#MindfulMondayWithSteff – Smudging

#MindfulMondayWithSteff

Last Monday’s #MindfulMondayWithSteff couldn’t have gone any better than it did. I really can’t tell you all how much I appreciate all the love, support, feedback, shares, messages, good energy, everything! You are all amazing and I will continually express my gratitude for each and every one of you. As I’ve said before, this community is a huge part of the collective energy that inspires me to create. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out last week’s blog post, click here . If you read the first paragraph, it’ll give you the low-down on my vision for these Monday blog posts. In short, I want to do my part in contributing to a greater good. I want to remind myself and remind others that we have so much to be grateful for. I want to spread good vibes and create safe spaces. My intention is that – by doing these types of blogs, maybe it’ll bring us back to now and when we are here and now – we are 100% mindful.

Today’s #MindFulMondayWithSteff post is a ritual I hold near and dear to my heart – smudging.

What is smudging? Smudging is one of the oldest rituals / practices known of for when it comes to cleansing negative energies and clearing space. It is done by collecting sacred herbs and resins, in this post I am using sage, and gently burning them with the intention of letting go what no longer is serving us to make space for our magic to pour through. I believe that everyone can do this ritual in a way that is unique to them, as long as it’s pure and comes from a sacred space within your heart, you cannot do any harm. With that being said, I’m going to share with you my smudging ritual. If it resonates with you, you are welcome to make this your own.

Begin by collecting your materials.

  • Sage bundle / any sacred herb – palo santo, sweet grass, etc
  • Abalone shell / any clay bowl to catch the ash or leaves that may fall
  • Matches / source of fire

If you are unsure where to find a sage bundle you could check out any of your local wellness centers, crystal shops, or you can always search the internet for some cool shops to purchase from! Side note – my mother in law has a beautiful sage bush outside of her home and I frequently make my own bundles ( as pictured above ) – if you want to purchase one from me, you can send me a message here .

Now that you have gathered all of your materials. let’s take our next step in setting our intention for the cleanse. My daily smudging ritual intention is usually something along the lines of “allow me let go of yesterday, so that I can make space for today”. I’ll close my eyes and place my hands over my heart and breathe into that intention. Again, this is just what my heart calls out for. Ask yourself, what does your heart call out for? Maybe it needs to heal an emotional wound or you want to send a prayer for a friend. Whatever your purpose – just keep it in mind as you move through this smudging ritual.

Before I begin to burn my sage stick – there is one thing that I make sure I have very well prepared for this ritual. An exit point. What this means – is that you have a space where this energy, this smoke, can funnel out back into the Earth. Simply open a window or a door so Mother Earth can see what you are doing and take any negative energy you have purged and shift it into something positive. There is no need to keep that negative energy lingering around in your space. Allow it to leave.

 

Once you have set your intentions and found your exit point – let’s begin to burn our sage bundle. Light the tip of your sage bundle with a match and hold it there until it starts to smoke. Once there is a lively amount of smoke, you can gently blow out the fire. The smoldering part of the sage is what you will use to cleanse yourself and your home. I like to begin this ritual by cleansing myself first. Sometimes I just breathe in the smoke from a safe distance. Sometimes I hold the sage over each of my chakras. Sometimes I place it back in my abalone shell and dance around it. As I’ve said before, we all have a beautiful process of our own! I encourage you to explore what yours is! After I have cleansed myself, I will cleanse my home. Start at the furthest corner of your home in opposition of your exit point. You will make your way through your home, carefully wafting your sage bundle around and allowing your abalone shell / clay bowl to catch any ash they may be falling off your bundle. As you move through your home – keep your intention, your prayer in mind. You can take as long or as little of time as you’d like. Let this be an intuitive practice. You can and will feel when the energy begins to shift. It will feel lighter, more free. Eventually, you will make your way to your exit point and gently nudge the smoke in that direction. At this time, I move to gratitude. I thank Mother Earth for helping me cleanse myself and cleanse my space. To complete the smudging ceremony – you will carefully put out the smoldering end of your sage bundle. Any ash that was collected in your abalone shell during your cleansing ceremony – let’s wash that away in our sink. Thanking the water for washing away these negative energies. Take some time to enjoy this beautiful space that you have cultivated for yourself through this ritual. Feel the lightness. Feel the love. Feel the balance. Feel the mindfulness and try to carry this all with you throughout your day.

