Mindful Mondays

Mindful Mondays are brought to you by Joie Schmitz of YOGA\VIVRE. These quick one minute exercises are sure to help you start your week off on a positive note! Check back here each week for a new Monday message!

Feeling up to digging a bit deeper into mindfulness? Don't miss our guided Mindfulness Sessions!

 

At first glance, Tadasana (Mountain Pose) may seem simple.  But, when we practice it with proper alignment and engagement, we can feel the meaningful work it does in the body and mind:

Creates sense of grounding and stabilization
Boosts inner strength and confidence
Eases back pain
Improves posture
Strengthens lower body
Reduces flat feet

To practice Tadasana: Layer these actions one on top of the next until everything comes together!

Stand with your feet separated to your hips’ width, all ten toes pointed directly forward
Softly bend your knees, so that you can press your legs more strongly into the floor
Further engage your legs by squeezing all of the muscles toward the bones
Shift your focus to your upper, inner thighs: use your legs’ strength to roll them inward toward one another.  Make sure your knees did not lock with this action.
Point your tailbone down and tilt it slightly in toward your body.  You may feel how this lengthens your low back and strengthens your low belly.  Keep all of these actions…
Breathe in deeply and fill up your abdomen, lungs and chest.  Keep a sense of inner lift even as you exhale.  Let every breath you take make you feel light and bright.
Allow your arms to hang by your sides, but turn the palms so they face forward.  Spread your fingers and energize your arms.  Take the upper arm bones back to make more space to lift and open your chest.
Press the tops of your shoulders away from your ears
Make your neck longer on all sides
Lift from the crown of your head to grow even taller.
Stand proudly in your pose and let big, full breaths expand your energy in all directions.

Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths to settle into stillness.
For each round of breath you take over the next minute, mentally/silently repeat “SO” on the inhales and “HUM” on the exhales.  Simply focus on your breath and rhythm.
Soham loosely translates to “I am that.”  But, the goal of this meditation is not to pinpoint what “that” is.  Instead, let your thoughts rest within the sound of “SOHUM” in the mind for this meditation.  Just breathe and be.
 

Lay flat on the floor, on your belly.  Make a little pillow with your hands and place them under your chin.  Completely relax your whole body — a deep sigh can help you release find deep release!
Bring your attention to your back body.  As though you could breathe with your back, begin to fill it up and expand it on each inhale / deflate and soften it with every exhale.  Keep breathing and create a sense of spaciousness in your low, middle and upper back – even the space between the shoulder blades.  Mindfully breathe across the width of your back as well, expanding the sides of your waistline and ribcage.  Visualize your spine and intentionally send your breath to the spongy discs between each boney vertebra.  Feel how you can stretch the muscles and skin of your back with your breath.  Continue exploring your back with your breath and your mind’s eye for one minute.  Then, sit up.
With this new awareness, can you maintain a sensation of broadness and ease?  If so, you may just be able to alleviate some tension in your life and enhance your sense of connection with the universe!

Tree Pose is a standing balance that requires a quiet and steady mind.

Stand tall with two feet planted firmly in the floor (barefoot is best!)  Press your two palms together in front of your chest.  Channel a sense of balance and your body and mind.  Fix your eyes on a single, unmoving point in front of you.
Shift weight into your right foot to balance on one leg.  Slowly bring the sole of your left foot to the inside of your right ankle or calf.  Your left knee will point out to the side, but the rest of your body will still face forward.
As you balance on your right leg for 30 seconds, imagine yourself as a tree:

Visualize roots growing out of the sole of your foot and down into the ground to anchor you.
Make your body strong like the trunk of a tree.
Stretch your arms overhead like branches reaching for sunlight above the forest canopy.
Some wind in your branches may cause you to sway, but remember your roots and solid trunk, and enjoy the dance.

Do the same steps on the other leg.
Finish with 3 full, deep breaths with both feet on the floor.

GO BAREFOOT.

Take your shoes and socks off.  Your feet should be completely bare. (Feels nice, right?!)
In a chair, pick your feet up off the ground, so they are suspended in air.  Spread your toes as wide as they can go and wiggle them around.  Do a couple circles with your ankles, clockwise and counterclockwise.
Place your feet firmly on the floor.  Feel the mounds at the base of the big and littlest toes energetically press into the ground.  Simultaneously press down through both the inner and outer edges of the heel.  Then, try to lift the arch of the foot up.
Keeping all of those action, stand up with strength in your legs.
Take a little walk around your house or office, paying extra attention to your feet.  Notice all of the places the sole of your foot strikes or skims the floor.  Watch the bones and muscles in the top of your feet move with each step.  Try to use all of your toes to press off and transition to the next step.
If you have one more minute – put your bare feet up!  Kick them up onto an ottoman or stool, or even lie down on the ground and reach your feet straight up toward the ceiling.

