Mindfulness Meditation – 5 Minutes and 5 Steps to Well Being

marabaclassI created this 5 Step 5 Minute Mindfulness Meditation process for myself and anyone else who feels ready to feel more calm, release distracting emotions, and focus on compassion in 2018.  In the new year I always like to “reboot” body mind and spirit. Should be easy, for a Yoga teacher, right? Yes…and actually not always. Being accountable to self renewal can seem daunting when I’m teaching others, caring for family, and need to hit that BIG “refresh” button but my hands are full.  We all face changing moods, seasons, politics, bodies…life is constantly offering inspiration to renew our tools!
Let’s practice this 5 Step 5 Minute Mindfulness technique that, while requiring focus and practice, can become a new habit this year!  2018 is the perfect year to reduce stress and boost clarity. As a care taker, teacher and mother, I have deep compassion for myself and others when we can’t “just be calm”. It isn’t easy; and requires practice.  But isn’t it worth the try? Perfection isn’t my goal; I’m practicing staying centered even when things are rough around the edges.  I invite you to practice this 5 Step 5 Minute Meditation with me. Please let me know how it is going!

This Mindfulness Meditation has 5 Steps. It combines well with Legs up the wall Yoga pose but if you have a heart condition or can’t access the wall or get on the ground just sit in as comfortable a position as possible.


HERE IS WHY: What happens when we mindfully focus on our breathing?  When we feel stress, our bodies tense and our nervous system gets stuck.  Our brain can become locked and the “Thinking Mind” often reacts, judges, and creates MORE tension. How to shift out of STUCK and into the present moment where calm and clarity can heal? One great technique is  to distract that “Thinking Mind”by tuning into the physical body sensations.  With body based relaxation techniques and gentle focused breathing, we can train our brain to reset. When we keep coming back to our Breathing as our emotions and thoughts surge, and FEEL our physical sensations, our nervous system will often relax.  Let’s let our inner critic gently take a back seat as we try this meditation.
HERE IS HOW:  Follow these 5 Steps to Feel more Centered.  Set a timer for 5 minutes to start.  As the process gets easier slowly increase the time if you desire.  Use an eye bag or towel if you like to cover your eyes.

1) GET COMFORTABLE  Find yourself a comfortable pose like legs up the wall, or in a comfortable chair – put a pillow under your knees or feet in order to get very relaxed as you practice this meditation.
You may need to read this over and be prepared to try it a few times to foster the seeds of relaxation. Be comfortable with taking care of yourself.

2)  DON’T CHANGE Gently bring your attention back again and again to your belly like you would sweep a strand of hair away from your face and….just breathe. For a few minutes don’t try to change your breathing.  Simply notice what your breathing is doing.  Without changing anything, just feel the physical sensations in your body.

3) ACCEPT  Whatever happens is OK. The “Thinking Mind” likes to judge and may chatter repeatedly. When you find yourself losing focus, or forgetting to breathe, without judging yourself, gently come back and focus on the Present Moment – the way breath is coming into your body and going out of your body.  Give your Body and Mind permission to lose focus and regain it.

4) CENTER Now bring your awareness to your waistband.  Allow your belly and back to softly expand with each inhale and gently release any tension on the exhale.  Imagine a billowing tent that lifts on the breeze and then settles back into itself easily.  It may help to put a pillow or blanket on your belly to help bring your attention there and soothe your nerves.

5) COMPASSION is the Key. Notice and accept whatever you feel. On each out-breath, as you would for a close friend, offer yourself compassion, or strength, appreciation or whatever first comes to mind.
Compassion doesn’t mean being passive or not taking action.
With compassion we are clear and can do what needs to be done—that might mean taking a pause, settling the mind, and trying to see things as clearly as possible before taking skillful action.  Offer yourself safety and serenity in this short timed meditation; and any other compassionate intentions that you may want to bring in.

Continue to practice this meditation as it will powerfully enhance your Well being. Doing a 5 minute daily meditation has helped me reset my day and recommit to self care for the new year. Just like we try to be more regular at flossing, let’s commit to practicing a Mindfulness Meditation daily in 2018. Do forgive yourself for not being perfect – or flossing as often as you should:)!
I simply invite you to breathe each day and let go of whatever holds you back.

These are the yogis in my neighborhood!

kids lyingKeeping it local and organic is what Austin is all about, right?  After much searching for a place to teach very close to home where my students and I could feel inspired and supported, I found a buddhist/yoga studio a few blocks away right here in our very own Zilker.  Yay!  One of my students/Zilker mom friends requested that “it HAS to be walking distance from the school, so I can drop my kid off and come take your class…or take your class and easily walk over to pick up.”  Because I have an on-going private practice as well, I needed to be available to my standing clients and avoid driving out of the area.   I’ve taught the first class of the 8 week series and loved seeing the Zilker parents from my neighborhood looking up at me during Apanasana (vital air pose).  That’s what we ALL need to do during this SOLA construction; Keep Breathing More Vital Air!  I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement of my neighbors, students, friends and family.  My goal is to stay out of my car and on the yoga mat, to share my gift of teaching and love with others, and to do it all right here in my neighborhood.   We can’t all work from home but what would it look like if we could develop South Lamar so that we stayed closer to home for many if not all of our life needs?  What more could we discover about our neighbors if we kept it all local?  Looking at the sweet faces in class on Tuesday, I thought, “These are the Yogis in my neighborhood!” (cue Mr. Rogers theme).  I think it’s a good place to start.

Flu Shots? Make Soup!!

