Silent Sundays: State of Unrest

Special note: A few nights ago, I watched a movie set in the late 1960s-‘70s. At one point, the storyline gave way to a musical montage. A longtime Marvin Gaye fan, I relished the reminder of one of my favorite songs of his. This morning, the musical flashback proved all too relevant:

I have a distinct memory from my childhood in the late ‘60s. Living next door to what was at the time a primarily black-attended theological seminary, I remember waking up one night to the sound of my parents rushing up and down the stairs. I then recall my father talking to someone outside in the darkness; next, I heard him back inside on the telephone. What we learned the next day was that riots had broken out downtown during the night, and that the fervor had spread to the neighboring seminary. Those were the days of Martin Luther King, Jr., and frequent civil rights protests.

Today’s Silent Sunday follows a volatile Saturday here in Rochester, NY. As of 9:00 last night, the city had imposed a curfew, due to initially peaceful protests that turned to chaos and looting. That this local lockdown has occurred during the wider lockdown of the corona virus lends a sickening absurdity to the already horrific reason for the outcries. Last week, the stark, seemingly never-ending reality of racism reappeared in the death of George Floyd, an African-American, while detained and “subdued” by a white Minneapolis, MN, police officer. As a result, people of all colors and creeds have felt the need to express their outrage and despair. 

To awaken this morning to the depths of enforced citywide lockdown borne of civil unrest is at once saddening and enlightening. Humanity probably will forever be in a state of “unrest”: The nature of evolution inherently entails entropy and disruption. Yet in order to insure that change takes on as much beneficial energy as it can while enduring its inevitable process, righteous anger needs to be undergirded with hope and beneficence. 

In order to honor the dismay that underlies the rage of protest, this Silent Sunday calls upon a mantra to invoke Peace and promote Unity. The practice includes movement to connect the expansiveness of the Universe with the earthly realm, and concludes with focused meditation.  When chanted with mudra, the mantra empowers the energy of connection between all, and all with the Infinite.

The mantra that will be chanted throughout the practice is: Ang Sang Wahe Guru (ahng sahng; both sound like “long,” and wah-hey goo-roo). The director of training at the Kundalini Research Institute, Gurucharan Singh, offered the following commentary on the mantra’s meaning and purpose: “…It reconnects every fragmented projection of the psyche, each separate part of the body, and synchronizes the finite sense of self [with] the Infinite Oneness. … Under attack, under war, under the presence of fear, this meditation keeps us together [and] conscious…. It brings the inner peacefulness that comes only from the touch and scope of Spirit.”

To begin, come onto all fours for 2 minutes of traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes. Use the first few rounds to find your rhythm and depth of movement. Then, add the mantra: As you extend the spine by lifting the tail and opening the chest, chant, “Ang Sang;” as you flex the spine by rounding the back, dropping the head, and tucking the tail, chant, “Wahe Guru.” Continue for the allotted time.

From all fours, sit back into a squat; it is okay if your heels can not fully descend, as you will be moving in and out of the deep squat pose. From the squat, lift the buttocks, extend the legs, and let the lower body come down toward a forward bend. Immediately reverse the movement: Bend the knees, drop the hips to the heels, and reset the torso and head to an upright position. For the first few, inhale as the buttocks lift and head goes down; exhale to return to the squat. When you are comfortable with the move, add the mantra: “Ang Sang” in the forward bend position; “Wahe Guru” in the squat. Continue for 2 minutes.

As you end the previous move in squat, push from there into Downward Dog. Move from the pose forward into plank. If possible, pass through plank directly into Upward Dog; you may need to stop at plank until your body feels ready to fulfill Up Dog. Again, use the first few rounds in and out of Down and Up Dog to acclimate the body: Inhale into Up Dog, exhale into Down. Then, when you are ready, add the mantra: “Ang Sang” in the Upward Dog position; “Wahe Guru” as you find Downward Dog. Continue for 2 minutes.

Now that the movement portion of the practice has rooted you through the First Chakra, and simultaneously shifted energy into the Upper Triangle of chakras, the optimal environment for meditation upon the mantra has been prepared. 

Come into your favorite seated posture. Bring the backs of the hands together in front of the Heart center; edges of index fingers pressing into the sternum; fingers point down; elbows to the sides. With your eyes “nine-tenths” open, gaze at the tip of the nose. Chant the mantra in a whisper for 3 minutes. 

Special note: If your eyes begin to ache or tire, take a moment to close them, circle them, or otherwise release the tension. Then, return to the slightly open downward gaze.

For the second and final piece of the meditation, turn the hands into traditional Namaste or Prayer mudra: palms together, fingers pointing up, edges of thumbs pressed into the sternal notch, and forearms parallel to the ground. The eyes are closed and turned upward to gaze at the Third Eye. The chant of the mantra becomes silent: Continue for 3-11 minutes.

With the peace and harmony that you have invoked and projected, come into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: (Re) Opening…

On this Silent Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend 2020, many regions of the country are taking their first baby-steps toward reducing social restrictions associated with the corona virus pandemic. Although the slightest fragrance of hope is in the air, many—including me—remain cautious and vigilant. As the quarantine has shuttered the external environment and limited physical proximity to one another, our bodies, too, may have curled inward: With the social concerns and stressors come the inevitable reverberations within ourselves. 

Today’s practice offers the opportunity to open wide in body and mind. Just as the reopening of society requires conscious, slow unfolding, many of us could use some gentle, yet pointed help to unwind, expand, and establish steadfast patience. To that end, the moves in the following routine focus on slowly, but deeply opening the side, front, and back body. The practice also works beautifully as a warm-up for any meditation.

