We had a great session! We opened the practice by greeting our bodies. We did a standing sun salutation series, which you can learn below if you want to catch up! This is a great way to wake up the spine and it's a classic yoga sequence that you can do standing or in a chair.
Next we greeted the breath by practicing 2-to-1 breath again (your daily practice last week). We had some interesting conversation about how and when to use this breath, since I had asked you all to look for moments in your daily life where you could add it as an informal practice. One participant shared that she did it in her car out of convenience (not traffic-related frustration!) Another participant noted that this has been a long term practice for her in her life, and people around her often think she's sighing :) I noticed that if I started into this breath work and I was had quicker breaths when I started (whether from anxiety, exertion, or something else) then I got IMMEDIATE and very noticeable benefits from the practice compared to the milder benefits during the times where I was already calm.
Next, we delved further inward to greet our minds. We tried a categorizing approach to watching our thoughts. As we visualized our mind as a blue sky, we tried to identify each passing cloud as "thought", "task", or "emotion". Afterwards we discussed how tricky it is to determine which category some things fit into, and how that could set us off on a whole train of thoughts! We talked about how many of the thoughts had to do with our physical experience.
For your 5 minute daily formal practice this week, I would like you to try a variation on that. Rather than categorizing each thought, let's specifically try to name emotions. Labeling emotions is a measurably effective way to decrease the activation of the reactive part of the brain (amygdala) and increase activation in the more calm and controlled area (prefrontal cortex). If you find your mind full of to-do list tasks, try to do a quick "brain dump" list session right before you meditate. Then take a look at this wheel. Tune into your emotional self. Sit with your eyes closed for a moment. First notice your physical self. Then notice the self carried on your breath, which indicates something about your energy perhaps. As you meditate try to stay attuned to your emotions and not get pulled back to the STUFF of life (the feeling of the chair, the dinner waiting on the counter, etc.) Easier said than done I know! Let's explore whether over the course of the week you get better at having emotions, noticing emotions, naming them more precisely. Who knows!
Here's an article to read this week about what this practice might look like in an informal setting. If you get the urge to try to "name it to tame it" when you have a big and difficult feeling, give it a try! https://www.mindful.org/labels-help-tame-reactive-emotions-naming/
Finally, we closed our time together with an exercise that I consider the pinnacle of connection with body, breath, and mind...LAUGHTER YOGA! We did some exercises linking movement to silly sounds facing inward in our circle, then we turned facing outward and laughed for a minute and a half straight. If you've never done this, it's bizarre and uplifting at the same time. A minute and a half feels like a LONG time in this context but we couldn't stop laughing after the timer went off. I went on to have the most ebullient evening I have had in years. I am so happy to be on this path of mindful community building with you!