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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy April…


Silent Sundays: A Second Wind

During this upended corona virus period, each of us will feel our mood and energy ebb and flow. This undulating wave of energy is natural throughout life; however, when in the midst of a seemingly endless—and somewhat scary—challenge, the fluctuations may seem more pronounced and unsettling. It is likely that at least one day or one hour will mark your personal downswing: The restrictions and the ever-changing statistics and news bulletins diminish energy reserves and the determination to stay positive.

When the stark reality of the situation hits hard—i.e., no one knows how long this will continue, or when we will feel free and safe again—immerse yourself in the following practice. The moves and pranayama reach deeply into the lungs, helping you to breathe more fully. As the breath deepens, the eliminatory function of the Lungs increases; the result is renewed energy and mental clarity. With these qualities reinstated, we can persevere with a balanced perspective. 

The yang partner to the Lung organ system is the Large Intestine. These two meridians are located on the inner and outer arm, with the thumb marking one end of the Lung meridian; the index finger lies at one end of the Large Intestine meridian. Thus, today’s practice will focus on strong arm movements with the thumb and index fingers playing a significant role.

Begin with some warm-ups to release tension in the spine, shoulders, and neck, and to find your breath. On all fours, move into Cat/Cow spinal flexes for 1 minute. Then, immediately shift into Downward Dog. Stay here, eyes closed, breathing deeply for another minute. 

From Down Dog, bring the knees back down, and sit back onto the heels for Baby Pose with a few deep breaths. (The forehead rests on the floor and the arms extend back on the ground toward the feet.) Then, lift the arms and the head; the torso rests on the thighs with the head in line with the spine. The arms reach back next to the legs, with the hands at hip level; turn the palms to face each other. Begin Breath of Fire; continue for 1 minute.

Next, roll up to sit on your heels; you may place a pillow between your heels and bottom. Tilt your torso forward, so that you can place your palms on the floor in front of the knees. Inhale through the nose, and deeply arch the spine forward as the head tilts up and slightly back. To exhale, round the spine backward; the head comes down, bringing the chin in toward the throat. Exhale by sticking your tongue down toward the chin, and push the air from the throat with a raspy “hah,” as if to clear your throat. Continue the flexes with breath at a steady, but rapid pace for 1 minute.

Now, sit in whatever position is most comfortable for you. Bring the hands behind the neck in Venus Lock (fingers interlaced). Keeping the elbows up and parallel to the ground, inhale to twist the upper body to the left; exhale to twist to the left. Continue for 1 minute.

Keep the hands in Venus Lock behind the neck, but switch the interlace of the fingers; it will be the “unnatural” way for you. Inhale to straighten the arms up, lengthening through the elbows; the palms turn to face up as you extend the arms. Exhale to bring the hands back down behind the neck. Continue briskly—inhale up, exhale down—for 1 minute. 

Now, bring the hands in front of the chest. Once again, interlace the fingers; this time, create Venus Lock in the way that is natural, or most comfortable for you. Turn the palms to face out: Inhale as you push the arms straight forward; exhale to bring them back in, stopping a few inches away from the chest. This internal rotation of the shoulders with the palms facing forward may be challenging at first; with the vigorous movement and powerful breath, any discomfort should resolve. Continue for 1 minute.

Then, stretch the arms straight up, hugging the ears. Make fists of each hand, leaving the index finger out. With the arms overhead, turn the fists, so that the palms face forward; the extended index fingers point straight up, and touch each other side-to-side. With the eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, inhale through pursed lips to create a whistle; exhale, also in a whistle. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, bring the arms down to place the hands on the knees. Begin Sufi Grinds, rolling the torso clockwise; incorporate spinal flexions as you roll, so that the movement massages the organs of elimination. Roll and grind to the right for 1 minute, inhaling as the circle comes forward, exhale as you round the spine to circle back. Then reverse the direction, moving counter-clockwise, for 1 more minute.

Next, bring the elbows in toward the waist, upper arms resting against the rib cage. Angle the forearms out slightly, leaving 2-3 inches between them and the upper arms. Use the thumbs to hold their respective index fingers into the palms; the other fingers are straight and together. Bend at the wrist, so that the palms face up as much as possible, fingers pointing out to the sides.

