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!

 

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.  
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes,  
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
-Jellaludin Rumi

Enjoy this poem, then take a moment to sit quietly and reflect on the message.  Then, as you navigate this week, meet each twist, turn and bump in the road as a chance to tap into your strength, sense of humor and gratitude.  
 

 

This little movement can make crazy, chaotic days more calm.  It can give you a sense of support.  And, it can help you access deeper breaths, which are associated with reduced stress and anxiety. — It is essentially a back massage!
 
Lay on the floor and hug your knees into your chest.  Wrap you arms around your legs, so that you curl into a tight ball.  Take a few breaths here and notice how you can feel your breath in your belly and in your back.  Keep breathing deeply as you start to gently roll side to side a few times: right side of your back to left side of your back.  Then rock front to back several times: up to your seat and back down to your shoulder blades.  Even try combining the side-to-side motion with the front-to back-motion and create a circular roll with your back supported by the floor.  Make sure to draw your circle the other direction as well.  Take note of any sore or tight spots and softly rock back-and-forth over them, to soothe them away.
 
After a minute, sit up tall and breathe into your back body.  Feel the freedom you’ve created with a little good old fashioned rock & roll.

This exercise, which comes from Ayurveda (“life-knowledge”), may seem very strange or silly, if you’ve never tried it.  So, before the HOW-TO, here’s the all-important (and maybe surprising reasons) WHY you should make this a daily practice:

It removes build-up on the tongue that can harbor bacteria and cause bad breath
It improves your taste perception, so food becomes more flavorful
It indicates excess in your diet and lifestyle (undigested food and emotions):

Brown/Grey color: Sign of dehydration, or too many raw vegetables and salads
Yellow color: Too much acidic or spicy food
White color: Too much heavy, sweet, thick food, like dairy or meat

It helps you to self-diagnose imbalances in your own body and gives you the guidelines for recalibrating your daily routine or food choices to prevent illness
It can even tell you where, in your body, there is blockage or dis-ease, depending on where the tongue has the most film, or Ama

Knowing all of this helps us understand that tongue scraping is really a mindfulness practice: a way to become more in-tune with your own body and lifestyle.  It provides important information to help you live with more balance.  Why not give it a try?  
(Note that this is a daily practice, because the food we eat, the seasons, our emotions, the environment around us all change constantly.  Watch with wonder at how your tongue scraping can differ on different days!)
HOW-TO:

No need for fancy equipment - use a spoon!  Grab one and head to your bathroom sink.
Splash cold water on your tongue.
Holding the spoon upside down, slide the edge of the spoon down the surface of your tongue from the back to the front.
Take a look at what collected on the underside of the spoon and compare it to the color chart above.
Repeat this 7-14 times.  Rinse the spoon if there is a lot of build-up between scrapings.
If you feel any discomfort, go easy!  No pain or gagging.
Think about what might be leading to the excesses represented in your tongue scraping, and if you so choose, adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly.
Repeat every morning when you wake up!

This week’s mindfulness exercise comes from Yoga Journal.  
Our culture, our jobs and our lifestyles demand that we be efficient, multi-tasking, schedule-savvy superheroes.  This is the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish with a mindfulness practice!  Mindfulness means slowing down, noticing and savoring the beauty and abundance of each moment, focusing intently on one thing at a time, and acting out of knowledge and understanding.
How can we keep pace with society and live with mindfulness?  It is possible!
Yoga Journal suggests: Ask yourself: Am I rushing because I'm under stress or am I under stress because I'm rushing? Is it always necessary to hurry so much? Would you be able to run your life just as effectively at a slower pace?
Often, I find that when I slow down, I am more focused and better able to manage my schedule, tasks and even the unexpected twists that each day inevitably brings!
 

I am just returning from a trip to Greece and Italy with my family. It was amazing, and I am endlessly grateful for this and every opportunity I have had to see the world. Traveling makes me feel more connected to other people, to history, to LIFE. Traveling makes me more mindful.

On this, most recent, trip, we were with a tour guide who set the itinerary. Not a minute was spared in the schedule. (The same day that we landed in Athens, we visited the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium, The Parthenon, Zeus’ Temple, Hadrian’s Arch, saw the Changing of the Guard at the Parliament building, and roamed the streets and squares in modern parts of the city…. Before we ever checked into our hotel.) Even our transit time between landmarks was filled with ancient history and Greek language lessons. We truly made the most of each day, immersing ourselves in every opportunity to seek out beauty, explore something new, understand a culture built on long, complex storylines.

It was easy to “carpe diem” when there was so much to discover. We were motivated to keep moving and exploring by the idea that this was something really special, something we couldn’t do just every day.

In reality, it is the other way around! Even on the most ordinary of days, if we get up and get going with a “seize the day” mindset, we create the world’s beauty, we write cultural stories, we build history.

We all have abundance in some form.  Some area of our lives is rich and full and shining with splendor.
On the other hand, we all have spaces in our lives where we feel something is lacking.  We wish for more and believe that if we have more, we will be happy.
Often, we focus more on what we feel we lack than what we know we have.  We spend time and energy trying to compensate for what’s missing so we can fill a void.  Mentally, we can get stuck in this void and lose sight of the bounty in our lives – the things that support and sustain us.
Today, shift your mental energy out of a space of insufficiency and into a flourishing garden of abundance.  Focus on the strongest attributes of your Self, the richness of your relationships, the things that light you up on the inside.  Amplify the world around you by seeing everything through a lens of abundance.
 

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.