To begin, lie on your back. Bend the knees, feet on the floor, hip width apart: You will be rolling up and down the spine, moving in and out of a modified back bend. As you begin your inhale, curl the pelvis off of the floor; continue to breathe in as you move incrementally up the spine. Visualize and sense the lift of each vertebra off of the floor as your roll up the spine, all the way to the shoulders. Then, reverse the spinal articulation through the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral sections as you exhale back to the start. Repeat 4 more roll-ups and -downs for a total of 5.

Now, repeat the spinal roll-up as you inhale. At the top of the roll, exhale as you dip the tail bone toward the floor; this will create a deep arch in your mid-back, releasing tension in the belly. Inhale to lift the pelvis back up, and exhale to roll the spine down, vertebra by vertebra. Repeat 4 times, for a total of 5.

Bring your knees in toward your body to ease any tension in the low back or hips. Then, extend the legs straight up, knit them together, and use your hands to draw them in toward you: Essentially, transpose Seated Forward Bend into a reclined version. Send deep breaths into the back of the legs; this focus on the Bladder meridian helps to establish a sense of flow with circumstances, as challenging as they may be.

Next, still in your supine position and the feet off of the floor, draw the soles of the feet toward each other. As the knees open to the sides, allow the external hip rotation to feed a deep stretch into the inner thighs. As you draw the feet closer toward you, the stretch through the Kidney meridian deepens. This will help to flush any fear or anxiety that may have crept in during these uncertain times. After about a minute in this position, slowly bring the knees back together, extend the legs straight up, and shake them about.

Now. come onto the right side of the body—legs, hips, torso, head in one long line, legs stacked on top of each other. The right arm can reach out, continuing the long line of the body, or you may bend the arm on the floor, resting your head in the nest. Reach the left arm out at a diagonal (without moving the body or hips); extend the left leg back at a diagonal, creating a long line from left fingertips top left toes. The legs are parallel to the floor, at the level of the left hip. Inhale and exhale 5 times, slowly and deeply: With each inhale, stretch the left leg and arm away from each other; exhale to relax and feel the increased ease and openness.

After 5 deep breaths and stretches, turn to lie on the left side. Repeat the same breathe-and-stretch pattern through the diagonally arranged right arm and leg.

From the right side, come onto the belly. Draw the arms behind the back, and interlace the fingers. Inhale as you lengthen through the arms, pulling the hands back toward the feet to help lift the upper body off the floor. Exhale to release down. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5.

Now, shift back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, come onto all fours for a few rounds of Cat/Cow spinal flexes and extensions. When you are ready. bring the right leg up to hip level behind you; bend the knee, and reach the left hand back to hold the ankle or top of foot. Look straight ahead, and begin Breath of Fire through the mouth (i.e., tongue out, panting like a dog). Continue for 30 seconds, and then withdraw the tongue, close the mouth, and breathe through the nose. Continue this nasal Breath of Fire for another minute. Keep pressing the foot into the hand to help yourself stay lifted and open through the right shoulder and chest.

After the minute of Breath of Fire through the nose, release the left hand; stretch the arm straight out from the shoulder, and straighten the right leg out behind you. Inhale, exhale, and inhale again: Exhale as you bring the right knee and left hand down, back to all fours.

Repeat the entire sequence with the left leg up and bent, and the right hand reaching back to hold the foot or ankle. Again, eyes focus directly forward: Breath of Fire for 30 seconds through the open mouth, followed by 1 minute through the nose. Then, recreate the cross-lateral stretch with the right arm and left leg. Finish by returning to all fours, and rest in Baby Pose for a few deep breaths.

Now, come into your preferred seated posture for meditation. Create Shunya Mudra, with the thumb tip and middle fingertips touching on each hand. This gesture invokes patience and discernment, and I enjoy a slight variation, which connects these qualities to Heart energy: Doing so further embeds the accepting nature of unwavering patience. 

Begin by holding the mudra as described. Bend the arms, brining the elbows in to the waist: Palms face forward at about shoulder level. The free fingers are extended and apart. With ever-so-slightly open eyes, gaze down at the tip of the nose. Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the nose. Then, with lips barely parted, inhale and exhale through the mouth. Continue this pattern of alternate nose and mouth breathing for 2 minutes. 

Now, release the mudra and rest the hands briefly in your lap. Allow the eyes to close naturally, and give them a rest: Nose gazing can be daunting to the eyes muscles at first; allow them to reset. Then, on each hand, fold the middle finger into the center of the palm; this will draw them toward a potent qi point for the Heart. Hold the middle fingers down with their respective thumbs; the other fingers are extended and apart. Rest the back of the hands on the knees; turn your closed eyes up focus on the Third Eye. Breathe naturally, mudra engaged, for 5-11 minutes. As your breath and gaze help to interate the mudra’s energy,  your mind, heart, and body absorb the freedom that comes with release, expansion, and calm acceptance of whatever comes your way.

To finish, ease into Svasana for a few minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Auric Power Wash

Today’s practice is designed to clear and strengthen your magnetic field and aura. Inspired by the re-evaluating, redefining, and redirecting that many of us continue to experience during the 2020 Quarantine, the following set will help to shed energy of the past. Simultaneously, today’s mantra invokes the creative spark and flow necessary to visualize and manifest a spiritually endowed future.

Further, the practice can be used when a person or circumstance seems to inhibit the path forward. When confronted with conflict or naysaying, take the time to engage the energy-clearing moves with vigor; as you envision the person or feel the emotions stirred by a situation, slice through their limiting aspect with the power of your arms and breath. As the aura is cleansed, your projection and protection strengthen: Your will and heart overcome any incoming negativity.

