it until solid.

Cookie Dough Dip: This doesn’t sound healthy, but take a look at the ingredients…no flour! No eggs! The dough is actually made from chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans). smileyProtein! Gluten-free! Happy dance!
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup nut butter
Up to ¼ cup choice of milk, only if needed
Sweetener of choice: brown sugar (I used ½ cup), agave, maple, evaporated cane juice, etc.
1/3 cup chocolate chips, or similar
2 to 3 Tbsp oats or ground flax

  • Put all ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, into a food processor and process until very smooth.
  • Mix in the chocolate chips. It should be the consistency of real cookie dough. Add the milk a tiny bit at a time if needed.
  • Serve with apple and celery, graham crackers, or just spoons!

Roasted Chickpeas: My taste-testers (my teen and tween children) said these roasted chickpeas are a bit like CornNuts, which is high praise coming from them. But, no worries, these aren’t nearly the tooth-crushers CornNuts are. They are great by the handful, on top of salads, or added into a snack mix. Feel free to change up the spices. You could even make these sweet with sugar and cinnamon!
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl until evenly coated.
  • Spread the chickpeas in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Season of Change…and Soup!

This time last fall I was in Asheville, NC attending the 500-hour Teacher Training Immersion at Asheville Yoga Center. I was also missing my yoga classes. See before last school year I was out there teaching my tush off the Kidding Around Yoga way (8 classes/week), as well as 3-4 adult classes most weeks. Fall has always been my favorite time of year and seems to be when I come most alive, feel the most creative, the most hopeful. I love the colors of fall, the smells: leaves, pumpkin flavored-anything, spiced cider, soups, breads, and anything warm. I am one of those people that will get angry if the weather is warm after a certain time (I live in WV where we have seasonal changes) because if it’s October by golly I should be wearing pants and at least long sleeves! And socks, I LOVE my cozy socks. Give me a crackling fire, a Great Dane, a good book, and you have a scene from a Hallmark movie. Basically, I LOVE fall (I made that clear, right?).

With fall comes the excuse to cook from my favorite food group: SOUPS. I have ONLY made two soups so far this season and my son has already said, “Mom, we can’t just eat soup every day! All you are fixing for dinner is SOUP! Ugh.” He has no idea what he’s in for this fall with his new baby sister here, me trying to make a living as a work-at-home mom (that should be the punchline to a joke), and him in Taekwondo three days a week. Momma’s breaking out the crockpot—a lot. I do come up with a lot of my own recipes, but this one I found from www.chelseasmessyapron.com  on Pinterest and changed it up a little. My mom is a vegetarian and some days my son plays one on TV, so to be safe I made this veg-friendly. I’ll give tips for both carnivores and herbivores alike.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Quinoa Soup

  • 1.5 lbs. of chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
    *Can omit this or even just prepare them in a skillet with a little seasoning, cut up and add for the meat eaters.
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 clove of garlic (I used 2, but I like garlic!)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (1 lb. or 3.5 cups) cut up
  • 1 packet of Chili Seasoning mix
  • Salt and pepper (sorry, I do not measure, but if I guessed I’d say at least 1-2 tsp of each)
  • Large dash of paprika (maybe ¼ tsp)
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro

Cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Serves 6-8.

I found this recipe to be quite bland before adding the salt, pepper, and paprika. I would say a little cumin or additional chili seasoning would make it nice and warm. So after it cooked I added some ingredients. Next time I will make it even different I am sure.

My family decided this would be great with some corn bread! Too easy, especially if you haven’t slaved over a hot stove all day (or with kids playing and screaming in the background).

I hope you enjoy this easy, healthy fall dinner. I’d serve it as a main dish, as a side dish with some black bean burgers from the freezer or chicken breasts marinated in a nice Tequila Lime marinade and a salad with avocado and tortilla strips on top. Lots of options to repurpose this throughout the week!

With a meal like this, you’ve got energy and time left over to play with those kiddos. Maybe even do a little yoga!

P.S. This took me 2 feed/wake/nap cycles with my newborn to write. This face keeps me busy, hence the Crock-Pot meals.

Healthy Halloween Treats

I LOVE Halloween and so do my kids. Our costumes are created months in advance and our house is covered with witches and webs. Even our dog dresses up.  Yes. We are “that” family.  As much as I love Halloween and all of the happy haunts it brings, I’m not a big fan of the constant stream of sugar and junk food.  This year, I put my little werewolves to work and we came up with some healthy options for Halloween treats.

1. Jack-O-lantern Stuffed Peppers
Easy, Fun & Kid Approved!

I simply made a batch of spinach pasta and tomato sauce. (Use any recipe your family enjoys.)   Although my boys really enjoyed pretending what the green pasta was (worms, witches hair… the list goes on), we’ve also used spaghetti squash and julienne’d zucchini.
All great options.  All were devoured by my boys.

