Silent Sundays: Check Yourself

Between the safety consciousness that has evolved during this year’s pandemic, and the heightened attention to the ongoing racism in this country, 2020 has caused many of us to take a closer look at our values and perspectives. I, for one, have transitioned into a much more cautious stance with regard to health protocols than I would have imagined: Yet, too, I am acutely aware that as always, there is a wide spectrum of thought about these matters.

A couple of weeks ago, I was conversing with a man who lamented the varying opinions about COVID-19 precautions that had arisen in his own family. (One of 10 siblings, his “immediate” family rivals the extended versions of most: The pool of viewpoints is vast.) Primarily, he wondered aloud about how to cope with family members who seemed lackadaisical about mask-wearing and social distancing: He and his wife are very careful, aiming to keep themselves, their elderly parent, and their grandchildren healthy; they opt out of most family invitations, due to the relaxed nature of others’ protocols.

I commiserated, and we agreed that each of us has to hold strong to our comfort levels; further, we acknowledged that one can model the behavior we advocate, but to judge or force the issue simply creates additional tension. It was not lost on either of us that that stand would serve most of us well in many other situations. And then we moved on to a different topic that would in turn underscore the stance in a most unexpected—and unsettling—way.

My partner in conversation went on to talk about his volunteer work with the homeless. As one who is deeply moved by the plight of the homeless (and works to overcome an oddly rooted fear that such could be my fate), I was engrossed in his observations of both compassion and fear with regard to the “street” population. As he went on, it became apparent to me that many people are more likely to “socially distance” themselves from a homeless person in their path, than they are to avoid the circumstance of contracting a potentially fatal virus.

Once again, I found myself bewildered by the minds and mindsets of human beings.

The conversation wound its way through my thoughts for the days to come; I could not help but sift through my own latent prejudices, and hark back to the thoughts and behaviors that I used to have with regard to some of them. Thankfully, many have dissipated into dormancy, although remnants float up from time to time: When that happens, I notice their filmy presence on the outskirts of my energy field; then, I shake them loose, and into the ether they vanish.

But in this election year, in this year of pandemic, and in this time of aggravated social upheavals, new fears have tried to infiltrate my heart and mind: I say, “fears,” for what is prejudice but a fear of the unfamiliar or unpredictable? As a way to shift thoughts from unfounded fear to an awareness and acceptance of varying views; and as a means to hold to a calm center when provoked or questioned on one’s own stance, I created the following pranayama and moving-mudra meditation for today’s Silent Sunday.

To begin, lie on your back, as if in Svasana. Take your attention to the soles of your feet, and the palms of your hands: Work to spread your sensory and mental awareness equally to all four parts. Initially, you may find your inner eye batting from foot to foot, then hand to hand, or some combination thereof. Allow this to happen for a few moments; then, consciously deepen your breath, using long, slow exhales to dissolve the separation of attention. Eventually, your breath will move your mind into a state of attuning to all four parts equally and simultaneously. Stay with this leveling awareness for 3 minutes.

Now, before rising to sit, take a full-body stretch, arms reaching overhead on the floor, pushing through the heels, and emitting any groans or sighs that issue forth. Follow this expansive stretch by drawing the knees in toward the belly: Inhale, then exhale both bent legs to the right upon your exhale; inhale back through center, and exhale to the left. Repeat 2 more times to each side.

Then, roll back and forth on the spine a few times before coming into your preferred seated pose for meditation. Place both hands on the knees; form Gyan Mudra on both hands (index fingertip to thumb tip), and turn the hands palm up. With this gesture of communication and wisdom, recall the soothing, “smoothing” sensation from the earlier sensory-awareness technique in Svasana. Recognize the mind’s ability to juggle information as it comes in, and then to process it in a way that refutes exclusion of one thing over another: Harness this physical and intellectual ability as you breathe fully and deeply. Continue for 3 minutes, closed eyes turned up to gaze at the Third Eye.

Next, tuck the left thumb tip into the middle-finger side of the base of the left ring finger: Place the palm on the Heart Center; the exact position will look slightly different on each person, so find the position that allow the palm to connect with the Heart. Relax the hand and arm as much as possible.

Bend the right arm, and hold it next to the body as if taking an oath; palm faces forward. Curl all fingers, except the pinky, into a fist, held down by the right thumb. Extend the right pinky—gesture of intuition and acceptance of the Universe’s ways—close the eyes, and focus inwardly on the Third Eye.

Again, mentally attend to each mudra, its placement, and the gaze of the closed eyes. These focal points may at first seem separate: While they are distinct, use your breath as in the opening exercise to diffuse the lines between them. Upon each exhale, meld your sensory and mental observations, so that you slowly inhabit all three components concurrently.

As your mudras and gaze slowly evolve to include each with the other, breathe deeply through the nose. Then, without disturbing the vibration of inclusion, allow the additional awareness of your rooted seat and the energetic flow through your long, upright spine. Stay with this deeply centered, yet expansive quality for 3 minutes.

Now, release the mudras, and shake the hands and arms for a few moments: If you like, roll the head and shoulders, and perhaps give yourself a few seated spinal flexes. Then, resume your seat (or try another, if that feels intuitively correct to you). Bring your hands into Prayer Pose, palms together, fingers together and pointing straight up. Rest the mudra on your lips, so that the upper edges of the index fingers softly touch the mouth: Thumbs are together just beneath the chin.

You will alternate this classic hand configuration with Lotus Mudra: For that, the base of the palms, thumbs, and pinkies remain in contact with their partners: The index, middle, and ring fingers open, as if blossoming into a Lotus Flower. For the final pranayama, the Lotus Mudra will pair with the inhale, and Prayer will meet the exhale.

The inhale occurs through an extended, curled tongue: If you can not do this, open the lips slightly and extend the tip of the tongue out. Either variation of this breath will accomplish the cooling effect of Sitali Pranayama. As you breathe in, the hands form Lotus Mudra, as if you are drawing in the sweetness of the blossom’s nectar: Words and thoughts are imbued with equanimity and kindness.

Exhale through the nose as the fingers close into Prayer Mudra. Maintain your closed-eye gaze on the Third Eye; breathe slowly and fully on each inhale and exhale. Check to assure that your shoulders and neck are relaxed; let the elbows hang naturally downward. Continue the pranayama with paired mudra for 3-7 minutes. Then, move gently into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Wild Ride in the Skies

On this Silent Sunday, we find ourselves in the middle of a month fraught with planetary influence. October 2020 welcomes two Full Moons (on the First and the 31st), thereby creating bearish bookends for two other challenging activities in the cosmos: Mars went retrograde on September 9; and the infamous scamp, Mercury, “reversed” its travels on October 16. Whereas Mercury rights its path on November 3, Mars adheres to its enervating energy until November 13.