To begin, stand up and take a few moments to stretch, move, or shake in an organic, freeform manner. Then, from the feet a comfortable distance apart, step the left foot forward into a modest lunge (i.e., front knee slightly bent, right foot firmly rooted). From this solid base, swing your right arm in large backward circles, thumb and pinky fingertip touching; let the swing be swift and loose, moving the air around you. Circle the arm 12 times. 

Then, shift your stance: right foot forward, knee slightly bent, left foot behind. The left arm now circles back 12 times with the same speed and freedom as before. Remember to engage the thumb/pinky mudra: This gesture stimulates the ability to flow with life’s challenges and offerings.

Now, still standing, bring the feet parallel again, a comfortable distance apart. With each of the following arm movements, chant, “Har” (pronounced “hahr,” as if saying “hard” without the “d”). Beginning with the arms down, open the arms wide, then rapidly cross them in front of you. Quickly open, then recross, switching the arm that is in front; open, then cross a third and fourth time, moving the arms higher with each open and cross. By the fourth opening and crossing, the arms should be overhead. “Har” is chanted powerfully, out loud, with each cross.

With the arms now up, touch the base of the pinky finger with the thumb tip on each hand, and circle the other fingers around to create a thumb-inside fist. Each arm circles strongly backward in tight diameters—about 6 inches. With each backward circle, the arms lower several inches, so that they are by your sides as the fourth circle finishes. Chant, “Har,” with each rapid circle.

Special note: “Har” is to be chanted in a precise, clipped manner. As you articulate the almost-rolled “r,” the tip of the tongue bats the upper palate behind the front teeth. The sound is neither long, nor airy; rather, it is a staccato beat to accompany the movement. 

Continue the pattern of 4 criss-crosses up, chanting “Har” on the cross; then chant “Har” with each of the 4 powerful, contained circles down. Continue this vigorous clearing move for 3 minutes.

From standing, make your way into an informal version of Downward Dog. For this move, you may find that you prefer to keep the heels off of the ground; you may also prefer to fist the hands, or prop onto the fingertips. In your Down Dog (or Kundalini Triangle), raise the right leg straight up and out behind you. Inhale as you bend the arms like a push-up, bringing the head toward the floor; exhale to press back up. Repeat a total of 12 push-ups, or as many as you can muster. Then, switch sides, left leg up, and repeat the same number of push-ups. This move helps to upend any stagnant energy in the Lower Triangle of energy—that which is needed for stability, creativity, and will power.

After the last push-up on the second side, come onto all fours. Again, extend the right leg out behind, keeping the leg at the level of the hip. Bend the knee, so that you can kick the right side of the buttocks with the right heel: Kick your butt 26 times! Then, switch sides: Kick the left bottom with the left heel 26 times.

If you need a moment to settle and consolidate, shift back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, roll up to sit either on your heels in Rock Pose, or in an easy, crossed-leg position. Note how the clearing of external energies shifts the flow and quality of your inner environment.

To enhance the ease and strength of your ability to deflect negative incursions, begin to refine your aura: With the hands palm up in your lap, inhale through the nose as the hands float up to about chest or shoulder level; continue the inhale as the palms flip away from you and up toward the ceiling. Finish the inhale as the palms reach the apex of the rise. Then, exhale through the mouth as the palms turn out and then down, sweeping the arms down to the sides. As you finish the exhale, the hands have returned to the original position at the base of the belly. Repeat this inhale up, exhale down, using the palms to further clear and polish the magnetic field, for 1 minute.

In your freshly washed seat of auric power and protection, bring the arms into Genie posture: right forearm resting on left at chest level, palms down. With eyes closed, gazing at the Third Eye, whisper-chant, “Hari Hari Hari Har.” (Again: “Hari” is pronounced “hah-ree,” rather than “hairy.”) The two versions of the seed mantra, “Har,” further invoke the creative force that allows you to move through and past obstacles, be they of internal or external origin. Continue the chant with heart-protecting and -sustaining mudra for 3-7 minutes. Then, ease into Svasana for at least 3 minutes.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: Soothe a Weary Brain and Body

On this Silent Sunday, I awoke with a mental outline for today’s practice. As so often is the case, I “pre-write” in my mind for a day or two before anything hits the page: On writing day, I organize my thoughts and contemplate tone and description before opening my eyes. This morning was no different. Within a couple of hours after arising, however, my creative spark and focus were dimmed by a rush of weariness. Given that my initial idea for today’s routine centered around the Second and Fifth chakras—i.e., creative and expressive energies, respectively—the irony was undeniable. 

Typically, when confronted with an internal obstacle, I urge myself forward with the experiential knowledge that doing so will override any stagnancy or resistance. Rarely do I surrender in the face of limiting thoughts or emotions; however, that discipline is paired with the compassionate self-assurance that I will be able to discern when I need to give myself a reprieve. Today required the latter.

The following gentle practice may be particularly useful for those times during Quarantine 2020 when the ongoing uncertainties and daily—sometimes hourly—need to adjust attitude and energy lead to generalized fatigue. The routine also may prove useful for bouts of insomnia, or when tension results in headache or digestive troubles. Each position profoundly balances mind and body: Performed as a cohesive practice, all the energy centers (chakras) are revitalized.

To begin, lie on your belly. Let your legs be comfortably apart, and allow the heels to fall naturally inward or outward. Place your right cheek on the floor. Bring the arms up to shoulder level or slightly below: Bend at the elbows to form 90-degree angles on both arms; you have formed a trident or pitchfork shape, with the head facing to the left arm. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply and restfully for about a minute. Then, turn the head to the other side, left check on the floor. Again, breathe slowly and fully for another minute, or so.