If you loved this blog post today – please share if with your friends! Click the buttons below to share them to your social media. If you really felt inspired and made your own mindful post today via social media – use the hashtag #MindfulMondayWithSteff so we can keep in touch and start a lovely community!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I’ll see you next week for #MindfulMondayWithSteff.

 

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Side Plank Pose

This is another portion of my blog that I am very much so looking forward to sharing with you all – #TutorialThursdayWithSteff. I had such a lovely time writing my first “how to” blog post and was curious as to how my friends/students/followers felt about it. So, about a week ago, I asked my Instagram family (if you aren’t following me on Instagram already – click here to join the fun)  to let me know how they felt about the first post and asked if they had any requests on poses they would like a tutorial of – the response was phenomenal! I now have a long list of poses I am going to break down for you all every week, so keep your eyes peeled every Thursday for something magical!

The first request that I got was for Side Plank Pose or if you are fluent in Sanskrit (or learning) Vasisthasana. There are so many benefits to this pose. This pose will strengthen your wrists, arms, and shoulders because you are basically holding yourself up using the one hand! Your core will get a great work out too! Keeping your core engaged is what creates the “lightness” in this posture and it also keeps your body in the correct position. Your will also find your legs in this pose. What I mean by that is you will use your legs, a lot! Grounding your legs takes a lot of effort and depending on the different variations you take – it can be even more challenging. These types of balancing poses take a lot of preparation and intention – improving your concentration.

Okay enough chit-chat. Let’s get to it!

 

#1 Modified Side Plank

Let’s begin with a modified side plank! Please keep in mind, even when you are modifying, you are getting benefits. In fact, I believe you get more benefits modifying, when necessary, as opposed to pushing yourself to a space your body may not be ready for YET. Don’t let ego win. Honor your process and know that with each practice you are growing stronger and stronger. Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that with practice, all will come!

Okay – back to the pose! For this variation, you will begin in a table top position. Come to the floor on your hands and knees. Separate your hands shoulders width distance apart then separate your knees and feet hip width distance apart. Your wrists are stacked under your shoulders and your knees are stacked under your hips. Engage your core to avoid dropping into your low back. Lastly, think about lengthening your tailbone back ( engaging your muscles to reach back ) and lengthening through the crown of your head to reach forward. From this position, begin to extend your left leg out behind you and pivot your heel inward and ground that left outside edge of your foot to the mat as best as you can. As you ground through the outside edge of your left foot, be mindful to not collapse into the inside arch of your left foot. Meaning – I should be able to stick my little finger under that arch and if you are collapsing there – try engaging your inner thigh more to find the lift! You’ll find that as you start to move your leg into this new position, your torso is going to shift to allow the space to be created. Allow this shift to happen! Now let’s get your right leg/foot set up. Your right knee is still to the floor from the table top position. Let’s adjust this leg to give you a little more surface area to play with. Lift your right foot and shin up enough to give it some space to move, turn this part of your leg out to the right while keeping your right knee grounded. Let’s try to plant that right foot and shin in line with your knee. Press the top of your foot and shin into the mat. Almost there, one last piece! Bring your attention to your right hand and ground down into it as much as you can, spread those fingers wide, and draw that right shoulder back. Once you feel stable, start to reach your left arm up towards the sky. Trying to stack both your shoulders and hips on top of each other. There should be equal force in the push to ground and reach to lift. Ground down into your right leg to allow the left hip to reach up more. Ground down into your right palm to broaden your collar bones. Reach through your back, left leg to keep your inner thighs strong and engaged. Reach through your top, left finger tips to lengthen through that arm. Reach through the crown of your head to find length in your torso and lastly, if it feels comfortable on your neck, tag your gaze up towards the left fingertips. Breathe into this space and always practice both sides!

