Silent Sundays: The Heart of Summer

Although this Silent Sunday does not find us yet in the “heart” of Summer, Summer is nonetheless the season of the Heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart organ pairs with the Small Intestine; the two are further supplemented by the Pericardium and Triple Heater systems. All in all, Summer percolates with the warming, invigorating, and uplifting energy of the four meridians. Their balance is crucial, however: When the energy of the Summer organs becomes excessive, the result is anxiety; if blocked, despondency can seep in.

Because we as a society continue to bump our way through the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 (and perhaps beyond), our natural rhythms and resets may have become confused or stymied. So, in order to ensure that the Heart system and its associates are functioning optimally, today’s practice focuses on easing the organs of Summer into their prime environment. When the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, and Triple Heater are happy, the mind is capable of experiencing the joys of Life, even amidst the wildest challenges.

You will notice that the arms and their positioning factor greatly in the following routine: The meridians of the Summer systems flow through the arms, and into the chest and fingers. To ease into this area, come onto all fours for a few rounds of traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes. Use this simple, but deeply affecting warmup to deepen the breath; make sure each inhale and exhale is long and completely fulfilled. 

Then, come to rest on all fours in a neutral position. From here, reach the right arm underneath the body; keep reaching the arm out through the left arm and hip along the floor. Eventually, your right shoulder will come to rest on the ground, with the right side of the face resting there, as well. (The left elbow naturally bends as you find your way into position.) Turn the right palm to face the ceiling, and feel the stretch all along the outside and back of the right arm and shoulder.

This move tracks the Small Intestine and Triple Heater meridians. For an extra salute to the systems, touch the thumb tip to the tips of the ring and pinky fingers outer edge of the right pinky nail to the inner edge of the right thumb nail; this “seals” the channel. After 5-8 deep breaths here, gently draw the arm back, and help yourself rise onto all fours. Then, “thread” the left arm through to open the other side. Breathe deeply for 5-8 breaths.

Next, move from all fours onto the belly. Bend the knees, so that the shins are perpendicular to the thighs. Bring both arms to shoulder level on the floor; bend the left arm to a 90 degree angle (“goal post”-style). Extend the right arm straight out, palm down; turn the head, so that the left cheek rests on the floor. Touch the right thumb tip to the tips of the right middle and pinky fingers, thus sealing the Heart and Pericardium channels on the extended arm.

 A quick bit of encouragement: The following position of the hips and legs may seem daunting at first; however, it is more accessible than it initially appears. With your arm position for the right side of the Heart and Pericardium established, you will now heighten the stimulation of the meridians. Begin to tip the lower legs to the left; let them keep falling, so that the right hip bone lifts away from the floor. Continue to roll the lower body open: Allow the right knee to leave the floor as you arc the right foot and knee up and behind you; eventually, the right foot will find the floor. When you have “landed,” settle into the posture for 5- 8 breaths. Then, roll the body back to center, and shift the arm and head position to the other side. Accentuate the left arm stretch by arcing the left leg up and behind, until the left foot comes to roost. Breathe deeply for 5-8 breaths.

After the intense opening of the Summertime meridians, shift slowly into Baby Pose. Remain here for a few breaths, and then roll up to sit on your heels or in an easy crossed-leg pose. Here, engage Garudasana, or Eagle Arms: Extend the arms out in front at chest level. Cross the right arm over the left at the elbows. Bend the elbows, bringing the forearms next to each other. Finally, cross at the wrists, so that the palms come to touch. (More than likely, they will be working their way toward being together, but may not quite make it.) 

Firmly draw the arms down toward the belly; gently turn your head to gaze up. This will awaken the Throat Chakra, which will further aid your ability to express the compassion and joy culled from today’s routine. To balance the body and meridians, release the Eagle arms, and repeat on the opposite side (left arm crossed over right, and so forth). Breathe, and move into the Throat opening, remaining in position for 5-8 breaths.

Finally, using a rolled blanket, pillow, or bolster, come into a Heart-opening Svasana. Place the support underneath your upper back, so that both shoulder blades rest equally on the bolster. Ease your head to the floor, and let your neck settle slowly into the modest extension. The arms are out from the body on the floor at about a 45-degree angle, palms up. Remain in rest for at least 10 minutes, eyes closed, mind stilled. With the Heart center open, yet supported, your body and spirit are free to accept and circulate mental steadiness and emotional warmth.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Please Do Not Disturb…

Everything Elsa is dedicated to offering practices that help instill, improve, or eliminate that which one wants to change about themselves or their Life. As humans, those concerns comprise the substance of earthly existence; and as spiritual creatures, those aims create a powerful motivation to evolve. Yet every so often, a moment, or day, or an even lengthier period sets in when we simply want to retain: Perhaps we feel still, or quiet, or inexplicably positive or hopeful; when that happens, all we want is to inhabit and relish the ease and calm.