Now, turn the head back to rest on the right cheek again. Inhale, and simultaneously lift the bent left arm, your head (still turned to the left), and right leg a few inches off of the floor: Exhale down. Repeat two more times. Then, switch sides (head turned to the right, on the left cheek). Inhale to lift the right arm, head, and left leg: Exhale down. Repeat two more times.

Next, press yourself up onto the forearms, creating a gentle bow in the spine for Sphinx Pose. Draw the shoulder blades down, press firmly into the forearms for lift and opening, and bring the chin in slightly to help lengthen the back of the neck. Here, inhale as you turn the head slowly to the left; exhale to turn right. Eyes are closed, gazing at the Third Eye. To enhance the harmonizing quality of this simple action, chant, “Sat Nam,” as the head turns left; then, “Wahe [wah-hey] Guru,” as the head turns to the right. Continue the movement with or without the mantra (chanted silently, whispered, or aloud) for 3 minutes.

Then, push back into Baby Pose. Bring the arms behind the back, interlacing the fingers; extend through the elbows, straightening the arms as much as possible. Keeping the forehead on the floor, raise the arms up and away from the back. Breathe here in Yoga Mudra for 3 minutes. Notice that you may be able to release further through the shoulders as the body settles into the posture; if so, raise the arms further up and away from the back.

From the Yoga Mudra position in Baby Pose, sit up: Remain seated on the heels, and feel free to place a pillow or blanket between the heels and bottom for added comfort. Place the right hand on the floor: Curve into a side bend to the right, keeping the left hip rooted on the left heel; allow the head to hang sideways, or turn to look down toward the floor. Use the right hand for support; as time goes on, your body may allow you to walk the hand further to the side, or even to come down onto the forearm. Curve into the deep stretch for 3 minutes. Come up, and repeat with a side bend to the left, deeply opening the right side of the body. Breathe here for another 3 minutes.

Now, help yourself onto your back. Extend the right leg and left arm straight up; the left leg remains long on the ground, and the right arm lies naturally at the side. Then, lower the right leg toward the floor about 30 degrees; the left arm also lowers toward the floor above the head about 30 degrees. With this cross-lateral half-V, bring the right thumb up to close the right nostril. Breathe in and out through the left nostril, body position intact, for 1 minute. Then, switch sides: Left leg raised at the previous angle, right arm up and angled back, and left thumb closing the left nostril. Inhale and exhale through the right nostril for another minute.

Finally, rest both arms on the floor, palms down. Raise both legs, straight and together, about 2 feet off of the floor. Breathe deeply and steadily through both nostrils for 3 minutes: If you need to place your hands or a small pillow under your hips to protect the low back, do so. Remain strong through the abdominals and legs, and soften the closed eyes, jaw, and shoulders. 

Before you enter into a long Svasana, draw the knees in toward the chest; rock side to side as you hug the legs into the body. Then, lengthen out, opening yourself to full rejuvenation. Remain in Svasana for at least 10 minutes, longer if you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Dome, Sweet Dome

Today’s practice offers a profound experience of the body’s inner and outer anatomical structure—its extraordinary architecture. Most often, if one thinks of the physical structure of the body, the spine, limbs, muscles, and bones come to mind. Internally, organs and fluids round out the picture. Within those components, however, lie distinct patterns, matrices, and shapes. This Silent Sunday focuses on the Dome, which can be found from head to toe. Further, as we explore the various manifestations of the Dome, its metaphysical significance is revealed: As one develops an acute awareness of the physical presence of the Dome, a powerful sense of peace and spiritual connection emerges.

First, it may help to provide some background information. So often, one thinks of energy rising and lifting as the breath comes in; and then, as one exhales, there is a softening and a release as muscles relax. Physically, however, there is a downward movement upon inhale and an upward response upon the exhale: the action of the diaphragm. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we see this upward/downward movement in the Yin/Yang energies of the meridians: Yin travels from the earth upward, and from the torso outward and upward (as the arms are held aloft in TCM anatomy diagrams); Yang energy flows from the head downward, and inward from the hands to the torso. 

Thus, whereas “softening” and inward movement are Yin qualities, the energetic trajectory is up and out. Conversely, Yang aspects of externality and invigoration align with a downward, inward flow of qi (prana, or energy). This TCM understanding brings us full circle to the movement of the diaphragm: We vitalize ourselves with an inhalation, wherein the associated diaphragmatic movement is down; then, we relax upon exhalation, as the diaphragm moves upward.

Now, to begin today’s practice, sit in your favorite position for a gentle pranayama with visualization. With eyes closed and your palms resting on the upper belly, just below the bottom ribs, focus on the breath: Inhale fully and steadily; exhale slowly and deeply. As you breathe, remind yourself of the movement of the diaphragm: With the inhale, the diaphragm moves downward, away from the ribs; as you exhale, it returns upward, forming its natural Dome. Breathe with this visualization for about a minute. 

From your seated breathing pose, come onto all fours. Here, begin Cat/Cow spinal flexes with the traditional breath: Inhale to deeply extend the spine, lifting the chest, head, and tail; exhale to round the spine, drop the head, and tuck the tail. As you continue, attune to the “doming” of the torso as you breathe: inhaling, opening, and invigorating as the diaphragm moves down (or in this case, backward, from the ribs to pelvis), and the spine extends and descends; then exhaling to raise (or bring forward) the diaphragm as the spine arches up. Continue the movement with keen focus on these aspects for 1-3  minutes.

Still on all fours, turn your attention to the palms of the hands. From their flat support position of Cat/Cow, come onto the fingertips; note the Dome created of the palm. Begin to join the flattening and cupping of the palms to the breath and spinal movement: Inhale with flat palm into Cow (spinal extension); exhale to “dome” the palm and round the spine into Cat. With the breath, the body is “doming” in triplicate: spine, palms, diaphragm. Continue for 1 minute.

