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Have a Cuppa for Holiday Tension

Many of my yoga students confide in me that they “can’t meditate.”  In most cases, this is based on a misunderstanding of what meditation is.  In many cases, I inform my students that, in fact, they have been meditating with me for years in our practices together!  Here is a meditation in the form of a tea drinking ritual that everyone can enjoy and an added breathing exercise with aromatherpy for even more emotional balance.

Making an excellent cup of tea takes time.  Use this time to focus on what you are doing.  This ritual starts with the selection of your tea making equipment and mug.  If at all possible, boil fresh water in a kettle on the stove or an electric kettle.  If you must use a microwave, then you must, but for this ritual, it would be most effective if you boiled the water using heat generated from electricity or natural gas so that you can listen to the sound of the water bubbling and boiling.  The type of tea that we will be using for our tension taming ritual is Earl Grey tea.  Use whatever brand and either caffeinated or non-caffeinated, but you want a delicious and full-scented Early Grey.  This type of tea is scented with Bergamot, an essential oil derived from the peel of a citrus fruit.  It is a very special and effective form of aromatherapy that has deeply healing benefits.  This beautiful organic black tea has both the benefits of bergamot and lavender.  I’ve never tried it myself, but it looks delicious!  Please let me know if you do try this tea and let me know how you like it.  If you are looking for a recommendation, I have tried this loose leaf tea and it is absolutely fabulous.  If you prefer tea bags, then I find that Tazo Tea’s Earl Grey is very smooth and has a lovely bergamot aroma.  I like the taste of Twinings, but find that it is light on aroma and perhaps not as affective for this ritual as these others might be.  Avoid a “Lady Grey” tea as they tend to be light versions of Earl Grey.  Again, nothing wrong with Lady Grey teas!  It’s just that we want a full bodied aroma for this ritual.  There are also green tea versions of Earl Grey tea if you prefer lower caffeine and the benefits of green tea as well as caffeine free roobios versions.  Find a great tea that works for your diet and lifestyle considerations.  These links are just suggestions to get you started on your Earl Grey tea selection journey.  These companies are not paying me and I don’t get any benefit when or if you purchase your teas.  Please experiment and find the best tea for your taste.  Enjoyment of your cuppa is a big part of this ritual!

Does it have to be Early Grey tea? 

For this particular ritual, yes, it has to be Earl Grey tea.  This being said, if you don’t like drinking tea or know that you don’t appreciate the flavor or aroma of Earl Grey tea, then don’t torture yourself!  The whole point of this ritual is to decrease tension and increase joy.  Consuming a beverage that you can’t enjoy is going to negate any benefit you might receive from this ritual.  All this means is that this particular ritual is not for you.  I plan on designing many little ritual-based meditations, so search the blog and try another idea that works for you.

This ritual is based on the healing aspects of bergamot—both the oil and the aroma of the oil.  Here are just a few of these benefits:

*relieves tension, anxiety and depression

*the oil itself can be gargled to disinfect the mouth and used for cold sores (especially cold sores that appear when stress arises)

*the oil is excellent for preventing urinary tract infections

*create a spray mist of bergamot to clear stale air (especially effective if you have a tobaco smoke smell to deal with)

This ritual is about dealing with tension and not about perfection.  So, don’t clean your kitchen first or delay the ritual until you run the dishwasher or clear the table of all the present wrapping and junk mail that comes with this time of year.  Just do it.  Personally, I always have to laugh when Yoga Journal or even Martha Stewart Living magazines (both of which I love by the way!) offer advice on how to relieve stress that involve pictures of women who are clearly well-rested, not covered in baby food or bits o’ toddler snacks and live in homes that have been cleaned by a team of others.  The advice usually starts with setting yourself up in a quiet space where you can be left alone in your fabulously new and clean “relaxation practice outfit”………..HA! For this ritual, all you need is a (relatively) clean mug, a way to boil water and about fifteen minutes.  You don’t have to be alone.  You don’t need a special outfit.  So, just push that “stuff” to the side and make it happen!  This being said, as this ritual involves boiling water and a very hot beverage, you may want to wait until your baby or toddler has gone to sleep for a nap or is having quiet time if you are in the care of young children……..you don’t want anyone to get hurt.

Seven Step Cuppa Ritual  for Tension Relief

Step 1: Boil fresh cold water.  While you wait for the water to boil, wash your mug if it isn’t already clean and really experience the process—-the texture of the sponge, the way the warm water feels on your hands, smell the soap.  If your mug is clean, you may want to take this time to wash your hands and perhaps apply some sandalwood, grapefruit, rose or lavender scented lotion.  As the water starts to boil, listen to the qualities of bubbling and the energy of heat acting on the water.  That’s a nice sound.  Perhaps your kettle whistles or your electric kettle has a tiny bell to alert you to the fact that the water has come to a boil?  Really listen.

Step 2: Pour the water over your tea bag or tea leaves either in a cup or a teapot as you wish.  Listen to the sounds.  Feel the weight of the kettle in your hands. Feel the weight of the water shift from the kettle to your mug or pot.  When you are done pouring, place your face a comfortable distance from the rising steam and smell the first aroma of the Earl Grey tea.  Light.  Feel the warmth of the scent when accompanied by steam.  Feel how your breath changes as you inhale the warm and damp air above your cup or teapot. 

