#CalmTip: Try Rag Doll Pose

 

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

It’s a new month, and that means it’s time for a new yoga pose. This month, it’s rag doll pose. This is one of my favorites, especially after I’ve been to the gym and my hamstrings are super tight. The pose loosens your hamstrings, provides a gentle stretch for your lower spine, and can even help with menstrual cramps.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet planted firmly, a little wider than hip-distance.
  2. Bend forward, and grab opposite elbows, keeping a small bend in your knees.
  3. Keep your neck long, and gently shake your head to release any tension.
  4. If it feels good, sway back and forth or from side to side.
  5. Stay in the pose for 5-10 breaths.
  6. To come out, let go of your elbows, and slowly come up, from your lower, middle then upper back, with your head coming up last.

Tips

  • If you have a lot of back pain, bend your knees deeply in this pose.
  • Rest your elbows against a chair, table, or on your thighs if your back feels strained.

“Make time for your yoga (it’s important).”

4 Types of Meditation to Consider Trying

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

You’re totally new to meditation — or you’ve tried it some — and you decide to open up your browser and do some research. If you’re like a lot of people, you probably get overwhelmed by all the different types of meditations you see. But, because I’m here to help you get started, here are my favorite types of meditation you can start with (by the way, with all of these, you can sit in silence or listen to soft, relaxing music):

1. Concentration

With concentration meditation, you focus on a single point, like a single word or mantra, a non-moving object (like a candle or figurine), or your inhalations and exhalations, which is what I do primarily. For example, I will inhale and count to four, then exhale and count to four. Of course, the idea is to continue concentrating the entire time, but you still might find that your mind wanders. When this happens (and it will, no matter how “seasoned” you are as a meditator), gently bring your awareness back to the chosen object of attention, and let the thoughts go.

2. Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation encourages you to observe your wandering thoughts as they drift through your mind. The intent is to not get involved with the thoughts nor judge them but to simply be aware of them, and let them float on by without giving them your energy or attention.

3. Affirmation

So, I don’t know if this is the “real” name, but affirmation meditation is using affirmations while you’re, well, meditating. You can choose affirmations for whatever you might want to work on in your life like creating calm, abundance, joy, etc.

If you’re going to create your own, here are a few tips:

  • Begin with the words “I am,” and/or use present tense. Speak it as if it’s happening now.
  • If you’re having trouble believing what you’re saying (which is key), say something like, “I believe it’s possible to…” or “I give myself permission to…”
  • Make it positive. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t let negative people disturb my peace,” say, “I am only allowing positive people around me, and that brings me peace.”

4. Laughter

Okay, so I can’t say this is a favorite as I’ve never done it, but I thought it was…interesting.  As I was looking for a photo to go with this post, I saw the above picture that I’d saved a couple of weeks ago, and it made me remember that I’d heard of laughter yoga. Then I thought, ‘Well, there must be laughter meditation, too.’ So, I Googled it, and here we are.

According to do-meditation.com, laughter meditation has three parts: 1) Stretching; 2) Laughter, and 3) Stillness; and the best time to practice this is in the morning on an empty stomach; but if not, do it before lunch or dinner. To begin, stretch your entire body (one to two minutes) by standing on your toes, and bring your arms overhead with your fingers interlaced. You should also loosen and stretch the muscles of your jaws and face.

Next, start smiling softly; broaden your smile, and begin laughing without force. Deepen your laughter so you feel it from your belly. Try and laugh ‘with’ yourself but not ‘at’ or ‘about’ someone or something; be mindful of the moment of laughter — whatever you’re experiencing in that moment, laugh with it.

Finally, stop laughing and close your eyes. Come to stillness, and if you were standing, find somewhere to sit. Become aware of the silence, and when thoughts come to you, let them go, and focus on the sensations in your body.

Have you tried any of these meditation techniques? Which are your favorite? 

“Meditation and concentration are a way to a life of serenity.” – Baba Ram Dass

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Do a Brain Dump

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

I got the idea for this tip from a couple of my social media friends: Tara and Vernetta . If you’re like me (someone who’s pretty much always thinking), you probably have a lot going on in your brain all the time. And not only is that overwhelming in general, it can also keep you distracted from what you really need to be doing. Essentially, a brain dump is when you get everything out of your head and on to paper, leaving you more focused and calm with more clarity.

