Today’s practice is dedicated to all who have ever found themselves slipping into obsessive or irrational thinking or behavior. At first, the infiltration of unbidden rumination may spark curiosity: What does this thought signify, or why is this habit developing? But if repetitiveness sets in without one’s conscious intention to think those thoughts or perform those actions, one’s sense of self-control is compromised.
The occasion for being pulled off-center may seem innocuous at first: Perhaps you have become infatuated with someone, or have become invested in another person’s challenges. Initially, the involvement of thought or interaction seems harmless, perhaps even satisfying or helpful. As time goes by, however, the circuitous nature of the thinking becomes apparent: It has no effect on the other, or on the circumstances; the energy boomerangs back to you. Now you are in a loop of ineffectiveness, which quickly can erode feelings of stability and agency.
To remedy a runaway brain, the following routine employs intense and precise pranayama, as well as two movements and a meditation with mudra.
To begin, come into your favorite seated posture. Close the eyes, gazing up to the Third Eye, and rest your hands on the knees, left palm up, right down. Engage with the breath, lengthening the inhale, and slowly, deeply exhaling: Continue to breathe steadily and fully for 2 minutes.
Next, draw the knees into the chest, hugging yourself into a ball. If you are familiar with “Roll Like a Ball” from the Pilates Method, you will note the similarity to this kundalini roll. In yoga, the exercise typically is used to massage the muscles along the spine; and further, to awaken the nervous system. Here, the move helps one to locate the low abdominal muscles that will be integral to the first pranayama exercise.
In your tight ball, wrap the arms around the legs to hold either the ankles or shins; alternatively, you may hold behind the thighs. Regardless of grip, inhale to roll back on the spine to the tops of the shoulders, keeping the neck and head stable. With momentum, rock back up as you exhale; “brake” by firmly engaging the lower abdominals as you finish the exhale. Continue to rock back and up, inhaling and exhaling, for 1-2 minutes: Be most aware of the pairing of the exhale with the contraction of the abdominal muscles.
Now, return to a seated position for Kapalabhati Breath. The effect of the “Skull Shining” pranayama is one of cleansing, and also of stimulating the Second and Third chakras. These energy centers will help to harness and stabilize your sense of self-empowerment. Begin with an inhale through the nose: To exhale, firmly and quickly pull in the lower abdominal muscles, which will cause the air to release through the nose. The inhale will respond almost automatically; then exhale again, assertively engaging the lower abs to propel the exhale. Your natural rhythm will be one that allows you to breathe without dizziness or needing to yawn. Continue for 3 minutes.
Following Kapalabhati pranayama, sit quietly for about a minute as you resume natural breathing. If you need to stretch or change position, do so. Then, as a brief warmup for the next movement, take a few head and shoulder rolls. Now you are ready for Gyan Chakra Kriya. This movement helps to clear the magnetic field, and helps to draw to you only that which is good and right for your personal path: Unnecessary or detrimental thoughts and habits begin to dissipate.
To begin, place the fingers of each hand in Gyan Mudra: Thumb and index fingertips touch. Now, extend both arms straight up into the air. The right arm will move in a counter-clockwise circle, moving forward and down, then back through the side space, and up and over the head. The left arm moves clockwise, with the same large, broad “lassoing” movement. The arms move in a round: The right begins, and as it circles down to the side at hip level, the right arm begins its loop. You will feel a rocking through the body as the arms move simultaneously, but at different levels. Continue with vigor at a brisk pace, breathing strongly through the nose, for 3 minutes. The eyes may be open or closed, according to your natural preference.
Then, rub or shake out the shoulders for a few moments. With eyes closed, gazing at the Third Eye, place the hands on the knees, palms up. This second pranayama cultivates awareness and patience, both of which one needs when challenging an unwanted thought or habit. To inhale, segment the breath into 16 short sniffs through the nose; exhale in the same way, 16 segmented, short breaths out. It may take a few rounds to discover how much to take in or let out in each short segmented breath, in order to complete one full inhale and exhale. Continue 16 sniffs in, 16 short pushes out, for 3-5 minutes.
Finally, resume normal, steady breathing through the nose. Place the hands in Venus Lock (fingers interlaced, thumb tips touching), resting the palms on the Solar Plexus: The forearms rest against the body. This mudra in contact with the Third Chakra helps one to reconnect with that which nurtures inner strength and self-determination.