Step 3: Wait for it to brew.  I’m not sure how long you would need to brew a green tea or a roobios tea version, but for black tea, no longer than 3-5 minutes or the Earl Grey tea can get bitter.  Set a timer so you don’t have to think about it.  As you wait, take deep breaths into your body and count.  When you exhale, take longer to release the breath than you did to inhale the breath.  If your sinuses are open, try breathing in and out through your nose.  Inhale and slowly, slowly, slowly release the breath. 

Step 4: Make your cup your own.  I like to add a teaspoon of honey and a splash of milk.  Perhaps you prefer lemon?  Do whatever you need to do to make your cup of tea as delicious as possible.

Step 5: Find a place to sit.  Yes, that’s right.  Sit down.  Push all the stuffed animals, socks and cheeze-it crumbs to the side, make room for your butt and then sit.  As you wait for your tea to cool, become aware of your environment.  Listen to the sounds of the room, feel the temperature of the air on your skin, notice the sensation of the parts of your body that are touching your seat and then feel your body, your skin, your feet. 

Step 6: Don’t rush!  Burning your mouth is not pleasant.  When you feel that your tea has cooled to a temperature that is appropriate for you, then take your cup to your mouth and take a sip.  Feel that each warm smallow of tea is bringing liquid calm to every cell in your body.  Be confident that this cup of tea is going to improve your well-being.  Through this ritual and this cup of tea you are giving yourself the greatest gift possible.  The gift of the present moment.

Step 7: After you have finished  your tea, do a gentle scan of your body before you stand up.  Starting with your toes, feel and relax your whole body: feet, legs, belly, low back, middle back, upper back, heart, arms, hands, throat, neck, jaw, face, skull and all the space around you.  Enjoy this feeling.  Your whole body relaxed.  That’s a nice feeling!

Repeat your little ritual as often as you like!  Take the time to make time for the present moment and you will be delighted in how even a minimal investment is returned to you exponentially. 

Bergamot Oil for a Calming and Balancing Pranayama

For this aromatherapy enhanced breathing exercise, you will need to purchase some high quality bergamot oil.  I exclusively recommend and sell Floracopeia essential oils.  They are very high quality and you can count on them to be pure and magical.  If you are a new customer to Floracopeia, then Sharon offers a special 25% off discount to all of her clients.  In order to receive the 25% discount off your entire order, you will follow this link and enter the DISCOUNT CODE: SharonRudyk.  As bergamot oil on the skin increases your chance of experiencing photo-sensitivities, it is best to do this exercise during the winter or in a climate and environment with low light.  If you live in a place with a lot of sun (lucky you!), then please stay out of the sun for at least 30-minutes after you use the bergamot oil on your hands.  Also, you can become sensative to bergamot over time, so switch up your oil use.  You can do this calming pranayama with different aromas and you are not likely to develop sensitivities to bergamot if you rotate your oils (other choices include clary sage, lavender, rose, cammomile or sandalwood).

Before you start the breathing exercise, place a drop of your chosen essential oil with a little carrier oil—–I like almond oil or jojoba oil if you have nut sensitivities—in the palm of your right hand and then rub your hands together.  Come to a seated pose, either in a seated meditation pose on the floor or sitting upright in a chair, and place your left hand in gyana mudra (thumb tip to index finger tip—like giving the OK sign) on your left thigh or anywhere on your left leg that you can comfortably rest it.  You will be using your right hand to alternatively open and close your nostrils.  

Now you will begin Nadi Shodhana Pranayama which is also called Alternate Nostril Breath or Channel Clearing Breath.  Here is a link to full information and instructions on this breathing exercise. As you have applied the essential oil to your right palm, each time that you breathe-in, you will draw the healing properties of the oil into your body and mind.  Continue in this process for 3 or 5 minutes.  Set a timer so that you can relax, focus on the breath and the scent of your palms and not on the time.

Step by Step

Sit in a comfortable asana and make Mrigi Mudra. Beginning pranayama students may have some difficulty holding their raised arm in position for the length of the practice. You can put a bolster across your legs and use it to support your elbow.

Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring-little fingers. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.

Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand mudra and go back to normal breathing. (NOTE: some yoga schools begin this sequence by first closing the left nostril and inhaling through the right; this order is prescribed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2.7-10).

Benefits

  • Lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety
  • Said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain
  • Said to purify the subtle energy channels (nadis) of the body so the prana flows more easily during pranayama practice

(Instructions and pranayama information all thanks to Yoga Journal)

This little ritual for real people is brought to you by Sharon Rudyk of Sharon Rudyk Yoga based in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.  Sharon is an independent yoga instructor offering mindful yoga and meditation practices, teacher training programs, mindful approaches to pregnancy, childbirth and parenting and classes for all ages and abilities.  If you aren’t in Pittsburgh, Sharon would love to come and visit you and also works with long distance clients using SKYPE technology.  Call Sharon at your convenience for a free consultation (412) 855-5692 and visit Sharon’s website for more information: http://www.sharonrudykyoga.com.

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