Day Twelve SFY Mindful May Challenge – Supported shoulder and upper back opener on a bolster

day12-upperbackDay 12 #SFYMindfulMay #upperback – If you’re experiencing stiffness or pain in your shoulders in yoga poses such as child’s pose (#balasana) or downward dog (#adhomukhasvanasana), in addition to opening your shoulders with the poses with straps I posted earlier, consider adding this supported upper back stretch to bring mobility to your spine. Use a foam roller, a bolster, or roll up a beach towel and place it underneath your shoulder blades at the bra strap; laying on your roller with cactus arms point your elbows down towards the ground and the bolster should touch your forearms. Choose a bolster/roller with the appropriate firmness and height so that you can touch or almost touch your elbows to the floor and which allows you to relax on the bolster without pain. Initial discomfort or tightness is typical and can be relieved as you stay and breathe in this pose. But, if your breath remains shallow, you feel like dropping f-bombs, or you’re clenching your face or jaw, then roll off that bolster slowly onto your side into a fetal position. Take a few breaths in this fetal pose to let intensity in your back to settle down. Slowly use your hands to push up to a seated position, then look for a towel or blanket you can roll up to minimize the intensity in this upper back opener. You may also want to start this pose just on the mat without any support under your back.

Consider staying in this pose with your arms out to a T or above your head. If you experience pinching in the back of your neck then place a pillow under your head. Explore placing support under the backs of your hands such as blocks or a cushion to see if this allows you to better relax your arms and the front of the chest and shoulders. Keep your shoulders down from your ears and let the fronts of your shoulders and chest relax, let your back sink into the roller. Bend your knees with the soles of your feet wide on your mat. Start with 5 slow, even ujjayi breaths. Over time build up to laying in this pose for 5 minutes. Deepen this pose by increasing the height of the rounded support under your back or progressing to use a yoga block at different heights.

Often stiffness in shoulders is connected to tightness in the upper back. Bringing mobility in your thoracic spine, (the upper third section of your spine), will give increase ease and access to all your yoga poses as well as improving your overall posture and health.

Be mindful in any yoga pose, consulting your doctor if you have known back or neck issues. And, breathe…slowly, intentionally, fully, and joyfully.

Namaste…

Yogamama Meels

Day Eleven SFY Mindful May Challenge #pleasure – Chia pudding parfait with berries

day11-parfaitDay 11 #SFYMindfulMay #pleasure – during today’s yin yoga class I spoke about being mindful of pleasure. I love that Christiane Northrup, MD professes that “Pleasure is a vital nutrient.” Where we place our attention and awareness, we increase our experience of that object. Breathe into pleasure, notice the sensations of your experience, and give yourself permission to thoroughly savor every moment. Be mindful of experiencing pleasure in your relationships, in your work, your hobbies, in every bite you eat. Notice how pleasure increases in your life when you look for it in each moment…breath by breath.

CHIA PUDDING PARFAIT WITH BERRIES
Mix 1/2 cup of nut milk with 1/4 cup chia seeds and let sit in the refrigerator a few hours or overnight. Stir after a few hours just to remove the clumps of chia gel. Add a dollop of “yogurt” (eg coconut cream yogurt or dairy yogurt) and top with berries. Taste and feel each creamy, healthy bite. Enjoy…

Yogamama Meels

Day Ten SFY Mindful May Challenge – Shoulder and QL (Quadratus Lumborum) stretch #SFYMindfulMay

day10-shouldersDay 10 –  On your knees with a cushion, or sitting in a chair, start holding a strap wider than your shoulders above your head, reach up from your tailbone with a long spine and neutral pelvis, then lean to the right with straight arms.  Keep slight tension on the strap with a loose grip in the hands.  Keep length in both sides of the waist as you inhale length in the spine, then exhale leaning to the right continuing to gently pull on the strap with straight arms.

Choose a comfortable position for your neck with your shoulders softened down from your ears, allowing for space on both sides of your neck. Either gaze up towards your top hand or straight ahead.  Continue this stretch for five breaths being mindful to breathe through the lenghtening and release through the shoulder and the QL (quadratus lumborum).

You may feel this stretch all the way from the outside of your left leg (IT band), up through the waist (the QL), near the armpit (the lattisimus dorsi), the outside of the arm (the tricep) and to the wrist.  Breathe slowly and avoid collapsing into the right waist; keep the right side long.  Keep the muscles in the face and your gaze soft.  Invite the softening and lengthening throughout your side body.

After your fifth exhale, inhale back to center with your arms evenly above your head, connect to your long spine and neutral pelvis, then exhale to repeat this stretch leaning towards the left side.  Continue lengthening and reaching for five breaths.  Keep the arms straight and long, gently keeping tension on your strap, and keeping space on both sides of your waist, and both sides of your long neck. Keep your shoulders down from your ears.  Continue breathing slowly, inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils, and keep your face and gaze soft.

After your fifth exhale, inhale back to center, gently drop the strap then close your eyes, sit back on your heels, set your hands on your thighs, breathe and feel what you feel.  Repeat one more set on each side.  With each breath, keep that spine long and feel the expansion in your rib cage on both sides, into your back, and under your collarbones.  With each inhale, keep the shoulders down from the ears.

Enjoy the openness in your shoulders and back.  Notice how this pose creates space in your abdomen and invites expansion for your breath.  Sigh and smile.   Namaste…

Yogamama Meels

Day Nine SFY Mindful May Challenge – Prasarita with shoulder opener #SFYMindfulMay

day9-shouldersday9-shoulders-2Day 9 –  Start standing in prasarita, wide-legged foward fold, and clasp your hands behind your back or grab a strap, gently pulling the strap apart about shoulder width. Breathe your heart open, shoulders down, root down into your tadasana legs and feet, then hinge at the hips, folding forward with a long spine.  Let your arms or strap come away from your body towards the ground.  Hold for five breaths, gently squeezing the shoulder blades together.  Keep the neck long with the shoulders down from the ears.

