5 things you can do every day to practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the opposite of going in autopilot. Gulping a cup of coffee on the go from a take away container is not the same as sitting down, leaning back against the chair, and sipping your coffee bit by bit from a porcelain cup.

Apply that to life and you will see things differently, feel differently and think differently. You will likely realize that you don’t need more to be more content. You just need to go deeper.

mindfulness2

Paying attention to the little things that surround us becomes very hard when we are rushing from one errand to another, from one to do list to another. It’s like trying to see the landscape from a bullet train.

We live in an overstimulating environment here in Singapore,  and it does get to you eventually if you don’t consciously make an effort stop going with the motions.

 Mindfulness practice is about taking some time to be in the here and the now. When you are doing something or when you are taking a break. 

It’s putting your mind and focus on it. Here and Now. Not in the past (too much of this causes depression), not in the future (too much of this causes anxiety) and not in your imaginary thoughts (too much of this causes delusion).

The good news is that you don’t need to go to a course, download an app or read a book to do it, although it helps to start the habit. If taking time off to do nothing and meditate is impossible for you…

There are things we do every day that can become your mindful moment.

You don’t need a lot of time, just a few minutes will do.

MYTHBUSTER! Meditation is not putting out all thoughts, It’s to focus your attention into one thing for a longer period of time. The mind keeps jumping like a monkey from one thought to another in a matter of seconds, unless we give it something to entertain it for a while. Lack of thoughts (meditation) is the result of the effort, not the effort itself. Mindfulness is a mediation technique.

 

Here’s 5 things you can do to make every day more mindful

1- Do not do multitask when you eat.

Focus on your food. Not your phone, or your laptop or even the person you have in front of you. We eat minimum 3 times a day so there you have 3 possible mindful meditative moments.

I have an ability to go into ‘meditation mode’ at certain moments (read getting so absorbed into what I’m doing that I forget about everything around me) and one of them is when I’m eating.

Sometimes I’m so into my food I stop hearing what My Lovely Boyfriend the Troglodyte says. So instead of taking me out of my moment, he stares at me and the faces I do, the noises I make, and he says; ‘I can see you are really enjoying that’. Mindful moment for him, mindful moment for me. Double check!

I had this article half written when I went to a mindful eating workshop by Tansy Boggon at Balanced Living in Singapore.

The most valuable thing I learnt is that digestion starts in the senses.

I always thought the first step was chewing your food properly but when we smell the food, we look, we touch, we heard anything related to the food experience, our body starts preparing to receive the food. The brain sends signals to the digestive system to start producing the juices that help digestion.

Therefore eating without thinking about eating makes it more difficult for the body to digest food. There you go. Two benefits for the price of one! I just can’t resist a bargain. Try paying attention to all the details around your eating experience. It can be your daily mindful moment.

(SHORTCUT: I don’t want to read more about your life now, take me to number 2)

I have a student that has lots of digestive issues. I went to have lunch with her once and she literally hoovered what she had in front on her. It took me 3 times more to finish my soup than for her to eat her eggs ben. If you do the same try this.

Next time we go for lunch I will ask her her look at the food for 30 seconds after it arrives. I will try to make her smell and touch the food even, to tell me what she perceives. Then I will make her mentally plan how she’s going to eat it by asking her. Where to start, how to divide etc. Hopefully that will give her body enough time to prepare.  If the Tea ceremonies in China and Japan take about 45 min. I think we can take a good 30 min. to eat our meals properly.

You can be social when mindful eating, just take be aware you can’t do two things at the same time, and slow down to take turns. My Lovely Boyfriend the Troglodyte and I make it a point to have a proper sit down home made dinner several times a week. That’s our mindful eating moment together and there’s 50% talk 50% silence. The rest of the days I’m guilty of rushing it often, but hey nobody is perfect.

One thing I don’t barge on is my tea or coffee moment. It’s my special moment. Add a nice biscuit to it and I’m a happy camper. If you love coffee or tea you van make it your mindful moment.

View this post on Instagram

Coffee here and coffee there #ootd

A post shared by sparrowebites (@sparrowebites) on

 

2- Acknowledge others

Do you pass by the same people every day and don’t ever say hi? Do you know your neighbors? To answer these questions you probably need to ask yourself first if you pay any attention to the people that surround you.

