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Mindfulness. Meditation. Yoga.

Three ways to unplug and reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, your community, your world.

One of my favorite things about teaching family yoga on Saturday mornings is watching people interact with each other--laughter, smiles, conversations, eye contact. Families do partner poses, dance, play yoga games, rest during Savasana holding hands. I never have to tell anyone to put away their phones because they never take them out. Luckily, most people associate looking at their phone during yoga as taboo. And this gives them the chance to be in the moment with their loved ones, and that's what is at the heart of mindfulness. Just being here. Now. It's not anything complicated and doesn't require any type of yoga training. But there are so many distractions today compared to the past, which makes it more difficult and something we must consciously set an intention to do. TVs, phones, Xbox, Nintendo, Apple watches, laptops...there's always something new to learn or do at your fingertips. But this fast-pace means that allowing time to be in the moment is just that much more important. The disconnect easily happens, so carve out that time to spend with your family, friends, loved ones, pets. Just a little time to be together. Hug. Chat. Snuggle. Share a wish or a dream.

Connecting with yourself is just as important. We recharge our phones, our computers, and we need to recharge our brains too. Sleep is important, of course, but meditation is way to calm your mind during the day. Recharge so you can have more energy to move on to the next task. Our minds need that time just to be. Like being mindful, meditation doesn't take a degree or special training--only trying and practice. Or maybe follow Yoda's advice--'Do or do not. There is no try." I'm not an expert by any means on this matter, but there are numerous articles about the benefits of meditation--and it's even possible that it reverses the aging process of the brain--and what have you got to lose? So next time you pick up your phone to check Facebook, which leads to checking Instagram and then Twitter, which leads to checking email, replying to texts and messenger, and then 30 minutes have passed, replace that time with some downtime for your brain. Let your mind rest. Find someplace to sit comfortably, relax your body, close your eyes, take a long breath in and exhale deeply. Let any thoughts about earlier in the day or the future float away like an airy bubble. Focus on the moment--chose a mantra or one word and clear your mind for one minute to begin with. Next time try two. And then three. Take that time to just breathe and be with you.

The poses, or asanas of yoga, are another way to unplug and find that communion with yourself, your breath, and others.. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word 'yug,' which means union or to yoke, as in yoking a war horse or yoking two oxen together to pull a cart. It's a way of calming the mind, so 'to yoke' as a means of calming war horses is a perfect analogy for our minds. Kind of like a weighted blanket, sometimes we need that hug to reign in our brains that are racing from one screen or task to the next--and that's what yoga is. You and the mat and a chance to reconnect without distraction. A time to find that balance between ease and effort, your edge--a time to push yourself just enough. If you are focused on your breath and its connection to your movement, your mind has to be present.. And once you find that time to yoke to yourself--your inner light--it illuminates the path to other connections, and other connections, and other connections. Yoga is ultimately about your immediate and world community, a circle of hearts practicing and learning and growing and discovering--all shining that love and light--no batteries or plugs needed. Just you. Here. Now.

About Shannon:

Shannon is a mom of three—a boy, a girl, and a very bossy dog. A life-long teacher and student; she has a B.A. in English from Baylor University and an M.A. in Education and English from William and Mary. She taught literature and writing to high schoolers, as well as ABCs to preschoolers, and currently tutors all ages in between. She fell in love with yoga later in life, and can't get enough of it. Shannon's passion is empowering children and teens with yoga, mindfulness and meditation so they can use these gifts throughout their life. Shannon is certified for children's yoga instruction through Kidding Around Yoga; she also has her 200 hour certification, is a registered teacher with the Yoga Alliance, and is working on a certification through Yoga for Cancer with the hopes of working on the children's unit at INOVA Fairfax. Carpe Namaste!

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