Today’s Silent Sunday suggests a way to more deeply integrate and abide a time of peace. As the practice begins to shift physical and mental sensations of peace into the more ethereal Subtle and Soul bodies, Peace becomes a quality, rather than a moment. Using unwavering focus and visualization, pranayama, and mudra, the practice creates a state of being that simultaneously grounds and elevates.

The key to today’s experience is awareness: Can you identify the kinesthetic sensation of what it feels like to be fully present in a space of peace? Is there a textural component to your emotional or physical state? Could a color, sound, or word be associated with what it is to be wholly serene? The idea is not to overburden the brain with analysis: Rather, when one can connect to their own being-ness, the goal of abiding is en route to fulfillment.

Once you have a sense of your current state, come onto your back. Extend arms and legs into the air, straight up at 90 degrees: The body forms an upside down U or staple-shape. With the eyes closed, begin to breathe fully and deeply: Do not cheat yourself of either a complete inhale or exhale. Beginning with the left leg, take your mind’s eye to the sole of the left foot. Inhale through the foot, and draw the breath up (or down, given the supine position) through the center of the entire leg, all the way to the groin; as you exhale, picture the breath swirling just above the pubic bone. Repeat on the right side.

Then, do the same exercise through the left and right arms: Inhale first through the left palm, sending the breath into the armpit; exhale to swirl the breath in the chest cavity. Do the same on the right. 

Now, for the next 3 minutes, inhale through both the left and right soles, and up both legs simultaneously; exhale, and stir the breath in the lower-most belly. Repeat with the left and right arms, starting the inhale in the palms, drawing it into the armpits, and circulating it in the chest.

Next, briefly draw the knees into the chest, and hug the legs. Rock a bit back and forth, and then come to sitting, and then immediately into Baby Pose. Bring your hands into Prayer Mudra under the forehead: The Third Eye point between the brows, at the top of the nose bridge, rests on the large (base) knuckles of the thumbs; pinky edges of the hands rest on the floor.

Here, take your inner eye to the perineum, the flat spot between the genitals and anus. Begin the breath here: As you inhale through the nose, draw the breath up the front cross-section of the spine, all the way to the Third Eye. Exhale through an open mouth, and move the breath first to the back base of the skull, then continue to breathe out as the energy travels all the way down the spine, and back to the start. Breathe within this spinal ellipse for 3 minutes: Closed eyes remain focused on the Third Eye.

Finally, roll yourself up to sit on the heels; if this is not tenable for you, find the most comfortable position that allows you to keep the spine upright and aligned. Make a soft fist of the right hand, and place it on the Heart Center. Gently over the right fist with the left palm: The sense is that of nurturing protection and support. Hold the mudra as if it were a precious creature with whom you are sharing your peace.

Sitting easily but firmly, begin a sounding rhythm: Inhale through the nose; exhale as you whisper or out loud utter, “Ahhhhh.” Inhale again; exhale, “Oooo,” through rounded lips. Continue this breath with sounded exhales for 3-5 minutes.

If you prefer to end the practice with the above mudra and sounding, continue the meditation for 11 minutes. Otherwise, move into Svasaana after 3-5 minutes, and deeply experience the integration of Peace within.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Reset Your Sights

Today’s practice picks up where yesterday’s discussion about the changes so far wrought in 2020 left off. As noted in that piece, we as a country have entered a critical period: Not only do we need to remain cautious and smart with regard to COVID-19, the need to maintain a vigilant presence and demand action concerning race relations must persist. From an energetic standpoint, the circumstances require focus, clarity, and a calm determination. To that end, this Silent Sunday offers the opportunity to strengthen and balance the Liver: Associated with vision—figurative and literal—and anger (when out of balance), a healthy Liver system supplies the qualities needed to adapt to the powerful energy of 2020.

Special note: To prepare the body and mind for the practice, I suggest a cleansing and anointing ritual. First, gently bathe the eyes: If you have eye drops, take a moment to clear the eyes. Or, if you prefer, dampen a tissue with warm water; then, delicately clean the inner corners and dab around the lash lines of both eyes.

Follow the eye bath with an essential oil treatment to some Liver meridian points. A combination of lavender and chamomile works well; thyme and/or another floral may be used, too. In a carrier oil (e.g., jojoba), add a few drops of your preferred oil(s). Then, on both feet, massage the oil into the Big Toe, and into the long dip—including the web—between the first and second toes. If you do not have or do not want to use oil, still take the time to stimulate the points with massage.

Now you are ready to begin. The magic number for the practice is 6: Except for one, all moves will see 6 repetitions. To start, stand with feet together, eyes open, arms by the sides. As you inhale, step the right foot to the right about 18 inches; as you do so, rotate the arms to face the palms forward (still down by the thighs). Look directly to the right: Find a focal point upon which to direct a firm gaze. Exhale to return center, bringing the palms back to neutral; focus the eyes straight forward. Repeat to the left. Open to each side 6 times.

