Day Eighteen SFY Mindful May Challenge – Practicing yoga at home #homepractice #yogaspace

day18-yogaspace-2day18-yogaspace-1One of the easiest ways to bring more attention and time to your home practice is dedicating a space for yoga and meditation.  Choose a space big enough for your yoga mat, a meditation cushion, maybe some props and an object to focus on during meditation.  It can be a candle, a buddha, or a picture.  Just something that reminds you to feed your soul and lets you practice drishti, which is focusing your gaze during your yoga or meditation practice.

I have a corner in my bedroom which is oriented east and west.  In the morning I face east and move my buddha in front of me, and in the evening I place my mat facing west, and move the buddha and candle against the wall.

If you have a pet, and your pet is calm, you may find they love your yoga space too…in my case, Paco makes for a convenient and relaxing prop. 🙂

And, a tip for parents…if you have young kids in the house, invite them into your yoga space and teach them that it’s a place of reverence and quiet.  Invite them to sit with you and maybe chant OM.  This is a great thing before bed.  I taught my daughter at a young age to respect my yoga space.  When I first created it she thought it looked fun and wanted to play with my props and statues but, she quickly learned that these were for looking at with our eyes, to help bring quiet and peace into my yoga and meditation practice.  When she sees me meditating she will sometimes just step in quietly and sit next to me…it’s awesome. 🙂

Create your yoga space to increase your awareness and mindfulness to your yoga practice and meditation practice.  Notice how much just SEEING your yoga mat and your decorated yoga space gently invites you to take your seat.  Namaste… – Yogamama Meels

 

Day Seventeen SFY Mindful May Challenge – #smile

day15-smileI’ve recently been teaching to more and more beginner yogis and I love when I ask them to smile during their struggle and their intense, scrunched up faces break into a laugh. There’s focus on breath (Prana), gaze (drishti) and the alignment in each pose (asana) but, I love to invite levity, light, and the ability to let yourself struggle, fall, get messy, and laugh…then start again with breath and intention.

Today I laughed at myself in this pose as I TRIED to get my foot in the crook of my elbow, then I looked at this photo feeling AMUSED at how much further I need to go in this pose. But, I can still remember when I couldn’t even reach my foot or balance at all in this pose, like some of my new students in today’s class.

So, I smiled because this pose feels so damn good for my hips, hip flexor, hamstring, and shoulder.  And, how I felt is really all that matters…not whether or not I can reach into the full expression of the pose.  Today, THIS was my full expression of this pose! I smiled because I was outdoors feeling the breeze on my skin. I smiled because Paco, my sweet yoga dog was nearby…again…waiting for me to toss him the frisbee. And, I smiled noticing how I’ve transformed from feeling frustrated with my body to really enjoying and accepting my body, as it is, taking every pose along the way in this beautiful lifelong yoga journey.

Of course, I’ll still imagine that my foot is going to hook into my elbow, and keep smiling on my way there. 😘

I see the hope in you, the hope in me, the hope in all things. Namaste 🙏
Love and laughter…Yogamama Meels

Day Sixteen SFY Mindful May Challenge – #patience Wheel Pose – Urdhva Dhanurasana

day16-wheel-IG It’s yoga practice, not yoga perfection.

Before my car accident almost two years ago I was FINALLY making progress in wheel.  It was always a challenge for me but, I was finally finding freedom and ease in this pose.  THEN…just after a seemingly minor fender bender, I found myself struggling in my practice, especially in child’s pose.  I was wincing with sharp pain just moving my left arm a teensiest bit in any direction.  Starting from a place of tightness already, my shoulder went from stiff to frozen…yes, the dreaded frozen shoulder.  And, almost two years later I’m amazed at how challenging it has been to get mobility into my shoulder joint capsule.  BUT!  I’m making progress!  I honestly questioned if I could ever do wheel again and in the last few months I’ve been able to attempt it without pain.  Still some stiffness but, no swearing or wincing.  So, I’m documenting my latest attempt, using my blocks and noticing how I can want to reach my heart closer to the wall and my head closer to my biceps. And, those feet! Yup, this yoga teacher knows those feet and hips need to rotate in towards my True North.  Patience…I know I need you but, sometimes you’re a royal pain in…the shoulder!  LOL

Love and laughter…Yogamama Meels

Day Fifteen SFY Mindful May Challenge – #inversions Getting upside down and facing fears

day15-handstandInspired by the inversions workshop I took yesterday with Patrick Beach and Carling Nicole, I worked on handstands today.  In this pic it’s obvious I need to work on my core but, my initial focus is just to get my hips over my shoulders, and using my hips to get up instead of my legs.  Getting upside down, facing my fears, and breathing in each messy, imperfect moment…on my journey to myself.

Getting messy and real… Yogamama Meels

Day Fourteen SFY Mindful May Challenge – #discovery Art of Inversions workshop with Patrick Beach and Carling Nicole (You and the Mat – Piedmont, Oakland, CA)

day14-workshop-IGDiscovered that I still have fears of getting upside down, especially in a class or workshop setting.  My body is strong and capable but, my ego seeks perfection and hates embarrassment and failure.  I thought I was done with worrying about what others think but, then those P words show up…Perfection and Pride…when I want to get upside down.  So, I’ll keep handstanding, and I keep frog-kicking my damn ego out of the way until I get upside down into freedom.  But, ego, I won’t totally kick you to the curb…with love and compassion, I just ask you to step aside so I can get on with transforming and transmorphing into the ME I am discovering wants to be messy and free.  Thank you Patrick and Carling for the awesome inversion workshop!

And, sharing this photo…wow, I almost didn’t do it.  Instead of noticing me sandwiched between two amazing yoga teachers I saw…my middle.  And, on top of that, the featured image in the header photo zeroes in, right on my beautiful, soft 50 year-old belly.  Oh, yay! (rolling eyes)  So, I posted it anyway, in all my glory.  I’m not fat but, I’m not skinny.  I don’t have the flat tummy of my youth but, with every day I’m learning what it means to stand in my own power…my peaceful power.  So, it’s all good.  Here, I am, me being me, rockin’ my softness, my powerful thunder thighs, my 5 foot and a nickel petiteness, all baby-got-back-booty, and my winning smile.  I’m discovering that I’ve been embarrassed to love myself, like it’s arrogant or boastful.  Without comparing myself to others, without better or worse, prettier or uglier, fatter or skinnier…I commit to loving myself just because this goddess-given body is a gift to celebrate and nurture.  I love this photo…of me. 🙂

Love, light, and gratitude… Yogamama Meels

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 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