Raise your hand if you have a yoga mat that you love? ( My hand is raised high. ) I have a beautiful Magic Carpet Yoga Mat that has helped me commit to carving out the time to do a little yoga once a week.
Some times, I do 5 of my favorite poses in 10 minutes and call it good. Other times, I flow through 45 minutes of deep stretching and holding poses as I try and keep my mind from wandering off my beautiful mat, to my nasty carpet that needs cleaning. Meet my mind, the constant monkey. I do what I can as far as trying to calm and soothe it but it is a constant journey.
Why am I telling you this? Because I love my yoga mat so much that I felt inspired to reach out to Sophie, the owner of Magic Carpet Yoga Mats and see how she felt about me featuring a mat in a blog post about yoga and braids. Thanks Sophie for obliging!
Why do I love my yoga mat so much? Because it is so lovely to behold that I feel invited to do yoga every time I look at it. And then, when I hop onto it, I feel supported and strong. And the moments I spend on my mat, though infrequent and hasty, hugely help me function better in life. Taking the time to stretch, breath, and bring awareness back into my physical body is necessary to my wellbeing, I am finding. And practicing things that engage both sides of my brain, as yoga does, brings focus and major mindfulness into my daily life.
Something else that I do to engage both sides is braid hair. Which is another reason why this post came about…….Because hair braiding can be a lovely practice which engages both sides of the brain, and is the perfect opportunity to work a little meditation practice into life.
Read here on the importance of synchronizing both sides of the brain with meditation.
Some feedback that I get very often when teaching people to braid is that it is hard on their body to sit still and keep their arms up, let alone coordinate their fingers behind their own head and stick to the braiding rhythm. That is so many things to do at once!
I tell every person who I teach how to braid this……For best results, think of your body positioning while you are braiding like a yoga posture. Body aligned, breath moving, mind focused, intuition strong. Close your eyes. Feel it in your body. Here. Let me show you what I mean.
Jules is going to demonstrate a braid, using the correct posture and breath that is used in her regular yoga practice. She sits in a grounded pose on the sacred space of her Magic Carpet yoga mat, and what better place to braid your hair than the place that you spend peaceful time integrating your body and mind in a yoga practice?
Begin by sitting cross legged, or on your knees if you prefer. Rest your hands on your abdomen and gently engage your abs, as you tilt your pelvis forwards a bit, rounding out your lower back without forcing it, grounding your tailbone and aligning your back. Feel the gentle strength in your belly. Take a few deep breaths into your abdomen.
Now roll your shoulders backwards, and around in slow circles, working out kinks and loosening them up. Roll them down your back, opening your chest. Let your arms hang loose at your sides. Roll your hands around at the wrist, working out the kinks. Roll your head from side to side, stopping and breathing through the tense areas.
Continue to breath. Bring this feeling of relaxed alignment into your braid practice, breathing into your arms and shoulders, keeping the energy flowing and allowing your hands and brain to speak to each other without the interruption of your tense physical body. NOW you are ready to braid your hair.
Begin by making a center part. Bring the hair from both sides of the part in front of your shoulders.
Now make a part that bisects your center part, going straight across the top of your head from one ear to the other. This will create 4 sections of hair.
Take the left front section and make a 3 strand braid with it. Secure the end with a clear elastic. Repeat on the right front section.
Make a small french braid down one of your back sections. Hold it in place at the base with a hairclip while you do the other side. ( Are you still breathing and keeping your body in alignment? Take a minute to get back in position if you need to)
Now pull the front braid from the opposite side across the back of the head and braid it right into your french braid, adding it to one of your 3 braid sections, and braiding all the way to the ends of the hair. Secure with an elastic.
Repeat on the other side, criss crossing your braids and integrating your braid into your french braid. Secure the ends, and take a second to appreciate what you just accomplished.
Consider yourself in great shape to strike up your usual asanas, hair braided and energy focused and contained within your body. Did you know that some cultures do not engage in ceremony without braids in their hair?
Here is a different Yoga Braid from that same sunny Sunday at the park. After our Yoga+Braids session, Jules played me a tune on her fiddle then we walked and got burritos down the street.
Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Sophie from Magic Carpet Yoga Mats for sharing her beautiful mats with us.
If you enjoyed this post and are seeking more ways to be more mindful in creating rituals of self-care, I invite you to check out this post on the Ritual of Hairbrushing.