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…

 

LOVE

                       

          You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens. -Rumi

Prepare to take in a tale, for I have been thinking about Love: Love with a capital L to signify the peculiar state that undergirds the Universe, that springs from Spirit and Soul, that motivates untold passions and perceptions in its earthly guises, and that binds us to the Divine for all eternity.

It was the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, who declared in no uncertain terms: God is Love. When my mother, a student of the Science at the time, first shared this idea with me, I was in my twenties, disappearing into the throes of what would be a fraught five-plus-year relationship. My pleas for insight—to family, friends, and shrinks— gleaned ample support and what I am sure was excellent advice. My heart, however, had chained itself to an untapped need to make someone—even a nullifying, acerbic, distancing someone—love me. As he taunted, pulled away, and then artfully soothed me to regain access to my heart, I became lulled by the predictable rhythm of the demeaning game: What I called “love” had become a code word for the ceaseless to-and-fro between torment and succor.

Suicide entered my mind more than once: What such an act would do to my family paused the thoughts. And deep within my Soul, I felt the stirrings of what would become my life’s path: God kept calling, reminding me of our talks when I was very small; I saw the little-girl Me perched on my bed, gazing out the dormer window at the stars in the night sky, certain that that was God’s house. As young-woman Me struggled to stay alive—to have Hope, to feel Love (for somehow, somewhere, I knew that Love would not make me feel less-than, self-loathing, or suicidal)—I prayed: As God called to me from within, I desperately tried to have a conversation.

And I made it through: Grace of God is no catch-phrase—it is a real, true gift. I was blessed by the sudden appearance of a beautiful young man, and the spell of nearly six years of strife was broken. My bruised and bloodied heart bounced into the arms of this kind, creative soul: He loved me, history and all. We were together for 10 years, and then he needed a change. I understood, and we remained deeply connected, our bond one that helped both of us to evolve.

Then, while flirting with the idea of “trying again,” he came to me with a question: What would I think if he married a girl who needed a Green Card? Flabbergasted, then angry, I demanded an explanation: What had been going on between us? When had this other person captivated his attention? My heart flinched, and then, without a backward glance, burrowed down deep out of harm’s way, resolved to forever hibernation. My ex married, had a child, and my heart has stayed quiet, deep in the padded walls of the Soul Sanitarium: I willingly—eagerly—committed my heart to the chambers of rest and rehabilitation, and there it has remained for nearly 15 years.

Friends and family wondered at first when I would begin “looking” or “dating.” My answer was, for so very long, unequivocally, “Never.” I begrudgingly offered a caveat: “He would have to be Heaven-sent; I would know if he were sent from God, and then maybe…” But as years went by, any need or desire for earthly love yielded entirely to devotion to God, which Mrs. Eddy reminded us is Love. Certainly, as a vital human being, I have flirted and wondered from time to time: Almost immediately, though, I would think of my heart, and the vow I had made to it: never to subject it to the inherent uncertainty and pain of love in the form of romantic relationship. 

Until now. Of course, Love is ever-present—as is the Divine—and intellect and ego can stifle it for only so long. To be clear, I love: family, friends, the special dogs my life, and above all, God’s presence and guidance. The love of which I speak—the kind that connects one to a longterm partner here on planet Earth—is the love from which I have detached. My attempt to disengage from that bear of an emotion, that wildest of states, has accomplished only a quieting of its call; if Love—real Love, sent from God— wants me to dance, I may have to accept.

Much to my bewilderment, and unsettling to my nerves, is the dawning of this feeling over the course of the last month or so. The man who stirred this particular pot is someone I know only in the briefest of professional passings. He has, however, triggered these thoughts and emotions that I so laboriously buried: buried, and then piled a fresh layer of cover with each passing year, just so that I would not possibly unearth my heart and subject it to the whims of love. I know not this man’s first name; I know nothing about him, save that he has two dogs.

What I have realized is that this man likely does not bring the Love of which I speak; he does, however, represent a chance for me to confront my fears with regard to Love. Further, his presence coincides with this time in my life where so much is shifting, not the least of which are my perspectives on Aging, Truth, and Love. As my mother, who has serious cognitive impairment (yet suddenly, occasionally spouts precious pearls of wisdom), said to me recently: “Life is different now: How I felt about something then can be very different than how I feel about it now.” 