All you need is a  journal or notebook (sidenote: TJ Maxx and Ross have the cutest journals — and they’re cheap!), and the easiest way to do it is just write down everything in your head without stopping for grammar or spelling. Just let everything out until you feel like you’re more clear and/or you feel you have a direction in which to move. This is also good if you’re an entrepreneur who has lots of ideas swimming around in your head, and you need to get things down on paper so you can create a timeline. (Additionally, here’s another method to try).

Clarity creates simplicity.” – Danielle LaPorte


Black Girl's Guide to Calm

#CalmTip: Take a Mental Health Day

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This one is for my solopreneurs/entrepreneurs in particular (including those who are also working a 9-5). As an entrepreneur, I know what it’s like to be working on something seven days a week; in the words of my friend, Akilah, entrepreneurs “are never not working.”

Of course, this can have a negative effect and can cause us to experience mental exhaustion and burn out. Prevent or counter this with a mental health day (or half a day). Do your best to leave work alone (you can keep a notebook close by for ideas), and do nothing, or do something you enjoy that you’ve been putting off like reading that new book or heading to the park.

“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.” – Mirelle Guiliano

#CalmTip: Work on Time Management

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

One of my biggest stressors is time — or the lack thereof. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say the lack of it because the reality is, everybody only gets 24 hours, so it’s really about using the time you have more efficiently as opposed to having more of it. I’m currently working on time management in my own life, and I wanted to share a few tips with you:

  1. Create a to-do list (or as I like to call it, an intentions list). Every Sunday night (or sometimes Monday morning), I write down everything I need to get done for the week. And each night before I go to bed, I write what I need to do the next day. Doing this gives you a good overview of how your day will pan out, and you’re less likely to get caught off guard. And while you might not get everything done, the idea is for you to stick to your list as best you can. (Side note: Even if you don’t complete everything, don’t beat yourself up about it. Try to remember that tomorrow is another day).
  2. Use a calendar and organizer. You can use a good old fashioned calendar paper and pen, or you can use apps. I use Google calendar for things that are on a specific date and time (and it’s synced with my phone), and I use Evernote to record what I need to do weekly and daily.
  3. Focus. Trust me, I know that multi-tasking is sometimes inevitable, but try to single-task as much as possible. It helps to close any applications and browser tabs so your attention isn’t being pulling in too many directions, which brings me to my next tip…
  4. Cut distractions. For example, many of us get distracted by social media notifications, text messages, or phone calls when we’re trying to focus on something important. If you’re trying to get work done and need to have laser focus, consider putting your phone on silent or turning it off. You might also want to consider decreasing the amount of notifications you get from social media on your phone.

“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” – Peter Drucker

Stress Awareness Month Event: From Stress to Serenity

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? And since Black Girl’s Guide to Calm is all about sharing ways you can manage your stress and/or stress less, I’m hosting an interview series on Blab.im every Monday at 9 PM Eastern (until May 2nd) with some dope women who will give their tips and advice on creating calm.

>> First up was Tara Pringle Jefferson, a blogger,  speaker, writer, self-care coach, and founder of the Bloom Beautifully Box. She shared with us the importance of self-care and how to care for ourselves more often. (And you can watch the replay here).

>> This Monday, 4/11, we have Tracey Corretta, a womanist writer and certified yoga teacher based in Philadelphia. We’ll be chatting about how yoga can help us create calm and how you can start your practice.

>> On 4/18, the guest is Dr. Nadia Richardson, Founder of No More Martyrs and Valenrich Wellness, LLC. We’re talking mental health awareness and resources.

>> Next, on 4/25 is Ivy Felicia, Body Relationship Coach, and we’re talking releasing stress and worry around your body and self-love.

>> And on 5/2, we have Trelani Michelle, author and spiritual writing coach. We’re talking creating calm and spirituality.

Make sure you join us and learn ways to create calm and live fulfilled in your daily life (plus ask any questions you have). Also, you access all the blabs here.

 

#CalmTip: Listen to Jazz

Black Girl's Guide to Calm

This may make me sound like an old lady, but I love to listen to jazz, especially when I’m working or just need to clear my head.

According to studies, “the innovative riffs, cool tones, and complex rhythms [of jazz] can bring natural relief for mind and body.” Listening to more upbeat jazz can help you focus while raising your heart rate and boost your productivity at work. Studies have also shown that listening to 45 minutes of soft, slow music like jazz before going to bed results in better and longer nighttime sleep, too. Additionally, listening to jazz boosts your creativity and can even lower your blood pressure.