With eyes closed and gazing up to the Third Eye, inhale through the nose in this starting position. Exhale slowly and deeply through a rounded mouth as you extend the arms to the sides at shoulder level; by the end of the extension, the palms should face down. Continue the movement at a steady, modest pace, inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth, for 2 minutes.

Release the arms down, and place one palm, then the other on the low belly. Breathe naturally for a few breaths here as you allow the energy to settle and stabilize your center. 

For the final meditation, you will hold a different mudra on each hand. For the left hand, bring the thumb tip to touch to base of the pinky finger on the palm. Place the now-prominent base knuckle of the thumb on the Third Eye; the other fingers are together, pointing straight up. The left palm faces to the right.

The right hand holds Gyan Mudra: thumb tip connected to the tip of the index finger, other fingers relaxed. Rest the right hand on the right knee, palm down. With eyes closed, gazing at the Third Eye, begin long, deep breathing, in and out through the nose. These mudras support the eliminative and fortifying energies that you have stoked with your practice. The result is the ability to reconnect with Universal Consciousness, internally and externally, above and below.

Happy Sunday…

Life As We Knew It

As the corona virus pandemic restrictions continue throughout the world, life as we knew it here in America has shifted dramatically. For some, perhaps, the stay-at-home admonishment does little to change the daily routine: Many elderly, remote workers, stay-home moms and dads, and seasonal or contract workers typically spend much of their time at home. 

The difference, however, lies in the loss of freedom to choose to emerge; the inability to patronize gyms, libraries, personal care businesses (bodywork, hair salons, etc.), restaurants, and many shops; and the encroaching feeling of vulnerability and nervousness. In retrospect to the time only two weeks ago when we were still able to move about freely—with confidence and contentment—life as we knew it seems a distant memory. 

I feel a sharp pang of missing, of remorse, of shame: The twinge belies the ways in which most of us took for granted the infrastructure and external appearance of how we conducted ourselves mere weeks ago. I know that I gave thanks for those things that many do not have: friends, family, work, general health, and a deep spiritual abiding. Yet gratefulness often did not sway me from partaking in activities that perhaps were unproductive or self-defeating. Awareness did not necessarily cause me to change some of those ways.

Now, as the outside world stills considerably, and the fierce ambition to acquire that drives so many has been stunted by a directive of limitation, we all are faced with… ourselves. 

Each and every day that drones on during this time, I wake up and am able to sustain my morning ritual. Prayers and mantras while still half asleep; stretches beneath the sheets; puttering my way to turn on the stove, laptop, and lights. While the kettle boils, I wash and then unfurl my yoga blanket.

I hear the whistle of my turquoise teapot and begin a brew. As the tea steeps, I check my email. Then, I shift to my soft support on the floor: roll the joints, tilt the hips, move the spine, and breathe deeply. Ten to 15 minutes of moving into the day, and my tea is ready.

I relish the warm, creamy, sweet drink that I create every morning, As I sip, I peruse the news, be it hard-core or celebrity-tinged.

“Tea-ed” up, my full yoga and meditation practice ensues: I waken fully, and am ready, come what may.

This is the beginning of all of my days. 

Now, however, I wonder what my mind and body will do with the rest of the day.

Should I go out on a grocery “expedition?” Will it be a day of phone calls and email contact? And without a pool to swim in, do I walk or dance, stretch or strengthen?

Will my company be a book, a movie, or a trip down musical-memory lane? Will I seek out neighbors for a chat (albeit at a “safe” distance)? Or will I choose solitude and contemplation? And if that is the choice, where will my thoughts lead?

Today, tomorrow, and for probably many more days to come, the pattern will be one of uncertainty, prayer, hope, movement, meditation, despondence, renewed strength, encore despair, and a silent, but fierce will to keep going.

It will be a roller coaster.

But when has it ever been otherwise? 

Every day of Life—even before this altered existence—we all have felt the ebbs and flow: some more brutal and life-defining than others. The difference now is that we have been afforded the stark realization that the ups and downs actually mean something. They DEMAND RECOGNITION.