And such is the case with me and Love. Am I ready for it? I “practice” scenarios, often with Mystery Man as my partner. Those long-buried emotions geyser-shoot to the surface: Twenty- and 30-something Me at first takes over my imagined scenes; I cringe, cry, and scurry to protect my heart. Then, I remind myself that time has passed; I have evolved in Spirit; and my heart wants to serve its purpose. And with that, I realize that I can keep my heart safe and open. For me, the Years of the Hidden Heart freed me to open my heart and soul to the great, good, kind Love that is God. And if God is sending a message through my heart, I trust that the message is Love.

           The very center of your heart is where life begins… –Rumi

 

Silent Sundays: Mid-Winter Refresher

Often in practices that involve the chakras, we work with one or two of the energy vortexes as a means to address a specific physical or mental intention. Most of those routines employ movement to stimulate or balance the energy centers in question. On this Silent Sunday, however, we visit all of the chakras, or energy “wheels.” First, we engage mudra with breath at each of the vortexes; then, a full-body mudra unifies the seven centers of revitalized energy.

To begin, sit in a posture that allows total spinal alignment and a feeling of firm rootedness. To embed the sense of stability and security, place your hands—palms flat or in fists—on the floor next to the hips. As you inhale, lift your hips and legs up an inch or two; exhale, and drop the body down. Repeat these quick body drops 26 times.

Then, place the back of one hand in the palm of the other; thumb tips touch. With this mudra resting in your lap, close the eyes to gaze in and up to the Third Eye. As you inhale, pull Mula Bandha, or Root Lock: Contract the genitals and anus, akin to the sensation of a Kegel exercise. As you exhale, release the lock. Continue the inhale with squeeze, exhale to relax, for 2 minutes.

To connect to the Second, or Sacral Chakra, place the right thumb tip in (or on) the belly button; the palm rests naturally on the lower belly. Place the left hand over the right. Breathe long and deep through the nose for 2 minutes, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye.

Now, bring your awareness to the Third Chakra, the center of which is found at the Solar Plexus. This energy vortex provides stamina and confidence. To access this chakra, lean back 30 degrees, to the point where the abdominal muscles engage. Place the fingers in Surya Mudra: thumb tips touch ring finger tips. Rest the edges of the thumbs where your ab muscles feel most firm: The other fingers point straight ahead, and do not touch each other. Begin Breath of Fire (short, rapid, equal inhales and exhales through the nose), and continue for 2 minutes.

If you need to stretch, twist, or shake out a bit before moving on, do so: Then, return to your seated pose. Bring the hands into Lotus Mudra in front of the Heart Center, or Fourth Chakra: All fingers point up, with the edges of the pinkies touching each other, as well as the thumb edges connected to each other. With the base of the palms touching, there will be a space between the palms. Inhale, then exhale as you shoot the arms straight out to the sides, fully extended, palms facing out; inhale as you quickly bring the hands back into Lotus Mudra in front of the Heart. Continue this rhythmic movement at the level of the Fourth Chakra for 2 minutes.

To open and stimulate the Fifth, or Throat Chakra, place the hands in Venus Lock behind the heck. The fingers are interlaced, tomb tips touching. Draw the elbows back as far as you can, keeping the upper arms parallel to the ground. With eyes closed, inhale to tilt the head back slightly; exhale to tilt forward. Continue for 1 minute. Then, maintaining the arm and hand position, inhale as the head turns left; exhale to the right. Continue for another minute.

Now, shift into a squat position. If you need to place something under your heels—block, book, rolled blanket, pillow—do so. Extend the arms between the legs, and interlace the fingers; the index fingers, however, remain together and pointing straight ahead at the level of the Third Eye. With eyes open, gaze intently from the Third Eye out beyond the “arrow” of the index fingers. Begin Breath of Fire in this challenging position; continue for 2 minutes.

For the Crown, or Seventh Chakra, return to your seated pose. Bring both arms overhead; allow the elbows to bend, so that the hands float above the head, and the shoulders are relaxed. With palms down, facing the Crown, rest the left hand on the right. Close the eyes to gaze at the Third Eye, and breath fully and steadily for 2 minutes.

To begin the process of bringing all of the energy centers into complete synergy, lie on your back. Extend the legs and arms straight up to 90 degrees: hands over shoulders, feet over hips. Relax the arms and legs, and let them settle into this upside-down bug, or U shape. This position naturally soothes the nervous system, and provides the optimal environment to harmonize the chakras. Close the eyes and breathe here for 3 minutes.

Finally, draw the knees toward the chest, and rock forward and back, or side to side. Then, extend the legs long on the floor as you reach the arms long next to the ears for a full-body stretch. Inhale to stretch, exhale to relax; repeat 3-5 times. Then, with the arms and legs long, inhale: Exhale a long “Aum.” Repeat 2 more times, and then bring the arms by the sides, palms up, to move into Svasana for 5-11 minutes.