If you need a break from all-fours, push back into Baby Pose for a few breaths, or press up into Downward Dog to stretch the legs. Then, resuming the Cat/Cow position, shift your attention to the feet. Flex and extend the ankle a few times: The toes will naturally curl under in the flexed position; the toes lengthen back and lie flat as you extend—point—the foot on the floor. The Dome may now be found in the arches of the feet. (Each foot has three arches—lateral, longitudinal, and medial—that comprise what we think of as “the arch.”)

As you add the foot action to the previous TripTych of movements, inhale: spine extends, palm lies flat, diaphragm moves down (or back), and now the foot (ankle) flexes, thereby reducing the arch. Exhale: spine rounds, palm domes, diaphragm moves up (or forward), and the ankle extends into a pointed foot, thereby accentuating the arch. Continue with an awareness of the connected doming and release components for 1 minute.

From all-fours, come briefly into Downward Dog, and then walk the feet toward the hands for a relaxed, hanging version of Standing Forward Bend. As you release the pressure from the hands, wrists, and knees, breathe deeply: With each exhale, press the toe tips into the ground  and is if to draw them back toward the arch; this action will motivate the doming action of the arches. Stay aware of the corresponding diaphragmatic movement. 

As blood and energy shift their trajectory toward the head, begin to feel the roof of the mouth with your tongue. The natural dome of the hard palate becomes evident. Curl the tongue backward into this Dome, and press firmly upward into the bony structure. (Because you are inverted, “upward” has become “downward.”) Imagine that you are pushing the palatial Dome toward the Crown, the cranium’s natural Dome (formed by the parietal and temporal bones).

With the sensory awareness of the body’s uppermost Domes, ease yourself down to the floor, and then onto your back. Assume Svasana position for an integrating breath meditation. First, visualize and activate each Dome. Each exhale creates the diaphragm Dome; cupping the palm yields the hand Dome; ankle extension engages the foot Dome; upward pressure of the curled tongue on the roof of the mouth reveals the palatial Dome; and keen focus on the Crown engages the skull Dome.

In the supine position, inhale deeply: press out through the palms to “flatten” them; flex the ankle (draw top of foot and toes toward shin); drop the tongue to the bottom of the mouth; and gaze through closed lids at the tip of the nose. The diaphragm naturally travels downward, “de-doming.” When you are ready, exhale long and deep: palms cup into their Domes; ankles extend to create the arch Domes; backward-curled tongue presses into the Dome of the mouth; and the closed-eye gaze moves to and through the Third Eye to stimulate the Crown Chakra and skull Dome.

Continue this yoking of the breath to the body’s organic architecture. As the totality of the Domes within becomes more apparent, a sense of physical and mental wholeness ensues. The focus on the cranial Dome stimulates and opens the Crown Chakra: The expansion of the Seventh Chakra intrinsically connects one to the Dome of the Universe: the sky and heavens above. As one breathes into the body’s Domes with an awareness of the overarching Infinite Dome, the Spiritual Body exalts.

After a few minutes of the conscious “Dome Breathing” meditation, ease into full Svasana for another couple of minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: What Will It Be?

The other day, a friend and I were discussing various aspects of the ongoing corona virus quarantine: those that seem to create frustration or feel otherwise negative; and those that perhaps portend changes that could and possibly should continue once the restrictions are lifted. Among the former is the lack of physical contact, and the freedom to go where one will; two of the positive shifts have been the reduced sense of rush, and the pointed attention on one’s responsibility for the welfare of others. As always—now, then, and forever—there will be darkness, there will be light, and the misty gray born thereof holds the Truth.

Inarguably, we have been afforded time and space for contemplation. Whether one elects to go within during this period is a personal choice, of course. I have found, however, that after a couple of weeks of deep thought with regard to the current situation, my mind began to travel toward the Future. Often, I am loathe toward prediction or outcome when it comes to Life Path: As one who believes that each incarnation bears a distinct destiny (which draws one continually closer to the Source), I plan with the caveat of Faith that if it is meant to be, so it shall be. 

Now, given the tremendous sea-change that the entire world is enduring, I find that I feel a greater sense of imagination and possibility with regard to my personal trajectory in this lifetime. Humanity has entered a time which few would have imagined, never mind predicted: Science-fiction writers and Doomsday criers may have envisioned and expressed a semblance of our current challenge, but most others would have deemed it preposterous. So, now that the nearly unimaginable has happened, and we are living it, what else could happen? And in one’s personal period of existence, is anything impossible?

Today’s practice is dedicated to freeing the mind from its parameters, and to liberating the earthbound Inner Agent from its overseeing role of rationality and restriction. This Silent Sunday encourages one to loosen the fervent hold on knowing and predicting, and instead open to the Abyss of Not Knowing. In and past that glorious Void lies the realm of all that can and will be.

To begin, we open and charge the magnetic field to clear the aura: In essence,  the moves disperse any energetic chains or limiting beliefs that may inhibit the expansion and flow of your imaginative powers. Standing, bring your arms to shoulder level or slightly below: Open and close the arms as far back as possible, and then cross them (one over the other, palms down) in front; each time you exhale and cross, switch which arm is on top. Continue to inhale as you swing the arms back, and exhale as they cross in front at heart level. Move this way for 1 minute.

Still standing, inhale the arms up overhead, and exhale to move forward and down into Standing Forward Bend. Immediately inhale up, arching the spine slightly; then exhale down. You may modify by keeping the hands on the low back in the up position, and bending the knees as you bend forward and down. Continue this movement for 3 minutes. Move slowly at first, using whatever precautions you need, and then begin to pick up the pace as the body warms up.