Although these movements and phases unfolding in the skies affect different astrological signs in different ways, three things are certain for all: Full Moons heighten energy and pull one off-center; Mars retrograde diminishes the planet’s typical empowering force, leaving one with dulled motivation and slowed progress; and Mercury retrograde mucks up the works of all things travel, communication, and electronic. Thus, to keep things steady proves to be a tall task this month.

Certainly, I felt the ramifications of this stellar storm last week. What had been an important deadline was thwarted by electronic errors and human miscommunications; what seemed to be a positive turn of events suddenly had to be postponed; and what had been routine necessitated new protocols. And I was not alone: When comparing notes with others, the consensus  has been that October is a confounding few weeks, and focus and perseverance are hard-won.

That this compendium of confusion is occurring during what is already a distinctly uncertain and atypical election year adds to the universal tension. To wade through the how’s and when’s of voting is one thing; to then cast a ballot and hope that it is counted correctly becomes another. Factor in the hijinx in the galaxy, and the murkiness spreads.

Yet throughout the month, such stymying configurations present each of us with the opportunity to test our mettle. This entire year exemplifies how what we thought would be can be overturned at any moment; then, when fear and helplessness threatened to take the reins, much of humanity rallied and resisted. Of course, humans being humans, differences arose in the way that society “fought back.” These varying behaviors and perspectives also seemed as if they could derail individuals and communities; however, as earlier in the year, and from the beginning of time, adaptability and resilience carried us from one day to the next.

Now, with this month’s cornucopia of cosmic events, we once again scramble to not be pulled down or thrown off by the activity above us. Deep breaths, yanked-up bootstraps, and conscious determination are the keys to riding out the skies’ shenanigans. To that end, today’s routine grounds and centers, and reinvigorates mental focus. 

Special note: This practice is particularly conducive to daily practice for at least a couple of weeks, if not 40 days: Perhaps you dedicate part of your own daily movement or meditation time to this efficient set until Mars and Mercury correct their paths (i.e., start now, and practice through November 13).

In keeping with the need to simplify in the face of sociocultural stressors and cosmological cahoots, the following routine has only three parts, 3-5 minutes each: multi-dimensional and -directional movement; intense Third Chakra stimulation; and calming pranayama with mudra. Should you feel compelled to lengthen the amount of time for any of the parts, do so: Follow your intuition, so that you feel a sense of control over the outcome; that in itself will help to alleviate some of the out-of-control energy that seems to rain down these days.

Begin the practice standing. Shake and wiggle, stretch and bend, jump and jog, working to jettison disturbed and blocked energy. After about a minute of this, circle the torso in wide circumference, 12 times to the right, then 12 to the left; inhale into the back half of the circle, exhale as your circle through the front space. 

Now, help yourself to the floor, and create Plank; you may also remain on all fours if Plank is too much at this moment. Inhale as you lift the right arm up to the side, reaching sky-high, rotating your body open: If you are able to do full Plank, the heels will roll to the left, right foot in front of left on the floor; on all fours, you may opt to open the upper body only, or keeping the left knee on the ground, open the right hip to extend the right leg out in line with the body, yielding a fuller opening. 

Take a full inhale in this Side Plank, and then exhale to return to Centered Plank. Repeat to the other side, inhaling to open the body to the left. Exhale, return to Center, and continue: Alternate right and left Side Planks 26 times (i.e., 13 each side).

After the Plank portion of practice, shift into Baby Pose to re-establish your natural breathing rhythm. Then, help yourself onto your back. Extend both legs straight out at 60 degrees. If your neck is strong, lift the head and shoulder blades off of the ground; otherwise, you may leave them down. Bring the arms a few inches away from the sides, lift them a few inches, and turn the palms up. Begin Breath of Fire, and continue for 30 seconds. 

Next, raise the legs to 90 degrees, feet pointed. Keeping the upper body quiet, aim to touch the toes to the ceiling straight above. The trick here is to avoid rolling the pelvis and low back away from the floor; rather than moving the legs toward you, maintain the 90 degree angle, and “punch” the toes toward the sky. Repeat 26 times, exhaling with each quick “punch,” inhaling to reset; move as quickly as possible, intensely focusing on the precision and power of the movement.

Now, take a moment and draw the knees in toward the body, releasing abdominal tension and relaxing the back body. Roll back and forth a few times to come up, and settle into your favorite seated posture. Make a fist of the right hand, and place it on the Third Chakra (solar plexus). Extend the thumb up. Next, place the left palm on the Heart Center: fingers point to the right, left thumb extends straight up; connect the pinky side of the left hand to the thumb tip of the right finger. The left hand should contact the right thumb at the point between the base of the left palm and the left wrist bone.

With this centering, yet empowering mudra in place, close the eyes and focus on the Third Eye. Remain highly aware of the inner gaze, ardently calling to the spiritual wisdom of the Universe and the Divine; trust that despite the earthly perception of confusion, all is in hand. For the next 3-5 minutes, or however long feels “right” to you, inhale through the nose; exhale long and slow through rounded lips, creating an oceanic, yet calming sound. When you are finished, shift into Svasana for at least a few minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Head Up, Chin Down

As I physically explored my way into what would become this Silent Sunday’s practice, I pondered how in most aspects of life, method, technique, and components interrelate in different ways at different times. In cooking, for example, the method may remain the same, while technique shifts and ingredients change. (Think of pesto: Overall, this is a blended oil-based sauce; yet, how finely the ingredients are “pestled” or chopped may differ, and certainly the basic pine nuts, parmesan, and basil have many suitable substitutes.)

Meditation itself is a method, one used to connect our earthly self with the Universe and the Divine: However, the techniques used to energize the method vary. I most often communicate through the techniques of Paramahansa Yogananda or kundalini yoga; still others gravitate toward Buddhist or Mindfulness techniques. There are myriad techniques that allow one to experience the method of meditation. Within those preferred parameters, the components may change based on intention or goal.

Today’s practice demonstrates how altering technique can develop or reinvigorate meditation. Typically, I suggest a mudra to enhance the effect of a meditative goal: Said finger configuration may rest easily on the knees; or it may move through space; or it may be held at a specific angle to the body. A full- or partial-body mudra also may be static or dynamic. 

On this Silent Sunday, the “ingredient,” i.e., the mudra’s goal, relies on its orientation to the body. You may choose a favorite mudra to work with, or experiment with several. In my personal practice, I worked with squeezing the nail of the middle finger to release anger. Another way to relinquish that which no longer serves would be to insert the thumb tips between the bases of their respective middle and third fingers. The key to today’s outcome, though, lies in the mudra’s resonance with the back body. 