#2 Little Less Modified Side Plank

If you felt pretty solid in the first modified side plank – why not give this second modified side plank a try? This second variation will be a little more challenging, but there still are plenty of anchor points touching the floor. I find that with this variation, it is easier to enter it beginning in downward facing dog. Let’s shortly brush up on our downward facing dog, can’t hurt right? (Side note – would you be interested in a blog post breaking down the “yoga basics”, if so, click here to send me your feedback!) Downward facing dog begins in table top position (refer to last paragraph on how to table top). From your table top position, begin to tuck all ten toes underneath you, extend your legs back as if you were trying to get your heels to touch the floor, your hips are moving up and then back, and while all this is happening you are continuously pressing into your palms to create a stable foundation. These movements have assisted you in creating a triangle shape with your body. All ten fingers are spread nice wide and your palms are grounded into the floor. Rotate your biceps inward to stabilize your shoulders a little more. Lift your pelvis up and shift your hips back to find more length through your low back. And lastly, allow your heels to reach towards the feel as much as they comfortably can. Once you feel solid in your downward facing dog – let’s move onto modified side plank #2! Begin to shift right heel out – placing the outside edge of your right foot onto your mat. As you do this, stay very strong right shoulder and keep pressing into your right hand. You’ll find that your left hand is starting to feel light – this is normal! You’ll also find that your left leg is starting to look a little funny, no worries. We are going to get that into place now! Begin to step your left foot about halfway forward – in line with your hips – then turn your left toes out perpendicular to your body and make sure that left knee is bent directly over your ankle. Now for the icing on the cake! Left arm reaches up towards the sky to finish up the pose. Stay mindful to keep pushing into the mat where any limbs are grounded. Keep the intention of stacking shoulders and stacking hips. Think about lifting your hips a little higher and breathing a little deeper. Maybe a shift up in the gaze? You decide!  Try the same thing for the other side!

#3 Even Less Modified Side Plank Pose

This next shape is gearing us closer to the full expression of the pose! I’m going to call this one the Even Less Modified Side Plank. Let’s enter this pose from plank pose (looks like the top of a push-up). Here’s a quick little break down of plank! Begin in table top and take your gaze between your palms to keep your neck long! Tuck all ten twos under you and begin to fully extend your legs behind you. Knees, thighs, and shins are away from your mat. Imagine your body creating a beautiful diagonal line starting at the top of your head and ending at your feet. That means your bum can’t be too high or your hips too low. Keep your thighs engaged, keep pressing into your palms, reaching through the crown of your head, and lengthening past your tailbone. If you find this to be challenging, you can gently drop down to your knees to modify. If you find this to be the case for your plank, I would suggest practicing the first two modified side planks to build the strength up for this next posture. *Remember* you are always getting benefits in your practice as long as you honor where you are at! Back to our side plank pose – begin in your plank position. Walk your feet in towards each other so that your ankle bones are side by side in the midline of your body. Squeeze your inner thighs together and start to roll onto the outside edge of your right foot. As you do this, cross at your ankles – allowing your left foot to come in front of the right foot. Continue to press into both inner edges of both feet and eventually trying to ground down through the outside edges of both feet. Pressing into the edges of the feet will allow your hips to keep reaching up and keep them equally stacked! Press into the your right hand, firm the right shoulder back, and reach up through your left fingertips to stack the shoulders over each other. If your neck feels good, take your gaze up, if not – keep looking directly in front of you. Breathe into this shape and try it again on the other side!

#4 Side Plank

And here we are! We made it to our traditional Side Plank pose! We have gone over all of the foundational prep work and now we are ready to put it to use. From here on out, I will just be referring to the name of the set up poses – if you forget how to plank, just refer to the paragraph(s) above! Begin in your plank position! Adjust your feet so that your ankle bones are side by side and engage your legs to hug in towards each other. Begin to roll your body weight over towards your right and as you do this you will stack your left foot on top of your right. Press into the outer edge of your right foot. Reach through your legs to keep them long and engaged. Bring your attention to your right hand – keep it grounded, spreading five fingers wide, and gluing your palm into the mat. Left hand will now begin to reach up towards the ceiling and continue to actively reach up through your fingertips. Stay mindful of the backside of both of your arms – keep them engaged. Shoulders are stacked, hips are stacked. Lift your hips, squeeze your abdomen, hug the thighs together, and one day taking your gaze up towards your left hand. Breathe, stay calm, and do the same for your second side!

