This Silent Sunday began with a plan. Because I have been thinking a lot about the tendency—mine, yours, all of ours—to misperceive, misjudge, and otherwise ascribe false conclusions about others, I decided to begin a series about this careless habit. I had not mentally outlined the writing, but felt sure that the thoughts would find their proper place. Yet, an intellectual restlessness and physical tension began to caution me that the writing route may not be as clear as I had imagined.
And then, the Glitch arrived: As I began to orient myself toward clarifying and expressing my ideas, my computer dropped its internet signal; then, I was bounced off the WiFi. This pattern of beginning to focus on today’s writing, only to be jettisoned away, continued for more than an hour. In the midst of my increasing frustration, I could recognize that to be distracted from my goal by a Glitch would be a disappointing response to the challenge. Yet I also began to sense that perhaps the technical trial was a hint that I should be thinking in another direction.
So, as I sometimes do when unable to discern the next best step, I opened my Spiritual Diary, which is a collection of Paramahansa Yogananda’s insights and advice regarding a variety of concerns and circumstances. The section I randomly selected was that of Simplicity. The first piece that I saw read: “Why do you consider nonessentials so important? Most people concentrate on breakfast, lunch, dinner, work, and social activities, and so on. Make your life more simple, and put your whole mind on the Lord.”
The straightforwardness of this warning against distraction immediately reset my course for today’s practice. Ironically, however, the nagging Glitch was exactly what I needed, in order to arrive at the routine that I have created for this Silent Sunday. Faced with the “nonessential” of battling technology, I decided to surrender to Simplicity, to “put my whole mind on the Lord.” For me, that signals a need to follow the lead of body and breath, which helps to open the portals to God and the Universe.
Thus, today’s practice focuses on side-body opening and twists. Whenever we adjust and stretch by way of lateral or rotational movements, we metaphorically and metaphysically open the mind and energy centers to that which is around us. In this way, earthly and divine communication is heightened.
To begin, especially if you feel restless or irritable, lie on your belly. Turn your head to one side, and breathe deeply. This prone position is especially beneficial when you are anxious, distracted, or consumed with deep emotion: As such, one may have difficulty connecting to the breath. Lying prone demands more of the lungs and diaphragm, as they have to work against the ground; thus, breath awareness increases as we feel the pressure of our respiratory mechanisms moving against the earth. After about a minute of this focused, deep breathing, turn your head to the other side; continue breathing for another minute.
Next, slowly press yourself back into Baby Pose. Allow yourself to nestle and soften into this calming posture; place your arms alongside your body, extend them forward, or place the backs of the hands on your low back. Intuitively let your body’s wisdom guide you into position. Again, feel the rise, fall, and expansion of your torso against your legs as you breathe deeply: Continue for 1 minute.
Now, come onto all fours. Extend the left leg back, keeping the foot on the floor. Inhale, and raise the left arm toward the ceiling as you roll the body open; the right foot and knee will self-adjust on the floor to support the move. Exhale to bring the left arm back down into the original position. Inhale to roll open again, exhale to come down: Complete a total of 8 “openings,” and then switch to the other side; right leg back, with the right arm opening and closing the “gate” of your body, 8 times.
Next, move into a variation of Downward Dog. Keep the shape of your Dog short, i.e., the distance between hands and feet is less than the traditional “wide” pose. In this position, reach the right hand underneath you to hold the left ankle: Feel the deep stretch and opening around your waist, and into the back of the pelvis. Take 5 full, deep breaths, and then switch sides: left hand holds right ankle. Again, complete 5 slow, steady breaths.
From the Down Dog twist, walk your feet forward toward your hands, arriving in a relaxed forward bend: Bend your knees as much as you need. Move your feet into a wider stance, about 6 inches in either direction: gently bring your torso toward the right leg, holding the ankle or shin with both hands. Breathe deeply, again for 5 full breaths. Then, walk yourself over to the left leg; make sure that the head hands freely, and that the jaw is relaxed as you take 5 full breaths.
Now, slowly roll up through the spine to arrive in standing. Take a moment to acclimate to this upright position after having had the head below the heart for a few minutes: hands on waist or belly, breathing slowly and deeply. Once you have settled, bend the torso to the right, slowly and easily. The feeling should be that the head hangs, the right shoulder drops, and the left side body gently opens as you allow gravity to do the work of the side bend; arms hang effortlessly. Remain here for a full minute. Then, inhale to slowly come out of the bend; exhale as you arrive to a neutral standing pose. Bend to the other side, again breathing into the opening for 1 minute.
As a way to circulate the fresh energy of calm openness, move your torso in large circles, clockwise at first. Hands may rest on the low back or waist, or you may choose to let them hang loosely by the sides. Rotate your entire body over and around the firm base of your stance: Make 26 circles, and then change directions, moving counterclockwise for 26 more circles.
Finally, help yourself down onto your back. Allow yourself to quiet for a moment, and then select your favorite version of Reclined Twist. For example, you may bring your right knee toward your belly and use the left hand to guide it across and down to the ground on your left side; you would then repeat with the left knee, twisting to the right. Alternatively, you could draw both knees in toward the chest, and carefully bring the tight package of your legs to the ground on one side; then, come up, and drop both knees to the other side. Whatever variation you choose, the arms may remain relaxed by the sides, or you may stretch the arm opposite to the twist up along your ear. Find what feels right on this day, in this moment, and breathe into the pose. When you are ready, move into svasana, eyes closed, breath steadying, for at least 5 minutes.