Silent Sundays: Powerful Practice to Regain Self-Control

Today’s practice is dedicated to all who have ever found themselves slipping into obsessive or irrational thinking or behavior. At first, the infiltration of unbidden rumination may spark curiosity: What does this thought signify, or why is this habit developing? But if repetitiveness sets in without one’s conscious intention to think those thoughts or perform those actions, one’s sense of self-control is compromised.

The occasion for being pulled off-center may seem innocuous at first: Perhaps you have become infatuated with someone, or have become invested in another person’s challenges. Initially, the involvement of thought or interaction seems harmless, perhaps even satisfying or helpful. As time goes by, however, the circuitous nature of the thinking becomes apparent: It has no effect on the other, or on the circumstances; the energy boomerangs back to you. Now you are in a loop of ineffectiveness, which quickly can erode feelings of stability and agency.

To remedy a runaway brain, the following routine employs intense and precise pranayama, as well as two movements and a meditation with mudra. 

To begin, come into your favorite seated posture. Close the eyes, gazing up to the Third Eye, and rest your hands on the knees, left palm up, right down. Engage with the breath, lengthening the inhale, and slowly, deeply exhaling: Continue to breathe steadily and fully for 2 minutes. 

Next, draw the knees into the chest, hugging yourself into a ball. If you are familiar with “Roll Like a Ball” from the Pilates Method, you will note the similarity to this kundalini roll. In yoga, the exercise typically is used to massage the muscles along the spine; and further, to awaken the nervous system. Here, the move helps one to locate the low abdominal muscles that will be integral to the first pranayama exercise.

In your tight ball, wrap the arms around the legs to hold either the ankles or shins; alternatively, you may hold behind the thighs. Regardless of grip, inhale to roll back on the spine to the tops of the shoulders, keeping the neck and head stable. With momentum, rock back up as you exhale; “brake” by firmly engaging the lower abdominals as you finish the exhale. Continue to rock back and up, inhaling and exhaling, for 1-2 minutes: Be most aware of the pairing of the exhale with the contraction of the abdominal muscles. 

Now, return to a seated position for Kapalabhati Breath. The effect of the “Skull Shining” pranayama is one of cleansing, and also of stimulating the Second and Third chakras. These energy centers will help to harness and stabilize your sense of self-empowerment. Begin with an inhale through the nose: To exhale, firmly and quickly pull in the lower abdominal muscles, which will cause the air to release through the nose. The inhale will respond almost automatically; then exhale again, assertively engaging the lower abs to propel the exhale. Your natural rhythm will be one that allows you to breathe without dizziness or needing to yawn. Continue for 3 minutes.

Following Kapalabhati pranayama, sit quietly for about a minute as you resume natural breathing. If you need to stretch or change position, do so. Then, as a brief warmup for the next movement, take a few head and shoulder rolls. Now you are ready for Gyan Chakra Kriya. This movement helps to clear the magnetic field, and helps to draw to you only that which is good and right for your personal path: Unnecessary or detrimental thoughts and habits begin to dissipate. 

To begin, place the fingers of each hand in Gyan Mudra: Thumb and index fingertips touch. Now, extend both arms straight up into the air. The right arm will move in a counter-clockwise circle, moving forward and down, then back through the side space, and up and over the head. The left arm moves clockwise, with the same large, broad “lassoing” movement. The arms move in a round: The right begins, and as it circles down to the side at hip level, the right arm begins its loop. You will feel a rocking through the body as the arms move simultaneously, but at different levels. Continue with vigor at a brisk pace, breathing strongly through the nose, for 3 minutes. The eyes may be open or closed, according to your natural preference.

Then, rub or shake out the shoulders for a few moments. With eyes closed, gazing at the Third Eye, place the hands on the knees, palms up. This second pranayama cultivates awareness and patience, both of which one needs when challenging an unwanted thought or habit. To inhale, segment the breath into 16 short sniffs through the nose; exhale in the same way, 16 segmented, short breaths out. It may take a few rounds to discover how much to take in or let out in each short segmented breath, in order to complete one full inhale and exhale. Continue 16 sniffs in, 16 short pushes out, for 3-5 minutes.

Finally, resume normal, steady breathing through the nose. Place the hands in Venus Lock (fingers interlaced, thumb tips touching), resting the palms on the Solar Plexus: The forearms rest against the body. This mudra in contact with the Third Chakra helps one to reconnect with that which nurtures inner strength and self-determination.

