For those in warm climes on this Silent Sunday, the idea of a fierce blizzard or temperatures below zero is barely imaginable. For us in the Northeast, however, the unrelenting conditions of this weekend bring: 1) the tense anticipation of the climatic event; and 2) the mind (and hand and foot)-numbing fatigue and aches associated with frigid air and incessant shoveling.
Additionally, regardless of locale, all of us will experience today’s cosmological shake-up: a Full Moon Lunar Eclipse. The energy pull of the Moon’s phase, combined with the jolts commonly felt during an eclipse, typically result in feelings of anxiety, off-centeredness, and over-stimulation. This cosmological, psychological, and meteorological triptych demands a soothing antidote. Today’s short practice will help to calm jarred nerves; ease muscle tension; and re-establish a feeling of centeredness.
Before one can address energetic and emotional considerations, the body needs to soften and open. With the idea that coldness (and snow shoveling) cause us to shorten and close in on the front body—thus over-flexing and straining the back body—today’s practice begins with two supported, restorative backbends. You will need a blanket and a pillow (or another blanket, rolled).
To begin, come onto the floor and sit with legs extended in front of you. Place the pillow (or rolled blanket) behind your hips. Then, ease yourself into Corpse Pose (as in svasana) with the prop now underneath your hips; you should feel a slight arch in the low back, along with a gentle opening of the hip flexors. Cover yourself with the other blanket: Rest quietly, eyes closed, breathing deeply and steadily, for 3-5 minutes.
When you feel the softening and release of your lower abdominals and upper quadriceps, roll to one side to sit up slowly. Shake out your legs, and do whatever stretches feel necessary. Then, place your prop so that it is underneath your upper back (generally, the area of the shoulder blades) as you return to the supine position. You may have to monkey with the prop placement: The ideal position is one that allows your head and neck to rest comfortably on the floor as the prop gently encourages the chest and shoulders to ease open. Again, cover yourself with a blanket, and rest here for 3-5 minutes, breathing consciously and fully.
When you feel ready to move, carefully sit up. With or without the pillow or blanket to support a seated position, bring the soles of the feet together in Butterfly posture (akin to Baddha Konasana, but with the feet further from the groin). With the arms held out to the sides, inhale and arch the spine forward as you move the arms toward your backspace, drawing the shoulder blades together; tilt the head slightly back as you do this, eyes closed. Exhale to round the spine deeply as you bring the arms forward, as if to hug someone; bring the chin toward the chest.
After flowing in and out of the spine flex for 1-2 minutes, you are ready for the next component of the movement. First, draw the feet closer toward the groin, creating the traditional Baddha Konasana. With the arms “ready to hug,” inhale: As you exhale, round the spine back, bring the knees together, and hug the arms around the legs. As the arms come forward, lead with the heels of the hands, stretching the fingers wide and extending the wrists back.
As you exhale, let the legs open again, gently arch the spine, and tilt the head back. As the arms open away from each other, lead with the backs of the wrist. As you continue to practice this move, the flow will create a sense of opening in the spine, the groin, the chest, the upper back, and the throat. The qi in the arm meridians will regain balance as you flex and extend the wrists; as the palms are stretched, the heart point in the center of each palm is awakened, thus bathing the nervous system with calmness. Enjoy the movement for another 2-3 minutes.
To close your practice, come into face-down svasana. You may rest your forehead on the backs of your hands; or, you may prefer to leave your arms down by your sides and turn your head to one side. I enjoy a combination of these positions: Start with the Third Eye resting on the backs of the hands, and bring the closed-eye gaze to that spiritual center. After 1-3 minutes of connecting with this Sixth Chakra energy, draw the arms down, so that they rest a few inches away from the sides fo the body.
Turn the head to rest on the side of the face that feels somewhat unnatural, perhaps even slightly uncomfortable; this may provoke some stiffening, so focus on the sound and steadiness of your breath. After about a minute on this side, turn the head to the other side; the relief of transitioning to your “good” side will trigger an overall release of tension in the body. Rest here for another 2-3 minutes.