People watching in a cafe is a good option. The ones in the crossroad between Orchard and Scott’s road (Marriott Hotel, Prive, Starbucks, Overeasy) give you a view to a great deal of people, but I think this should be taken a step further.

It’s easy to use things for your mindful moment, but if you do it with people it has a double effect. On you and on them.

Just nodding, smiling or say hi to passer by makes the person do the same to you. It can be a bus driver, a neighbor you don’t know. A construction worker, gardener, cleaner. You can even venture to mention something you notice about a receptionist or a clerk. Something not related to the task in hands.

Here’s  3 recent occasions I saw myself doing that. Paying attention to the people around me, noticing the differences and mentioning those to them to give acknowledgement.

  • Post office. I found in the Singpost office in ION a bubbly Malay lady that used to work in the Tanglin office, and wear braces. I commended about the change of office and the braces. You should have since her smile (post braces)
  • Gardeners. To decorate my house warming party I picked scraps of leaves from the mountain the gardeners make in my condo. I went to them an explained my intentions. They were happy to help me. They are usually those invisible people making everything look tidy, so I took the time to talk to them, ask them about the job, hear them.
  • Guards. Every other day I pass by the house of the Prime Minister on my bike. It’s a shortcut I take to work. There’s always guards at the door. The special Nepalese forces. They have different hats depending on the time of the day and weather. I tap on my imaginary hat as I pass by and give them a thumbs up or something. It must be really boring to stare at the same wall all day every day. The poor things.

It’s incredible how little attention we pay to strangers. I was recently in a Yoga Workshop by New Angle Yoga, Hands-on assists where we did very interesting exercises. It was about helping students feel the Yoga postures better, and to raise the awareness of the need of support and the role of a supporter. In Yoga and in life.

cropped-for-website

Trish and Julie from New Angle Yoga

At some point we were asked to walk around the the room randomly and at the sound of the gong stop and look at what we had in front. For the first three rounds we all looked at objects in the room. Then the teacher asked us to look at the person you have in front instead. We all sadly noticed the objects before the people.

Then she made us stare at them for a full 30 seconds, felt like an eternity. It was intense but it did the job: Engraving the message in our brains. Kudos to Trish.

 


3- Take 5 min to rest outdoors.

Oh the great outdoors… There’s no such thing in Singapore but you can still find solace. Whether on your way somewhere or just coming back home, just pause, sit down and pay attention to what you have around you. Close the eyes if possible and listen to the sounds. If not just stare vaguely at a point far away.

This is another bargain. Mindful and a tried and tested creativity boost. When we de-focus we access the subconscious mind and ideas arise. It’s like switching of from the running commentary of the outside and inside our mind and boom! The magic happens.

When we are waking up or about to fall asleep is when we have more access to our hidden mind. That’s why power naps work so well to boost creativity.  I learnt this from Carlos Pomeda in one his workshops.

You can find time to do this for example at the bus stop. Put your phone down and look at the surroundings. Notice the signboards the plants the floor the sky. Look up and down, left and right. Notice everything that you can see from where you stand. How many buses stop there, check where do they go. Notice the houses or buildings you can see from the bus stop etc. If you don’t know what they are ask yourself what could they be or imagine them inside.

Detailed observation is a great tool for mindfulness.

You could do this at your work space too or pretty much anywhere except when you are sitting on a plane, but it’s better to do it outdoors, just for a change and a breath of fresh air.

Noticing  food, noticing people, noticing your surroundings and also why not also noticing your own body? Yoga Nidra, also known as Yoga sleep, awake rest, is also a very powerful way to induce a meditative state with a simple body scan sequence.

 

4- Journal before going to bed.

I recently started doing this, after reading an article in UK Glamour Magazine about list making its negative effects and bullet journalists.

It’s not writing your diary like when you were a kid. (Dear Diary: Today that cute guy in class looked at me. OMG! I think he likes me. I hope I didn’t blush) Bullet journaling is about keeping it short.