My vow to myself is to change every single thing and every single thought that I have been doing or having, that does me no good. For if I engage in “no good,” that is an energy that percolates within; and that energy in turn is one that I conduct and emanate. Clearly, this world, in this time, can do without an added vibe of “no good.”

May each and every one of us hold ourselves accountable to ourselves, so that we may make this day—this Life—easier, softer, and more hospitable for all.

Silent Sundays: Now is the Time

If ever there were a time to enter silence, now is IT.


Because you can…

With closings, travel and social restrictions, and physical distancing, we all are granted the opportunity to delve within.

And when one investigates the emotions and thoughts that may sometimes seem too daunting to contemplate, one can begin to clear away that which spurs suffering and inhibits growth.

Whether you are home alone, with family, or surrounded by flatmates, decide to commit to One Full Day of Silence. As you move through 24 hours of no chatter and no discussion, turn on your awareness: Does the lack of verbal interaction make you uneasy? Is your inner environment welcoming, or does it rail against cloistering? 

With each bit of physical or mental discomfort that may arise during the day, regard it as objectively as possible: Observe and record, if you like, the what-why-when circumstances of any emotional surge or negativity. Note, too, how your energy shifts as you become accustomed to not needing to respond, interject, or opine.

This is the Silent Sunday of all Silent Sundays: Let it take you to a mental and spiritual place that you may never have imagined. Go within, and discover the riches that lie buried beneath the distracting din.

And if such an undertaking feels silly, or demanding, or sparks anxiety, lie down. Close your eyes, and turn them upward to focus on the Third Eye. Breathe deeply and slowly through your nose. Move your mind away from the fray, by dint of your breath:

In for 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8; out for 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. 

Body calm, thoughts stilled: You are silent.

Happy Sunday…

A Chance to Change

In the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that currently affects the whole of humanity, it is far too easy to be swept away by fear, anxiety, and even anger. Personally, today marked my first true sense of dismay: Granted, I quickly checked and changed my outlook, but the brief appearance of helplessness was enough to make me consider ways that each of us can greet this immensely challenging time with strength and perspective. Perhaps, when we have come through this crisis—which we will—we can look back with reverence at this period that affords us a profound opportunity for personal and societal growth.

My own dose of “corona blues” came with the announcement that the pool where I swim would be closed indefinitely. Swimming, a longtime and integral part of my health regimen, has become more to me than a fitness activity: Now with severe arthritis in both hips, I regard my time in the water as the salve that permits me to persevere despite near-constant discomfort. Gliding through the water provides my body and mind with an ease and grace that is otherwise lacking as I plod and clunk my way through each day.

But when one realizes that there is no way around an undesirable situation—“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”—the recourse is to adapt. While I may not be able to replace the deep sense of peace and power that swimming brings, I can shore up my ability to accept, shift, and remain positive. For me, with regard to the closed pool, that means doubling up on lengthening and strengthening modalities (Pilates, hatha yoga); it also means more and longer daily practice of kundalini kriya and meditation.

For everyone, find whatever it is that yields a sense of self-advocacy, self-empowerment, and open-heartedness. As we are encouraged to keep physical space from others, work to increase your aura and magnetic field: In this way, connective energy can bridge the gap of distance.


As we are urged to restrict moving about in the world, aim to expand your Third Eye and to elevate your pranic body.



And if cabin fever sets in, or the doldrums begin to loom, turn on your heel and refuse their entry into your system: Read, watch, or listen to something or someone uplifting, or go outside to breathe some air. (Be mindful of your surroundings, but it is not all infected with The Virus.)


Sublimate your feelings through creative expression: Draw, dance, write, cook, sing, or delve into a new hobby that you have been meaning to try.


And when you are out and about (for there are certain things that all humans need to do: food shop, for example), a smile will go an extra-long way these days. If you determine to present a positive attitude and outlook, the energy will be felt, regardless of physical distance.


Move through these days and through the shuttered world with calm and kindness. Eventually, this, too, shall pass: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back and be grateful for lessons learned and changes made during this time? 

