One of the things I like to share with my students is breath of joy. Breath of joy is something I learned in a yoga session many years ago. It is a great way to rejuvenate yourself and your students. I use it in drama lessons, during transition times and whenever we feel sluggish with low energy. One of my students dubbed it a ‘brain snack’ because it brings more oxygen to your brain. This easy, invigorating breath expands your lung capacity and usually creates a tingling sensation in your body.
It always encouraging a new flow of energy throughout your entire body. It also requires a little bit of silliness and the ability to let loose (literally) as you may feel slightly vulnerable when demonstrating what a breath of joy looks like. The first time you may feel rather ridiculous especially when you are being filmed ( watch the video clip below). Without fail though, you will be left with whole class giggles, smiles and crackling new energy.
How to do it:
1. Stand up and spread your arms out to the sides. I ask the students to take up bubble space.
Safety first so no one gets a slap to the face with a flailing arm.
3.Take three quick snorts through your nose.
4.Simultaneously throw your arms up over your head, then out to the sides and up over your head again like a crazy orchestra conductor.
5.Exhale through your mouth with a big audible sigh as you lean forward over your bent knees and stretch your arms out to the sides. Imagine you that you're taking a bow. Let your torso cascade forward like a waterfall.
6. Inhale slowly roll back up to a standing position. Pause to close your eyes and experience the sensations moving through your entire body.
7. Ask yourself or your students to note how you feel and compare your levels of energy before your ‘breathe of joy’ or ‘brain snack’ and after.
8. Aim to do three to four rounds.
For this week's Mindset Monday post, I'd like to challenge you all to try something new. Give the breath of joy a go and try it out on your own, with your students, or with a group of teachers.
Strive to have fun, connect with your breath, and remain present.
One Foundation: Inspiration from Bob Marley
Today my inspiration comes from Bob Marley. As I write this, I am presently sitting on a speed train from Shanghai to Nanjing and I am tuning into my music, in particular the music of Bob Marley. It is a foggy and grey day and I can say at this moment, without a doubt, I am happy. This train ride is providing me with time to read, to write, and to rest. I don’t want to get off as I am thoroughly enjoying the ride. Today my inspiration resides in the One Foundation song written and performed by Bob Marley.
The lyrics flow like this:
Got to build our love on one foundation.
There will never be NO love at all.
Got to put aside them segregation.
Got to come together.
We have to realize that we are one people.
From this song, I was inspired to write a mindfulness practice to focus on compassion for ourselves and for others. I've included an audio clip with this blog post that will allow you to listen to my voice as I lead you through the compassion exercise.
Here is the script as well. To listen to the audio clip, please click the link below.
Take a seat wherever you may be. Breathe.
Use your breath to become grounded and centered. Take a full body breath.
Offer up this quiet and still time to yourself as a gift. Breathe from your toes to the crown of your head.
Get physically and mentally comfortable with where you are. Full cycle of breath.
Aim to be spacious, still and silent. Strong deep breath.
Choose to keep your eyes open gently resting your gaze softly or allow your eyes to close completely. Breathe.
Now offer up this practice as a way of flexing your muscle of compassion for yourself and others. Full breath.
For each of the rounds, choose someone you are close to, a family member, a friend, a colleague, a difficult person or a community.
Just as I want to be healthy and free from pain so too does this person (state the person’s name)
Just as I want to be free from worry so too does this person (state their name)
Just as I want to be free from anger so too does this person (repeat their name).
Just as I want to be loved so too does (repeat their name).
Just as I want to experience joy so too does this person (repeat their name).
Just as I want to be peaceful and calm so too does this person (repeat their name).
Practice this exercise to develop your level of compassion to know that as Bob Marley says, ‘We have got to realize we are one people.’
Radiate compassion, practice sensitively and be present,
I do not regret growing older, wiser and stronger. Today is Tuesday, March 10th and it is my 45th birthday and I have a lot to be thankful for. I sat down today and took stock of all my blessings. There are so many people who have supported my life and continue to support me along the way. Without these blessings I would not be where I am.
Here are 45 things I am thankful for.