Remain standing. If you feel the need to sit, you may do so. Again bring the arms to shoulder level: Touch the thumb tips to the base (mounds) of their respective pinky fingers; the other fingers are straight and together. With the arms extended to the sides, mudra formed on each hand, turn the palms down. Begin to seesaw the arms up and down in the side space: Maintain the same angle between the arms throughout the move: As one arm rises to 60 or 70 degrees, the other lowers to 30 or 20. Move rapidly, inhaling as the left arm lifts, and the right lowers; exhaling as the left lowers, and the right comes up. Continue vigorously for 3 minutes.

Now, bring yourself to a seated position if you have not already done so. With the back of the hands resting on the knees in Gyan Mudra (thumb tip to index finger tip), begin to draw your attention inward. Allow the body to settle as the breath normalizes. Turn your closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye. Visualize that you are floating in a milky-white infinite space, yet your essential nature is intact. Breathe deeply into the Void, all the while feeling secure in your connection to the Universe.

You are ready to invoke that which lies beyond your earthly brain’s capacity to imagine. This meditation is called See the Unseen, a deeply affecting kundalini practice. With your closed eyes intent upon the Third Eye, extend the right arm straight forward from the shoulder; the palm is turned up and forms a soft cup. The left arm is bent into the waist, palm forward as if taking an oath. The left thumb tip touches the tip of the left ring finger: Surya Mudra. In this seated pose with mudra, silently chant, “Wahe Guru [wah-hey goo-roo].” This mantra exalts the Divine, Universal, and Eternal Power, and demonstrates one’s devotional bow to such. 

Although your arm may tire, and your attention may wander, commit yourself to this meditation and internal mantra for 11 minutes. Remember that the aim of today’s practice is to surpass that which you may never imagined possible. Use the allotted time to go beyond your personal sense of limitation; as you persevere with the physical expression of Possibility, your energetic field shifts to accommodate and welcome the unimagined, the Unseen.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: It Never Fails…

In these oh-so-strange times of the corona virus pandemic, one thing is certain: Somebody, somewhere could use a helping hand or sturdy shoulder. For some, the distancing and shut-downs make little difference to their quiet or homebound lives; for others, the change is a welcome respite from have-to or should-be; and still for others, the restrictions and isolation lead to fear or existential angst. If you should come across—or intuit—the latter, you are probably meant to be there… to extend help.

And it never fails: When we help another, we uplift ourselves. When someone has the courage to allow the input or assistance of another, and that other does so with the utmost grace and kindness, the result is exceptional: The alchemy of combined helped-and-helper energy seeps into the healing vibrations around us all. Today’s practice offers a means to clear and open proactive, empathetic energies, so that the ability to reach out to another rises to the fore. Further, if you sense an unidentifiable need within yourself, the practice will help you to hone in on and shed unsettling thoughts or emotions.

The warm-up for this routine directly relates to the practice’s aim to loosen and release blocked energy. Standing, begin to shake the left ankle; when the joint rattles-and-rolls, bring the shaking up the leg. Continue to involve the entire limb from ankle to hip, shaking vigorously for about 30 seconds. Then, repeat on the right side for another 30 seconds.

Immediately begin to shake the left wrist, then working the entire arm from shoulder to wrist into the movement. After about 30 seconds of energetic shaking, repeat on the right arm for another 30 seconds.

Finally, shake the entire body powerfully and rapidly. Bounce, bend, weight-shift: Move with intention and commitment, knowing that you are expelling any detrimental energy. Continue the full-body shake for 1 minute.

Now, bring yourself into your favorite seated pose. The two primary movements of this practice are small, yet exceptionally fast and vigorous. The first stimulates the Heart Center, which enables one to see the Truth of a situation: It will open one to an awareness of the needs of others; simultaneously, it will guide you to a feeling of gentleness with yourself.

To activate this vibration, touch the thumb and pinky fingertips together on each hand; the other three fingers are straight and together. Hold the hands in front of the Heart Center, with one hand closer to the Heart than the other: The palms face the Heart. Rapidly, begin to circle the hands closely around each other, stirring the energy of the Heart. The outward circling should be so vigorous that you feel a slight breeze on your chin. Continue to circle, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, for 3 minutes.

Next, take a moment to stretch or massage the hands and arms. The next part of today’s kriya for active empathy draws the previously aroused Heart energy into the chakras of expression and insight (the Throat and Third Eye chakras). As you awaken and charge these qualities, your ability to help another or yourself is heightened: You will perceive the true need and be able to respond in accordance with the wisdom of the Universe.

To create this energy, bring the hands into fists with the index finger extended. Bend the arms, elbows near waist and hands next to the shoulders; the index fingers point straight up. Here, begin circling again, this time feeling that the index fingers are generating the stir. The circles are small and outward, i.e., the right side moves counter-clockwise, and the left moves clockwise. Move with such rapidity and conviction that your entire body vibrates in response. Continue for 3 minutes.

As you complete the circling, inhale deeply, extending the arms straight up alongside the ears; stretch the palms open and the fingers wide. Suspend the breath for as long as possible. When you need to exhale, lower the arms to the sides at shoulder level, palms up, fingers spread. Inhale here, and suspend the breath again for as long as you can. Upon the exhale, draw the hands into Prayer Pose in front of the Heart Center, the edges of the thumbs resting against the sternum. 

Here, take some time to steady the breath; gradually begin to deepen each inhale and exhale. With your closed eyes keenly focused upward to the Third Eye, allow the specific energies that you have created to permeate your mind and heart; connect to your empowered compassion. Then, if you like, settle into Svasana for another few minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: The “U” in You

The past couple of days reawakened a personal tendency of thought and behavior that I diligently have worked to alter throughout the years. Certain interactions and events preceded my “relapse”: Basically, I found myself in what felt like a “Me vs. Them” situation. Such a dynamic typically arises when one feels vulnerable or insecure; it takes great insight and determination to oust oneself free of the feeling.