Silent Sundays: Coronaville

May the title of today’s piece allude to a foggy memory in the very near future. 

As of this moment, though, the corona virus (COVID-19) currently affects the entire world. For many, this period has triggered the primal survival instinct and upended a sense of basic security. Granted, each person is, to some degree, at risk for the virus: However, common sense and today’s practice can help assuage pervasive anxiety and its many manifestations during this precarious time.

One aspect of this “national emergency” that can be tempered immediately is the way in which we receive language that perhaps subliminally heightens nervousness. When one is ill, the most fundamental step to take is to stay home. The phrases “self-isolate” and “self-quarantine” have been coined for this rudimentary practice; in my opinion, the words perpetuate anxiety and disconnectedness.

Additionally, the body-language lexicon of greeting gestures is changing. Hugs and handshakes now invoke near-recoiling; fist and elbow bumps are meant to serve as the new salutations. The term for this shift, “social distancing” (which also includes general limiting of sharing space with others), is another linguistic snake, surreptitiously winding its way into the psyches of humans with its poison of paranoia.

While there is a need to heed basic preventive practices and to be mindful of the health of self and of others, it is crucial to monitor the way in which one responds to overarching social precautions. Should you find yourself losing sleep, frightened to leave your home, or agonizing over “what may happen,” take yourself through today’s routine for a dose of deep calm, insight, and renewed positivity.

To begin, lie on your back with legs long and arms by your sides. This first exercise will harmonize the left and right sides of the brain, which will garner rational, objective thinking. On the inhale, draw the left knee in toward the body as the right arm rises up and over the head to the floor: Exhale to return the leg and arm to the original position. Inhale the right knee in as the left arm floats up and over to the floor; exhale back to neutral. Continue alternating sides, breathing fully and deeply, for 3 minutes.

Next, roll over onto the belly. Perch the chin on the ground with the arms by the sides, palms against the floor. Inhale as you lift the hips up; the belly and upper thighs should also lift away from the ground. Exhale to lower down. Continue to inhale and lift the mid-body, and exhale to lower. Move as quickly as you can: This move will rouse and balance the First Chakra, which is responsible for feelings of safety and security. Continue for 2 minutes.

Briefly press back into Baby Pose for a few deep, restful breaths. Then, roll up to sit on the heels, or in a crossed-leg position. Extend the arms to the sides at shoulder level, palms up: Rapidly open and close the fingers into the palms; inhale to curl the fingers, and exhale to extend them straight. The breath will become close to a Breath of Fire as the breath matches the quick pace of the moving fingers. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, turn the palms down to face the floor. Continue the same breath and finger movement for another minute. To complete this kriya for nerve reorganization, bring the arms up to a 60-degree angle in your side space; it will be as if your head and shoulders are the base of a V shape formed with the arms. With palms facing each other, repeat the rapid breath and finger movement for one more minute.

Next, extend the legs straight out in front of you. Using your hands, flat or in fists on the floor next to the hips, lift the buttocks and legs off of the floor: Immediately drop the body back down to the ground. Inhale to lift; exhale to drop. Attempt to lift the hips and both legs, including the feet, up; engage the lower abdominal  and quadricep muscles to aid this move. If you can not include the feet, simply lift and drop the hips and thighs. Continue for 3 minutes. This move shakes free tension and fear that can roost in the First Chakra, thereby eliminating the sense of threat and vulnerability.

Finally, come into your favorite seated posture for a meditation with visualization. Rest the back of the hands on the knees, palms open, fingers relaxed. Close the eyes, and begin to breathe in and out through the nose, deepening the breath into the throat with a hollow, whooshing sound. Consciously lengthen and slow each breath in and out.

As you breathe, begin to silently chant the following mantra: “Brain and body, health and peace.”  If you feel drawn to different wording, or have a particular mantra that evokes protection and calm for you, feel free to use it. Regardless of the words you choose, inhale as you gaze (through closed lids) up to the Third Eye; exhale as you visualize healthy, comforting breath flowing down through the spinal corridor. 

