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!

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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!

Do you often feel sluggish in the middle of the day?  Do you experience frequent headaches?  Is it hard for you to stay focused on work or daily tasks?  Do you ever have issues with digestion?  Is coffee the first thing you drink each morning?  Do you have days when you just feel “blah”?
My guess is that everyone can answer yes to at least one of those questions.  And, everyone who answered yes has an opportunity to feel better everyday – by boosting your energy, alleviating your headaches, sharpening your focus, smoothing your digestion, calming your nerves, and improving your mood.  All you have to do is drink water!
Staying hydrated keeps all of the systems in the body functioning at their peaks.  When our physical bodies are humming, our minds are more at ease.  Simply staying hydrated is an easy way to feel better in your own body and steady in your own mind.
Try drinking a tall glass of water today, when you experience any of the “symptoms” listed above.  Then see if you can make it a habit to start every morning with a glass of water!

Valentine’s Day is over, but let’s keep the love flowing!  Here’s a simple yoga practice to encourage a wide-open heart:

Grab a small pillow and roll it into a cylinder shape, or use a yoga block.
Lie down on your back with the pillow or block underneath you, directly behind the center of your chest.  (You should be able to comfortably rest your head back toward the floor in this position.  If you can’t, adjust the prop beneath you either further up or down your back.)
Stretch your legs out straight and relax your whole body.
Start with your right hand holding your heart, and your left hand on top of the right.

For approximately 30 seconds, feel the warmth and support of your hands around your heart space.

Then, slowly stretch your arms out wide, so you create a letter “t” shape with your body.  Turn your palms to face the sky.

For about 30 seconds, feel the openness and expansiveness in your heart.

Stay open to giving and receiving love!

Take one minute before turning-in to bed tonight to recap the highlights of your day.  What was the best thing that happened to you?  What made you smile?  What did you accomplish?  Did you have a nice conversation or exchange with someone?  Did you overcome a challenge, solve a problem or by-pass an obstacle?  Were you lucky enough to have a little time to do something nourishing for yourself?
Write down all of the good stuff you can think of that happened today!  Make a list.  Then, rest easy in this positive mind-set.

It is a wonderful feeling to experience gratitude.  When we feel grateful, we feel good inside.  The better we feel inside, the friendlier we are with others.  In turn, they may feel gratitude for the kindness we shared, and pass it on.  This ever-broadening spiral can start with you!
Spend one minute today meditating on one thing for which you are grateful.  Imagine that tiny seed of gratitude planting in your heart.  As you focus your mind on it, you are nurturing it.  Envision the seed growing, sprouting and blooming.  Tend to it as you would your garden, but instead of water and sunlight, shower it with your mental energy.  Picture its brilliant green color and budding flowers.  Allow the vines to wind through the entire body, so you are filled with gratitude.  Smile and admire the image of this vibrant creation in your mind’s eye.
Gratitude will grow and bloom just like the plant in the meditation, if you tend to it with your mental energy.

This really is as easy as it sounds… Sing!
Pick any song you like.  Sing along with some music or go solo.  Sing in your car, in the shower, or for an audience.  However you approach it, the key is to sing out loud and let your voice be heard (even if it is only heard by you.)
Studies have shown that when you sing, the vibrations created by the sound you make can help relieve stress and anxiety.  Reap extra benefits by singing an upbeat song that elevates your mood!

This week, when you go to work, or the grocery store, or school, or the gym, or the coffee shop – anywhere you go on a regular basis – take a different route.  Drive on different roads.  Find another way to end up at your destination.  It might not be as quick or as direct as the route you are used to, but that is ok.  As a matter of fact, that’s the point!
When we switch up our routines, we open ourselves to new experiences.  Literally, life becomes more about the journey than the destination!  And sometimes these tiny shifts in our daily lives can make big impacts.  We slow down and take notice of what’s around us.  We gain fresh perspectives from our new place of observance.  We approach every-day events with more open-mindedness and mindFULLness, acceptance, patience and zeal.
Even if you don’t feel like life needs a boost right now, try it.  Especially if you are a creature of habit, try it.