As I moved into my own meditation this morning, I felt oddly dissatisfied with the energetic vibrations that resulted from the standard hold of the middle finger. I let my body wrestle with the discomfort; while holding the mudra, I shifted and rolled my torso and arms, and played with various levels and dimensions. As I did so, I thought of the mudra’s intention: to release and repair damage done by past anger. 

The historical or “backward” view of anger caused me to recognize the “behind me” of it all: Almost unconsciously, my hands took the mudra behind my back. There, I felt a decided shift of reverberation: It was as if my front body yawned widely, releasing the ancient issues and giving me space to move forward. Thus, the technique had changed, while the mudra remained the same.

So, the first step into today’s meditation is to select your focus. Perhaps you have a long-running practice to which you have devoted yourself, or one that has recently called out to you. If you do not typically work with mudra, perhaps you might add one today; or, if you prefer to remain without, the body aspect of today’s practice will nonetheless highlight the result of tweaking a technique to offer new perspective or possibilities.

In order to proceed with today’s suggestions, your usual seated posture will shift to a combination of positions: “Head up, chin down…”

With your meditation focus and/or mudra at the ready, come onto the belly. Whether or not you are using mudra, rest your forehead on both hands; if your fingers form a mudra, adjust accordingly. Breathe deeply, connecting the hands to the Third Eye point between the brows. Move your energy toward your chosen focus for 2 minutes.

Then, remaining prone, bring your hands to the lower back (keeping the mudra if you have one).  As the hands rest in the valley of the low spine, bend the knees to the point where the lower legs hover in space without any resistance or effort. Bring your attention to the sensations throughout the back body, form upper spine through buttocks, hamstrings, and calves, out of the soles of the feet and circling up and over to the back of the head. Move through this loop as you breathe deeply and completely for 3 minutes.

From here, keeping the eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, shift yourself back into Baby Pose. Similar to Yoga Mudra, extend the arms up and away from the back: If your shoulders are not very flexible, the hands may barely be able to lift away from the back body; over time, however, the shoulders will relax, and you may be able to extend the arms straight as you lift them away from the back. If you have a mudra, retain its shape as the arms stretch up and away; if not, interlace the fingers to help you straighten and raise the arms. Breathe here for another 3 minutes.

After you gently release the arms down, roll up to sit: Briefly stretch or shake any areas of stiffness or tension, and then lie on your back. Bring the feet in toward the buttocks, knees bent, as if preparing for Bridge Pose. Roll the hips and spine up off of the floor, and draw your arms underneath you; roll the shoulders open, and bring the shoulder blades closer together under your body. Bring the hands together underneath your lifted body, palms down, mudra or not: Slowly roll down through the spine, bringing the hips to rest on the backs of the hands. If possible, extend the legs straight out on the floor; you may also choose to keep the knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Breathe here, again connecting your sensory awareness to the back body: Move the inner eye from back of head down the spine and backs of legs, then circling the arc of energy up and over the body, into the Third Eye. Inhale as you travel down the back, exhale to loop the vibration upward. Continue for 3 minutes.

Now, to further stimulate the back body and thus encourage old ways, thoughts, and emotions to be left behind, tuck the knees into the torso: Wrapping yourself into a ball, begin to rock back and forth, keeping the chin down, head up (in order to avoid hitting it on the floor as you roll). Continue this rock and roll along the spine, staying tightly tucked, for 1 minute: inhale as you rock back, exhale to propel yourself up.

Finally, arrive in your favorite seated posture. Again, shake, massage, or stretch any part of the body that requires attention. Then, bring the arms behind you, mudra intact or fingers interlaced: Extend through the elbows, drawing the hands back and down. If possible, lift the hands away from the floor behind you. If this is too much for your shoulders, keep the arms straight, hands together, but resting on the floor behind your tail. Allow the shoulders to fall away from the ears, yet extend the cervical spine ever-upward. 

Shift your awareness to the entirety of your front body; feel the openness across the chest, around the Heart Center, and throughout the belly. Deepen the breath, so that each inhale and exhale contribute to the sense of lightness and awakening in your front space. Know that the arms and hands are redirecting your troubles of yore away from your spiritual progress and potential; breathe here for 3-11 minutes. Then, gently slide into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Blossoms of Blessings

Almost every morning, I wander out to the glorious gardens that my late landlady designed and nurtured into her nineties. These pre-dawn forays find me gazing serenely, yet ardently toward the heavens before my eyes close into prayer. During the past few mornings, this ritual has been overseen by the bright, yet soothing glow of a Harvest Moon, along with two companions, Jupiter and Saturn.

These communications with God and the Universe (and recently, with the Moon) are my cup of coffee: I awaken, feel strengthened and sustained, and my being settles into balance. Always, I am aware of the great blessing to be free, to be attuned, to breathe, and to feel the presence of that which is Eternal. This year of pandemic, of social upheaval, of personal physical challenge, and of familial concerns has only heightened my gratitude for these minutes in the wee hours of each morning.

And yet, the rest of the day can so easily succumb to grievances, short-sightedness, and self-centeredness. For many of us, this can become a mental set point if we do not train ourselves to extend the spiritual bounty of the wee hours (or whenever your personal “in-touch” time may be) throughout the rest of the day… and onward into Life.

These thoughts come on the heels of a week during which “small” blessings seemed to flag my attention: a lovely note from a friend, continual offers of help and support, a surprise flower delivery, and countless other moments that turned quickly from potentially deflating to beautifully uplifting. It was the arrival of the stunning autumnal bouquet that brought a favorite passage from a favorite poet to mind:

…[F]or one moment, quit being sad. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you. God….

Although I would not describe my recent mood or outlook as sad, the reminder to stay alert to the blossoms of blessings was welcome. Further, it brought me back to the time when I first became enamored of and curious about Rumi, his writing, and his life. While waiting for a yoga class to begin on a frigid, dark Winter evening during massage school in Ithaca, NY, 2004, I began to leaf through a book in the lounge area. It was The Essential Rumi: I opened to a poem entitled, “Burnt Kabob,” read it, and stopped in my tracks upon reading the line quoted above. 

Worn by the rigorous schedule of massage training and in need of spiritual stillness after being surrounded by 80 other students each day, the anonymity of yoga class at a town studio was my bit of respite. Rumi’s words spoke into my fatigued physical body, my overstimulated energy body, and my hungry soul. At that time as in this, I felt the sweet, yet pointed call to find the blessings that are everywhere, always, despite heaviness and strife.