Then, inhale into the Heart Center; exhale to see and send healing energy down through the arms into the palms and fingers. Next, inhale into the Dan Tien (three finger widths below the navel); exhale to send the breath down through both legs into soles of the feet and toes.

Using the suggested mantra, inhale as you silently chant, “Brain and body;” exhale on the words “health and peace.” Continue the pattern of inhale/exhale first with Third Eye/ spine; then with Heart Center/arms; and finally with low belly and legs. Repeat the cycle, infusing your physiology and psyche with clear, calm, and healthy energy, for 11 minutes.

To close the practice, settle into the deep rest of Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: To Your Health

Today’s Silent Sunday arrives in direct response to the current global and now local concern over the coronavirus. The practice, however, is one culled from a variety of yoga techniques that have long been used as general immunity boosters. I created this particular combination of kriyas (exercises) and pranayama (breath work) to stimulate the digestive, respiratory, and lymph systems, as well as overall “fire” or “sun” energy. Whether one’s aim is to protect against a specific new virus, or to ramp up disease-resisting energy at any time of year, the following routine will shore up those powers.

To open and awaken the lungs, start standing. With the thumbs touching the base of their respective pinky fingers, other fingers straight but separated, begin to make large, swift backward circles, as if doing the backstroke. Keep the chest lifted, and feel the slight pull on the pectoral muscles.  For added circulatory benefit, march lightly in rhythm with the circling arms. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, maintain the thumb-pinky connection, and curl the other fingers around them, into a fist. Reverse the circling motion, as if doing a forward crawl swim stroke. Again, to enhance circulation throughout the lower body as well, alternately slide the feet behind, as if skating, as the arms circle. Continue for 1 minute.

Next, help yourself down to sit on the heels in Rock Pose. As always, feel free to place a pillow or rolled blanket between the bottom and heels. Once settled, raise the arms straight up, shoulder-width apart, palms facing each other. Inhale, suspend the breath, and rapidly pump the belly as many times as you can. When you need to, exhale fully, hold the breath out, and pump. The armpit stretch encourages lymph movement through the nodes in that area; the breath retention and belly pumping builds stamina and aids digestion. Continue the kriya for 2 minutes.

To improve spinal flexibility and encourage elimination, begin Sufi Grinds. In whatever seated pose feels best, hold the knees: Circle the torso to the right, tilting the pelvis back as you circle through the backspace, forward as the circle moves through the front space; inhale forward, arching the spine, exhale back as the spine rounds deeply. Continue for 1 minutes, then reverse the circle, moving counter-clockwise for another minute.

Now, come onto the belly. Bring the hands in front of and a bit wider than the shoulders; as you begin to move, adjust the hands and arms to suit your structure and ability. For this “detox push-up,” inhale in the down position; exhale powerfully through the mouth, tongue extended, as you raise the upper body into Cobra, arms straightening as much as possible. Immediately inhale down, then exhale up, making a loud “hah” from the back of the throat. Continue for 1 minute.

Press back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, roll up through the spine to sit on the heels or in a crossed-leg position. Slowly, begin gentle head rolls to the right for 5-10 repetitions; repeat in the reverse direction. Be mindful of tension and release through the throat: As you circle, the lymph nodes in the neck receive a light massage. Breathe deeply as you circle.

Finally, prepare for a pranayama to ensure a healthy immune system. On the right hand, touch the thumb and ring fingertips together; the other fingers are straight and separated. Hold this mudra with elbow bent into the side, as if taking an oath with the palm facing forward. The left thumb closes the left nostril, palm facing to the right, fingers straight up and together.

Begin Breath of Fire through the right nostril, awakening the Sun energy; this fiery power helps the body to guard against “invasion,” and to fight any infiltration. Breathe equally and rapidly in and out through the right nostril for 3 minutes. If your rhythm breaks, continue Breath of Fire through the mouth, and then resume nostril breathing when you are back on track. Eyes are closed, gazing at the Third Eye.

