Today’s practice provides an opportunity to clear Winter stagnancy, so that fresh Spring energy can fully infiltrate your system. Through pranayama paired with basic postures, followed by a brain-balancing kriya, the routine supplies a feeling of lightness, clarity, and vitality. As I often suggest, take a few minutes to enter your practice with a series of spinal flexes: cat/cow, seated Camel Ride, standing body rolls, etc Accompany your chosen movements with an inhale as you extend (deeply arch the spine forward), and an exhale as the spine flexes (i.e., spine rounds backward).
When you have established full awareness of your breath and body, sit in an easy crossed-leg posture. The first rounds of pranayama stimulate the nadis Ida and Pingala (left and right sides of the main nadi channel, Sushumna, respectively). The nadis are the nerve centers that correlate with the chakras: 72,000 nadis course in and around the spine, from base to nostrils, and supply the energy centers with prana, or Life Force.
Through the use of breath–pranayama– one confers specific quality or direction into the flow of prana. This Silent Sunday practice balances the left and right sides of the spine, and then awakens and massages the central channel, or Sushumna. When these primary nadi routes are clear and balanced, the entire system operates harmoniously.
Using your right index finger, close the right nostril; the other fingers curl into the palm, covered by the thumb. Inhale and exhale through the left nostril. If the nostril feels a bit stuffed, do your best to find whatever bit of opening will accommodate the breath: stay steady, and work with your body’s abilities of the moment.
After 8 full left-nostril breaths, release the right hand, and place the left thumb on the left nostril: The remaining fingers are together and pointing straight up; the left palm faces right. Breathing only through the right nostril, complete 8 rounds of inhalation and exhalation.
Now, return to the hand position to close the right nostril. Bend directly to the right, leaving your left arm against the side of the body. Note that although you have created a side bend, the torso does not move into the front or back space: remain entirely in the sagittal plane. As you breathe in and out through the left nostril, the left side of the spine is stretched open to receive the prana. The right side of the body is naturally compressed, as if receiving a deep, kneading massage. Complete 6 full rounds of left-nostril breathing, and then slowly rise to center.
Before you bend to the left, switch to close the left nostril with the left thumb. Then, lengthen and deeply curve the spine to the left side, opening the right side. Again, complete 6 rounds of breath before slowly returning to center.
Special note: The seated side bend also acts as an excellent Liver and Spleen massage. The compression and release encourages the elimination activity of the organs, helping to wash away waste.
Now that the lateral spines have been awakened and infused with prana, we twist the central corridor: Spinal twists suss out and release energetic stagnancy and muscular tension. Remaining in your seated posture (you may switch the cross of your legs, if you like), twist gently to the right; ease into the move from the base of the spine, working upward incrementally.
When you have reached the apex of the twist, take a deep breath in and out. Then, slightly release the twist with an inhale, and return to the apex with an exhale. Begin to create a rhythmic pulse, releasing slightly with your inhale, moving into the full twist as you exhale. Continue for 1 minute, then repeat on the other side.
Next, lie on your back for a localized version of a reclined twist. Bring your knees in, as close to the chest as possible: As opposed to a legs-extended supine twist, or bent knees at hip level, this compact version hones in on the upper spine. Slowly bring both legs to the right; ideally, your knees fall just under your armpits. Allow the arms to rest on the floor, or use the right hand to gently guide the bent legs into the posture. Breathe deeply in the pose for at least 5 full breaths, up to 1 minute. Then, release and repeat to the left.
Finally, release the legs long onto the floor, and stretch your arms overhead on the floor. Luxuriate into the full-body stretch. Inhale, and as you exhale, draw the left knee in toward the body; simultaneously, bring the right arm up and over to the floor by your right side. Inhale back to the leg long, arm overhead; as you exhale, the right knee comes in as the left arm comes up, over, and down by your side. Inhale to release, exhale again to move the left leg and right arm; inhale to release, switching to right leg, left arm. Continue alternating for 1-3 minutes.
With this closing exercise, the energetic balance created by the pranayama with postures is further integrated into the brain. As you move into svasana for as long as you like, rest with the awareness of your “rinsed out” and revitalized Physical, Mental, and Pranic bodies.