Happy Sunday…

In the Mix

It is the rare human being who has not experienced a jumble of emotions, thoughts, and sensations within a very short time span. At some point, be it a result of circumstance or medication, a uniquely baffling set of feelings may arise: How to attend to and push through such an experience is the focus of today’s routine. Whether you are simultaneously overtired and overstimulated; whether you are serene and accepting, yet also buzzing with a vague anticipation; or whether you are crying and laughing with little or no provocation, the following practice will allow you to consolidate the mix. Then, with the entire package wrangled and contained, you will guide it toward a more balanced and centered state of mind and body.

I created this practice after spectacularly overt and assertive side effects arose following a cortisone injection. Although the primary effect of heightened energy was not entirely negative, it nonetheless signaled imbalance. In order to contend with whatever frenzied or confounding energy has pushed you off center, the following routine asks that you move into the thick of the mix; physically address it; and then gradually simmer it down.

To begin, stand or sit: Your choice depends on your particular state of mind or body in the moment. Fatigued, down, yet angry? A prone (face-down) position may be a good place to start. Overthinking, wired, yet stuck? Stand tall. Anxious, broken-hearted, or indecisive? Try Baby Pose. Allow your personal energies to lead you to the posture most conducive to your current needs.

Once situated, close your eyes and hum. The humming is simultaneously an expression of your vibratory state, as well as a call to the Universe for assistance. The sound may be one-note; it may travel through octaves; or it may be a tune that you had no idea would visit. As you continue to hum, allow your body to respond: Perhaps one or more fingers may wiggle; perhaps your head bobs; perhaps your torso or legs stretch. Continue to stir your energy brew for 5-11 minutes.

As you consciously tap into the peculiar vibrations of your own being, move your body to a new position. Again, this is an exercise of kinesthetic intuition and release: Accept that your body and mind have a need, and that they instinctively want to resolve imbalance. As you move from one position to another, and then from another to another, hone in on the “squeaky wheel”: Where are your physical sensations most prevalent? What emotions arise, and what is your intellect saying about those feelings? Move freely at a self-selecting pace as you take a full inventory of everything you have been experiencing “in the mix.” Continue for another 5-11 minutes.

By this time, you likely have pinpointed the most demanding or bewildering ingredient in your personal mix. For example, as previously mentioned, my energy has been in a state of hyperdrive. My remedy revealed itself through enhancing that sensation: I found that vigorous full-body shaking, followed by several minutes of “like no one is watching” dancing worked wonders. Thus, whatever demands your attention, play its game. For example, if negative or self-defeating thoughts are running loose, let yourself dive into the mire: Inwardly listen to whatever inappropriate, ugly, or destructive thought arises. Then, physically turn away from those thoughts: twirl, twist, roll, etc., until the directional changes elicit a different mindset.

After 10-15 minutes of addressing your energetic stew in this way, come into your favorite seated posture. When you are comfortably settled, close your eyes, and gaze upward to the Third Eye. Cross the arms over the chest as if hugging yourself, which is exactly what you are doing. For 1-3 minutes, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth as you embrace all that you are. 

Next, move the hands, so that the right palm rests across the forehead (fingers pointing to the left); the left palm rests on the Heart Center, fingers pointing to the right. Breathe here, inhaling and exhaling through the nose, for 3-5 minutes. Then, adjust the hand position: With the left hand remaining on the Heart, move your right hand to rest on your low belly, fingers pointing left. Continue to breathe in and out, fully and deeply through the nose, for another 3-5 minutes.

You may close your practice in the seated pose, palms down on the knees for a few breaths. Or, if you prefer, move into several minutes of Svasana.

Silent Sundays: What Happens When You’re Not Looking–Practice to Surrender to the Universe

Special note: For today’s practice, you will need a candle or small object, plus a source of rhythmic sound. Additional instrumental music is optional.

As described in yesterday’s “Pre-Silent Sunday,” today’s practice revolves around the idea that while a consistent spiritual practice develops awareness and centeredness, it is equally important to be able to diffuse consciousness and sensory information. While one’s practice provides perspective, equanimity, and connectivity, the ability to yield to the workings of the Universe is a crucial aspect of spiritual advancement. Today’s set thus identifies one’s focus; deepens intention surrounding said focal point; and then consciously withdraws from that object of attention.

In short, this Silent Sunday suggests that, ironically, in order to manifest evolution, one must pull back from attention and intention.

In yoga philosophy, pratayahara means withdrawal of the senses. Today’s routine offers the opportunity to similarly withdraw, first physically, then mentally. When done consciously, this type of detachment frees the inner workings of Prana (energetic functions of the mind, body, and spirit) to align with the vibrations of the Universe. When one steps back from physical or meditative practices of specific intention, the cumulative energies from consistent performance of said practices are free to connect with Higher Consciousness. 