A good thought generates a good feeling, a food feeling triggers creation of serotonin hormone, that one makes our brain happy. Yoga’s Pancha Kosha theory (and in a nutshell the entire body mind connection hoo-ha) is this by the way. In a nutshell.

Just write one thing you are thankful for each day, before you go to bed.
Don’t over do it or you will end up like this…

Take a moment to notice that you are here in bed now, writing THE good moment of the day and being thankful for it. Recalling the day, looking for the good, choosing the moment, recreating that feeling, will all help you focus on something else that’s not what you need to do tomorrow but watch out!

Don’t get too caught up on the facts but stay with the feelings and the now. 

This is something great to do with your partner too. Just ask him/her to tell you one good thing that happened today before going to bed.

I use the Thoughts and Reflections Journey from Typo that has one page for day with 3 sections, so you can fit 3 years there. If one day you forget you can always turn back the pages and write what you remember.

e4b902_aab7aab2f62a492581836c9b6334d3b2mv2_d_3264_2448_s_4_2
Image credit : Katie Te

5- Observe nature.

Nature is amazing, really. The shape of a flower, the variety of plants, the leaves, how tall trees are, how incredible it is that water and air magically turn in to matter. Think of the space they take and how significant plants are. They are all around us and they are a feast for the eyes.

I’m a very visual person so this works wonders for me. Like mindful coloring. Any art and music can fall into this same category. Call it appreciation of beauty. Pets and kids are also fascinating. Like wild creatures (I wish I had done a boomerang video of this fella)

One of my students told me she likes the trees here so much that sometimes she even stops the car to admire them and take photos of them.

I love the lush vegetation in Singapore, it makes me awe every single time. The jungle is just amazing and intricate enough to keep your eyes entertained in every detail and switch off from the rest. Look at the colors the shapes the size of the trees and you got yourself a mindful moment.

IMG_51172.jpg

This is the view from my balcony. It makes it easier!

I hope this helps! Pick your thing and stick to it for a while. Like the muscles, the brain requires training. Don’t be frustrated if you can’t lift a 10Kg dumbbell with one arm on the first day at the gym.

Until the next time! Xx

Namaste.

Advertisements
Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

Make your essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

I don’t need excuses to go shopping, but I still make them anyway.

The first thing I did after signing up for my Yoga Teacher Training Course was (of course) to make sure I have enough Yoga clothes to make it through the course in style. I went to my Yoga drawer to do a stock inventory and I found that I had a few good pieces…  but I did not have 5 full Yoga specific outfits to make it through the week.

Heavens! I had to go shopping! #firstworldproblems

(SHORTCUT – cut the crap and take me to the list)

You could say I have my priorities right… or not. Honestly, a bit of vanity is not incompatible with Yoga. Keep in mind I also had to look like a reputable Yoga Teacher after the course, so the expense was more than justified.

It was, It is important that they are Yoga specific outfits. The other stuff in the drawer had been abandoned years ago because it just doesn’t do the job so well. If you are not convinced about this yet have a look at my post “Why having good Yoga clothes is important“.

But before going shopping I had to do a small little eco-friendly ritual I have. Send the old pieces to Salvation Army. For everything new that comes in, something I have not worn in a long time has to go. Ok, that’s it, now I’m ready to hit the mall.

WARNING! Shopping for Yoga clothes is a bit like going to the candy shop!

They are all so pretty! Your eyes start widening and glistering… The bright colors, the patterns, straps here, straps there… and that’s how I ended up with and impossible mix of prints and pinks. I had to plan in advance this time. I had to first find out what I actually needed. That’s why I came up with my Yoga Capsule Wardrobe.  I went shopping only for the pieces I was missing. This way you stay focused and make smarter choices. Personally I needed some basics.

Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

Yoga Capsule Wardrobe

This selection has 13 pieces will give you enough to survive the week of TT, and set a base of sanity for future visits to candy store.

From top to bottom: The first three leggings are all Luluemon. The nude top is from Cotton On Body Active. On the second set, the fucsia top is my beloved Scoop Tank from Lululemon again. Strappy bra model is Free to be Serene, The navy bra+tank is too old for me to remember. Leggings are Liquido Active.  On the third group: striped top from Cotton on Body Active, black tank from Forever 21, white tank from Gap Fit, purple leggings from Lululemon and maroon soft bra from Forever 21.