And then, upon re-reading the poem yesterday, I noted a line early in the piece: “Thirst drove me down to the water/ where I drank the moon’s reflection.” As so often is communicated in Rumi’s work, light and dark intrinsically co-exist: One without the other is impossible; we only know light because of darkness, and only recognize darkness when light seems to disappear. 

In meditation, with eyes closed, we perceive “darkness”: However, beneath the closed lids and veiled from light resides an environment conducive to producing Light, to “hearing blessings dropping their blossoms.”

For today’s practice, begin in a seated pose, hands on knees, palms down. (As always, a short set of various spinal is a good preparation for a period of sitting.) Consciously allow the face to soften: unlock the jaw, release the tongue from the upper palate; let the brows move out toward the temples; feel the neck elongate as the shoulders drop.

Then, begin to wiggle the fingers of each hand; let the movement be fluid, like seaweed waving in the water. Gradually add wrist rolls, and eventually, let the arms move into a free-form dance of their own making. If your head moves, if your body wants to twist or change levels, do so. Remain rooted in your seat while the torso, arms, and hands find a natural, creative flow. Continue the “dance” for 3-5 minutes.

Next, lie on your back, legs and arms in the air: As you continue the arm dance, add the legs; again, the movement comes from within, inspired by your innate rhythm, emotional state, and physical ability. Dance the arms and legs for 1 minute; then, rest the arms on the ground by your sides, and continue with the legs only for another 3-5 minutes.

Now, roll to your side, and help yourself return to a seated posture. Bring your hands briefly into Prayer Mudra (palm to palm, fingers flat and aligned with each other). Then, rotate the right hand 90 degrees, keeping the palms together: Curl and rest the right fingers onto the back of the left hand, and the left fingers hold the back of the right hand.

Begin to pulse the hands softly, keeping the gentle squeeze and release inside the palms; do not let the wrists or arms participate in the movement. It is as if the hands are slowly, softly beating like a heart. Begin to connect your breath to the pulse: Inhale as the palms open away from each other; exhale as they draw together. Continue for 1 minute.

Then, consciously reverse the pattern: Inhale as the palms squeeze lightly together; exhale as they open slightly away from each other. This shift may be uncomfortable at first; recheck that your face and shoulders are soft and relaxed. As you continue this breath/pulse meditation, begin to recognize the ongoingness of Breath and Heartbeat despite discomfort, despite the darkness of your closed lids.

Become increasingly immersed in the unusual rhythm, deepening into the Darkness that will usher in the Light. Connect yourself to the blessings around you: Regardless of whether you are able to feel them or conjure them, let the mudra movement remind you of their presence. Continue for 5-7 minutes, and then move into Svasana; allow the hands to quiet, and the breath to rediscover its natural depth and pace.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Nemesis Emesis

Most Silent Sundays do not begin by conjuring “vomiting,” as signaled by today’s title. If one thinks further, however, it is not hard to link the verbal or behavioral spewing of an emotion to emesis. If one ingests tainted or allergenic food, vomit helps to cleanse the system of the perpetrator; when one harbors distasteful emotion, such as anger, harsh words may be regurgitated. Unfortunately, when one emits emotion in this way, the emesis of expression does not purify; it stokes the inner dis-ease and aggravates the external consequence.

For several months, I have been actively engaging with the causes and continuances of anger from  personal yesteryear. I am beginning to notice a direct link from the past; a through line as I have aged; and a new manifestation of and target for my angry reactions to very specific situations and types of people. In all of this, I am slowly recognizing the great gift of “triggers.” It has recently dawned on me that a person who is relatively new to my life may be the very annoyance that I need, in order to observe and recalibrate my typical response to a special brand of anger.

Said person is, frankly, not one who inspires compassion and empathy: Most who cross her path are either dismayed by her words in the moment; or, perhaps worse, taken in by her fleeting friendliness, only to be later stunned when she turns. The key, I believe, is to maintain one’s ethos, steadfastness, and equipoise in every encounter with this person (or any other who “sets you off”). Although I have managed to do so most of the time, my “nemesis” returns time and again with a different, out-of-the-blue bone to pick (on bones that have been picked clean long ago). 

As this pattern continued over the course of the last several months, I consciously began practices and meditations whose aim was to conquer or diffuse inner anger; recently, I embarked upon a 40-day kriya to repair damage of long-held anger. And then just yesterday, Nemesis threw another curve ball, one that landed on a tender spot in my heart and psyche. My response was silence, despite the fuming words forming in my mind: The pathway from thought to tongue was clear for take-off, yet I remained silent; as I battled to not inflame the situation with my own broiling vitriol, I suddenly recognized the futility of engaging. My aim would have been to override her goal, and a battle would have begun. My response would have been the ingredient necessary to create conflict: It takes two to tangle (pun intended).

As I nodded and walked away, she, too, let the moment drop. I became aware that the time spent dredging, identifying, addressing, feeling, and navigating a new approach to old anger was beginning to make inroads. Although today’s practice focuses on anger, it also provides a general release of damaging emotional detritus; this allows the inner sanctums to be replaced with insight and equanimity.

To begin the emesis of bone-deep, detrimental emotion, lie on the ground, on belly or back: Wriggle. Squirm. Tense and release at will: face, hands, toes, belly, shoulders. As you work to roust and awaken feelings of which you may not even be aware, let any sound issue forth. As the organic unwinding and verbalizing continues, note any particular areas of stickiness, and any oft-repeated sounds. Continue for 5 minutes. (You may still yourself, take a steadying breath break, or otherwise gather yourself at any point; then, recommit to writhing and sounding.)

When you have finished writhing and releasing, lie on your back (if you are not already there). With the entire body, create the shape of a crescent: Bring both legs as far to the right on the floor as possible; curve the body down to the right, keeping both shoulders on the ground. The left arm may reach up by the ear, or remain down by the side. Stay in this deep left-side opening stretch for 1 minute. Then, bend the crescent to the left, creating a stretch for the right side; remain here and breathe steadily for 1 more minute.

From your back, roll to one side, and come into a seated posture: crossed-leg, Lotus, or legs stretched straight out. Using your hands to help lift you, inhale as you raise the buttocks off the ground; exhale as you drop them back down. Find a rapid, consistent pace: Continue these Body Drops for 3 minutes. (If your wrists begin to ache, fist the hands to stabilize the joint.)

Next, still seated, draw the knees in toward the chest, and wrap the arms around the legs to create a ball of your body. Inhale as you rock back on your spine; exhale to rock up. Continue this playful movement for 1 minute.

With the nervous system thoroughly stimulated, sit quietly in your favorite mediation pose. Place one hand in the palm of the other, both palms up, hands nestled in to the low belly. As the breath steadies and deepens, turn your closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye. With your innermost self attuned to the Spiritual Eye, take a mental journey through your life: Ponder recent moments and long-ago memories in which your emotions seemed to be a significant factor in the outcome of a situation. Note any patterns resurgences of a particular feeling, circumstance, or persona. Contemplate in this manner for 5-11 minutes.