While the adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” may seem like a worthy option, I find that it can feel untrue to Self, and worse, allow bitterness to taint any real sense of resolution. Thus, for me, what helps most in conflict or tension with others is to find the truth in the very simple statement: “It is not about you.”

Rather, it is about seeking and eliciting the “U” in You: Universality. As I wrestled yesterday with why I was feeling so strongly about a rather inconsequential turn of events, I had to push through those emotions: What was required was an Ego check, and then a deep pursuit of what the others involved may be thinking and feeling. Ultimately, I could see that their desire for a specific outcome was not purposely a slight of me and my opposite desire. Fundamentally, their objective and feelings under the circumstances were different, but not antagonistic toward mine.

And that is when the universal human condition becomes clear. Always, we each have our own minds and hearts to consider and protect and open and change; yet, also always, we have to remember that that state of being is the same for all. Not always will minds and hearts behave synchronously or harmoniously; yet the underlying connection of humanness—of mortality, of emotion, of struggle, of elevation—lives on nonetheless. 

Universality, like the Divine, exists whether or not we see it, feel it, or “believe” in it.

Today’s practice is a classic, straightforward, yet immensely powerful kundalini kriya called Ego Eradicator. The pranayama and associated mudra posture forces one out of the part of Self that inhibits Universality. While this may feel at first like “losing” yourself, the opposite is the result: The more one  sheds selfish sorrow, bias, arrogance, resentment—all born of an overactive Ego—the more space one creates for the True Self. As this essential You expands within, it—You—are more able to abide Universality, and thus to connect with the Universe.

To begin, seat yourself in the most comfortable, upright posture you can establish (with or without props). You may want to prepare with a few neck and shoulder rolls, shoulder shrugs, and/or spinal flexes. Then raise the arms straight up alongside the ears; from there, open them to the sides, about 30 degrees away from your head. Reach strongly through the elbows, opening the armpits, but keeping the shoulders relaxed and down.

Bend at the wrists, so that the pinky sided of each hand is parallel to the floor, palms facing forward. Then, curl all the fingertips into the pads at their bases; the thumb, however, remains straight and points directly upward. Hold this expansive, yet specifically angled mudra strongly; begin Breath of Fire through the nose. (Remember that you can begin by panting through the open mouth like a dog, in equal, rapid inhales and exhales. Once that breath is consistent, close the mouth and continue Breath of Fire through the nose.)

With eyes closed, gazing steadfastly up to the Third Eye, inhabit the powerful mudra and breath for 3 minutes. Then, as you take a deep, long breath in, bring the thumb tips to touch each other overhead; suspend the breath as you guide the energy up through the spine and crown. Then, when you must, exhale fully as you relax the hands and slowly sweep the arms down through the side space.

Sit quietly, eyes remaining closed, as you feel the charge of prana and the presence of peace within. If you like, move into a few minutes of Svasana to further integrate the effects of your practice.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Break Free

The other day, three weeks into the COVID-19 protocol of social and physical distancing, my neighbor half-jokingly admitted that she does not do well “in captivity.” Certainly, the recommendations to keep to ourselves and to stay home during this time can wear thin: While we each find ways to pass time and communicate, feelings of entrapment, impatience, and boredom can nonetheless arise. Today’s Silent Sunday uses posture, movement, and mantra to open the body in all directions, and infuse the mind with the promise of freedom and expansion.

The practice begins in Baby Pose: buttocks on heels, torso resting on thighs, forehead to floor, and arms stretched forward on the ground. As you inhale, lift the hips, torso, and head to stretch forward into Cobra (on the hands) or Sphinx (on the forearms); exhale to return to baby Pose. Continue to inhale as you elongate forward, opening the chest and front body, and exhale to curl back, releasing tension in the neck and back: Find a moderate, steady pace; as the muscles warm and the spine awakens, begin to move a bit more quickly and fluidly. 

Add a mantra to the movement: As you move into Cobra, chant, “Ong;” as you push back into Baby Pose, chant, “Sohung.” The Heart (Fourth) Chakra responds deeply to the vibration of the mantra; an open, energized heart allows us to feel connected to Universal Consciousness. As we move and chant, any sense of confinement gives way to the liberating energy of the Heart Center. Continue to chant and move for 3 minutes.

Next, come into a crossed-leg position. Be sure that the spine is long, and the hips and shoulders are relaxed; if you like, perch on the edge of a pillow or rolled blanket to ensure your ease and alignment. Sitting tall, inhale; exhale, and side bend to the right. Allow the spine to curve and the head to hang; place the hand or forearm on the floor for support, depending on the depth of your bend. Because you will be in this pose for 3 minutes, you may find that you start with the hand on the floor, but with time, can move more deeply, resting onto the forearm.

After 3 minutes, slowly rise out of the bend. Inhale deeply in the upright position, and exhale to bend to the left. Make sure that you curve directly sideways, and not to the front or back. Remain here, breathing fully, for another 3 minutes. These deep, yin-style side bends stimulate the liver and gall bladder, lending a detoxifying effect to the physical stretch.

Now, come onto your belly for Gentle Bow. With the chin or forehead on the floor, bend the knees; reach back with the hands to hold the ankles or tops of the feet. There is no need to pull or lift in this version of Bow. Simply draw the feet toward to the buttocks, and breathe deeply. Remain in the position for 2 minutes.