Holistic health has been my interest, academic pursuit and lifestyle of choice since my first year of college.  After experiencing some tough life lessons (such as ‘no, kraft mac and cheese really isn’t the best food to eat on a daily basis’).   I went to California and became one of “those” Yoga studying, Deep Breathing, Juice drinking types.  Very fortunately, I was able to study with some fabulous wise and learned teachers in San Francisco; primarily Donna Farhi – my first Yoga teacher, whose exacting and dynamic style that emphasized the inner body and inner inquiry still informs my teaching and practice of asana and movement today.  I was also able to take incredible Holistic Health courses at SFSU in my undergrad, including Qi Gong, Meditation techniques, and Wellness in Aging from professors who were professionals in their fields and based their work on solid research and science.  These courses, along with the Physical Therapy coursework in my program, helped shape my approach to health and well-being as an integrative, body-based approach.  Body, Mind and Spirit being interconnected was a concept that made sense to me but I certainly had a mostly academic understanding of this idea. I practiced A LOT of yoga but didn’t have a very balanced diet or lifestyle.  I did learn the Pilates Method from the incredible Madeline Black, who emphasized that Joe Pilates developed his exercise regime to heal his lungs and improve his immune system.  My fascia and core were in great shape but my periods were a wreck!  Back then, I knew that belly breathing and core strength could keep me healthy and I knew that certain foods worked better than others for me but I was like a collector of information that needed “digesting”.  My life was forever changed when I experienced the cooking of Simran Kaur, a chef, meditator and one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She was a foodie before foodies were cool.  She took Macrobiotics and made it fun – and easy!  Simran showed me how my emotions, hormonal and immune system (among many other benefits) could be strengthened by eating “con gusto”; with pleasure and enjoyment; with less rules, more savoring and definitely more joy.  It revolutionized my approach to eating for health. But…. I was still eating waaaaay too much fruit and raw salad and wondering why I was always cold and low energy when I met my husband who cooked for me on our second date.   The meal was so sumptuous and yet simple; steamed chicken and steamed vegetables.  I felt like Sheena after that meal – for many reasons:)  My training in Oriental Medicine only reinforced this idea that the warmer and happier you are on the inside, the stronger your defenses are on the outside.  One of the most amazing teachers I have ever had was my Eastern Nutritional Energetics teacher, Dr. Lisa Wilson, who managed to help us learn about how to implement an individualized Holistic diet for healing while keeping a sense of humor and unconditional acceptance towards ourselves and the patients with whom we work.  Eating fresh, in season, whole foods in accordance with your individual constitution is ONE key to wellness.  Being rigid is not.  When I first began to work on my relationship with food, I experienced how much my diet affected EVERYTHING.  It was easy to become very detail oriented (“crazy!”).  Eventually, life changes, choices, foods, and moods, together with the passing seasons, tidal daily energies, and the needs of  the young souls around me necessitated that I get back to basics, get organized and plan!   Although there is no “right” way to eat, having a meal plan and good recipe ideas that inspire and appeal to me and my family makes the cooking and eating process a whole lot easier.  Less scrambling and More Yoga!  I find great food blogs and books and share ideas with other like minded folks around me; which is part of what food is meant to do; bring folks together.  Being an “airy” sort of constitution, I do best with warm, protein rich meals.  Eating soups and stews seems to keep the bugs away, keeps me grounded, and is a great way to show those around me that I care.   I have had many soup mentors along the way.  I once learned how to make a wonderful Miso soup from my rocker girl roommate who cooked a giant batch whenever any of us got a cold.  Thank you, Leslie for the original probiotic soup!  My acupuncturist Lifang Liang, in San Francisco, always said; “cook soup now!… and you won’t need makeup” and after cooking enough soup, my whole hormonal system normalized; much better than blush and mascara, believe me.  Dr. Lisa showed me how to make bone broth to stave off flu and weakness and as a way to make other foods more nutrient rich and I share this technique with all my friends and clients.  So many people are asking, “Should I get a Flu shot?!”   That is individual choice, but either way, I say,  “Cook Soup Now!”.  And come to Yoga class!  I am offering some great new group classes in a wonderful Zilker Zen healing arts studio so please check my schedule out on the Classes page.  Stay well, and enjoy.

Yoga Soup in the Making

Tonight I’m making stock overnight so that in the morning I can cook up one of my favorite Yoga Soups in the crock pot while I go off to teach; Moroccan Lentil Stew.  Here’s what goes in: red lentils, red onion, sweet potato, lemon, cilantro, and digestive spices like garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and clove. This Soup is so nurturing and soothing it should be called Restorative Yoga Soup!  I love soup because it loves me.  It is easy to digest, easy to cook, easy to individualize; add a garnish, serve only the broth, mix with a whole grain; the possibilities are endless, just like Yoga.  Perfect for this Fall season, and really easy to make.  My youngster loves to slurp this one!  I will attach a recipe very soon!  Now it’s off to bed for a nice reclined Goddess pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) to unwind this cooks legs.  While I put my dogs together, and let my knees gently open, the Yoga magic unfolds at the same time as the veggies in the stock cooking down in the kitchen release their delicious flavors.  Check back for more on Moroccan Red Lentil Yoga Soup and Evening Goddess Pose!

Yoga for Anti-Inflammatory Healing

The best way to decrease inflammation is to detoxify the body.  Yoga detoxifies by increasing the oxygenation, eliminating the carbon dioxide levels in the body and promoting lymphatic return.

Do you need to do a Yoga asana to get these benefits?
No, you can do deep, diaphramatic breaths ANYTIME.  However, when you combine three-dimensional breathing with aligned body movements, the effects of both are multiplied.