Next, cross the left leg in front of the right, knitting them closely together. If this topples your balance, place the left foot in front of the right, heel to toe. Inhale to stretch the left arm up by the left ear, palm facing out (i.e., to the left); exhale to stretch to the right. Inhale up, exhale back to start. Switch the position of the feet, and stretch to the left, high palm facing to the right. Repeat 6 times to each side.

From standing, ease your way into a gentle forward bend; you may bend your knees. With both hands, sweep up the inside of the legs as you inhale; as you exhale, move the hands from the inner groin to the outside of the hips, and sweep the palms down the outer thighs and legs. Repeat 6 sweeps up the inside as you inhale, and down the outside as you exhale. Think of this move as a clearing of any Liver stagnancy or blockages.

Now, squat down into a crouch. The legs and feet are hip width or slightly wider, with the knees angled out a bit. Reach both arms through the legs; extend them straight out. Interlace the fingers with the index fingers pointing straight ahead; align the hands with the eyes, and gaze fiercely at or beyond the extended fingers. Here, do Breath of Fire for 1 minute.

From the crouch, come onto your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Inhale to roll the spine up off of the floor; exhale to roll down, vertebra by vertebra. Repeat 5 more times for total of 6.

Next, tuck the knees in toward the body as closely as you can. Inhale: Exhale as you bring the knees to the floor on the right. Inhale to come back center; exhale to bring the knees down to the left. Repeat the twist 6 times to each side.

Finally, extend the legs out for rest. Before you enter full Svasana, take a moment to massage the base of each index finger. Rub and press all around the knuckle and into the webbing: This area is a reflexology point for the eyes. When you feel that you have sufficiently relaxed the point, ease into full Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday… 

2020: What We Thought It Would Bring; What Came Instead; And Where We Go From Here…

Toward the end of every year, my mother comments on the prospects for the coming year: According to her, odd-numbered years bode less well than even. Periodically during 2019, she would echo the refrain; 2020, in her opinion, promised better times than our family had in 2019.

We eagerly anticipated the clarity that seemed metaphorically inherent in a “Vision for 2020”: As a family, our 2019 saw uncertainty, tunnel vision, and an ongoing inability to make clear decisions. If only 2020 would make good on the promise of clear-sightedness and an easing of continual strain…

And then the Year of Clarity began. With it came the energy of a Four Year (2+0+2+0). Following is the introduction that I wrote in my New Year’s piece: 

“In numerology, 2020 is a Four Year. The number four signifies the concretization of whatever ideas, plans, or intentions have been in the works. The new year will be a time when we begin to see the material and spiritual culmination of all that we have been working toward; praying for; and meditating upon. … [Today’s] practice breaks any chains or blocks that may be holding you back from ‘solidifying’  goals or dreams.”

At the time, I viewed the liberation from “chains and blocks” as the freeing that our family had sorely been missing: We needed to smooth out the road ahead, to forge a clear direction, and to stay focused on a firm decision. What I now see—with stunning clarity—is that 2020 has presented the whole of humanity with an opportunity to dismantle sociocultural prisons of prejudicial patterns and perspectives. 

First, the COVID-19 pandemic knocked us to our knees, forcing each of us to recognize the most base and most enlightened aspects of ourselves. In the midst of disease and death, fear struck a deep chord; resilience and kindness, however, rose to the fore. Some flailed and refused to alter their ways; most, though, buckled down and gained strength by allowing vulnerability to be a unifying factor.

Then, George Floyd’s horrible killing by a police officer spurred fierce, yet mostly nonviolent and united protests over the tyranny of racism in America. The “concretization of intentions that have been in the works,” and that which “we have been working toward; praying for; and meditating upon”: When I wrote those words, I did not imagine that they would point to the centuries-old race wars in this country; I did not know that 2020 would so clearly highlight violence and discrimination against people of color, especially with regard to black Americans.

Perhaps it was only into the environment of resolve and compassion borne of the pandemic that the outrage and uprisings surrounding Floyd’s murder could have taken ahold with what seems to be a uniquely powerful force. For it is not as if America has never wrangled with racial inequality before: Even when all states were legally “emancipated,” racial discrimination and hate crimes continued. Despite Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, potent oratories and activism of decades ago, we as a nation settled into complacency: Racism festered as it always has. When brought into the spotlight–often in connection with police conduct– outcry would pour forth; then, within a week or two of news cycles, the voices of dissent were somehow muted and dismissed by non-black Americans.

But a virus forced all of us to recognize our shared vulnerability as physical beings. COVID-19 threw a net of humility and anxiety over our country. In order to come out from under, everyone needed to observe unsettling safeguards with intense discipline. Yet the restrictions unintentionally created the grounds for unity: Physical distancing, masking, and self-isolation applied to all; our behavior affected ourselves and everyone around us.