To seal the empowered immunity, interlace the fingers in front of the chest, palms facing the body: Keep the forearms parallel to the ground. Inhale, and suspend the breath as you pull the hands in opposite directions; the fingers stay intertwined, so that an isometric force builds. When you need to exhale, briefly relax the exertion of the pull. Then, inhale again, suspend the breath in, and pull with all of your might. Exhale when needed, then repeat the pull with suspended inhale 2 more times, for a total of 4 pulls.

When you are ready, come into Svasana. Give the body a chance to integrate the powerful protective energy you have created; rest for 7-15 minutes.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Recovery Day

In the world of fitness, recovery days are as crucial as workout days: In order to refresh and strengthen, motivation and muscles require a break from activity. In yoga, the rest pose, Svasana, reflects the need for a period of consolidation and integration following active practice. Kundalini yoga, in particular, advocates the ability to inhabit stillness and ease after vigorous kriya (exercise): Often, kundalini sets call for multiple moments of rest throughout the practice. These recovery periods train the body and mind to rise to challenge, and then to return quickly to a state of equanimity, readying one for what lies ahead.

Today’s Silent Sunday offers the opportunity to slip away from past demands, be they of the previous day, week, or month. The focus of the practice delivers one from enervating struggles of the past, and frees the mind from overthinking: Today’s routine delves into the unsullied space of the moment, and fills it with the balm of breath paired with gentle movement.

Start standing. Whether your body needs to relax physically, or your mind needs to decompress, the first step is to unlock tension. To release stiffness and to dispel mental fatigue, the circulatory system needs stimulation. Using an open palm, begin to briskly slap one arm: The touch is intentional, but not aggressive; there should be the sense of “waking up,” rather than discomfort. In order to access the entire arm, including the armpit, extend the arm out or up: Move quickly, making 5-10 passes up and down the length of the arm. Be sure to spend time around the elbow and shoulder joints, and include the front and back of the hand.

Then, move to the other arm, again slapping up, down, and all around, for 5-10 trips along the arm. 

After the arms, use both hands to slap the front, back, and sides of the torso. Continue for at least 1 minute.

Next, move the lower body. Again, use both hands to energize the hips, thighs, knees, and lower legs. This part of the sequence may be done sitting, after the hips have been slapped. When you arrive at the feet, include some light toe tugs and stretches. Spend about 5 minutes tending to the entire lower body.

Now, come to the floor to lie on the belly. Breathe deeply here for a few rounds of breath; then, slide your hands under your upper thighs, just beneath the pelvic bones, fingers pointing toward the feet. The legs lie in the palms; use the hands to push the thighs upward as you raise the entire leg: You are giving yourself an assist for Half-Locust. Inhale to lift the legs with the help of the hands; exhale to lower. Repeat for a total of 12 lifts. 

Next, interlace the hands behind the back, and extend the arms straight. You will now do the upper-body half of the Locust Pose. Inhale to stretch the arms back as the head, chest, and shoulders lift; exhale to lower, either onto the forehead or chin. Again, complete 12 lifts.

Then, roll onto one side of your body, so that the entire body is in a straight line. If you need help to keep from rolling forward or back, bend the bottom leg to create support. Make a pillow of your bottom arm, and allow the head to rest on it. Then, lift the top leg a few inches; reach the leg back, moving from the hip, without allowing the hip to tilt forward. Simultaneously, extend the top arm out from the shoulder at an angle; imagine that there is a perfect diagonal formed with the leg in hip extension, and the outstretched arm. Inhale and exhale through the nose 5 times as you extend in opposite directions.

Then, release the stretch, and repeat on the other side.

Now, come onto all fours for some traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes. After about a minute of inhaling and exhaling with the spinal movement, steady yourself in the neutral position. Bring the right leg up behind you, and bend at the knee; reach the left arm back, so that the hand can hold the right foot or ankle. Stabilize the posture with the support hand and leg, as well as by engaging the abdominal wall. Allow a slight arch (extension) in the spine, and look straight ahead: Focus on a small point or object, and begin Breath of Fire. Continue for 1 minute. 

Release the pose, and repeat on the other side: right hand holding left foot or ankle, with Breath of Fire for 1 minute.