I am so grateful for:
1. Andy, an amazing partner, who loves me, imperfections and all.
2. Scrumptious dishes created by Andy that I get to devour over and over again.
3. Eli, my brilliant, witty, goofy, strong first born.
4. Tai, my gorgeous, compassionate, kind and principled sweetie
5. 20-second hugs
6. My beautiful mother and my witty dad, without them there would be no me.
7. Our lovable and slightly psycho dog Coffee who takes me out on daily mindful walks.
8. A career that I enjoy and find meaningful.
9. Running therapy with Marthe-Sophie.
10. Being surrounded by inspiring students and teachers.
11. Great friends from around the world ( lovable just as you are).
12. Power walks with Nadean.
13. Green avocado, apple and lemon smoothies in the morning.
14. Getting lost in the power of music and dancing.
15. First live music venue with my boys seeing Ed Sheeran, Shanghai 7/13/15.
16. My respiratory system which allows me to take deep breaths throughout the day.
17. Stretch marks from two pregnancies.
18. Presenting and sharing my love of mindfulness.
19. Sharing partner yoga with J & R on Monday nights.
20. The uniqueness of my healthy, curvy and marvelous body that has never failed me.
21. Wednesday morning tabata sessions with strong Emma.
22. Sitting still.
23. Gracefully surrendering things of my youth.
24. Daily laughter.
25. Feeling wiser.
26. A great night's sleep.
27. Motivating others.
28. A satisfied belly and a fully functioning gastrointestinal system.
29. Building a tapestry of experiences all over the world with my family.
30. Being able to ruffle my son Tai’s hair.
31. My sense of smell.
32. My strong thighs that let me walk, run, dance and play.
33. Long relaxing train rides that provide me with time to read.
34. Big buoyant clouds.
35. Smiles from strangers
36. Hot & relaxing baths.
37. Unexpected encounters with kind strangers.
38. Mountains to hike.
39. Beaches to visit and and falling asleep to the sounds of waves.
40. Time to read.
41. Comfy pajamas.
42. Brie cheese.
43. Being mindful of the wonderful blessings and beauty in my life.
44. Banana boat rides.
45. For all of the above and infinite things more to come - thank you, thank you, thank you.
May you all be happy, healthy and surrounded by numerous things to be oh so thankful for today and everyday.
Do you give yourself some genuine compliments when you wake-up to start your day? I know it sounds very corny. It’s not easy to admit that there are days when I am not very nice to myself first thing in the morning. Those mental thoughts that I whisper are not very pretty at all. Why would I say such things to myself when I would never consider repeating such thoughts to any other female friend of mine. The answer is quite simple. As humans we can be incredibly uncompassionate with ourselves. It’s so important to change this way of thinking about who we are and how we may think that we look according to the perspectives of others.
To admit that I am not very self-nurturing in this way isn’t very positive and yet I like to think that I am an 80 - 20 girl, meaning that I am positive about 80 % of the time and the other 20%, well you get the point, I can be very unflattering to myself. We are so incredibly quick to criticize ourselves. We find it so easy to look at what is not right and only focus on what is wrong. We have no qualms about broadcasting this information to others. Broadcasting and projecting negative views of myself is something that I used to do quite a bit, but I’ve learned over the years just how cruel this is.
As a Pisces my traits are considered to be imaginative, kind and compassion, intuitive, sensitive and self-less but on the dark side, people in my horoscope zone can also be escapists when things go wrong, idealistic, weak-willed, oversensitive, pessimistic and lazy. I believe that I may have tendencies leaning toward the darker side mentioned above at times, but as another birthday approaches, I am realizing more and more that we all have both positive and negative traits. Being mindful of this fact allows me to be more forgiving with myself if negative traits or poor self-talk enters my headspace.
Gracefully letting go of the past, those memories and things of my youth, and letting go of negativity is an important practice. This is why I want to flip it upside down. Liking who and what you see in the mirror every single morning that you wake up is so important. It’s about going beyond skin deep and connecting to that warmth, kindness, and radiance beneath the surface.
What is it that you like about yourself? When was the last time that you looked at yourself in the mirror and gave yourself a compliment? Although it may sound hokey at first, you would be doing yourself a great service if you did. As you treat yourself with loving kindness, you will etch messages in your brain and you’ll walk taller, take up more space, move differently, look and feel more confident. You’ll work on balancing an internal harmony and increasing positive body awareness.
Aim to look at yourself with sensitivity and compassion each morning. If you find this challenging, just start small at first. Maybe you might look at your belly with loving kindness knowing that those stretch marks gave you gorgeous twin boys or those green eyes are uniquely yours and you love to play them up with dramatic make-up. The goal is to sprout more positive praises for yourself so that your ‘zoom in’ lens will allow you to bring about more of whatever it is that you focus on. You will think differently and begin to embody those thoughts. So why not play around, flirt a little with yourself and practice self-love.
Scan your body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes and provide yourself with genuine compliments. Practice gratitude for the miracle of your body and consider all of the minutia that goes unnoticed. See, feel and appreciate what your body does every day.
Be aware, give yourself some genuine compliments and strive to be well.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily