Teacher Self-Care Series Part IV: Mindful Minutes: Welcoming the New Year

Teacher Self-Care Series Part IV: Mindful Minutes: Welcoming the New Year

 

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. 

Mindful Suns

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!

Modifications:

  1. hug in your low belly to protect your low back
  2. knees can be down for the breath in plank
  3. knees can always be bend in down dog
  4. 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

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!

Mountain Pose

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.nature-rocks-lake-moss

Teacher Self Care Series Part III: Legs up the Wall

Teacher Self Care Series Part III: Legs up the Wall

Time investment: 5 minutes

Have you ever had a long day and propped your feet up to give your hardworking legs and feet a rest? Legs up the Wall is bas11376956095_1145fab4a3_oically the superhero version of that posture. It gives your body a chance to sink into restoration, and your feet and legs a chance to rest without any pressure on them.

What you’ll need:

  • Enough wall space to extend your legs all the way up from the ground (watch out for picture frames, etc.).
  • A soft, non-slippery surface to lie down on: this can be a yoga mat or carpet. 

How to set up:

  • Turn off any bright lighting in the room to promote relaxation.
  • If using a yoga mat, set it up so the short end is against the wall. This will provide extra padding on top of carpet, or if you do not have a soft floor to lie on.
  • Sit sideways alongside the wall, with one of your hips, and one side of your legs snug against the wall. Legs can be bent as needed.
  • Lie down on the ground with one side of your body still more or less snug to the wall.
  • Now swing your legs up the wall, turning your torso about 90 degrees so that it is resting on your mat or carpet space in front of the wall.
  •  Your legs should now be up the wall (knees can be bent a little) and your torso should be facing the wall.
  •  If the back of your legs are tight, wiggle a little further away so there is more space between your seat and the wall.

Allow your arms to rest alongside your body, palms face up. If your shoulders are tight, you can make a cactus shape with your arms, or place your palms face down on your belly.

Set a timer for 5 minutes with a soothing tone to bring you back. If you have more time, then feel free to set it for 10! Gently close your eyes and set aside ALL to-do lists as you melt into restoration.

Optional Props:

  • A pillow under the sacrum
  • An eye pillow, washcloth, or light shirt/scarf over the eyes
  • Relaxing music

Teacher’s Tip: If you have the space, this can definitely be taught to students, family, and friends. It is a simple pose with awesome relaxation benefits!

Teacher Self-Care Series Part II: Mindful Minutes for the Holiday Season

Teacher Self-Care Series Part II: Mindful Minutes for the Holiday Season

Hello Teachers! This post is meant to follow Teacher Self-Care Series Part I: Intro to Mindful Minutes. It will be helpful to read through that one first if you have not already. Each practice below is a 1-3 minute investment. We recommended you practice them in the sequence presented below. You can try a new one every day, or stick with the same one for a week. Notice what works for you in this moment and roll with it!

Belly Breathing

Find a tall spine and comfy seat. Bring one hand to your belly, another to your chest. Notice the sensation of your palms on your body. Notice what your breath is like in this moment. Breathe into the weight of your palms, allowing the belly to rise. Breathe out and let the weight of your palms gently guide your belly back toward your spine. Allow the breath to flow in and out of the nose (unless you’re a little stuffy!). Continue this breath for either 1 minute or 3 if you have a little extra time. You can set a timer on your phone with a relaxing chime to bring you back into the moment.

Balloon Breathing

For those moments you just need a big breath and a big hug…

Find a tall spine and comfy seat. Inhale to take your arms wide, fingers spread. Exhale, slowly bring your arms back in toward each other. Cross your arms and give yourself a big, big hug! Inhale, open the arms again, this time a little more slowly. Exhale, savor the motion as you draw your arms around you for another beautiful, self loving hug. Continue this breath and movement for either 1 minute or 3 if you have a little extra time. You can set a timer on your phone with a relaxing chime to bring you back into the moment.

Restorative Rest Time

Find a soft or padded place to lie down (yes, you can do this before bed!). A yoga mat, blanket, or carpet will do. Bring your feet together to touch and let your knees fall out wide. If this is excruciating on your hip flexors, place a pillow, books, you name it, under the outer edges of your knees for support. Hands can rest along the side, or one hand can come to the belly, the other to the chest (think Belly Breathing). Continue sinking in here for either 1 minute or 3 if you have a little extra time. You can set a timer on your phone with a relaxing chime to bring you back into the moment.

Setting and Intention

For those days that need a little more direction….

Find a tall spine and comfy seat. Bring your hands one on top of the other on your heart space. Close the eyes and breathe into your palms. Envision something that you would like to create today. Whether it is movement, art, food, or space for yourself or others. Allow this image to come into your mind, and breathe into it from your heart space. Continue cultivating this intention for either 1 minute or 3 if you have a little extra time. You can set a timer on your phone with a relaxing chime to bring you back into the moment.

Teacher’s Tip: Once you feel comfortable with your Mindful Minute practice, feel free to share these with your students, friends, family… the list goes on! The best tip is to speak from your experience.

Also: You can ALWAYS practice for longer than 1 or 3 minutes!winter-forest-354248_960_720

Teacher Self-Care Series Part I: Intro to Mindful Minutes

Teacher Self-Care Series Part I: Intro to Mindful Minutes

You do a lot for your students; and the energy and time you dedicate to doing what you do is something that deserves recognition. Being recognized by other people isn’t enough though; it is important to have an appreciation for yourself, because you are the one who shows up day after day.

Most of the practices on this blog are meant to be practiced by both students and teachers. The wording is more developmentally tailored to fit a broad audience of students and adults. As earlier posts have referenced, self-practice is important to facilitate with impact of your delivery to your students. Another equalrelaxation-686392_960_720ly important reason to practice is to be able to refresh and refuel for all of the things that you do!

So these Mindful Minutes are for you. While it is ideal to take a longer time for your Mindful practices, we don’t always have the luxury of having that time to work with. Most of the Mindful Minutes do require a foundational knowledge of the longer practices to be able to drop right in. I have listed below.

Mindful Minutes: Full Length References:

  1. Belly Breathing
  2. Balloon Breathing
  3. Restorative Rest Time
  4. Setting an Intention
  5. Cultivating an Attitude for Gratitude
  6. Mindful Suns
  7. Mindful Steps
  8. Mountain Pose

Bottom line: no, there is no escaping putting in a little bit of time for these practices. HOWEVER, once you’ve practiced them and understand the cues, they will be easier to tailor to your own schedule (as we will teach in the form of Mindful Minutes). This is time for you, and you are experiencing the payoff in the long run. You’re definitely worth that investment!

Practice Tip (more time=more zen, but we understand you are busy!):

We suggest first practicing one of the above listed practices to familiarize yourself, then incorporating the Mindful Minutes practices for the rest of that week, or month! You invest a little time, but gain many Mindful Minute opportunities.