“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” ~ Sharon Saltzberg
I’ve spoken in previous posts about stretching to relax. I combine these periods of stretching with the practice of mindfulness. At times, I use my own choice of soft music, other times I will use either a Fitbit app with a soothing speaker or a YouTube video. Some of my favorite YouTube channels are Daily Calm, The Mindful Movement or The Honest Guys.
Depending on the time I have available this may take as little as 2-3 minutes or up to 30 minutes. It seems to help with my ability to take on the day in addition to pain relief. Especially after I’ve worked a 12-hour nursing shift or driven for long periods of time – my body needs this time to relax and get the creaky old joints back into a natural (or should I say, neutral) position.
While I would prefer to get a massage each day, that is financially impossible and/or never going to happen. But when it does happen . . .what bliss!! When lying on the massage table, my therapist uses a heated mattress pad on low to help the body relax. Generally the lighting is low, there is soft music playing and depending on my mood we either talk or we don’t. I can sink into the sensation of her hands moving my body, kneading the muscles, feeling them at first tense and then relax under the repeated pressure. There are moments, generally when she gets to my IT bands that I don’t sink, it takes everything I have not to scream because they are so tight, but eventually they too, loosen up and I can again relax. The first moment that grabs me is right at the beginning when she places her hands under my shoulders and then runs her fingers and thumbs up my neck, flexing my head up and off the table and holding it.
Much like that massage, my combination of mindfulness and stretching works in the same manner. Usually done with low lighting, on a yoga mat on the floor with my choice of background sound, choice oils in the diffuser — it can be done in three easy steps:
- The “I” step – how am I feeling, how is my body feeling in connection to lying flat. What hurts? What feels tight? How do I need to move to relax it? Because of my scoliosis, I almost always start with my knees bent, feet flat on the floor and bring my arms up over my head, pressing my spine into the mat.
- The “Here” step – I begin this by taking three deep breaths, letting my abdomen rise with each one. As I continue my deep breathing, I notice that each breath gets slightly deeper as my body starts to relax even more. While I don’t consciously choose specific yoga poses, I do stretch and hold for a few seconds up to several minutes – breathing and holding the stretch until I feel my body relax and the stretch becomes less and less painful. It never fails, when I take my first few breaths with my arms up over my head, I slowly roll back and forth sideways on the mat until my back relaxes and my spine can make contact without tension – about three rocks both ways. I slowly move my arms down and out, flexing and releasing the scapula. At times, I may bend a knee and place the foot on the opposite knee for a greater stretch in the lower back. I may bend both knees and bring them to the same side while leaving my arms outstretched. Between stretches, I just breathe and notice how my body feels to determine which way to stretch next, never planning it but going with the way my body feels. No two days are ever the same.
- The “Now” step – what am I feeling right now. Not thinking about my plans for the day, or the discussion I had the night before, or even what I need at the grocery store. Part of mindfulness is being present in the here and now — right now. Distractions are blocked. In addition to the feel of my body, I also use my senses to feel the softness of the mat, the firmness of the hardwood floor, the smell of oils in the diffuser with it’s slight hum, the soft lighting in the room as the sunlight filters thru the room darkening shades, the background sounds in my chosen video or app, the soothing sound of the speaker’s voice.
Mindfulness doesn’t simply apply to meditation. It applies to the rest of my day as well. When in discussion with someone, I am able to determine how I am feeling during the discussion such as emotional reactions. The “here” helps me focus on the person(s) I am with and the situation at hand. The “now” helps me survey my surroundings and stay focused rather than being distracted by other thoughts such as “what will I fix for dinner” or “don’t forget to start the laundry” or “did I write the check for the utility bill.”
When choosing oils for the diffuser, I have several blends I prefer –
Rosemary, Lavender, Orange and Peppermint
Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint
or Copaiba, Lavender and Lime.
If you would like to purchase Young Living oils, feel free to use the link HERE.
How do you practice mindfulness? Has it changed your life? If so, how? Please feel free to share in the comments!