Consider, for a moment, how much work your feet do every single day.  Send them gratitude for bearing the weight of the rest of your body.  Marvel at the intricate structure of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons that work together to make standing, walking, balancing, jumping, etc. possible.  Be in awe of the power and possibility in your own body.

Do this exercise at your next meal!

  1. Take a seat, followed by a couple deep breaths.  Before you dive in, allow your body and mind to become still.  Notice what’s on your mind and how your belly and body feel.
  2. Next, take your attention to your plate.  Activate all of your senses and simply notice, without judgment or intent to change anything, what you are about to enjoy…
  3. See the size, shape and color of the plate and all of the food on it.
  4. Smell the aroma coming from your dish.  Can you identify each of the ingredients, right down to the seasonings?
  5. Listen for the sounds that are accompanying your meal – the conversation at your table, some noise from the kitchen, or ambient music.
  6. As you begin to eat, feel the texture of the food with your utensils.  Be aware of the smoothness or firmness, the density or lightness.
  7. Finally, savor each bite.  Taste each of the flavors represented on your plate.

Find more enjoyment in your meal with mindfulness!

Tension, tightness and discomfort in your body can easily trigger mental and emotional strain.  A simple, seated twist will help to wash-away physical pain in the back, belly, neck and shoulders – and relieve mental tension too!
Take a cross-legged seat on the floor.
Take a big breath in and fill up the front, back and sides of your ribcage with air.  Your spine will stretch taller!

Keep the spine tall as you exhale and press your tailbone down into the floor.

Take another breath in, and as you release it, without moving your hips, turn from your waist line and look over your right shoulder.  Your shoulders will pivot to the right.  Be sure not to drop your head or round forward.
Stay in this twist for 5 full breaths.  Don’t strain, push or pull.  Your belly should softly move out and in as you inhale and exhale.
Come back through center and take 2 full breaths, sitting tall – proud chest!
On an exhale, twist to the left and stay for 5 juicy breaths.
Finally, come back to center, sit tall and close your eyes.  Feel how this exercise wrings out tension along your spinal column and in your gut.  Acknowledge how this release ripples into the heart and mind as well.  Enjoy your new-found ease.

Find a quiet spot to sit.
Close your eyes.  Shield all external light with the curtain of your eyelids.  Be ok with the darkness.
Begin to imagine the flickering light of a candle flame at the point between the eyebrows in your skull.
Breathe deeply.
Visualize the flame growing larger and brighter until it becomes like the sun – brilliant and powerful.
Feel the breath intensify with the overwhelming gleam of the sun inside you.
Allow this sun, your sun, to radiate beams of light in all directions.  It shines onto a path in front of you, onto others around you, and deeply into your self.  The rays illuminate you from the inside out and give a glow to everything around you.  Give thanks for the light within.
Breathe into the fullness of the light.  Fan the flame with the roundness of your inhales and exhales.
Keep your light on as you open your eyes.  Continue to see yourself and everything around you aglow with the radiance that you emit.
 

“Cat-Cow” is a gentle flow between two yoga postures that stretches and strengthens the spinal column, stimulates abdominal organs and relieves mental and emotional stress.  Try it today and take note of the connection between physical movement and mental flexibility!
Come to all fours (resting on hands and knees) on the floor.  Firm your belly in, as though you are hooking your belly button onto your spine — keep that energetic connection as you move through the flow.

Inhale and tilt your chin & tailbone upward.  You will create a bow in the spine.  This is cow pose.
Exhale and tuck your chin toward your chest and round your back.  You will create an arch in the spine.  This is cat pose.
Slowly and carefully alternate between these two positions as you breathe, making sure to fully inhale as you move into cow and completely exhale as you move into cat.

After 1 minute, pause at the place in the very middle of these two poses – a long, straight spine from the tailbone through the neck.  When you rise up, you might feel more ease in your back, neck, hips… and mind!

The time that passes between each one of your breaths is brief, but the gateway to supreme mindfulness opens in those split seconds.  When you take a slight pause between breaths, you can feel a sense of calm and stillness.  You can look inward with more clarity and outward with more compassion.  Your awareness is heightened, but your associations and attachments and judgments fall away.
Today, I invite you to explore the world that exists between your breaths:

Take a comfortable seat, either on the floor or on a chair.
Adjust your posture so that you can sit tall without tension in the neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees or ankles.  You can close your eyes, or just soften your gaze.
Notice your natural breathing pattern.
For 15 breaths, take a 1-second pause between at the top of each inhale and the bottom of each exhale.  Keep the flow of the breath soft, even through the pauses.
Focus your mind on your breath, so that you can experience whatever comes up between the breaths.  Allow yourself to explore this new landscape in your mind.
Take a moment to acknowledge how you feel after the exercise.

Stay open to all of the possibilities that exist in each moment of your day!