When you are ready, stand up. (If standing is problematic for you, you may remain seated and participate with the arm movement only.) If standing, begin to run or march, knees high; concurrently, alternate punches forward. With each punch, exhale: The pace of your movement will dictate the pace of your breath. Continue for 3 minutes.

Now, help yourself to the floor, and come into a plank posture (as if preparing to do a push-up). In the held plank, begin Breath of Fire: Keep the eyes open, gazing intently to a spot slightly ahead of you on the floor; continue for 1 minute.

Lower down from plank, and shift back into Baby Pose; remain here until the breath quiets and resumes steady, full respiration. Then, rise up onto all fours, and begin Cat/Cow spinal flexes: Inhale as you arch the spine into Cow; exhale to round the spine fully into Cat. As you move and breathe, consider how you would like to respond to a situation that previously may have unnerved you or tested your commitment to spiritually minded words and actions. With this in mind, attach a mantra to the Cat/Cow flexes: Chant, “Ong,” in Cow; “So Hung” as you round into Cat.

This mantra provides potency for whatever you intend to achieve: In this case, the desired outcome is one of “being and doing better,” despite external provocation. Continue the spinal flexes with mantra for an additional 3 minutes.

To finish your practice, sit comfortably, hands in Prayer Pose at the Heart Center. Turn your closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye. Find the innate melody and harmony of your breath’s rhythm. Breathe in this simple, traditional posture for 3-5 minutes. Then, ease into Svasana for at least another 5 minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: The Clue of Calm

When I began thinking about today’s piece, I found myself returning over and over to a small interaction from the week. The conversation lasted all of 5 minutes, but had been preceded by a few weeks of tension that arose from two previous encounters. If I described the preliminary incidents, anyone would be hard pressed to understand why they resulted in a slow-burn anxiety for me.

Essentially, the issue was a practical household matter about which my landlady, “J,” and I seemingly disagreed. “Seemingly” is the key word for how today’s Silent Sunday came to be. After too much stewing over something that should have been quickly and easily remedied, I took my emotions out of the equation: I decided to be clear and straightforward with my landlady about the primary reasons for my stance, none of which focused on me or my feelings.

When I found a moment to approach “J,” she listened as I began to address the situation. As I started to express my fundamental concerns, she accurately finished my sentence, and then added, “I understand.” Problem resolved, good vibes returned. How did that happen so easily and calmly?

The Calm that pervaded my awareness of the non-subjective issues at the root of our discord was how I realized the need to approach the situation with practically minded bullet points. And this was not the first time that Calm has signaled the arrival of Truth. On two other occasions last week, the notion of Calm-as-the-clue came to light.

Ironically, these other reflections upon Calm arose out of a discussion regarding Love, and then again out of a conversation about ending a relationship. Both talks were ones that I listened to on the radio, so neither was personal: Yet, their correlation to Calm was similar, and the experience of that correspondence is, in my opinion, universal.

In each scenario, the question was raised, “How did you know…?” In the first instance, the question ended with, “…that you loved him?” In the second discussion, the ending was, “…that it was really over?” In both cases, the interviewees noted Calm as the clue that they had landed upon their Truth. For them, other experiences of love had been met with butterflies, adrenalin, and/or lust; conversely, anger and fear powered the previous desires to break up. When Calm permeated the realizations, however, words and actions came clearly and with a suitably detached demeanor.

Thus, throughout the course of last week, I thought more about the moments when Calm has gone deep and ridden high in my life. Typically, I felt the “hand” of a greater force, one that guided me toward that wellspring of Calm. (Here I draw a distinction between Calm and calmness; in retrospect, what I often have referred to as “calm” would more accurately be described as “calmness.”)

Swimming and walking; basking underneath a tree-filtered sun; stillness and silence; a long, honest talk with my sister or a friend; a particularly “connected” yoga and meditation practice… All of these things tend to elicit “calmness” in me, for which I feel abundantly grateful. Calm, however, arrives on its own time; it seems unbidden, as if I had never prayed fervently for relief and guidance. I have come to think of Calm as the presence of God, at the exact moment that we need to act or speak. All of the lead-up to Calm is earthbound and ego-related; as one begins to wriggle out of and away from those confines, Calm senses the opening and arrives.

Today’s practice, then, asks that you focus on a person, situation, or concern that may have been infiltrating your psyche, even if you perceive it as a minimal nuisance. For when any thought hovers or distracts for too long, its effect eventually becomes more than “minimal.” Once you have identified an issue that has gone unresolved, rotate your mind 180 degrees: Agree to not address it, to not try to fix it. If thoughts of it creep in, let them; however, apply no energy to ruminate or solve. 

With this intention of no-intention anchoring your mindset, do something physical. Ideally, an outdoor walk, hike, or meandering stroll would be viable; or perhaps a gym routine or fitness class is your preference. And if none of those are accessible, churn energy throughout your system with the following set:

1.) Arm circle variations: Right arm circles back at a warm-up, moderate pace; 8 times. Then, left arm back, 8 times. Then, both arms together, more quickly and vigorously, 10 times. Then, “swim” the arms fluidly back, alternating right and left, fluidly and seamlessly circling back, 30 seconds. Repeat the entire sequence and repetitions, this time circling forward.

2.) Torso circles, first to the right, then to the left. Legs are in a fairly wide, rooted stance; hands on hips as the body circles from the waist. Begin conservatively, allowing plenty of time for the low back to warm, and the muscles to understand the movement. Eventually, make the circle as large as possible, bending as far forward and back as your body allows; breathe deeply as you circle, inhaling through the back space, exhaling as the body circles forward and down. Give each side 2 minutes, so that there is plenty of time to build the depth and pace of the circles.

3) Supported running: Find a chair or rail—or anything—that allows you to place your hands on it, shoulder width apart. Walk your feet back, so that your body ends up in a long diagonal, much of your weight born through the arms, with the hands on the chosen support. Now, begin to alternate right and left knee coming in and up toward the belly or chest. Begin slowly, at a walking pace, striving to bring the knee as close to the chest as possible. Gradually begin to increase the momentum, moving from walking to “jogging;” eventually, increase the pace to a “run.” Again, give yourself 2 minutes, so that at least the final 60 seconds are at your optimal speed.

4) Slowly bring your body upright from the chair, and then make your way to the floor. Seated, draw your knees in close to the body, and make yourself into a tight ball. This movement is Roll Like a Ball in the Pilates world, and also appears in kundalini as a way to enliven the nervous system and enhance self-assuredness. Inhale as you roll back, exhale as you roll up. Continue back and forth, staying as tightly wrapped as possible, for 1 minute.

