Today’s offering can be used for any situation that leaves one feeling mentally and emotionally depleted. And, as almost always is the case, that brand of wear-and-tear will quickly enervate the physical body. So, whether you recently have experienced a trying time, or feel the need to gather your wits before a possibly tense encounter, this routine will be your ally.
I created today’s practice as a way to soothe myself after a couple of days of highly charged family interactions. Intuitively, I gravitated toward working with my breath: No matter how many times one may have heard—and perhaps scoffed at—the instruction to “Breathe!” in the midst of a challenge, the value of conscious breathing can not be denied. And most often, when I breathe with full awareness, my body inevitably begins to move with the rhythm of the breath.
To begin this practice, sit on your heels in Rock Pose. As always, feel free to place a pillow under your legs and knees, and/or between your heels and buttocks. From there, tip forward, so that you can place your palms on the floor in front—and slightly to either side—of your knees. Inhale as you open the front body and tilt the head back; exhale to round the spine, bringing the chin toward the chest. Continue to inhale as you open the Heart center and front body; exhale to ease tension in your back, shoulders, and neck. Move gently back and forth with this spinal flex and breath pattern for 1 minute.
Next, reverse the breathing: Inhale as you round and open the back body; exhale to pour ease into your expanded front body. Continue for another minute.
From Rock Pose, extend your legs straight onto the floor in front of you, feet together, spine upright and aligned. If you like, you may move a pillow under your knees, and/or underneath your sit-bones for support. Bring your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder level: Interlace the fingers of the hands, so that you have a two-handed fist extended out from the Heart center. Extend both thumbs up, next to and touching each other: Focus your gaze at the thumb tips.
Inhale, and then exhale deeply as you bring the entire torso forward to a 30-degree angle, maintaining a long spine. As you inhale, tilt the body back 30 degrees behind the center, neutral line of your hips. Separate the hands, turning the palms down, as you lean back on the out-breath: The arms remain at shoulder level and parallel to each other; eyes close as you move into this position. Exhale to bend forward, re-engaging the interlaced fingers with extended thumbs, and opening the eyes to focus on the thumbs; inhale to lean back, releasing the hands with palms turned down, and close the eyes. Continue this breath/movement/drishti (focal point) combination for 1 minute.
Next, you will reverse the breath, and slightly alter the hand and arm gestures. Inhale to bend forward 30 degrees: Close the eyes as the arms reach straight out from the shoulders, palms facing up; exhale to lean back 30 degrees. As you do so, place the hands on the Heart, right palm against chest, left hand resting on right; gaze down past the tip of your nose to focus on the hands. Inhale to to lean forward as you release the Heart hands and extend the arms, palms up, eyes closed; exhale to lean back, bringing the hands to the Heart and gazing down past the tip of the nose. Continue for another minute.
Finally, you may sit again in Rock Pose on your heels, or move into an easy crossed-leg pose. Regardless, create a version of Apana Mudra, which will help your mind and body release any remaining residue of your “emotional hangover.” On both hands, touch the thumb tips to the tips of the middle two fingers: The index and pinky fingers of each hand are extended straight. Rest the outer edges of your hands on their respective knee; the palms face in toward the center line.
With the mudra in place, close your eyes to focus upward on the Third Eye. The pranayama for this final meditation emulates the technique of Alternate Nostril Breathing; however, you alternate breaths by opening and closing the mouth, rather than alternately opening and closing each nostril. Begin by inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through rounded lips; then, inhale through the open O of your mouth, and exhale through the nose. Inhale again through the nose, exhale through the mouth; inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose. Continue for 3-7 minutes.
End the alternate nose/mouth breathing pattern with a powerful, double exhale through the mouth: Instead of O lips, open the mouth wide, extend the tongue out, and exhale, “Hu-Huh” in a short/long rhythm. Repeat two more times: Inhale through the nose, double-exhale with tongue extended, sounding the “Hu-Huh” in a short/long rhythm. Then, stretch or shake out any areas of stiffness, and find your way onto your back for at least 5 minutes of svasana.