Thus, today’s set highlights the need for attentive practice, then demonstrates how to surrender to the guidance and decree of the Universe and the Divine.

To begin, a full set of warmup exercises stimulates overall energy, while freeing the spine. Come onto all fours for one minute of Cat/Cow spinal flexes: Inhale as the spine extends and curves into Cow; exhale as it arches and rounds up into Cat. From there, come onto the belly, and prop yourself up on the forearms in Sphinx Pose.

As you inhale through the nose, lower the upper body and face toward the floor. As you rise back up onto the forearms, stick the tongue out and down to exhale through the mouth. Inhale down, exhale up; in through the nose, out through the tongue-extended open mouth. This is a deeply detoxifying movement and breath that simultaneously opens the heart and clears emotional and chemical debris. Continue vigorously for 2 minutes.

Next, press back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths through the nose. Then, uncurl to sit on the heels; if you prefer, you may sit in a crossed-leg position. You will be moving the upper body, arms, and head in a free-form dance. Ideally, the movement will be motivated by your inner rhythm, but if you want to move along to music of your choice, that is fine. Continue for 3 minutes.

Immediately lie on your back with the legs in the air. Continue to “dance,” surrendering to the call of your body and mind. The arms remain fairly quiet; the movement occurs in the legs, and in the natural rocking and rolling of the body on the floor as you move. Continue for another 3 minutes.

Now you are ready to shift into a one-pointed focus meditation. If you have a candle, guide your attention to the flame; alternatively, find a tiny focal point, e.,g. the tip of a houseplant leaf, or a chip on a cup. The object of attention should be 2-3 feet in front of you at eye level.

As you settle your gaze on the chosen point, bring to mind a person, situation, or emotion that has been demanding your attention: As you connect your concern to the focal point, notice physical or psychological discomforts or adjustments that begin to arise. Do nothing to resolve or alter them; rather, sharpen your focus on the flame or object. Continue this one-pointed meditation, breathing fully and steadily through the nose, for 7 minutes.

Then, sit quietly for 3 minutes, fingers in Gyan Mudra: thumb tips touching index fingertips, back of the hands on the knees. Breathe deeply as you allow thoughts of your intention or concern to move away, to become dimmer and dimmer. Give them over to the Universe, by way of the mudra.

If you like, briefly stretch for your hips, legs, neck—whatever you need. Then, resume your seated posture. Place both hands by the shoulders, palms forward, as if taking an oath. Here, create Shunya Mudra on both hands: thumb pressing respective middle-finger into the palm. As you did visually, connect your auditory attention to a rhythmic sound in your space. For example, I have a clock that ticks: You may also hear the faint hum of an appliance, or the drip of a faucet. 

With eyes closed, gazing up to the Third Eye, meld your hearing sense with the selected sound. As you sit with this sensory connection, begin to release the ears from “receiving” mode; allow the ears to vibrate with, not in reaction to the sound you hear. Continue to sit and resonate with the sound for 5 minutes.

Now, bring the soles of the feet together, knees splayed open to the sides. If this Baddha Konasana (or Butterfly) pose is hard on your hips or knees, you may extend your legs straight in front of you. As you inhale through the nose, open the arms wide, tilt the head back, and lift the chest, as if opening your heart to the sky. To exhale, round the lips, and breathe out a long, slow “windy” sound: Simultaneously, round the arms forward to bring hands to knees as the spine rounds deeply backward and the head hangs down. Continue to inhale, opening yourself to the Universe; exhale to soften and relinquish any desire or intention. Open and close with steady, full breathing for 3 minutes.

Finally, move into Svasana. Rest for at least 5 minutes, longer if you like.

Happy Sunday…

Pre-Silent Sunday: Practice, Percolate, Pay Attention… Then Don’t

Over the course of a recent 24-hour period, I experienced and contemplated the following: hobbling physical pain; hip-joint injection; intense and profound conversation with a friend; light-hearted and uplifting chatter with acquaintances; a bit of relief from pain; deep meditation; cathartic emotional release; and a return of hope. In sum, it was a day typical of any person at any given time: a mixed bag of people, places, thoughts, emotions, and physical ups and downs.

As common as this scenario may be (albeit with different details for each individual), my day occurred after a long stretch of related experiences whose cumulative energy needed a release. That this all converged as the New Moon came into phase seems simultaneously miraculous and predictable. The direction, interactions, and tone of the day sang along with the vibration of the Cosmos: The day became significant.

