Steffany Moonaz, PhD, RYT-500 is a yoga therapist and researcher in Baltimore, MD. She began investigating the importance of mind-body activities at just 3 years old, and has always had a passion and a curiosity about the healing power of mindful movement. Dr. Moonaz spent 8 years at Johns Hopkins University, creating and evaluating a yoga program for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In addition to her private practice, she now trains yoga teachers to work safely and effectively with arthritis-related conditions. Yoga for Arthritis
Rituals for Gratitude and Breathe
My children are ages 8 and 5. Since they were small, we’ve incorporated a gratitude practice into our bedtime routine. We lie in bed together and pass around a “gratitude rock” that sits on the nightstand. We take turns sharing what we are grateful for- past, present, and future.
When they were younger, the kids thought that this particular rock had magical powers. It is glittery and shaped like a heart, and I brought it back from hiking the Grand Canyon with their grandfather when he was 65. Now they know that any rock will do, but this one is special to us. We keep it in a little metal box, painted with beautiful colors.
This ritual helps my children to remember the blessings in their lives and it reminds them to keep dreaming. It also gives me a bit of insight into their day and into their deepest wishes. And it lets me model gratitude for even the smallest things, while showing them how I work to bring my wildest ideas to life.
My breath is my anchor. Whenever I feel challenged or my heart rate rises, I deliberately lengthen and deepen my breath.
I think it was probably during my first pregnancy. I had already been a dancer, a runner, and a yoga teacher, so obviously, the use of the breath is important in all of those. During pregnancy, I participated in a research study where I used a device every evening for 10 minutes. It gave me feedback based on my pulse, which I used my breath to control. I also had 2 natural births, and the breath was critical for moving through stress and pain. But it probably took hold even more as a parent. When my daughter would cry, I’d notice an immediate sympathetic nervous system response, and breath helped to calm that.
As my kids grew older, it became more important to ensure that I was calm and not reactionary, and bringing my best self to my parenting. Of course, it also helps with all of the presentations I give, and the challenges of life as an academic. This takes no additional time from my day, and I infuse that practice into small moments so often that it is almost an automatic response to a challenging moment. I have found this helpful professionally, personally, and certainly in my role as a parent to small children. I hope that this is a behavior that I teach them by example- that they see me cope with a challenge in this way and know that we all have challenges, but we also all have tools.
My morning coffee. I know this is not necessarily well aligned with yoga OR a tea company! I was always exclusively a tea drinker. My mom is almost fanatical about tea and feels mistreated when tea is not properly elevated as a morning beverage (ie. every restaurant should serve Earl Grey). But my husband started making coffee in a French press, grinding the beans himself, and bringing me a cup when I am running around getting everyone in the house ready for the day. It is a reminder to take a moment for myself, to accept a loving gesture of giving from my spouse, and to savor a brief moment in the chaos of the morning’s demands.
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