From the belly, roll onto the right side. With the right arm on the floor, stretched long, align the legs with the torso, so that you are in one long, straight line. Reach the left arm alongside the left ear, so that it stretches long, parallel to the right arm. Inhale to lift the left leg a couple of inches, extending straight out from the hip; lift the left arm to the same level as the leg. Reach the left hand and foot strongly away from each other, powerfully opening the left side body. Exhale to release the stretch and lower the arm and leg. Repeat two more times.

Then, help yourself onto the left side. Recreate the long line of your body, legs, and arms. Again, inhale to slightly lift and stretch the right arm and leg in opposite directions; exhale to lower. Repeat the stretch two more times.

Shift back into Baby Pose for a brief rest, breathing deeply for a few breaths. Then, come onto all fours, and move into Downward Dog. Establish your foundation, so that you can move from Down Dog into Upward Dog as smoothly as possible. This movement reflects the opening move, yet requires more strength and flexibility; begin gradually, finding the right positioning for your body’s structure, and then flow with the back and forth move. Inhale into Upward Dog, exhale into Down Dog. As with the original movement, chant, “Ong,” as you move into Up Dog; chant, “Sohung,” as you shift back into Down Dog. Continue for 3 minutes.

When you are ready, ease down onto the floor for several minutes of Svasana.

Happy Sunday…

Power Up: 30-Day Practice to Blast Through the Month

Here in New York State, the corona virus restrictions are in place through the end of this month. While this could make April seem endless, why not turn the next 30 days into a fierce invigoration of mental and physical will? The following routine will shore up your mood, stamina, and immune system, while also ensuring healthy digestion. Because you will do the same routine every day for a month, feel free to start moderately: By mid-month, increase your times; by the end of the month, aim to do all exercises for the longest amount of time suggested.

Every day, begin with your favorite version of spinal flexes: For example, lie on the floor for pelvic tilts and lifts; sit for flexes forward, back, and circling; or stand for torso circles, side bends, and moving twists.

My favorite warm-up for this practice is the circling Cat/Cow; this variation deeply awakens the breath and also stimulates the organs of digestion and elimination. On all fours, introduce your spine to the traditional Cat/Cow move: inhale as you lift the chest and tail, creating a deep spinal arch; exhale to hang the head, tuck the tail, and round the back. After a few rounds of this classic move, add a circling movement with the whole body: inhale as you arch and roll forward and to the right; exhale to round the spine, as you circle the body back and around to the left. After about 30 seconds, reverse the direction of the circle on all fours for another 30 seconds.

Now you are ready to start the set. Come into your favorite seated pose for 1-3 minutes of powerful pranayama designed to boost immunity. As you do Breath of Fire through the right nostril only, you rev up the Sun energy in your system; this prana burns away mental and physical invaders, i.e., negativity and toxins.With your left thumb, block off the left nostril; the other fingers are straight and together, with the palm facing toward the right. 

Bend the right arm in by your side, palm forward, as if taking an oath. Make a fist of the right hand, but leave the index finger out and pointing straight up. With eyes closed, gazing at the Third Eye, begin Breath of Fire. Remember that you may begin with the mouth open, panting strongly like a dog—equal, rapid inhales and exhales—then close the mouth and continue the powerful, fiery breath through the nose for 1-3 minutes.

Next, lie on your back. Interlace the fingers behind the neck, and draw the elbows to the floor (or as close as your shoulder flexibility will allow). Raise both legs to 60 degrees; they should be straight, knit tightly together, with feet pointed. If you need to elevate the hips to protect your low back, use a pillow or block. If your legs can not straighten, do your best: Over the course of the next 30 days, you will notice progress. In this position, do Breath of Fire for 1-3 minutes.

Then, tuck the knees in toward the belly, With the arms extended to the sides, inhale; drop both knees to one side as you exhale and turn the head to the opposite side. Inhale to lift them back center; exhale to the other side, turning the head accordingly. Continue this back and forth twist with breathing pattern for 1-3 minutes.

The first twist helps to relieve tension in the lower spine, which also aids digestion. For the mid-upper spine, and to help open and strengthen the lungs, draw your knees as close to your chest as possible. Repeat the same side-to-side twist as you inhale center, and exhale to either side, for 1- 3 minutes.

Now, roll to one side to help yourself up, so that you can sit on your heels in Rock Pose. As always, you may slip a pillow or folded blanket between your heels and bottom for support. By simply sitting in this position for 1-3 minutes, digestive fires are stoked.

To enhance this action, and to build stamina and patience, we can add a pranayama technique. Bring the arms straight up by the ears, reaching strongly toward the ceiling. Interlace the fingers, squeezing the palms together: Inhale fully, and with the breath in, pump the belly vigorously. When you need to exhale, breathe out completely; on this empty breath, pump again until you need to breathe in. Continue this suspended-breath-and-pump pattern for 1-3 minutes.

The final moves are done standing. With the feet comfortably apart, inhale the arms overhead; exhale to bend forward, bringing the hands to the ground. Continue this simple inhale-up/exhale-down movement for 1-3 minutes. Simple modifications would be: bend the knees as you come into the forward bend; keep the hands on the low back or by your sides; and/or move as slowly and deliberately as you need to. Again, after several days of practice, you will notice that you are able to move more fluidly. 

Next, stand tall. Bring the arms behind you, interlocking the fingers and extending the arms straight. Then, arch your spine, as if to move into a backbend; tilt your head back as much as your neck comfort will allow. With the eyes open, focus on a spot above you. In this heart-opening, demanding posture, begin Breath of Fire. Continue for 1-3 minutes. When you are done, slowly realign yourself to stand strong, yet relaxed. With eyes closed, breathe deeply for a few breaths. Then, help yourself to the floor for a few minutes of svasana. 

Happy April…