15 MEND ME MINUTES
A daily practice
You can do each of these in one sequence, or separate (i.e., part 1 in the bath, part 2 & 3 in the AM or before bed). 5 minutes each is a minimum, and you are encouraged to do these rituals as long as they feel good.
PART 1 -- ABHYANGA AYURVEDIC SELF MASSAGE
Use any oil that you prefer (coconut, almond, jojoba, etc). I like to use an oil infused with healing herbs, such as calendula (regenerative) and lavender (relaxing); oil should be warmed before applying, you can run the jar under warm water for a few minutes or rub between your hands.
- Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room -- great to do before you shower or in the bathtub! Make sure you use a lot of oil, it helps heal skin, moisturize and increase circulation.
- Head: start at the top of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a minute or two massaging your entire scalp (home to many points of vital energy).
- Face: massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws (move in a upward movement) -- don’t forget your ears.
- Neck + Chest: use long strokes down your neck (stimulate your thyroid), and circular strokes across your chest. Don't forget your boobs.
- Arms: use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints (elbows) -- massage toward the direction of your heart, so up the arms.
- Torso: massage the abdomen in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side. Following the Mayan technique known as "Avinga", pull towards your belly button using the palms and whole hand to push and pull the energy around your stomach.
- Legs: use long strokes on the legs and circular strokes on the joints (knees) -- massage toward the direction of your heart, so up the legs. If you suffer from swelling, try using the acupuncture technique of and gently "scratch" the skin with your nails (never breaking the skin!), so that you can see red marks which is the blood moving to the surface. This enhances circulation and elimination of toxins and fluid. Leg swelling (peripheral edema) can be dangerous, so see a doctor if it is severe. It's usually caused by problems with the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, or the kidneys. Contact Laena if you want to work on this issue.
- Feet: finish the massage by spending a minute or two massaging your feet. Feet have lots of nerve endings, pressure points that correlate with essential organs. Plus it feels so good to rub your feet!
- Be still and breathe for a minute or two to relax with the oil.
- Take a warm bath or shower, gently rinsing off the oil (rather than vigorously).
PART 2-- A RESTORATIVE YOGA SET TO DETOX & OPEN
These twists will raise your body temperature, increase circulation, and stimulate the release of toxins. Yoga is sometimes mistakenly thought of as simply aerobic, but as a practice, it is actually much broader and deeper. These stretches are meant to gently heal and build resilience, and can be done by anybody.
See the GIFs and images to the left for examples.
SIDE-TO-SIDE CHAIR TWISTS
From standing, sink hips and reach arms high to chair pose. Look in front of knees and make sure you can see toes. If you can’t, sit back until you can. Take hands together at center of chest, take a big inhale to lengthen through spine, and use exhale to twist to the right, taking left elbow outside of right thigh. Inhale back to center and use exhale to twist to the left. Repeat this 5 times on each side.
Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend right knee and place right foot outside of left knee. (You can keep left leg long or fold it in like a half-cross-legged seat.) Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum. Use each inhale to lengthen spine and each exhale to wring yourself out of anything you no longer want or need. Do this for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
My favorite! Lie on the ground, hug right knee into chest, “T” arms out to either side, and allow right knee to fall to the left. You can stay with a neutral neck or, if it feels good, look to the right. You can also take left hand to right thigh to allow its weight to ground right leg. Stay here for at least 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
SEATED HEART OPENER (CAMEL POSE)
Great for your lungs and opening up the tight, emotional chest area (women often hunch over, protecting our hearts). Breathe deep! This stretch eliminates carbon dioxide, lactic acid, lymphatic fluid, and other wastes.
Begin kneeling. Interlace your hands behind you in a double fist, pressing the heels of your palms together. Pull your pressed palms toward the floor, opening through the chest and shoulders. After five breaths, release your hands to the mat for 5 more breaths.
LEGS UP THE WALL
This exercise encourages drainage of blood and lymphatic fluid from the feet and legs into the abdomen, where these fluids can be more easily cleansed. It also nourishes the digestive organs and gives the circulatory system a rest, which results in increased function and energy. Really good in summer, after or during travel, and if you suffer from edema. You can do this for 10-15 min.
Lie on your back with your sit-bones as close to the wall as is comfortable for you. From there, you extend your legs up the wall, so that the backs of your legs are resting fully against it.
PART 3 :: meditation
A SIMPLE MINDFUL EXERCISE TO TRAIN YOUR MIND
This is the best part, letting your mind love and heal itself. For many of us, meditation seems daunting and mysterious. But this exercise is very easy, and takes very little time and zero skill or talent; what are you waiting for? These last 5 minutes might be the most important. The more you do this exercise, the easier it will be to relax and deepen, solidifying yourself and becoming more resilient. Being able to quiet the mind is incredibly beneficial, and comes simply with regular practice.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh (Zen master)
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes if possible. Gently focus your attention on your breathing. Don’t worry about deepening or controlling it in any way. Just notice. Just gently breathe.
As your breathe in, think “I breathe in.”
As you breathe out, think “I breathe out.”
As your breathe in, think "I breathe in," while feeling calm, good juju filling your body. Feel the breath come in and warm you as you inhale. Picture the breath as light filling you with good feeling.
As you breathe out, think " I breathe out," and physically smile as you exhale. Feel the weight of stress and anxiety release as your face opens and lets in joy through smiling.
Continue for a few minutes. If your mind wanders, return to the breath and the mantra. Let your thoughts drift by, allowing yourself to return to the calm focus of the breath.
Want to deepen this practice a little? Do a body scan.
I love to do this before bed to quiet my mind and ground myself. You can do this anywhere. At your desk, before work, whenever and wherever.
Starting with your head, focus on each part of your body, aware of any sensation you feel. What feels good, what might be tight? Don't try to fix anything, just let it be, and feel your muscles and joints relaxing as you focus on them, releasing the tension in that part of your body. Move down, through your face, neck, chest, arms, torso, hips, legs and feet. When you finish, let a few breaths move all through your body, like waves, like you are in the wave. Slowly return to your body, the room. Open your eyes.
The effects are cumulative; over time, your body will learn how to relax.