#5 Side Plank Tree Variation

Now we add on the fun and challenging variations to our side plank pose. Let’s begin this tree variation on our traditional side plank pose. Find your foundation in side plank and feel rooted in this shape. You can either use your left hand to grab your left ankle and place it on your right inner thigh or simply glide your left foot up your right leg up to your right inner thigh. If you’re unable to place your left foot on your right thigh, try placing it on the right calf. Just pick above or below the knee – not on top of the knee! There’s no need to compromise that lovely bone structure. The “trick” to keeping the foot to thigh connection is equal pressure coming from both sides. Press your through all four corners of your left foot and and lift your inner thigh into the arch of your left foot. Rotate your left hip out from the midline of your body – think of how a flower blooms as you do this movement. Your intention is to get your left knee pointing up towards the ceiling. Keep reaching up, keep looking up, keep breathing, and try it for your other side!

#6 Side Plank with Yogi Toe Lock

We have made it to the top of the mountain! Our final variation of side plank pose – this one includes a yogi toe lock. What the hell is a yogi toe lock? It’s not as intense as it sounds, I promise. Yogi toe lock is simply using your peace fingers ( index finger and ole reliable – also known as your middle finger haha ) and thumb to grab onto your big toe. Let’s begin this pose in our traditional side plank. From here, begin to bend your left knee in towards your chest so that you are able to find that left big toe! Reach down with left hand for your big toe – using the yogi toe lock! Stay mindful of pressing into your right hand and the right foot. Once you feel stable with that grip on your toe and readjusting any imbalances in your foundation – you will start to extend your left leg up towards the ceiling as straight as you can. Take your gaze up towards the ceiling as well. Continue to reach through your left arm even when you have the big toe grab and continue to kick the left leg into the sky. Don’t forget to breathe! To exit this posture, you can gently release your left big toe and allow that left leg to gracefully meet the right leg back in it’s original side plank position. As always, practice both sides and enjoy yourself!

If you loved this blog post today – please share if with your friends! Click the buttons below to share them to your social media. If this post helped you and you tried your own Side Plank pose, post it to social media – use the hashtag #TutorialThursdayWithSteff and tag me @yogawithsteff so we can keep in touch and start a lovely community!  Thank you for taking the time to read this and I’ll see you next week for #TutorialThursdayWithSteff.

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#MindfulMondayWithSteff – Tarot Card Reading

 

#MindfulMondayWithSteff

Does anyone else get a case of the Mondays from time to time? I think the majority of us do (we’re human, it happens). Why do you think this happens? For me I have found it’s because I am not being mindful. I am not in the present moment. I am either thinking about how much fun I had this past weekend or I’m dreading my 6 day work week that lies ahead. Whenever I find myself in this situation, I look for inspiration to bring me back into the moment. Inspiration can come from so many places – a book, a beautiful crystal, an amazing conversation, even Instagram! Sometimes all we need is a little something to shake us out of our beginning of the week fog to encourage us to move into a place of mindfulness. And this is how #MindfulMondayWithSteff came to fruition. Every Monday, I want to bring my readers something special to inspire them to be mindful for the day and maybe even throughout their entire week!

This week I thought I would get started with one of my favorite things to do that brings me lots of awareness and guidance – a tarot reading! Here’s a quick summary of what tarot cards are and how they work. Tarot cards are one of the oldest types of fortune telling known to man! Most decks have 78 cards. Each card has its own beautifully drawn picture that represents in a certain aspect in one’s life and a message to go along with it.

Leeza Robertson’s Animal Totem Tarot card deck is what I’m currently using for my readings. She is an amazing author, tarot professional, and overall is a phenomenal healer. I purchased her magical deck at my local Barnes and Nobles – but it can be found on amazon.com as well!

 

 

Before I began this reading, I cleansed myself of any energy that may effect this reading. As I shuffled this deck throughly, I cleansed the cards of any old energy from past readings. I held the deck close to my heart and asked them to show us a card to give us guidance for this upcoming week. I laid the cards out in a river facedown and picked the card that called out to me most.