Ideas to make your own Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe.
13 pieces, 5 outfits.


You might wonder…Why five outfits?  It’s for ecological reasons. I do laundry once a week only, with a full load. So I needed one set for each day of the week of TT.  If you are not in my position you probably need less.

An Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe should contain 80% basics

It should have pieces that you can easily combine with each other, and it should have variety as well. For example on the length of the leggings and the shapes of the tops.

My selection contains:

      • 5 Leggings: Black, block color, grey, black and white, and one with a funky print.

Crop, long, extra long and 7/8. I live in Asia, where people tend to be more modest and very few wear shorts and crops for Yoga. Even back home, I do not think I would wear shorts for yoga, so they are excluded from my list. Sorry!

      • 5 Top combos:

2 tops with built-in bra: One with thick straps, one with thin straps.  Thick straps and built in bras are better for vinyasa classes, where you sweat more, move more and need more support.

3 bras: One neutral, one dark, one bright. One soft, one strong, one strappy and fashionable.

3 tank tops: One white, one black, one striped. They will go well with any bra and with most of the leggings. You will need change one of the tanks for short sleeved t-shirt here if you do Aerial Yoga, to avoid rubbing from the hammock.

How to pick the right clothes for your Essential Yoga Wardrobe

1- The must-have Yoga leggings

The first thing you need is a good pair of black leggings. That’s a basic essential. A minimum requirement. I would make that a pair of Lululemon High Times pants. Long and high waist. Thicker or thinner depending on the weather where you live.  They are so worth the money. Just as much as buying a good yoga mat (more about this in my last post) You can always get them on sale or even consider second hand. Good Yoga clothes are meant to last so they stay in good condition for long. I buy second hand often myself.

All sorts of neon tops that are so trendy right now will go well with back leggings if that’s your thing.  Personally I’m more into deeper or pastel shades.

If you like to spice it up go for black leggings with mesh windows, extra long legs, ombre ankles or pants that come with some texture.

You also need something a little softer. Light or dark grey leggings. Plain, with salt and pepper pattern, or any other small self print. See below. You can use them as normal clothes too. Expense justified right there! More about this in my next post.

I also recommend having one block color that’s easy to match.  Navy blue, dark green, maroon or purple. The tanks in the capsule wardrobe will go well with any of these.

Finally, you need oneblack and white print. Monochrome is always safe and easy to play with.  If I could get my hands on those feather leggings from LuLaRoe… they seem to be sold out everywhere online!

Once you have the basics covered you can indulge yourself with the funky prints. Oh the prints! My weakness! You need only one for the Yoga Capsule Wardrobe, but they are difficult to resist. Beware you can become a Liquido Active junkie like me,  and that comes with an additional set of matching tops, so you are warned… 😉

Here are my favorite prints from the Brazilian brand. They have a unique combination of materials that make them the softest thing you’ll ever wear. On top of that, I think they are just art stamped on Lycra. I confess I actually have most of these. From Pure Yoga or Carousell.  I’m now teaching Yoga full time, and make two or three outfits changes per day,so I do need more than just a capsule wardrobe. Stay focused!

2- What you should know about Yoga tops

You have two choices: Built in bra, or separate bra and tank top. Actually there are three options. Now they make tops that look like two pieces but they are stitched together.

4532d8592b893dcc3116fbb5336e0e61 I have a couple of those and I always get tangled getting in and out of them. I don’t think I will buy more. They also expose a bit too much of my back fat rolls.

That said, this little number from Vivre Active is VERY very nice. They are on the “maybe, one day, if the rolls go away” list.

THE TANKS WITH BUILT IN BRAS – Getting into a yoga tank top with a built in bra requires strength, and patience! It’s not easy and they seem to make them more complicated by the year. Will we end up wrapped in bandages?

All these Lululemon options below have good bras, good support  performance. The brand offers 15% discount for Yoga Teachers worldwide. Even on top of an already discounted item so that makes them more attractive even.