So, when George Floyd was killed, our psyches were already in a place of unprecedented awareness, compassion, and resolve. The time was–and is–ripe to respond with the same unrelenting discipline as we have to the virus: This war, however, is the Pandemic of Prejudice. In order to ensure its resolution in the form of deep, wide, and permanent change, our minds, hearts, and eyes need to remain open.

For tomorrow’s Silent Sunday: Now that we know what 2020 had in store for us all along, it seems prudent to offer a practice geared toward the Liver. With the organ system’s associated sense of sight, and its emotional tendency to anger when imbalanced, to stimulate and balance the Liver creates focused determination and calm perseverance. With these qualities flowing smoothly and strongly, we can work to “solidify the goal and dream” of less ignorance and cruelty, and a more just future.

Silent Sundays: The “Don’t Feel Like Practicing” Practice

With all that has happened in the United States over the course of the last several months, finding the discipline or motivation to engage body and mind in practice can be its own challenge. Like many (most) in this country, I am weary after months of quarantine; I also am feeling the itch of anticipation to resume a more active, purposeful daily routine. 

Coupled with the eagerness to “do my Life,” however, is the recent onslaught of energy associated with necessary uprisings over racism and police brutality. The two grave and urgent situations—quarantine and protest—demand attention, be it overtly active or inwardly mindful. Yet their co-occurrence places an extraordinary demand on our energy reserves.

 After a week full of distraction and strain, I remarked to my sister that in order for me to send positive, empowering energy out, I need the same within. As of yesterday, I knew what I needed: I did not, however, feel driven to do the work needed to achieve it. Today’s Silent Sunday suggests a “non-practice practice” that will help you to reconnect to your personal sense of meaning, purpose, and optimism. When you don’t exactly know what it is that you feel or need, this practice is the one. Each piece of the routine is only 30 seconds, so no deep commitment is needed.

To begin, stand tall, firmly rooted through the feet. With the arms by your sides, make strong fists of each hand; feel as if heavy weights are extending the fists, arms, and shoulders strongly toward the ground. With that powerful station, open and lift the chest toward the sky, and bend the neck slightly: With the face lifted upward, eyes open, find a spot on the ceiling and affix your gaze. Do Breath of Fire here for 30 seconds.

Then, as you inhale, sweep the arms straight up to touch the palms overhead as you bring the head back to neutral. At the top of the breath and sweep of the arms, eyes are closed: Suspend the breath for 5-10 seconds. Exhale to lower the arms down to the original fisted position. With the eyes slightly open, gaze at the tip of nose: Breath of Fire for 30 seconds.

Inhale: Sweep the arms overhead, close the eyes to gaze upward at the Third Eye. Suspend the breath for 5-10 seconds. Keep the eyes closed as you lower the arms to the standing fist pose; With eyes remaining closed and gazing at the Third Eye, engage Breath of Fire for 30 seconds. Then, take the final sweep overhead as you inhale: At the top of the breath and sweep, suspend the breath, and pump the stomach for as long as you can.

When you need to, exhale. As you breathe out slowly and deeply, move gently down into a forward bend. Stay here for a few breaths. Then, take one leg back into a lunge; the knee may on the floor, or the leg may be extended back long and straight. With eyes open, gaze at the Third Eye: Breath of Fire for 30 seconds.

Next, switch legs, and repeat the open-eyed, Third Eye gaze with Breath of Fire for 30 seconds.

Now, move into Downward Dog for a few deep breaths. Then, come down to pass through all- fours, and end sitting on your heels in Rock Pose. Rest your hands on the thights: Inhale in the upright seated position; exhale to bend forward, “bowing” the torso down toward the thighs. Aim to bring the forehead to the floor in from of the knees. Inhale to rise, exhale to lower; continue for 30 seconds.

Finally, come onto your back. Draw the knees into the chest, and extend the arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Inhale to extend the legs straight out at a 45-degree angle; exhale to draw them back in, hugging the knees with the arms. Inhale as the arms return out to the floor and the legs extend; exhale to tuck into the “hug package.” Continue for 30 seconds.

If you find that you feel energized or otherwise compelled to practice further, you may repeat the entire sequence: Either repeat 2 or 3 times with the shorter times; or, repeat once more, extending the 30-second times to 1-3 minutes. Regardless, come into Svasana for a few minutes when you feel that you have concluded your practice.

By dint of the powerful breath, and level and angle changes with the body, this routine will ferret through any confusion or lethargy that the highly stimulating and potentially enervating current societal circumstances may breed. As you move toward your personal center and instill clarity of mind, you are free to move in the direction that allows you to act and respond with utmost integrity.

Happy Sunday…

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: https://youtu.be/57Ykv1D0qEE

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, rightful 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…