 

 

This reading comes from “Guide To The Animal Totem” by Leeza Robertson

XXI The World / Atoll

“Do you know what conditions are necessary to create a thriving new world? There is a special ingredient list and everything has to come together at the exact same time. It is not easy to complete and sustain a thriving ecosystem. But with time, patience, and perseverance it can be done. Miss any one step or any one ingredient, and you will not get that which can sustain life. Instead you will get just a momentary look at what would have been.” – Message from the Atoll

Atolls are very fascinating, as they truly are a complete, thriving World; they take millions of years to develop and if the right elements are not present then they cannot grow.

Atolls are coral reefs that grow in the energy of underwater volcanoes. First, the volcano erupts, piling up lava on the seafloor. As the volcano continues to erupt, the lava pile elevation grows higher, eventually breaking the surface of the water. The top of the volcano becomes an oceanic island. The volcanic energy from below, mixed with the sun above, provides the perfect conditions for the reefs to be birthed out of the ocean.

In this respect, they show the completed cycle of creation just as the World card itself shows the completion of the journey of the Major Arcana (these cards show the journey of the soul starting from innocence and ending in wisdom – REBIRTH).  Coral is considered an animal and not a plant; it grows, feeds, and dies. The type of corals that build reefs are called hermatypic corals. These amazing creatures attract an abundance of other life to come and take up residency in a world that they created.

The Atoll itself is the completed journey of this World’s creation, just as the World card is in the Major Arcana marks the completion of the Fool’s Journey. This is a card of completion; something must come to an end, has ended, or the conditions to build a new and wonderful World are not being spotlighted. Endings are also beginnings, for as one cycle slows down and begins to end, another has already started and is gaining momentum. Just like the Atoll, there is always new life waiting as the end of the creation process. – Leeza Robertson

Card of the Day Journal Prompts

  • If you were to create your own ideal World, what would it look like?
  • What conditions do you need to create for the life you want to live?
  • What areas of your life have you finally conquered?

I encourage you to take a couple minutes to either physically answer the questions above in your journal or simply ponder them in your mind before you start your day! And anytime you find yourself wandering off from the present moment – come back to this reading. Remind yourself that the conditions to make your world a better place are all within you.

If you loved this blog post today – please share if with your friends! Click the buttons below to share them to your social media. If you really felt inspired and made your own mindful post today via social media – use the hashtag #MindfulMondayWithSteff so we can keep in touch and start a lovely community!  Thank you for taking the time to read this and I’ll see you next week for #MindfulMondayWithSteff.

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4 Ways to Figure Four Stretch

Am I the only one that loves the figure four stretch? I didn’t think so. I love it so much that I wanted to share with you four different ways to figure four stretch and if I’m being completely honest – I thought the title was insanely clever. This pose is great everyone. Whether you sit at a desk all day or you are a marathon runner, there are benefits in this pose for you. Figure four is an approachable and effective way to open your hips. This pose will release tension from your outer hips and lower back. Less tension means more circulation! More circulation means less pain! Who doesn’t want less pain? Before we get started please be cautious especially if you have ever injured your knees, hips, and/ or low back. Always be mindful of your body, honor your boundaries, and leave ego outside of your practice. If there are any major medical concerns, please consult your doctor before beginning your yoga practice.

Let’s start off with our seated figure four stretch. I love this variation because it’s very accessible and you can do it anywhere you are able to sit! Whether you are sitting at your desk at work or lounging on your couch watching Game of Thrones, this posture is for you. Start off by moving towards the edge of your seat, scooting as far forward as you need in order to ground your feet to the floor. Sit up nice and tall! Separate your feet so that they are hip width distance apart then flex the toes of the right foot and begin to float that left foot off the floor. Cross the left ankle on top of the right thigh. If you are a little tight through the hips, feel free to reach down for that left leg and use your hands to guide that left ankle to its destination. Once your left ankle is on top of the right thigh, I want you to place your hands on your hips. Are they level? Be mindful that your right hip doesn’t hike up! Once your hips are level, you may use your left hand to gently press into the right thigh to create a little more space through the hip. Always be cautious and kind to your knees! Take at least 5 deep breaths. To exit, slowly start to reach that left ankle back down to the floor. Repeat the same for your right side.