My takeaway is that a “perfect storm” of disciplined practice, cultivated awareness, and a continual current of faith rise to the fore and merge when the time is right. It is, perhaps, the spiritual equivalent of: Luck strikes when hard work and opportunity meet. In my experience, Realization occurs when earthly tenacity and spiritual fortitude meet the Universe. 

To wit: As part of my personal treatment plan for hip arthritis, I daily—sometimes multiple times each day—call upon kundalini kriyas and meditations. Because I am cognizant that hips are the storehouse of past emotional pain, I have been curiously pursuing the link between the deterioration of cartilage and the recent, almost shocking upheaval of dreams and memories concerning my past transgressions and regrets. Therefore, my current practice often is comprised of addressing the First, Fourth, and Sixth chakras: respectively, the energy centers of fundamental needs; love and compassion; and intuition.

So, after a long needle was sent into one of my hip joints a couple of days ago, I came home to settle in for a practice dedicated to the Instinctual Self: The exercises focused on the Second and Sixth chakras. Toward the end of the kriya, I took a break to massage my thighs, to give them some tender loving care. Almost immediately, I was weeping, and then in full sob. 

Unbidden, the mantra Sa Re Sa Sa began to resonate within. Interestingly, this is the chant often associated with the New Moon. As I cried, I began to chant. Soon, the “Sa Re” sounded to me like “sorry”: to someone, about something. Almost immediately, another kundalini classic made its way to my mind:  “God and me, Me and God are one” became a baseline, harmonizing along with the “Sa Re/Sorry” mantra. I realized that I was apologizing to myself, and thus to the divine energy to which we all are connected.

As I felt the sweeping rush of emotional release, I recognized that my guilt about so many poor choices in my earthly life is tied to my devotion to the Divine. Any obstacles to that eternal wisdom and guidance lie within my body, my thoughts, my heart. The tears that flowed were a deep cleanse, washing away the dross of past wrongdoings and remorse.

A catharsis or epiphany rarely is an isolated moment. Even if one does not discern a pattern of thought or experience leading up to release or revelation, chances are that there is an inner energetic matrix that is aligning with the power of the Universe as one goes about a typical day. To appeal to the Divine or to Universal Wisdom on a consistent basis prepares one to recognize the significance of any given experience, Yet there comes a time when devoted practice must yield to the abiding power of the spiritual realm: Pay attention, and then don’t.

As one determines to continue through this challenge-strewn life to connect with the Divine, there will be times when it is necessary to pull back and come to stillness: The energetic and soul body need a calm space, in order to supersede ego and thought. Like physical training, intellectual study, or creative expression, to step away from the object of attention allows for enhanced perspective and renewed dedication upon return.

Tomorrow’s Silent Sunday will offer suggestions to reveal and clarify that which brews within. The practice will seat you in the midst of your experiences, then ask you to withdraw. It will strengthen awareness, while encouraging release and detachment. Throughout the session, as throughout Life, we will pay attention… and then ease back to allow the unfolding.

Silent Sundays: Stoke the Metabolic Fires

Often at this time of year, people in colder climes gain a few pounds. Some of that may be due to less outdoor activity, or to an inclination toward the warming, comforting quality of fatty and sugary foods. Yet Winter is not the only time when the body slows down, and with it, the metabolism. Seasonal allergies, sedentary jobs, or long periods of stress can wreak havoc on the glands responsible for metabolic function. And should one choose to take medication meant to contend with stress, pain, or illness, the metabolism may well be affected. 

This Silent Sunday’s practice thus is less about tending the spiritual body, and decidedly more about helping the physical body achieve optimal vitality. To that end, the routine requires that you assert a little extra oomph. And although many of the practices I offer rely on specific durations of time for each movement or meditation, today’s set suggests numbers of repetitions. The crucial aspect of each move is the will and energy that you supply: Should that mean fewer repetitions, that is okay; it is more important to move with vigor for fewer counts, than to move less energetically for more reps.

Because today’s practice aims to rev up the metabolism, the inroads to the routine are the glands most responsible for metabolic balance: adrenals, pancreas, and thyroid. Additionally, the pituitary will be stimulated, as it serves as the Master Gland of the entire endocrine system. The glands will be addressed through their associated chakras, as well as through the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The adrenals sit atop the kidneys. Therefore, with regard to TCM, they are part of the Water element. Additionally, they are located in the region of the Second Chakra. Thus, the pelvis and lumbar spine must be addressed. The pancreas aligns with the energy of the Third Chakra, and also is connected to the Spleen organ system in TCM; consequently, the entire abdominal region must be awakened. The thyroid lies within the Fifth, or Throat Chakra. And in TCM, the Stomach Meridian flows through the seat of the thyroid. Thus, to equalize the thyroid, the throat and abdomen need to be opened and stimulated. 