Next, shift back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, rise up to sit on your heels; alternatively, you may sit in a crossed-leg pose, or with the legs extended straight in front. Close the eyes, gazing upward to the Third Eye. Begin Sufi Grinds, circling the torso to the right (clockwise) as the spine moves through a full range of motion. Inhale as you circle forward, allowing the pelvis to tip slightly forward as the spine extends; as you move through the right side-space, the spine will gently bend laterally to the left.

Exhale as the back flexes (rounds) and circles to the back; allow the pelvis to tip back a bit. Again, as the circling motion bases into the left side-space, the spine naturally moves into a gentle lateral bend to the right. Throughout this fluid circling, allow the neck to move freely; any lingering tension in the head and neck will begin to dissipate. Circle at a comfortable, steady pace for 3 minutes, and then reverse the direction of the movement, circling counter-clockwise for another 3 minutes.

Finally, move into restful Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: How to Avoid a Tizzy When the Cosmos is Busy

This Silent Sunday, February 23, welcomes a New Moon, and also falls during Mercury Retrograde (February 16-March 9). In previous posts, I have offered separate practices devoted to these cosmological events: Each generates specific energy within and without; consequently, the body and mind need extra attention when strong energies emanate from the Cosmos.

But what happens when two energetic forces vie to impart their vibrations? Today, the New Moon wishes to inspire and offer hope: a fresh start, open to possibility. That scamp, Mercury, however, likes to thwart communication when the planet moves out of phase; he delights in upending plans and intentions. Thus, today’s practice works to promote our visions for the future, while simultaneously loosening our need to control outcomes. In essence, the pranayama and meditation that follow center us in the gentle support of lunar energy, and provide the patience needed to weather the mischief of Mercury Retrograde.

Because this practice requires a strong, yet flexible spine, I suggest a few warm-up exercises to free the hips, shoulders, and spinal erector muscles. Traditional Cat/Cow is always a good place to begin: On all fours, inhale as you lift the chest and tail, creating a deep bend through the entire length of the spine; exhale to curl the tail, drop the head, and dome the spine upward. Continue for 1 minute. 

Remaining on all fours, add a leg extension and knee tuck to the Cow/Cat positions, respectively: Inhale as you extend the right leg back and slightly up; exhale to retract the knee in toward the chest as the spine rounds. Complete 26 “donkey kicks” with the right leg, then repeat the movement 26 times on the left side.

Next, shift back into Baby Pose, forehead on the floor, arms resting on the ground next to the folded legs. Take a few deep breaths through the nose; then, interlace the fingers behind the back, and extend through the elbows. Feel the shoulders pull down away from the neck. With the arms fully extended and the hands interlocked, inhale to lift the arms up and away from the back; exhale to bring them back down. Continue to inhale and lift, exhale to lower, for 1 minute.

Now you are ready to sit for the challenging pranayama practice. Sit in either a crossed-leg pose, or on the heels in Rock Pose. Feel free to use whatever prop you need that allows the pelvis to tilt slightly forward, and the spine to rise long and aligned out of the pelvis. Bring both arms in front at shoulder level; the palms face each other. Curl the fingers into their bases, and extend the thumbs straight up. Now, bring the hands together, so that the edges of the thumbs touch, and the knuckles of the other fingers touch each other. 

With eyes open, gaze out toward and slightly above the tips of the thumbs. Envision any goal, hope, or dream that you may have for the future as you gaze through infinity. Move from specific goal or desire, to an overall sense of what will elevate your life: “house” becomes stability; “relationship” becomes compassion; “money” becomes generosity. To this state of mind, add a breath pattern: Inhale through the nose for 6 steady beats, exhale for 8. Continue to breathe and meld with the way of the Universe for 3-5 minutes.

Next, relax the arms down, placing the backs of the hands on the knees. Touch the thumb tips to the pinky finger tips, and close the eyes, gazing up the Third Eye. With this mudra that acknowledges Mercury in its highest form of clarity and Divine communication, begin Sitali breathing: Inhale through the curled tongue (or slightly parted lips if the tongue can not curl like a straw); exhale through the nose. Breathe steadily and fully, in through the tongue or mouth, and out through the nose, for 3 minutes.

