Today’s Silent Sunday arrives in direct response to the current global and now local concern over the coronavirus. The practice, however, is one culled from a variety of yoga techniques that have long been used as general immunity boosters. I created this particular combination of kriyas (exercises) and pranayama (breath work) to stimulate the digestive, respiratory, and lymph systems, as well as overall “fire” or “sun” energy. Whether one’s aim is to protect against a specific new virus, or to ramp up disease-resisting energy at any time of year, the following routine will shore up those powers.
To open and awaken the lungs, start standing. With the thumbs touching the base of their respective pinky fingers, other fingers straight but separated, begin to make large, swift backward circles, as if doing the backstroke. Keep the chest lifted, and feel the slight pull on the pectoral muscles. For added circulatory benefit, march lightly in rhythm with the circling arms. Continue for 1 minute.
Now, maintain the thumb-pinky connection, and curl the other fingers around them, into a fist. Reverse the circling motion, as if doing a forward crawl swim stroke. Again, to enhance circulation throughout the lower body as well, alternately slide the feet behind, as if skating, as the arms circle. Continue for 1 minute.
Next, help yourself down to sit on the heels in Rock Pose. As always, feel free to place a pillow or rolled blanket between the bottom and heels. Once settled, raise the arms straight up, shoulder-width apart, palms facing each other. Inhale, suspend the breath, and rapidly pump the belly as many times as you can. When you need to, exhale fully, hold the breath out, and pump. The armpit stretch encourages lymph movement through the nodes in that area; the breath retention and belly pumping builds stamina and aids digestion. Continue the kriya for 2 minutes.
To improve spinal flexibility and encourage elimination, begin Sufi Grinds. In whatever seated pose feels best, hold the knees: Circle the torso to the right, tilting the pelvis back as you circle through the backspace, forward as the circle moves through the front space; inhale forward, arching the spine, exhale back as the spine rounds deeply. Continue for 1 minutes, then reverse the circle, moving counter-clockwise for another minute.
Now, come onto the belly. Bring the hands in front of and a bit wider than the shoulders; as you begin to move, adjust the hands and arms to suit your structure and ability. For this “detox push-up,” inhale in the down position; exhale powerfully through the mouth, tongue extended, as you raise the upper body into Cobra, arms straightening as much as possible. Immediately inhale down, then exhale up, making a loud “hah” from the back of the throat. Continue for 1 minute.
Press back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, roll up through the spine to sit on the heels or in a crossed-leg position. Slowly, begin gentle head rolls to the right for 5-10 repetitions; repeat in the reverse direction. Be mindful of tension and release through the throat: As you circle, the lymph nodes in the neck receive a light massage. Breathe deeply as you circle.
Finally, prepare for a pranayama to ensure a healthy immune system. On the right hand, touch the thumb and ring fingertips together; the other fingers are straight and separated. Hold this mudra with elbow bent into the side, as if taking an oath with the palm facing forward. The left thumb closes the left nostril, palm facing to the right, fingers straight up and together.
Begin Breath of Fire through the right nostril, awakening the Sun energy; this fiery power helps the body to guard against “invasion,” and to fight any infiltration. Breathe equally and rapidly in and out through the right nostril for 3 minutes. If your rhythm breaks, continue Breath of Fire through the mouth, and then resume nostril breathing when you are back on track. Eyes are closed, gazing at the Third Eye.
To seal the empowered immunity, interlace the fingers in front of the chest, palms facing the body: Keep the forearms parallel to the ground. Inhale, and suspend the breath as you pull the hands in opposite directions; the fingers stay intertwined, so that an isometric force builds. When you need to exhale, briefly relax the exertion of the pull. Then, inhale again, suspend the breath in, and pull with all of your might. Exhale when needed, then repeat the pull with suspended inhale 2 more times, for a total of 4 pulls.
When you are ready, come into Svasana. Give the body a chance to integrate the powerful protective energy you have created; rest for 7-15 minutes.