  • The first on is a body-con model. Watch our for this. For me this is a complete nightmare to get into. Looks fab, but when you are in a rush… go for the next one. I just didn’t read the fine print on the label that said it is a body-con model when I bought mine. I was too distracted with the white and grey snake print.
  • The second one is a newer and finer version of the fabulous Scoop Tank. The scoop tank remains my all time favorite Yoga top. Even if it’s discontinued, I buy them on eBay. It’s a ‘hassle free, don’t worry be happy’ top. Keeps everything in place, nothing shows, soaks all the sweat.
  • The last one is sort of loose at the bottom. I have one that looks like this and it feels a bit like maternity top. This cut works better with decently breasted women, and I’m in the ‘barely anything there’ category. It’s good to keep for the future…  It looks flowly and graceful in Barre classes but I don’t use it for Yoga unless I’m teaching Prenatal.

The Y tank (below) is probable the most popular design by Lululemon, and it’s iconic. My first ever Yoga top was one of these. It’s 7 years old and in mint condition. This is definitely a winner in the basics category so it deserves a special mention.

THE BRAS – The poor things… most people just hate them.

For people that love wearing unwired unpadded bras, a sports bra is a horrible torture device. People that can’t live without full nipple coverage, pads and proper structure find that Yoga Bras are flattening and unflattering.

A sports bra is for what is is, but the most important thing is to put it on properly.

Side note:

When I started wearing Yoga bras much more than regular ones, I noticed that my armpits and all the area around them started accumulating fat. I was getting slimmer everywhere else except there.

My masseur told me one day (to my utter shock) that it was actually tissue spreading out from my breasts! There’s no emoji to describe my face and the begging that came later to change my massage to a boob fixing massage straight away. It’s the same phenomena that occurs when you wear a bra size that’s too small for you. You end up covering only the main part of the gland with the bra cup and pushing the rest to the side.

I have noticed since then that this happens to a lot of Yoga teachers.  To prevent or correct this this you must pull the flesh under your armpits inwards, towards the outer side of your breasts, and make sure the bra holds it there.  Re-adjust as often as needed (not in the middle class …)

Also, try to wear wear normal bras that have a wide enough band to do the same and hold it in place. Else you will do and undo the the job all the time. Consistency is the key.

Back to the topic. The first two bras below are from Lululemon. The last one is one of me favorites, from Forever 21. They make inexpensive and very soft bras. They are so comfortable and affordable that I have a few. I buy one size smaller than mine to add a bit more support. Low Impact – Y-Back Sports Bra

Yoga bras are meant to be shown or to peak from the top, so don’t be shy with the colors or textures. Do not buy a white bra. It looks too much like underwear and they don’t remain white for long, lets be honest.

THE TANKS – Honestly, this is a loose category. You could wear any tank you have on top of a sports bra. Cotton, Lycra or any material does the job because they will always have enough flesh exposed to evaporate sweat. But there’s a difference between normal exercise tops and Yoga tops.

Tank tops that are specific for Yoga have a thicker but lighter texture. a bit like a sponge. That makes them stick to the leggings and stay put. They don’t move from there so there’s no accidental reveal of flesh.

Unfortunately very few brands make these kind of sticky top. So all the ones below are from Lululemon and Pure Apparel. I think Old Navy does but it’s not available in Singapore.

A running or fitness tank top can be used for Yoga too. But watch out for two things.  I found this ‘so called’ active top in Cotton On COAR the other day (first one below) to match some patterned legging I have and It was a big disappointment. Instead of evaporating my sweat, it soaked it all. The top became heavy and swang back and forth, dripping for the entire class.

Interestingly, the basic tanks from sister brand Cotton On Body (second) are really the solution to all my matching problems. A complete super start of tank tops! The third one is a very pretty Lululemon essential tank in Tiger Space Dye Black White. The little pleat on the back drives me crazy. This is a hybrid. It stays in place but it’s not fitting. They do miracles at Lululemon.

THAT’S it for now. I hope this guide is useful for choosing your Essential Yoga Capsule Wardrobe, and that you learnt a thing or two about Yoga clothes. Feel free to comment and give feedback!

Coming up shortly: How to wear Yoga Clothes all day and look glamorous.

Until then, NAMASTE!