Now, take whatever time you need to shake out any remnants of dis-ease or stiffness; create as clear of a physical slate as possible. When you are ready, sit in your preferred posture for meditation. With the back of the right hand resting on the right knee, form Gyan Mudra (index and thumb tips touching; other fingers relaxed into natural position). Place the palm of the left hand on the Heart Center. Eyes are closed, gazing easily up to the Third Eye.

With this mudra to draw in the Truth of Calm, begin the pranayama: Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Then, inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose. Continue this alternating breath pattern for 5 minutes, eventually working your way up to 11 minutes. 

Special note: I have found that my open-mouth breaths change throughout the practice. Sometimes, I breathe in through pursed lips, or out through wide mouth with tongue extended; other times, I breathe in through a wide “O” mouth, or out with a near-whistle. Allow yourself to respond to whatever feels right with each breath, trusting that the body and mind are asking for what they need at any given moment.

When you have finished the pranayama, ease your way into a lengthy Svasana of 11-20 minutes, clearing the pathways for the arrival of Calm.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: Blend and Bend–A Practice To Support Eliminative Systems

We have entered the Fall phase.

Although the calendar has not officially declared “Autumn,” the 40-some temperature of two nights ago, paired with this morning’s chilly rain tells us that Fall has entered the room. With it comes the body’s innate tendency to wrap around itself: protect the organs, warm the blood. Hibernation and slow-to-no movement will soon follow. This is the season that prepares us to be still: In order to do so, the organs of elimination—in particular, the Lung and Large Intestine—need to create a purified “cave” into which we can burrow and resist disease.

I had no conscious intention to spend the wee-early morning hours the way that I did today. Perhaps it was the pre-dawn feeding and cleaning of a neighbor’s rabbit and his enclosure that spurred my sudden desire to deep-clean small areas of my apartment. As I did, I inwardly chuckled at the incongruity of Spring Cleaning on a gray and damp September morning. And then I recognized the organic need to cleanse: Fall is the season of elimination, and its organs—Lung and Large Intestine—were requesting attention.

So, while waiting for my freshly washed bathroom floor to dry, I blended two essential oils to massage onto my entire abdominal area; the oil that remained on my hands was slowly rubbed just beneath my collar bone, as a means to target the Lung system. I chose to use ginger and neroli oils: Ginger warms, and both soothes and stimulates digestion; and neroli calms and refreshes mentally and physically. 

Special note: If you do not have ginger oil, think of other warming, piquant herbs, e.g., cinnamon, black pepper, even nutmeg. In a pinch, you can raid your spice rack and create a paste with a bit of carrier oil. No neroli? Bergamot, sweet orange, or tangerine oils would work well: And again, if you do not have the essential oils, head to the kitchen.

Once you have imbued your belly and upper chest with a topical application of blended oils (or pantry creations), it is time to move and configure your body in ways that will stoke the processes of elimination. Typically, twists and side bends accomplish this, while lateral and rotational movements further fortify the process. For this Silent Sunday, the postures will be done Yin-style, i.e., you remain in the same pose for 2-5 minutes. The initial opening movements will be done for 1 minute each.

To begin, stand with enough room around you to swing your arms through the full circumference of your surrounding space. Bring the arms to the sides at shoulder level: Bend the elbows to 90 degrees, palms facing forward. Touch the thumb tip of each hand to the inner base of the ring finger, nestled into the web between the middle and ring fingers. Inhale deeply: As you exhale,  bring the arms forward until the forearms and pinky finger sides touch in front of you; the upper arms remain parallel to the floor throughout the entire move.

Inhale to open the arms (still bent), and squeeze the shoulder blades together as you do. This move will open and stimulate the Lungs. On your exhale, again bring the arms forward to touch in front; however, this time, rotate the elbows and wrists enough that the index/thumb side of the hands bump against each other. Inhale to open again. Each time you exhale to close the arms in front, alternate hitting the pinky sides and index finger sides of the hands together. Continue at a steady rhythm for 1 minute.

Then, shake out the arms for a few seconds, and bring them back up to the sides at shoulder level. The palms face down, and the fingers relax naturally. Inhale, then exhale to twist through the waist to the right, bringing the left hand in toward the chest, reaching back through the length of the right arm. Inhale back to center and immediately rotate to the left, reaching the left arm back, and bringing the right hand in toward the chest. Continue this rotation at a moderate-rapid pace for 1 minute: This exercise helps to awaken and open both the Large Intestine—in fact, all of the digestive organs—and the Lung, as well as the Heart.

Now that you are warm, and the eliminative organs have been stirred, come onto the floor for Baby Pose. Take a few slow, deep breaths here. Then, roll up to sit on your heels; as always, feel free to pad the knees or bolster your hips in this position. Slowly begin to lean back, using your hands to guide your body toward the floor: This posture is an intense front-body opener; the knees must remain on the floor. If possible, bring your elbows to the floor; if you are able, you may lie completely on your back. Regardless, close your eyes, gazing at the Third Eye, and settle into your version of the posture for 2-6 minutes.

When you are done, you will need to ease your way very gently up and out of the pose. Slowly extend the legs forward, so that you can shake or massage them, or move into an easy forward bend for a few breaths. Then, bring yourself onto your belly. As a deeper address of the Stomach and Large Intestine, bend the knees, so that the feet move toward the buttocks: Let the legs be loose and relaxed.

Then, push yourself onto the forearms, as if coming into Sphinx Pose: However, do not remain in the arm-supported position. Instead, slide the right hand under the chest, reaching the hand along the floor all the way to the left. The right arm is now fully extended out, under the Lung region, with the palm up. Rest the right side of the face on the floor, and place your left arm anywhere that feels natural and comfortable: I find that I rest my left wrist on my right, with the left palm down, right palm up. Breathe into this pose, allowing your body to ease and open gradually: Remain here for 1-3 minutes.

When you are ready, slowly unwind the upper body; you may also release and shake out the legs for a moment preparing to do the other side. This time, with legs bent or straight on the floor, slide the left arm under the chest to the right at shoulder level, palm up. Relax the head onto its left side, position the right arm as you see fit, and inhabit the pose for another 1-3 minutes. As before, gently release the posture, understanding that the depth of Yin yoga requires the body to readjust upon exiting a pose.

