Mindful Moments of 2021
When the school year started I was craving a simplified way to share online. I wanted to write something useful that didn’t require constant engagement, so I started a monthly newsletter.
Over the past few months, I’ve really enjoyed figuring out what to include in it as I added a section for student events/accomplishments, my favorite book each month and a mindful moment with an exercise for increased physical or mental awareness.
For my last blog of 2021 (how did we get here?!) I thought it would be fun to recap all the Mindful Moments from the newsletter. There are only a few this year, but they are all things I do regularly and appreciate in my own life.
I try to post a blog every Thursday, and there is technically one left for the year after today. Instead of a blog next week, though, I’m planning to add several more “freebies” on my site that will be printable for all newsletter subscribers. If you aren’t subscribed to the newsletter yet, it will be a good one!
If this is your first blog, if you have read a few, or if you read often I’m grateful that you’re here. Thanks for sharing a little corner of the internet with me.
Now, on to the main event!
Mindful Moments of 2021
September - Time For A Stretch Break!
Have you noticed the tendency of those around you to crane their neck forward as they read on their phones? Maybe you notice yourself doing it!
Or, have you ever caught yourself pushing your head forward to meet your flute?
There is an epidemic of this forward neck position in our modern culture thanks to computers and phones (text neck, anyone?).
Any time we habitually use a muscle in a certain way, for better or worse, we create a pattern and pathway of movement. Repetitive motion reinforces the pattern of movement.
As a result of modern devices, most of us have a lack of mobility in the cervical spine.
So, what can we do to counteract text neck and regain mobility?
Simple neck stretches:
Sit or stand comfortably. Stack your ribs, chest and head over top of your hips.
Let your right ear drop toward your right shoulder. Release the weight of your head to the right. Repeat on the left side.
Let your chin drop toward your chest. Release the weight of your head down.
Look up, always making sure you can swallow. If you lose the ability to swallow, you've gone to far. Take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose as you look up.
Baby back bend:
Stand or sit comfortably with your arms at your sides. Inhale and reach your arms up and overhead bringing the palms together.
As you exhale, press down through your feet (or let your weight sink into the chair) and reach back slightly with the finger tips.
Inhale to reach back up to center.
Exhale to release the arms down.
Repeat two or three more times.
Easy keyboard/phone break:
In a sitting or standing position, bring your arms behind your lower back for a light bind, allowing the hands to rest on opposite forearms.
Take three long, slow breaths in and out through the nose.
Switch arms and repeat.
October - Create Space With Alignment
Last month's mindful moment helped us check in with our cervical spine - the part of our upper back and neck most affected by our use of modern devices.
Keeping our attention on the spine, this month we're considering the natural shape of the spine and how we can adjust our standing or sitting habits to allow the natural curves of the spine.
Did you know that the spine is not straight? This is an example of where body mapping can be tremendously helpful in our every day lives.
Although we might think of the spine as rigid, it is actually quite flexible. Its natural curves help us move freely and alleviate pressure on the delicate parts of the body it protects.
Because many of us sit and stand in a variety of unatural positions for most the of the day - think text neck, slouched forward when standing, leaning over a desk - we lose touch with how to create alignment in the spine comfortably.
Being in alignment shouldn't require us to exert extra energy, rather we should be able to let the body do what it is meant to do naturally.
So how can you create comfortable alignment?
Stack up in an Easy Seat:
Sitting down with both feet on the floor (or cross legged), find your ischial tuberosity or sit bones (the two pointy bones you can feel pressing into the chair).
Release your weight into the chair, letting it press down evenly through both sit bones. Relax the muscles around your hips and the muscles in your legs.
Notice where your rib cage is in relation to your hips. If it is in front of or behind the hips and sit bones, bring the ribs in line with the hips and sit bones.
Notice the alignment of the chest, then bring the chest in line with the ribs, the hips and the sit bones.
Notice the alignment of your head and bring it to rest on top of your chest, ribs, hips and sit bones.
Stay and breathe in and out through the nose slowly in this posture for at least five breaths.
The biggest benefit of this exercise is awareness. How does you spine feel now compared to before? How is this different than how you usally sit or stand?
You can recreate this alignment anywhere - even when standing!
November - Accepting Without Judgement
Something musicians struggle with that I believe we can all relate to is self-criticism. Being a musician requires that we critique our abilities in an effort to improve. Too often, though, that objective critical eye turns entirely to self-judgement.
Being overly self critical isn't something that only happens in the practice room, though.
We all experience it daily, by thinking offhanded thoughts like "why did I say that, it was so dumb" or "look at what that other person is doing, I'm so lazy and unsuccessful." There are so many other ways we discount our efforts or impede them when we are being judgemental or expecting too much of ourselves.
One of the things I love most about yoga and mindfulness meditation is the way both disciplines encourage self acceptance. Not in a fluffy, overly positive way, but through recognition of all the things we do and feel and the acceptance that they are neither good or bad, but simply parts of the present moment.
There are endless positive connotations to seeing your present moment with acceptance - think about a few ways this might benefit you!
Try if for yourself:
Sit comfortably. If you're somewhere you can relax, close your eyes.
Bring your attention to your breath. Don't try to change it, just notice where you can feel it entering and leaving the body.
Once you feel you're maintaing a simple awareness of the breath, become aware of the body sitting.
Notice what you feel. Maybe it's tension, sleepiness, restlessness, or that you are being bombarded by thoughts.
Try not to engage with any one thought or sensation beyond observing its existence.
Bring the attention back to the breath, accepting those things that you noticed as part of the present moment.
See if you can sit with this intention for 3 to 5 minutes, always returning to the breath after noting anything that comes up.
Take a few deep breaths before gently bringing your attention back to your surroundings.
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Hi, I'm Morgann! Flutist, teacher, aspiring yogini, and life long learner figuring out how to create my way through life one crazy idea at a time.