Now, still in your seated posture, deeply arch the spine: Tilt the pelvis forward (i.e., send the buttocks back), lift and open the chest, and create a deep, long extension through the spine, as if doing a seated back bend. Bring the arms into a scarecrow position: upper arms to the sides at shoulder level, forearms bent to 90 degrees. Bend the wrists, so that the palms face up, with fingers pointing out to the sides. 

With the arm mudra and deep spinal arch, tilt the head back as far as is comfortable; the eyes will remain closed and gazing at the Third Eye. Inhale deeply, and exhale fully: With the breath held out, begin to pump the stomach rapidly. When you need to inhale, release the back bend and head to neutral, and exhale; retain the position of the arm mudra, and keep the eyes closed. Then, inhale as you return into the deep arch and head tilt; exhale completely, and pump again. 

Repeat the pattern: neutralize the spine with an inhale and exhale; inhale to extend the spine and neck; exhale; and pump. Throughout the sequence, the arms remain in the “goal post” position with wrists bent and palms up. Continue for 5-7 minutes. 

Now that you have accessed and stimulated your mental and physical pliability with the demanding spine and breath work, reinforce the focus and stamina with a simple Seated Forward Bend. If you need a pillow or block under the knees, feel free: Find a position that allows you to rest over the extended legs for 3-5 minutes.

You may use the Forward Bend as your integrating, closing posture, or move into Svasana for another 5-11 minutes of consolidation and rejuvenation.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Shift Gears to Recalibrate the System

Special note: You will need open, bare floor space for this routine, and bare feet are encouraged for grip. A blanket or towel is optional.

Today’s Silent Sunday offers a different, playful, and astonishingly thorough routine to eliminate tension throughout the body; the central moves also loosen mental constraints, due to their primal, wavy quality. In addition to its ability to liberate the body and mind, the sequence increases stamina and develops power in the hips and shoulders. After only a few repetitions of the movements, the entire pranic body is enlivened and ready for action. Alternatively, the rush of fresh energy frees the mind to focus, making this practice an ideal warm-up before sitting for meditation.

With or without a blanket or towel to lie on, begin on your belly with plenty of floor space in front of you. Come onto the forearms, as if moving into Sphinx Pose. As in a military drill, start to pull yourself forward, using the elbows and forearms to drag the body. As you “caterpillar” your way across the floor, let the legs and hips wave side to side: As you pull with the right forearm, the entire lower body swings to the left; as you drag with the left arm, the legs and hips wag to the right. Feel the release throughout the abdominal region, side body, and lower spine as you “drag and wag.”

When you have gone as far forward as floor space allows, push yourself up to all fours, and then into Downward Dog. Immediately walk or jump the feet to the hands, and lower into squat pose; sit down, extend the legs, and lie on your back. Bend the knees with the feet on the floor: Push down and away through the legs and feet to push your body back along the floor as the legs extend straight onto the floor again. To repeat, bring the feet in close to the buttocks with knees bent, and push yourself backward again. As you continue to push and slide backward along the floor, let the upper torso move side to side: Push back, and wave side to side through the upper body, probably 2-4 times per push.

When you have run out of space, bring the knees into the chest: Roll back and forth a few times to come up to sitting. Come onto all fours, and lower down into the original position on the forearms. Slither your way forward again, increasing your pace as the move becomes familiar and the body adapts to the pulling and swaying. Then, use the transitional vinyasa to switch to the back-pushing position, and return across the floor whence you came. Repeat the full sequence—forward and back, with interim vinyasas—5-10 times.

To end the routine, you will be on your back. Bring the knees into the body, and drop both knees to one side, keeping both shoulders on the ground if possible. Stay in the twist for a few deep breaths, and then take the knees to the other side. Again, breathe deeply into the spinal twist for 3-5 breaths. 

If you used today’s routine to physically or mentally revitalize your overall energy, simply help yourself up from the floor to re-enter your day. Or, if you practiced the sequence to warm-up before meditation, remain on the floor for a few minutes of svasana before sitting.

Happy Sunday…