Starting off the New Year can be both hopeful and daunting. As we get back into the swing of things, here are some Mindful Minutes practices to smooth the transition!
Cultivating an Attitude for Gratitude
This practice directs our attention toward gratitude. You don’t need any materials, and it hardly takes any time at all! This version of Cultivating an Attitude for Gratitude is intended to be practiced first thing when you wake up, while you are still nice and cozy in bed. The practice asks that you simply to think of one thing you are grateful for in those first moments of consciousness. Then allow your eyes to close and hold an image of what you are grateful for in your mind and in your heart. If you’d like, you can bring your hands, one on top of the other, on your heart space. Count five breaths into that thing you are grateful for, and gently open your eyes to the beautiful day ahead! This practice will naturally take about 1 minute. You can spend another 1-2 minutes in the practice if it resonates with you in the moment.
You’ll need a little bit of room to move for this practice. Imagine a space the size of a yoga mat- if you have a mat, even better! Mindful Suns are a wonderful way to energize our mornings as soon as we get out of bed or into the classroom. They can also be a nice after-lunch pick-me-up (post digesting), or after-work release of energy. You will need 3-5 minutes to complete this practice (prior knowledge of Mindful Suns full-length practice strongly suggested).
Find yourself standing with your feet hip-width distance apart. Inhale your arms out wide and up overhead, bringing your palms to meet, gazing up. Exhale to gently bend your knees and swan dive forward to rest your belly on your thighs. Let your head and neck relax here, and sway side to side if it feels good in your muscles. Take 3 breaths like this.
On your fourth breath in, bring your hands to your shins and look straight ahead. On your breath out, plant your hands on the ground and step your right and left foot back to high plank pose (knees down are a welcome modification).
Inhale in plank and gaze forward. Exhale to lift your hips up and back for downward facing dog (your heels will probably not touch the ground). Check that your hands are shoulder distance apart, fingers spread wide, and middle finger pointing straight ahead (to align your wrists). Let your head and neck relax here, and take a gently bend in the knees. Take 5 deep breaths here.
At the end of your 5th breath, gaze forward and slowly walk your feet up to meet your hands. Inhale to lift half way, exhale to fold down. Inhale to gently bend the knees as you slowly reverse your swan dive to stand with your arms sweeping overhead. Exhale, palms meet and pull down in front of the heart. Take 3 breaths here, then open your eyes.
Now flow through this one more time, connecting breath to movement. The only difference is that time you’ll step your left foot back to plank instead of your right.
The length of practice (3-5 min) will depend on how fast you want to move and what is right in your body. If you have more time, you can always do a few more rounds!
- hug in your low belly to protect your low back
- knees can be down for the breath in plank
- knees can always be bend in down dog
- skip the plank and step straight to down dog if you’re not up for it or your low back isn’t feeling great today
Mindful Steps can be incorporated into any part of your day, for as long or as little time as you’d like. The first “step” is to tune into your breath: how are you breathing as you walk. Then your body: how do your muscles feel as you move. Then your mind: simply notice that you are walking. Notice the instinctual placement of one foot in front of the other, notice the pace of your steps, notice the feeling of the ground beneath your feet.
Continue this stream of conscious awareness for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. It is a great practice to incorporate into your walk to or from your car, lunch, the restroom- you name it. You can certainly practice during a leisurely stroll as well!
This practice can be done in 1-5 minutes. Find yourself standing tall with your feet hip-width distance apart. Sway a little side-to-side until you find nice, firm footing. Allow your arms to rest alongside your body with your palms facing forward. Close your eyes and tune in to your state of being in this moment. Lift up from the crown of your head, lengthening your spine. Lift up all of your toes and spread them wide before planting them firmly down again. Energize your fingers, as if you were reaching down toward the ground with them. Envision yourself as a sturdy mountain. Your feet are your base, and your head the peak. You are strong. You are steady. You are rooted to the earth, but rise up into the clouds. Feel your own strength and steadiness in this moment, and breathe into this feeling for 5 more breaths. Gently open your eyes and return to the present moment. If you’d like, you can extend this practice for another 10-20 breaths.
Teacher’s Tip: This is a great grounding practice in times when you need to come back to your center.