Photo note: to take these photos I set up my self-timer on my Nikon D7000.  Unfortunately, my blooper was not caught on camera.  In the bottom photo where I was reaching my arms towards the ground, my wrists reached Paco’s back and I completely somersaulted and landed on top of him…which he loved! LOL

Yogamama Meels

Day Eight SFY Mindful May Challenge – Mindful eating

day9-mindfuleating
Veggie quinoa wrap in rice paper. Gluten-free.

MINDFUL EATING – mindful of WHAT you eat and HOW you eat.

Do you multi-task while you eat?  Eating in front of the TV…while reading your email on your smart phone…while reading the paper? When is the last time you JUST ate, paying attention to each bite?  Or, when eating with your family, put all your electronic devices away, notice the food you’re all eating, thanking those who prepared the food, thanking mother earth for providing you that food, and talking to each other with eye contact?  Hmmm…maybe it’s time to eat mindfully!
IDEAS FOR COLORFUL WRAPS AND SALADS

Want to eat clean but, you’re tired of beans and rice or plain old salad?  Here are some ideas for being creative in the kitchen.  Try it and maybe you’ll discover your colorful, inner chef! Get your kids creating in the kitchen too!

Take the time to choose colorful foods and present them with care and creativity. Treat your meal like a masterpiece and savor each beautiful bite.

Add color to your veggies by adding these to your salads and wraps:

  • shredded carrots
  • purple cabbage
  • watermelon radish
  • yellow and red peppers
  • orange sweet potatoes
  • strawberries
  • raspberries

 

Add protein:

  • creamy avocadoes
  • hearty legumes
  • hummus
  • pesto
  • nut sauces
  • nuts
  • whole grains like quinoa

Try gluten free:

  • rice paper
  • nori sheets.
  • “noodles” of spaghetti squash
  •  zoodles from zucchini in a spiralizer

Brighten flavors with herbs:

  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • basil
  • dill

Spice it up:

  • curry
  • jalapeño
  • salsas
  • chipotle sauces

Add acid:

  • lemon
  • lime
  • vinaigrette

Add richness with oils:

  • sesame oil
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • avocado oil

And savory “umami” flavors:

  • tamari
  • Bragg’s liquid amino acids
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • caramelized onions
  • fun sea salts

Eat clean and organic for 3-7 days and notice how you feel. Eat two or more hours before your next vigorous yoga class and notice how it affects your practice and digestion. Think PTY “pretty, tasty and yummy” when creating your food art…have fun and enjoy each bite!!

Thank you for participating in this month’s Spiritually Fit Yoga Mindful May challenge!  Join anytime!  It doesn’t matter if you haven’t started on day one with us.  Just follow me on Instagram @spirituallyfityoga then in each post tag @spirituallyfityoga and #SFYMindfulMay.

Here’s to happy, mindful eating!

Yogamama Meels

Day Seven SFY Mindful May Challenge – Mother’s Day

day7-mothersdayTo be a mother is the greatest gift and most challenging job of my life. Today I was celebrated by family and friends but, there is no greater joy or privilege than that of raising my beautiful daughter.  I am so grateful.

And, thank you mother earth for nourishing us and sustaining us.

I honor the mother in you, the mother in me, the mother in all things. Namaste…

Yogamama Meels

Day Five SFY Mindful May Challenge – Shoulder opener with a strap

day5-shouldersDay 5 – grab a strap, gently pulling the strap apart to create some tension as you bring the strap behind your back. Breathe through the sticky spots as you stretch through your shoulder joints. Softly engage your core and adjust your tailbone to avoid overarching your lower back. Bring the hands closer on the strap with each rep as your shoulders open up. Be mindful of your posture and keeping your arms straight as you bring the strap above and behind your back. Do this pose “standing” on your knees, or release tension in the arches of your feet by tucking the toes, sitting on your heels and coming into a toe squat. Do as many reps as you like…enjoy!

Yogamama Meels

Day Four SFY Mindful May Challenge – Rain

day4-raindrops-igThe skies blessed us with rain here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I spent time noticing the clean sparkle on the leaves and flowers as I walked my property.  Connecting to my inner photographer is one of my goals for this mindfulness challenge and I delighted in getting up close to focus on these raindrop jewels on this purple smoke bush…each one reflecting its own world on its crystal dome.  I breathed in deep the gift of the clean, fresh rain and felt the earth swallow gratitude for each thirst-quenching drop.  Namaste…  Yogamama Meels

Day Three SFY Mindful May Challenge – Water (Simple tip: Save your kitchen rinse water)

day3-water-blog

Hydrating is a goal for me during this 21 day mindfulness challenge since this is also my opportunity for spring cleaning and detoxing from the inside out.  But, I’m also uber-aware of conserving water now that we live in drought-stricken California.  I wanted to plant a small organic garden at our new house but, I struggled with needing to use precious water.  So we chose to only use homemade “gray water.”  I placed an expandable strainer, sized for my sink, over a large bowl and this rinse water has provided more than enough daily hydration for my garden!  Set this up in your own home and notice how much garden water you can collect just from rinsing veggies and fruits, rice, beans, lentils, etc!

Hydrate your body (my goal is 60 oz.+ each day), and conserve water in little and big ways!  How are you conserving water??  Leave a comment and share your ideas!!

Yogamama Meels