Winter has officially arrived. If the feeling of deep reluctance to slide out of your toasty warm bed in the morning has not hit yet, chances are that the day is near. Today’s practice combines pranayama with spinal-awakening, “wind-relieving,” and energizing movements to help you move from night into day. The gradual sequence takes you from in bed; to on the bed; to grounding on the floor next to the bed. By the time you leave your bedroom, the difference you will have generated in about 10 minutes will be clear.
As you awaken, slowly bring your awareness to your breath. Often, we tend either to retain the breath out or in; I, for one, seem to keep my breath out for quite some time as I breathe through the night. In either case, the need is to re-establish balance between the inhale and exhale, so that you can practice full, deep breathing as you prepare to enter the day.
Lying on your back, legs long and arms by your side, inhale and exhale to determine the quality of the breath: Begin to generate a steady flow of inhales and exhales. Then, as you inhale, gently arch your back while you externally rotate your hips and shoulders; allow the feet, knees, elbows, and palms to roll out. This inhale with light spinal extension and external joint rotation provides soft stimulation to the nervous system.
Upon your exhale, reverse the process. Round your spine by pressing it down into the mattress; simultaneously, roll your arms, legs, and shoulders inward. This movement helps to open the back body, which easily develops kinks during the night. With the opening, inhaling move, you may have felt your head tip back on the pillow; with this exhale portion, allow the chin to move toward the chest, completing the “close” of the body. Continue to move between the opening and closing, inhaling and exhaling, for 30-60 seconds (or until you feel stiffness beginning to dissipate).
Now, roll to your side, and bring your legs over the edge of the bed to sit up. Position yourself, so that the back of the knees connect with the edge of the mattress: Thighs and bottom remain on the bed; lower legs hang down against it. With your hands underneath the right thigh, inhale fully; as you exhale, round your spine back as you draw the knee in toward you. Allow the head to round forward to meet the knee.
Inhale to sit up tall again; still holding the leg, let the knee move naturally, partially away from the torso. Immediately repeat the exhale to round and bring the knee in; inhale again to sit up. Repeat for a total of 6 rounds, and then switch to the other side. If it feels better to you, feel free to alternate sides each time, for a total of 12 repetitions.
Now you are ready to stand. Bring your feet onto the floor, parallel and hip-width apart. Test how close you are to the bed: The idea is to position yourself, so that when you bend your knees, the bottom moves back to graze the edge of the bed. As you do this modest squat, inhale and bring your arms up in front of you to extend straight overhead; keep the arms shoulder-width apart.
As you exhale, move into a modified forward bend, maintaining a slight bend in the knees, or allowing the legs to engage further to straighten them. Let the arms dangle loosely toward the floor. After you have fully exhaled, immediately lift the torso, deepen the knee bend, extend the arms overhead, and find your original uttkatasana pose. Move in and out of this posture and the forward bend with deep, steady inhales and exhales.
To finish, stand in tadasana (Mountain Pose). Close your eyes briefly, and place one hand over the other, resting on your lower belly, or Dan Tien. Feel the grounded, yet stimulated energy move through your body; revisit the quality of you breath, noting the change from minutes ago as you lay in bed.