To finish, find your way into Svasana for a few minutes. If you like, cap today’s practice with a cup of tea that echoes your initial anointment with oils: cinnamon or orange with ginger and/or turmeric, or fennel with lemon, or your favorite warming, spicy brew, will do wonders to support the eliminative work of Fall’s organ systems.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Ease Your Grip

One of the running themes that has developed during 2020 is the need to cede control while retaining a feeling of stability and agency. How to feel “in control” personally when everything else has seemingly gone haywire is a contemporaneous, worldwide challenge. Yet this is what religions and spiritual philosophies have sought to explain and provide solace for throughout humanity’s existence.

Concepts of detachment, acceptance, surrender, courage, mortality, and faith rise to the forefront as one confronts the ability to change and to effect change. Ultimately, the task falls upon each individual to locate, identify, and pursue a remedy for their unique feeling and response to the current circumstances. To fight to change the outside world before enacting a thorough investigation of one’s own state of mind and spirt is a fruitless task. First and foremost in these strenuous, tumultuous times, one needs to learn how to soothe and rebuild the inner environment: With that accomplished, clear-sightedness and the stamina to persevere can lead the way.

Today’s Silent Sunday began a few mornings ago when I awoke to find my right hand clutching the stones that sleep with me. Most often, if I wake to find myself in contact with the crystals, my palm rests softly over them, fingers soft and wide, like a protective veil or peacefully receptive vessel. When I realized how fervently active my grip had been during what should have been hours of release and restoration, I began to address my own thoughts and feelings about the need to impose control over certain aspects of my current circumstances.

In addition to the overarching sense of not-knowing that pervades this era of pandemic and protest, this is a time in our family when a difficult decision has been made; however, it is not a choice that feels fully “good”–“right,” perhaps, but desirable or best-scenario, no. In some ways, Time made the decision: We controlled the outcome (i.e., postponed it) for as long as possible, and now Time has imparted its solution.

To resign to this decision while having little to no sense of its wisdom or trajectory (given the world as it has become) provides a rigorous learning opportunity: yield, accept, and commit to faith… yet again. For without faith in God, the Universe, and all that is decided for us at any given moment, on any given day, the need to grip harder ultimately leads to weakness and numbness.

In order to soften your grip in whatever arena of Life currently demands attention, today’s practice focuses on the hands. Certainly, hands grip: They also open, protect, repel, offer, receive, create, and destroy. Hands also divulge tendencies, personality, lifestyles, and–according to palmists–destiny. And within hands lie meridian lines and qi points that reflect and affect our psychological and physiological systems.

No wonder we exert such fierce attempt to control through our hands: They are powerful on multiple levels.

For this reason, to soften the hands results in a swift, profound, systemic shift in one’s feelings about and response to the outside environment. When ease is consciously introduced into the hands, arm joints, jaw, neck, and tongue relax; when points in the hand are palpated or held, organs receive revitalization; with the restored fluidity in the hands comes the ability to more clearly sense and navigate the energetic sphere around us.

To begin this thorough exploration and nurturing of the hands, find a comfortable, effortless seated posture: Bolster yourself in any way that you need. Then, with the backs of the hands resting on the knees (or thighs, depending on your pose), close the eyes; turn your inward gaze up to the Third Eye; breathe long and deep in and out through the nose; and attune your awareness to the center point of each palm.

With your mind and sensory attention on this Heart point of the palm, pair your breath with a visualization: As you inhale, feel that the center point of the palm is expanding, like a portal opening; as you exhale, allow the small opening to close in upon itself. Thus, as you breathe, the Heart point begins to expand and contract–to beat–as does your heart. Continue this pranayama with visualization on a qi point for 3 minutes.

Next, float the hands straight up over your head: Allow the shoulders and elbows to be relaxed as you reach the hands high. Now, inhale steadily and completely, until there is absolutely no more left to take in; suspend the breath calmly for as long as you can. With the breath in, shake your hands lightly, yet quickly. When you need to exhale, cease the shaking, and float the arms wide to bring the hands down. Repeat this suspended inhale with hand shake overhead, followed by the exhale with relaxed hands down, two more times.

Now, bring the pinky side of the right hand to the Heart center: All fingers point straight up, and the palm of the right hand faces right. Hold the right hand with the left; use the fingers of the left hand to hold the right thumb and pull it toward the left. The left palm presses into the back of the right hand, which further opens the right palm as the right thumb is stretched open toward the left. Take a few deep breaths, and then switch hands.

Next, extend the right arm out front at shoulder level, palm up. With the left fingers on the right palm, and the left thumb under the wrist, use the left fingers to pull the right palm down and back. This may be very difficult for some, and the forearm may complain: Go easy, and use light pressure and small increments of stretching at first. After a few breaths, and pulls and releases, switch hands: Right hand works to stretch and open the left.

Now you will methodically massage each finger, working downward from the tips to the base knuckles of each finger. Begin with the left pinky: Pinch and squeeze, roll and rub your way from the nail to the web, consciously breathing slowly and fully as you go. Make sure to massage the front, sides, and back of the finger, as well as the webbing between the pinky and ring finger.

Continue moving through the left fingers and thumb, and then proceed to the right thumb; make your way from the right thumb, through all the right fingers, out to the right pinky.

When you have finished the massage, sit quietly with the eyes closed, palms up in the lap. Allow the hands to soften and accept the relaxation that you have imparted. As you do so, suggest to the elbows that they may hang; let the shoulders drop; feel the jaw release, and sense how the tongue can fall away from the upper palate and float within the mouth.

After a couple of minutes of this conscious development of calm and release, bring the hands to the Heart center. Touch thumb tips to the mounds of their respective pinky fingers. Then, turn the backs of the hands to touch, as if you were to create Prayer Pose, but “backwards and upside-down”: The index finger sides of the hands rest against the Heart center; the other fingers point straight down.

Continue to sense and cultivate the ease within your palms and fingers, despite the newness and possible awkwardness of the mudra. Remind yourself that release is ever-accessible, and that the introduction of obstacle or uneasiness need not compromise your ability to ease up while remaining secure and centered. Breathe deeply, mudra intact yet relaxed, for 7-11 minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: In-Between Time

I thought that I would try something a little different today.

As a general rule, the lead-up to my morning writing time consists of the same activities as non-writing days: putter, prepare tea, stretch and greet God while it brews; then, sip slowly, savoring the honeyed milkiness of awakening; and finally, settle in for a kundalini set with further prayer and meditation. Woven throughout any particular kriya are the 40-day (or more) mantras and movements to which I have dedicated myself. This process of transition from dark into dawn is the hour when my body unfolds, my brain arrives, and Spirit infuses the day with intention.

On this Silent Sunday, however, The Tea is the sole remnant of this In-Between Time: For some reason, I have moved directly to the page as I take in the tannins. My body, although not properly awakened, seems content to remain configured in an inward-turned ball as I write. My mind feels a strong pull toward that which Spirit wishes to express. So, on this day, I yield to the ethereal trail that winds through In-Between Time.