The pituitary corresponds with the Third Eye, or Sixth Chakra. Although we focus inward and upward—i.e., between the brow points— to access the Third Eye, it corresponds energetically with the pituitary at the back and base of the brain. The eye gaze acts, then, as a beam directed through the Third Eye toward the pituitary.

Again, the key to the following routine is focus and determination. Each move corresponds directly to a gland, its chakra, and its meridian: Place your intention into the area you are working, and move powerfully.

To begin, come onto all fours. Take a few rounds of Cat/Cow spinal flexes to connect to the breath, and to wake up the spine. Then, add Donkey Kicks to the rounding and arching of Cat/ Cow, respectively: Inhale as you extend the right leg straight out and slightly up; exhale as the spine rounds, and the knee comes in toward the nose. (Careful!) Do six kicks on the right, then six on the left, moving as quickly as you can. 

From all fours, press up into Downward Dog. Turn your closed eyes to gaze at the Third Eye as you let the head nod and shake gently. After 5 deep breaths, return to all fours: Repeat the Donkey Kicks, this time for 8 reps with each leg. Then, back into Downward Dog with a Third Eye focus; and then a final round of Donkey Kicks, 10 on each leg.

Now that you have sparked the adrenals, thyroid (head hang in Downward Dog), and pituitary, come into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, maintaining the compact body shape of Baby Pose, lift the head and neck, so that they are in line with the spine. With the arms extended back next to the hips, turn the palms in to face the body. Begin Breath of Fire, feeling the rapid pulsing of the breath as the belly pushes into the legs in Baby Pose: Count the breaths for a total of 54 rounds of Breath of Fire.

Then, come out of Baby Pose to sit on your heels in Rock Pose; as always, feel free to place a pillow between your bottom and heels for support. Bring your fingertips onto the shoulders; the elbows will point to the sides. As you inhale, pull the elbows down, as if to touch them together behind you; tilt the head back to look up as you pull the elbows down. Then, exhale, and bring the head forward to look down as the elbows rise up; attempt to touch the back of the wrists together. Continue this movement, increasing the speed as the shoulders and neck warm up and release: Inhale to look up as the elbows come down; exhale to look down as the elbows come up. Continue for 26 full rounds. (Inhale/exhale is one round.)

The next portion is a powerful series of 3 moves, repeated 3 times. Again, if you find that three rounds is excessive, do one round, but with all your might and focus. To begin, come onto your back: Interlace the fingers behind the neck, and extend the legs into the air at a 90-degree angle, feet flexed. Activate your lower abdominal muscles to secure the low back into the floor, push out through the heels, and begin Breath of Fire: 26 rounds of rapid inhale/exhale through the nose.

Immediately move into Tuck Pose: Hug the legs in, and lift the head to bring the nose between the knees. I find that my neck is unhappy without support in this posture, so I bring the knees in, and squeeze them together with my elbows. I then can reach my hands back to support the base of my elevated head with the fingertips. Again, do 26 rounds of Breath of Fire.

From there, extend the legs straight out, so that they are about 6 inches off of the ground. The upper body lifts enough, so that the eyes are on the same level as the toes. Reach the arms toward the feet, along the sides of the body; if this is too much for the low back, slide the hands underneath the buttocks. In this Stretch Pose, do another 26 rounds of Breath of Fire.

Repeat the above 3-move sequence, moving in and out of each without stopping, two more times.

Now, place both feet on the floor, hip width apart: Lift the hips up into a modified Bridge Pose. Breathe deeply here for a few breaths, and then lower the hips. For the next vigorous movement, try to hold the ankles; however, if that is too much, you may leave the hands on the floor. You will again lift into Bridge, but quickly and repeatedly: Inhale up, exhale down at a rapid clip. Do 36 dynamic Bridge lifts, with powerful, intentional breaths.

After the Bridges, bring your knees in to rock side to side, and forward and back. Eventually, roll up into a seated posture of your choice, using whatever props you need to sit comfortably. With the side of the right index finger, begin rapid downward strokes on the left side of the throat. Complete 26 strokes, then use the left index finger to stroke the right side of the throat.

Next, rapidly tap the Third Eye point between the brows with the middle fingers of each hand, about 10 times. From there, tap up and over the center line of the crown with all four fingertips; when you reach the base of the skull, tap away from the center line out to the edges of the occiput. Repeat the Third Eye tapping and up-and-over-and-out pattern two more times.

