Here in New York State, the corona virus restrictions are in place through the end of this month. While this could make April seem endless, why not turn the next 30 days into a fierce invigoration of mental and physical will? The following routine will shore up your mood, stamina, and immune system, while also ensuring healthy digestion. Because you will do the same routine every day for a month, feel free to start moderately: By mid-month, increase your times; by the end of the month, aim to do all exercises for the longest amount of time suggested.
Every day, begin with your favorite version of spinal flexes: For example, lie on the floor for pelvic tilts and lifts; sit for flexes forward, back, and circling; or stand for torso circles, side bends, and moving twists.
My favorite warm-up for this practice is the circling Cat/Cow; this variation deeply awakens the breath and also stimulates the organs of digestion and elimination. On all fours, introduce your spine to the traditional Cat/Cow move: inhale as you lift the chest and tail, creating a deep spinal arch; exhale to hang the head, tuck the tail, and round the back. After a few rounds of this classic move, add a circling movement with the whole body: inhale as you arch and roll forward and to the right; exhale to round the spine, as you circle the body back and around to the left. After about 30 seconds, reverse the direction of the circle on all fours for another 30 seconds.
Now you are ready to start the set. Come into your favorite seated pose for 1-3 minutes of powerful pranayama designed to boost immunity. As you do Breath of Fire through the right nostril only, you rev up the Sun energy in your system; this prana burns away mental and physical invaders, i.e., negativity and toxins.With your left thumb, block off the left nostril; the other fingers are straight and together, with the palm facing toward the right.
Bend the right arm in by your side, palm forward, as if taking an oath. Make a fist of the right hand, but leave the index finger out and pointing straight up. With eyes closed, gazing at the Third Eye, begin Breath of Fire. Remember that you may begin with the mouth open, panting strongly like a dog—equal, rapid inhales and exhales—then close the mouth and continue the powerful, fiery breath through the nose for 1-3 minutes.
Next, lie on your back. Interlace the fingers behind the neck, and draw the elbows to the floor (or as close as your shoulder flexibility will allow). Raise both legs to 60 degrees; they should be straight, knit tightly together, with feet pointed. If you need to elevate the hips to protect your low back, use a pillow or block. If your legs can not straighten, do your best: Over the course of the next 30 days, you will notice progress. In this position, do Breath of Fire for 1-3 minutes.
Then, tuck the knees in toward the belly, With the arms extended to the sides, inhale; drop both knees to one side as you exhale and turn the head to the opposite side. Inhale to lift them back center; exhale to the other side, turning the head accordingly. Continue this back and forth twist with breathing pattern for 1-3 minutes.
The first twist helps to relieve tension in the lower spine, which also aids digestion. For the mid-upper spine, and to help open and strengthen the lungs, draw your knees as close to your chest as possible. Repeat the same side-to-side twist as you inhale center, and exhale to either side, for 1- 3 minutes.
Now, roll to one side to help yourself up, so that you can sit on your heels in Rock Pose. As always, you may slip a pillow or folded blanket between your heels and bottom for support. By simply sitting in this position for 1-3 minutes, digestive fires are stoked.
To enhance this action, and to build stamina and patience, we can add a pranayama technique. Bring the arms straight up by the ears, reaching strongly toward the ceiling. Interlace the fingers, squeezing the palms together: Inhale fully, and with the breath in, pump the belly vigorously. When you need to exhale, breathe out completely; on this empty breath, pump again until you need to breathe in. Continue this suspended-breath-and-pump pattern for 1-3 minutes.
The final moves are done standing. With the feet comfortably apart, inhale the arms overhead; exhale to bend forward, bringing the hands to the ground. Continue this simple inhale-up/exhale-down movement for 1-3 minutes. Simple modifications would be: bend the knees as you come into the forward bend; keep the hands on the low back or by your sides; and/or move as slowly and deliberately as you need to. Again, after several days of practice, you will notice that you are able to move more fluidly.
Next, stand tall. Bring the arms behind you, interlocking the fingers and extending the arms straight. Then, arch your spine, as if to move into a backbend; tilt your head back as much as your neck comfort will allow. With the eyes open, focus on a spot above you. In this heart-opening, demanding posture, begin Breath of Fire. Continue for 1-3 minutes. When you are done, slowly realign yourself to stand strong, yet relaxed. With eyes closed, breathe deeply for a few breaths. Then, help yourself to the floor for a few minutes of svasana.