Stress is, of course, a natural part of life. In essence, it is an accumulation of pressure and tension. Even for those with a regular movement and/or meditation practice, stress can creep in and burrow deep before we become aware of its detriment. In this way, stress is much like thirst: By the time we recognize the need for attention, the system is near depletion. Today’s practice reflects the current need that most of us have for a release: from politics and climate concerns, to whatever personal or sociocultural challenges may be brewing in each of our lives. Whether one feels the reverberation of external stress as an emotional minefield or physical joust, today’s Silent Sunday can provide relief.
The practice begins where it typically ends: in Svasana. For this variation of the supine pose, slide a small pillow under your head; slip a bolster under your knees; and cover yourself with a light blanket. With eyes closed, bring your hands under your covering: one palm on Heart Center, the other resting on the navel. In this position, begin to monitor your breath; gradually encourage longer, fuller breaths. Continue for 3 minutes.
Then, ease the head and knee supports out and away from you, and place your cover to the side. Reach the right arm up along your ear; stretch the right leg and right arm away from each other, and let your head turn to the left. Inhale and exhale, and release the half-body stretch. Bring the right arm back down by your side, and switch to a left half-body stretch, with the head turned to the right. Inhale, exhale, and release. Finally, reach both arms long, and wriggle the legs long and away from the body and arms. Inhale, exhale, and release.
Now, turn on to your left side, and create a fetal position. Inhale, and then exhale as you extend the legs long, and gently arch the spine: The entire body resembles a banana. Repeat this contraction and expansion three more times. Then, come onto your right side, and repeat the dynamic stretch a total of four times.
After the fetal openings, turn onto your belly, and place the hands under the shoulders. You will create a rock-and-roll motion with your upper body: As you inhale, press down with the left hand, lift and turn the left shoulder, giving a slight twist to the upper spine: Look toward the left shoulder. Exhale to return to neutral; inhale as your press down with the right hand to lift and open the right shoulder. Let the head turn to gaze toward the shoulder. Exhale back to center, and continue rocking side to side for 2 minutes.
When you have finished unwinding the neck and upper spine, extend the arms straight ahead on the floor. Lift onto the forearms; use this anchor to help you stretch the torso and belly out and away from the pelvis. Wriggle the body and hips as you do this, but do not actually move forward: The emphasis is on lengthening through the torso. When you feel a sense of openness or release in the belly, move into Baby Pose for a few breaths.
Next, sit up, and come into your favorite seated posture. Again, take a few moments to establish your breath: Consciously deepen and lengthen each inhalation and exhalation. Then, begin to massage—knead, squeeze, tap, rub—the bridge of your nose with the thumb and index finger of either hand. Continue for about a minute.
Now, with the thumb tips, press under your cheekbones, beginning next to the nose, and working out to the edges of the face. Inhale as you press in and up under the bone; exhale as you release the pressure. When you reach the end of the rim on both sides, use the knuckles of the index and middle fingers to massage the temples: Move in small, backward circles. Repeat the “massage trail” two more times: bridge of nose, to cheekbones, to temples.
Finally, today’s meditation is comprised of two mudras and a mantra. First, touch the thumb tips to the middle and ring fingers on each hand. With eyes closed, rest Apana Mudra (the gesture of letting go) on the knees, palms down. As positioned, inhale as you turn the head to the left (eyes remain closed); exhale to turn right. When you turn the head to the left, chant (whispering or aloud): Sat Nam (sut nahm); as the head looks right, chant: Wahe Guru (wah-hay goo-roo). Continue for 3 minutes.
For the second part, bring the hands into the lap: one hand rests in the palm of the other, thumb tips touching, and palms up. For this portion, be sure to roll the closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye. Continue the mantra, this time silently: inhale, and tilt the head back slightly with Sat Nam; exhale to tip the head just a bit forward with Wahe Guru. Continue for 1-2 minutes. Then, for another 3 minutes, still the movement of the head. Proceed to chant at a volume of your choice: silent, whispered, or aloud. The mantra connects your True Self (Sat Nam) to the guidance and support of eternal divine wisdom (Wahe Guru), thus helping to release the pressure of transitory circumstances.