Then, rest the back of the hands on the knees, palms up. Breathe consciously and deeply, taking your inner eye to the level of the kidneys; then to the pancreas; then to the throat, and finally to the Third Eye, being sure to shine the Third Eye gaze back to the pituitary gland. Check in with each gland that you have stimulated, and use the breath to ensure their vitality. When you feel ready, settle down for several minutes of harmonizing svasana.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Release Valve

Stress is, of course, a natural part of life. In essence, it is an accumulation of pressure and tension. Even for those with a regular movement and/or meditation practice, stress can creep in and burrow deep before we become aware of its detriment. In this way, stress is much like thirst: By the time we recognize the need for attention, the system is near depletion. Today’s practice reflects the current need that most of us have for a release: from politics and climate concerns, to whatever personal or sociocultural challenges may be brewing in each of our lives. Whether one feels the reverberation of external stress as an emotional minefield or physical joust, today’s Silent Sunday can provide relief.

The practice begins where it typically ends: in Svasana. For this variation of the supine pose, slide a small pillow under your head; slip a bolster under your knees; and cover yourself with a light blanket. With eyes closed, bring your hands under your covering: one palm on Heart Center, the other resting on the navel. In this position, begin to monitor your breath; gradually encourage longer, fuller breaths. Continue for 3 minutes.

Then, ease the head and knee supports out and away from you, and place your cover to the side. Reach the right arm up along your ear; stretch the right leg and right arm away from each other, and let your head turn to the left. Inhale and exhale, and release the half-body stretch. Bring the right arm back down by your side, and switch to a left half-body stretch, with the head turned to the right. Inhale, exhale, and release. Finally, reach both arms long, and wriggle the legs long and away from the body and arms. Inhale, exhale, and release.

Now, turn on to your left side, and create a fetal position. Inhale, and then exhale as you extend the legs long, and gently arch the spine: The entire body resembles a banana. Repeat this contraction and expansion three more times. Then, come onto your right side, and repeat the dynamic stretch a total of four times.

After the fetal openings, turn onto your belly, and place the hands under the shoulders. You will create a rock-and-roll motion with your upper body: As you inhale, press down with the left hand, lift and turn the left shoulder, giving a slight twist to the upper spine: Look toward the left shoulder. Exhale to return to neutral; inhale as your press down with the right hand to lift and open the right shoulder. Let the head turn to gaze toward the shoulder. Exhale back to center, and continue rocking side to side for 2 minutes.

When you have finished unwinding the neck and upper spine, extend the arms straight ahead on the floor. Lift onto the forearms; use this anchor to help you stretch the torso and belly out and away from the pelvis. Wriggle the body and hips as you do this, but do not actually move forward: The emphasis is on lengthening through the torso. When you feel a sense of openness or release in the belly, move into Baby Pose for a few breaths.

 Next, sit up, and come into your favorite seated posture. Again, take a few moments to establish your breath: Consciously deepen and lengthen each inhalation and exhalation. Then, begin to massage—knead, squeeze, tap, rub—the bridge of your nose with the thumb and index finger of either hand. Continue for about a minute.

Now, with the thumb tips, press under your cheekbones, beginning next to the nose, and working out to the edges of the face. Inhale as you press in and up under the bone; exhale as you release the pressure. When you reach the end of the rim on both sides, use the knuckles of the index and middle fingers to massage the temples: Move in small, backward circles. Repeat the “massage trail” two more times: bridge of nose, to cheekbones, to temples.

Finally, today’s meditation is comprised of two mudras and a mantra. First, touch the thumb tips to the middle and ring fingers on each hand. With eyes closed, rest Apana Mudra (the gesture of letting go) on the knees, palms down. As positioned, inhale as you turn the head to the left (eyes remain closed); exhale to turn right. When you turn the head to the left, chant (whispering or aloud): Sat Nam (sut nahm); as the head looks right, chant: Wahe Guru (wah-hay goo-roo). Continue for 3 minutes.

For the second part, bring the hands into the lap: one hand rests in the palm of the other, thumb tips touching, and palms up. For this portion, be sure to roll the closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye. Continue the mantra, this time silently: inhale, and tilt the head back slightly with Sat Nam; exhale to tip the head just a bit forward with Wahe Guru. Continue for 1-2 minutes. Then, for another 3 minutes, still the movement of the head. Proceed to chant at a volume of your choice: silent, whispered, or aloud. The mantra connects your True Self (Sat Nam) to the guidance and support of eternal divine wisdom (Wahe Guru), thus helping to release the pressure of transitory circumstances.

Happy Sunday…