Mindfulness in the Winter Sun (Today's Simple Pleasure)

I spent a short time in sitting meditation. I began by locating a window through which the afternoon sun was streaming. I sat cross-legged on the floor and, after closing my eyes, I centered myself on my breath. I took time to notice the pauses between each in-breath and out-breath.

My face felt warmed by the sunlight filtering through the window and I felt enlivened. I’d wrapped a warm robe around myself before starting the mediation, so “cozy” was a word that passed through my mind. There was little activity in the way of textures, noises or smells to distract me from the present. I felt drawn in by the light and wanted to rest in it.

I then brought my attention to my body, enlarging my sense of self to try to encompass as much of my physical frame as I was able to do. I felt a block when I got to my upper back, so I decided to move into a few yoga poses such as child’s pose at the end of the meditation session in order to release the tension I was experiencing in that area. I haven’t done this before but I like the idea of listening intuitively to my body during mindfulness and then responding accordingly.

Have you practiced mindfulness in various seasons and weather patterns? If so, which is your favorite? What pose might reflect what your body needs today?

Sciatica Self-Care (Today's Daily Presence)

I’ve been under so much mental stress that I’ve begun to lose track of my body state. I’ve noticed on and off for the past week that the outside of my right calf feels odd. When I tried to follow in a brief stretching video today, my entire leg began to cramp uncontrollably and go numb. The overall pattern of pain and discomfort suggests to me my sciatic nerve is irritated, possibly at multiple points. So, I spent my energy on finding instructions specific to soothing this area of my body.

This website had a few stretches I’d forgotten about. I found the sitting pigeon stretch to be the most accessible, as the forward pigeon stretch was what I was doing when the leg cramping and numbness flared up. I am also going to try some heat therapy and possibly even my TENS machine if I can get it charged. My body feels locked up in a way that makes me want to crank the unit up the whole way for maximum effect! If you have sciatic pain, what have you found to be helpful? What is your favorite stretch? What types of exercises or treatments work best?

Deepening the Stretch (Today's Daily Presence)

Today’s Daily Presence card centers on the lower back, a site easily filled with tension, pain and discomfort. When I bring my attention to this area of my body, it feels blocked, so locked in muscular tautness that I cannot sense any communication from it to the rest of my being. I believe that this is more the result of my posture than a holding in of emotions, but, if I’m being honest, it’s never relaxed enough for me to be able to tell the difference.

I chose to honor this area of my body by engaging in yogic stretches to try to loosen it. In doing so, I quickly realized that the lack of maneuverability my hamstrings afford probably contributes to the limited range of motion of which my lower back is capable. This article confirmed my suspicions. So, I added some hamstring stretches and felt at least the lowest part of my back release a bit.

Overall, since I’ve been on T, I have had a significant drop in my chronic pain and have become less consistent in stretching. Connecting the muscle groups as I did today has shown me how easy it is to adjust my comfort level with minimal effort and attention, so I hope I can be more cognizant of what my body needs going forward. How is your lower back today? Does any discomfort you feel there relate to your hamstring or other muscles?

Releasing Tension (Today’s Daily Presence)

I tried my new Daily Presence deck that I created! My first card was blank which made me laugh, then I drew the upper back card. Each card is designed to be an invitation into a mindfulness and/or mediation practice involving a particular area of the body. As I engaged with this practice today, I connected deeply with past traumas, so please bear that in mind as it is a part of the content below.

I carry much of my stress in my upper back and tend to round my shoulders which puts it out of alignment. I also have physical problems with my spine in this area, so it is frequently a source of pain and discomfort. I like the practice of focusing (when it is self-directed) and listening to what my body has to say to me, but I can’t hear much from my upper back as it feels locked and numb. I suspect it holds much of my trauma in a way.

In order to try to be more aware and in communication with this area of my body, I first used my Chirp wheel to stretch a bit (not an affiliate link). I immediately heard my spine release which felt amazing. I then did a few chest opening stretches and finally used a heating pad to soothe my tight muscles.

As I sit here with warmth and relaxation entering my upper back, I realize some of what my upper back is carrying is a felt sense of the weight of both my past traumas and losses, as well as an anticipation of everything still left to do. During this time of year, I feel especially over-burdened and exhausted as I react to the lack of sunlight and cold. As I stay with the feeling, I’m reminded of yoga poses that open the chest, throat and pelvis areas, and how vulnerable and scared they’ve made me as they bring traumatic memories of sexual abuse to the surface. It is much easier to hunch my shoulders over, draw into myself and close off from others in order to feel safe and protected and in order to carry everything myself instead of risking connection.

I’m smiling now because when I pulled the “upper back” card, I thought it would be the easiest one to start with because I know I have tension there, but I realize now it is one of my most challenging physical spaces to breathe into mindfully and to listen to because it holds in so much suffering. My goal is to give it more awareness, to breathe and lift myself up there instead of shrinking inward when I notice it hurting. What is your relationship like with your upper back? What self-care does it need today?

Practicing Tree Pose (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I struggle at times in practicing yoga in that I want to be respectful of its cultural origins and not appropriate it as a form of exercise devoid of its spiritual meaning. What I decided to do in relation to my simple pleasures is to spend time learning about the history and culture behind specific poses that I connect with the most, which, for today, was Tree Pose (Vrikshana).

The information I was able to glean online was often contradictory. One source I located included a story of a queen who got kidnapped who kept her love for her husband alive by meditating in tree pose in a forest. Another source described it as a centuries-old pose that is used to raise one’s energy (prana). Yoga is a tradition passed, in part, from in-person training by one generation to the next, so I would love to find a way to learn about it from someone who could provide contextualization and details regarding meaning behind the movements.

My experience of tree pose is that, even though I fall in and out of it repeatedly, I find it to be a grounding and centering pose. I have to steady my breathing and collect my concentration in order to maintain it. I do find it to be more invigorating rather than calming, so I connected with what I’d researched in that sense. What is your favorite yoga pose? What are its origins?