In this odd, yet easy moment of consciously choosing Otherwise, my heart is calm, my energy scarcely vibrates: Yet, my ears take in every hum, buzz, and mellow bellow that disguise Silence. With waiting comes attention, awareness; as I wait, In-Between Time opens its world. Therein lies the peace and potential of the day.

To usher in the day with the mysteries and gifts from the night feels like taking the hand of an unusual child, one who watches the world without expression, yet with full Knowingness. To retain the presence of darkness and stillness as the moon and sun shift position feels like walking into water, only to be lifted effortlessly into buoyancy as the depth increases.

Should you find yourself at such a juncture—a time when the Usual becomes usurped by Something Different—dive in: Swim languidly with Time as it directs itself. Follow willingly, allowing Otherwise to pull you forward. This is full release, deep presence, and abiding interaction with Spirit.

Should you be there already, or if you wish to open to the In-Between Time, the first step is to sit down: chair, pillow, floor, outside ground, rock, blanket—sit. No pranayama, save for your natural breath. No mudra, save for where  your hands come to rest. No movement, save for the circulation and pulsations of your body’s rhythms. No goal, save for presence. Float.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Jump Start!

As discussed in previous posts, a great way to release remnants of old emotions or mental obstacles is to clear the aura. Most often, this is done through a series of expansive, vigorous arm movements. Today’s practice infuses the same powerful, intentional energy into a series of “jumps”: However, as one who must be mindful of imparting high-impact movement into my hips, I have instead created a practice that employs challenging, unusual movements to lift and pulsate the entire body.

The following routine is a great way to kick the body and mind into high gear; if you feel sluggish or hampered by an overload of concerns, this Silent Sunday provides a sure-fire solution. The moves encourage the body to move in atypical ways, thus requiring focus: The mind becomes immune to distraction, as the movements demand the creation of new neurological response.

Because you will be bouncing and shifting the body against the ground, I recommend a double dose of padding for your practice space. For example, add a folded blanket on top of the carpet; or, top a yoga mat with a thick blanket. Create enough support, so that you can fully engage with the movements; the more energy that you can infuse into the moves, the greater the results.

To warm up the body and engage the mind, the practice opens with a mini vinyasa. Then, a moving pranayama exercise with sounding sheds emotional debris, with an emphasis on dispelling anger.

First, come onto all fours for a few rounds of traditional Cat/Cow; find the breath, deepen it, and begin to free the entire back and neck as you flex and extend the spine. Then, come to neutral: Inhale as you reach the right arm forward, bringing it in line with the shoulder; simultaneously, extend the left leg back and up, to hip level.

As you exhale, bend the left knee, and reach the right hand back to grasp the left foot or ankle. Inhale to arch the spine into extension while lifting the left foot and opening the chest. Exhale again to release the arm and leg back into the long cross-body line (right arm and left leg extended forward and back, respectively, at the level of the torso); inhale to place the right hand and left knee down, resurrecting the initial all-fours position. Finish the sequence with an exhale as you deeply round the spine into a Cat dome.

Repeat the entire sequence, this time starting with an inhale as the left arm and right leg extend forward and back, stretching away from each other at shoulder and hip height. Continue the breath paired with movement, all the way through to the final exhale accompanied by Cat.  Complete the sequence 5 times on each side.

If you like, shift into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths when you have finished the warm-up movements. Then, configure Frog Pose for the moving pranayama: Sit in a deep squat, bringing the heels together, feet and knees turned out. Rise onto the balls of the feet; place the hands in front, between the open legs, keeping the arms fully extended. Inhale: Lift the hips up as the head and torso tip forward and down, maintaining a long line through the spine and neck. Exhale to lower the hips as the torso and head shift back to the original upright position. Each inhale emerges as a guttural snore through the open mouth; each exhale sounds as a fierce growl or “hah!” from the back of the throat, out through the open mouth with fully extended tongue. Continue the sounded inhale and exhale, respectively, with hips up/head and torso tipped into forward bend; and hips down to lifted heels, head and torso perched upright, for 2 minutes. 

Now, return to all fours. Extend the spine into a modest Cow position (i.e., arch the back slightly, as the chest opens and pelvis tips forward, pointing the tail up). Intense focus is required here: Keep the torso as still as possible, while quickly bringing the hands away from the floor to clap. Expect that you will have to “rehearse” for up to  minute before you find the way to stabilize the torso while clapping quickly.

Once your mind and body (i.e., core muscles) have managed to master the move, try another minute each of the following two variations: First, instead of clapping, bring both hands—one over the other—to touch the heart. An extra dose of focus is needed , should you choose to alternate which hand is on top with each Heart Touch.

The second variation entails crossing the arms across the chest to bring each hand to its opposite shoulder. Again, you may further fire up the brain by switching the cross of the arms each time. As with the initial clapping and Heart Touch variation, continue for 1 minute.

From all fours, shift back into squat for another Frog-style movement. This pose, however, brings the heels about hip width apart, with knees and toes slightly turned out: The arms reach through the legs, palms flat or on fingertips. Now, hop like a frog! Again, it may take a minute or more for the body to understand how to engage all of the involved muscles simultaneously. If necessary, divide the move in half: “jump” the upper body up, while remaining rooted in Frog Squat; then, support the body with the arms as you jump the lower half of the body up. Finally, join the two halves for 12 full Frog Jumps.

Next, come onto the back. Hug your body into a tight ball, and begin to jump and bounce like a jumping bean. Be aware of the tendency to roll, rather than to elevate the tight ball of the body into the air. This is a decided challenge: If approached with an attitude of playful experimentation, the mind is more likely to connect with its intention, and the jumping ball will manifest. Continue your efforts for 3 minutes.

Now, extend and stretch the body in any way you need to for a few deep breaths. Then, bending   the knees, draw the heels in close to the buttocks, as if preparing for Bridge Pose. Keeping the arms on the ground, palms down, raise the torso away from the floor. This is not an incremental roll up the spine; rather, it is a lift of the torso as one unit. Think of leading with the front of the pelvis; lift the hips strongly and quickly, as if you were trying to jettison something perched on the pelvis. Inhale with this sharp movement up; exhale to lower the body back to the floor. Repeat the powerful lift and tempered lowering of the torso 26 times.

Finally, extend the legs out for Svasana, arms resting several inches away from the body, palms up. Legs and heels are about 18 inches apart; allow the feet to roll in our out, whatever comes naturally. Consciously follow the long, smooth flow of the inhale and deep, serene exhale for a few rounds of breath. Then, allow yourself to ease into the calm and peace of rest for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…