Next let’s play with our supine (lying on our backs) figure four stretch. I gave you two variations for this stretch, but let’s still count it as one pose that way my catchy title still makes sense. Again, this is another pose that doesn’t necessarily have to be done on your yoga mat. You can do this first thing in the morning while still lying in bed or in my case – on a ridiculously soft rug! Start by lying on your back. Now plant your feet on the floor hips width distance apart. I want you to use your hands and reach towards the back of your heels. Your middle finger should barely be able to graze the back of your heel and that’s how you figure out how much space should be between your bum and your feet! The next few steps are exactly the same as the seated figure four stretch. Remember to be mindful of your knees, relax your shoulders, and breathe. If you want to take this stretch a little deeper ( right photo ) begin to float right foot off the floor, flexing the toes back, and bringing your heel parallel to the right knee. Next, thread your left hand through that little hole you’ve now created with your legs and your right hand will either meet your left hand on the back of your right thigh or the front of your right shin. You decide what feels better for your body. Try to relax your shoulders back to the floor and be mindful that your chin isn’t reaching up towards the ceiling. Keep your spine in one straight line. The more you pull your legs towards you, the more sensation you will feel. Take at least 5 deep breaths. To exit, if you took the deeper variation, begin to release your hands back to your sides, slowly start to bring your right foot back to the floor, and then release the left foot down as well. Repeat for your second side!

Our third type of the figure four stretch is actually my personal favorite.  I’m all about using props to assist my yoga practice. Anything that I can prop myself on is considered fair game i.e. my couch! You can take the more traditional route and do this up against any wall. Setting yourself up to find that perfect space between you and the wall may take a little negotiating. Begin by lying on your back with your feet reaching towards your wall. From here, shimmy down bit by bit until you are able to plant your feet hips width distance apart on the wall while still keeping your spine grounded to the floor. The bend in your knees should be directly over your hips. The way we enter and exit this pose is exactly the same as our supine figure four stretch. If this stretch feels a little too deep for you, feel free to shimmy those hips away from the wall to lessen the stretch. If you want to deepen this stretch, shimmy your way a little closer to the wall but stay mindful of your knees! Keep your shoulders relaxed, chin stays leveled, stretch both sides, and as always, keep breathing!

 

And now we are going to get a little fancy! We finally made it to our fourth way to figure four stretch and there are two variations you can try out! These poses are a little more advanced and require some balancing. Feel free to situate yourself next to a wall for a little extra support. To begin the standing figure four pose, we must first lay down our foundation in chair pose. Start by standing up nice and tall and bring your feet together side by side ( if that’s not comfortable, please open your feet as wide as hips width to find comfort ). Bend your knees and start to shift your hips down as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. You can reach your arms out in line with your shoulders for some extra balance. Take a glance down at your toes and make sure you can see them! Now that your foundation is set, you can begin to move into your standing figure four stretch. The movement to enter this posture is the same as the last three poses we have done together. Let’s start with that first variation ( left photo ). Make sure that your standing leg has a slight bend in the knee and avoid placing ankle directly on top of the knee! You may find that balance gets a little tricky here. What usually happens is we forget to use the inside arch of are standing leg, so really press into that big toe to help keep you stable! Once you have found your balance, bring your hands to heart center. Keep your spine long by lengthening through your tailbone, shoulder blades are gliding down your back, and to top it off – put a little smile on your face. If you feel rooted and confident in this first variation, let’s move on to that second variation ( right photo ). Keep the softness in your standing leg and begin to hinge the hips forward. Really focus on the movement coming from the hips and instead of diving down with your upper body – this will keep your spine lengthened. Eventually you’ll hinge so far forward that your hands will touch the floor. If your hands can’t quite touch, try using your finger tips or placing your hands on top of blocks. Be sure to keep your core engaged to protect your low back. Take at least 5 deep breaths once you have found your expression of this pose. To exit, reverse the motions! Keep the softness in your standing knee, start to lift your torso up by moving from the hips, and you’ll meet yourself back in that first standing figure four variation. And lastly, you’ll release your crossed ankle to the ground. Whichever variation you took for the first side, try it out for your second side. Your body may not be balanced in this moment, but the practice is. Continue to practice and you will find more balance!

 

 

 

 

 

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