I enjoy old school artists like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins; and some of the modern artists I like include Esperanza Spalding, Tia Fuller, Robert Glasper, and Marc Cary. You can also, of course, listen to jazz stations on Pandora and Spotify.

“Jazz is about being in the moment.” – Herbie Hancock

Do you have a favorite jazz artist? Share below by leaving a comment!

Sources: Top Masters in Healthcare, Elite Daily

Photo Credit: Charlie Bard (123rf.com)

Yoga Pose of the Month: Tree Pose

Black Girl's Guide to CalmHow is it April already?! This year is really flying by! Anyhoo, this month’s yoga pose is tree pose. This pose stretches your inner thighs, groin, and shoulders; strengthens your posture and thighs, calves, core, and foot muscles. It also helps you develop balance, calms and relaxes your mind and central nervous system, and increases your mind/body awareness.

How to do it
  1. Stand tall and straight with your arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your right knee and place your right foot high up on your left thigh or down on your calf (just make sure it’s not on your knee). The sole of your foot should be flat and placed firmly wherever it is.
  3. Keep your left leg straight, and find a non-moving eye-level point to gaze at. This will help you maintain your balance.
  4. Once you’re well balanced, inhale, and raise your arms overhead and bring your hands together in the prayer position; you also have the option of keeping your hands chest-level.
  5. Keep your eyes focused on the same object.
  6. Make sure your spine is straight, and take 5-10 full, deep breaths.
  7. To release, bring your hands down to your sides, then gently release your right leg.
  8. Repeat on the other side.
Tips
  • If you come into the pose too quickly, you’re more likely to lose your balance, so come into the pose slowly with awareness; take your time.
  • To help with your balance, become aware of the center line of your body — the line that runs from the center of your head, neck, and torso.
Modification

If you find that you’re very unsteady, try the pose with your back against the wall, or place a chair next to the standing-leg of your body and place your hand on the back of the chair for extra support.

“Like a tree, you have to find your roots and then you can bend in the wind.” – Angela Farmer

Need more help starting your yoga practice? Take the 5-Day Beginner Yoga Challenge; sign up below! 


#CalmTip: Do a Walking Meditation

How to do walking meditation

According to MeditationOasis.com, walking meditation can be as profound as sitting meditation and has the advantage of bringing the meditative experience into your activity.

Here’s how to do it:

Before starting, spend some time standing still, becoming aware of your body. Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to the sensation of your breath. Allow your breath to return to normal and notice it. Next, bring your awareness back to your body, and notice how your body feels as you stand and what sensations you’re feeling.

Begin walking at a relaxed, somewhat slow but normal pace. As you walk, pay attention to what you’re feeling in your body. When you feel your attention being drawn to the sights around you, refocus on what’s going on internally and the physical experience of walking. Try to notice how every little thing in your body feels.

Pay attention to how the soles of your feet feel. Become aware of the contact your feet make with your socks and/or shoes, the textures of the fabrics touching, the way your feet feel as they support the weight of your body and the sensations in them as you continue walking. Feel your entire foot, noticing how it feels as your foot lifts and moves forward. Next, bring your awareness up through each part of your body and notice the different sensations as you walk. Slowly scan your body from your feet to your head, letting go of any tension you feel and allowing your entire body to relax. If your mind is wandering, you can continue scanning your body and noticing any sensations you feel to bring your awareness back to your walking meditation.

“Walking outside in the fresh air is better than trudging ’round inside your brain.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

P.S. — I’ve created a free audio of the instructions for you to use while you’re doing your meditation. Download here –> Walking Meditation Audio

Why You Should Manage Your Stress

All of us experience stress on some level, whether it’s work pressure, money, health, or relationships. And while stress manifests itself differently in each of us, it’s important to find some way to manage it effectively.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can be defined as “the brain’s response to any demand.” Not all stress is bad, but chronic stress, however, can become a serious issue. The three types of stress, which all carry physical and mental health risks are:

  • Routine stress that’s related to the pressures of work, family and other day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Stress brought on by a sudden negative change like divorce, losing a job, or illness.
  • Traumatic stress, which is experienced in an event like a major accident, assault, or a national disaster where an individual may be seriously injured or in danger of being killed.

Some of the negative effects of stress include headaches, insomnia, and feeling depressed, anger, and irritable; and people under chronic stress are likely to experience frequent and severe viral infections like the flu or common cold.

With that being said, check out the infographic below to learn a few benefits of managing your stress:

Black Girl's Guide to Calm