Pick a few good sized yellow or orange sweet peppers.
Cut the tops off & clean out the seeds.
Have fun carving silly Jack-o-lantern faces.
Stuff the peppers with the prepared spaghetti & enjoy.

We like raw peppers, but you can easily put them (stuffed) in the microwave to soften them up a bit before serving.

2. Spooky Popcorn Hands

Not only is this fun snack healthy, it’s a fun activity for kids to help create.


  • A box of sterile gloves (without powder)
  • A bowl of popcorn
  • Raisins and/or Fruit Gummies

Put a few raisins or gummies in each “finger” of the glove & fill the rest with popcorn.
Tie the end with a rubber band or ribbon.  Easy Peasy & super fun!

3. Pumpkin Snacks
This is the easiest of them all, yet had a big impact on my pantry.

I bought a few packages of mandarin oranges and decorated the tops with a black sharpie. Done & done.
My kids thought they were the coolest things ever.

Get creative and have fun!  Happy Halloween!

Yummy Yoga for Kids


It’s the last 3 hours of Passover so all I can think about is eating something yummy like ummmm, uhhhhhh, a grilled cheese samich or a slice of pizza! During Passover, as many of you might know, Jewish people refrain from eating bread and all leavening. Well, there are many other things we can’t eat. But the one that hurts the most is bread. Now as you might know I come from a long line of bagel bakers. In fact my dad and his family were the first to freeze a bagel.

So… growing up in the Lender household my mom worked extra hard during Passover to make foods that were really yummy to make up for the HUGE loss we were experiencing. She was really creative. I learned a lot from her. So in a typical Kidding Around Yoga class we also spark this creative gene and teach our kids how to bake, cook, make healthy sandwiches and eat yummy foods. Although I and many of the kids yoga teachers at Kidding Around Yoga are in fact vegetarians, we never use that word or even encourage the kids in our yoga classes to become vegetarians. We simply teach them what type of foods grow in the ground or on a tree. Seems like a great place to start, right? You might think this is elementary but seriously, some of these kids think that Ham grows on trees. When I was leading the Kidding Around Yoga teacher training in Costa Rica the teachers in my class told me to forget about making sandwiches that were healthy. Jamon y Queso was all I was going to get from the kids, and they were right! In a typical kids yoga class this is how we make sandwiches… we sit on our tushies and reach for our toes, then as we lift arms up, inhale and on the exhale we blurt out the name of our sandwich. It’s hysterical to go around the room and see what kind of sandwiches the kids make. I did once hear a kid say he was making a “fart sandwich” but don’t get me going on that.

We do try our very best to keep them healthy. Inhale up… Exhale…Humus, avocados and sprouts! Inhale up… Exhale… Almond butter and Jelly. Oy I’m getting a little hungry just thinking about it. My kitchen is a pretty good mix of organic yumminess, lots of rice, beans and greens for us. And every once in a while some “Chazerai”… that’s Yiddish for “garbage”. But we occasionally make our own ice cream, and both of my kids are chefs and bakers so thankfully they picked up some tips from mom along the way. Folks always ask me how I got my kids to eat healthy foods when they were little. Here’s one of my favorite techniques. When they were REALLY little I used to have candle light dinners for them. I played really pretty music, put a table cloth on the table and lit our best candles. I would make them something like spaghetti or vegetarian chili and man you could hide almost anything in there if it was dark enough. They thought we were having a really special meal. And we were! YUMMMY! Crumbled tofu in your spaghetti sauce. What could be better than that? And nobody knew! I’m a freakin genius right? Actually now I know better. Tempeh is so much better for you. So when we make sandwiches in our kidding around yoga classes and in our kidding around yoga teacher trainings I always make a Tempeh Rubin.

Ok all of this is making me hungry and making me think about one of our very best songs. It’s called Yummy Yoga. I worked so hard on this song. I knew I wanted to feature my Guru, Swami Satchidananda in this song. The theme of the song was supposed to be a take off on his favorite expression. “Truth is one, Paths are many”. It has an international flair and teaches children that while we may all be different we are also very much the same. So I figured what better way to teach kids than through their tummies. In this song we fly around the world in “flying pose” and then we roll up in our mats like burritos, or crepes, or yup you guessed it… BAGELS. Tic Toc Tic Toc… Passover is almost over! Watch a video of what this fantastic activity for kids looks like. Listen closely because Swami Satchidananda himself is featured in this song.

You can find and buy the song here.

If you are a kids yoga teacher or just want to have fun in your classroom or at home with your kids use this song to share the gift of Yoga. No not just the gift of Yoga but the gift of Kidding Around Yoga. Because as we like to say: “We didn’t invent yoga for kids, but we sure did perfect it”. This song offers the best of stress management for children. I mean who doesn’t love to roll around on the floor and tuck yourself up inside a yoga mat real tight? Kids love Yoga. Kids love music. We love Yoga and we love kids and music. It all comes together like Bagels and Cream Cheese. Oh man there I go again! Alright it’s almost sun down…..ShalOMMMMMMM