There are many wonderful things about our society: TV, smartphones, tablets, GPS. While those things most certainly make life easier, they can also make life a tad bit more stressful. Staring at screens all day leave us with fatigue, eye strain, and poor posture while indulging in media at our fingertips hours every day leave our cortisol levels sky-rocketing from all the negative images and advertising we see on a daily basis. Some of us (*guiltily raise my own hand*) even start our day with these anxiety riddled habits by checking our emails before we are even out of bed. The good news is we can balance out these energy and joy sucking habits we have created through mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around you. The best part? You don’t need fancy cushions, special clothes, or expensive gadgets to be mindful. You only need yourself and as little as two minutes.
My mindfulness practices
While there are many practices of mindfulness, I am only human and make it happen when I can. My favorite ways to practice mindfulness would be through yoga and meditation. I obtained my 200-hour yoga teacher certification within the past year and it has brought a whole new vision of mindfulness and what that means to me as a person and how I want to lead myself. Unfortunately, there isn’t the space within this article to speak on yoga itself and I would love to teach a class specifically on mindfulness. However, I can share a few other daily practices of mine.
Remember, none of these practices call for you to go out and purchase anything. However, if you feel the call to use something that will help you to focus your thoughts, by all means, go ahead of make it a part of your ritual.
1) Find a comfortable position: sitting, laying down, under a tree, a park bench, or wherever gives you a stable and solid surface beneath you.
2) Be aware of your body. Straighten but do not stiffen your posture. You want to be relaxed and not rigid. Even if throughout your meditation you need to move to be comfortable, do it! Any way you can become more into your space, take the liberty to get yourself there.
3) Focus on your breath. There is no need to change how you are breathing. Just becoming aware of the ins and outs of each inhale and exhale.
4) Let your thoughts come and go. Many also think meditation means having a “blank mind.” This is not correct. Mindfulness meditation recognizes the mind will wander and when you have noticed the mind wander, gently bring it back to focus on your breath without judgement or negativity such as “I knew you couldn’t do this,” etc. Watch your thoughts go by like leaves floating on top of a gentle stream if visualization helps.
5) Start slow. If you are new to meditation, much like exercise, don’t overdo it. You will want to have a max time so that you are not setting yourself up to be disappointed at your next meditation session if you are unable to sit with yourself as long as you did the first time.
Breathing techniques (pranayama – “prA-nA-yA-ma”)
There are many different breathing techniques, but my favorite is called nadi shodhana (“NA-di sho-DA-na”) which is also named alternate nostril breathing.
1) Bring your right hand to your face and place your middle and index fingers on the space between your third eye while your thumb gently closes your right nostril leaving the left nostril free. During this practice, you will alternate your thumb and ring finger of the right hand to close nostrils.
2) With your right nostril still closed, inhale through the left nostril filling your belly deep from within and pretending the breath is filling every space inside of you.
3) At the end of the inhale, close your left nostril with your ring finger and pause.
4) Release your thumb from the right nostril and exhale out through the right nostril keeping the left nostril close with the ring finger.
5) With your right nostril still open and left nostril closed, inhale in through the right nostril.
6) At the end of the inhale, close your right nostril with your thumb and pause.
7) Release your ring finger from your left nostril and exhale out the left nostril.
8) You have completed one round of this breathing technique! You can repeat for as many cycles as you like. This breathing technique is also extremely effective in stressful situations or if you are about to give a presentation to calm nerves.
Happy Mindful Living!