The other day, three weeks into the COVID-19 protocol of social and physical distancing, my neighbor half-jokingly admitted that she does not do well “in captivity.” Certainly, the recommendations to keep to ourselves and to stay home during this time can wear thin: While we each find ways to pass time and communicate, feelings of entrapment, impatience, and boredom can nonetheless arise. Today’s Silent Sunday uses posture, movement, and mantra to open the body in all directions, and infuse the mind with the promise of freedom and expansion.
The practice begins in Baby Pose: buttocks on heels, torso resting on thighs, forehead to floor, and arms stretched forward on the ground. As you inhale, lift the hips, torso, and head to stretch forward into Cobra (on the hands) or Sphinx (on the forearms); exhale to return to baby Pose. Continue to inhale as you elongate forward, opening the chest and front body, and exhale to curl back, releasing tension in the neck and back: Find a moderate, steady pace; as the muscles warm and the spine awakens, begin to move a bit more quickly and fluidly.
Add a mantra to the movement: As you move into Cobra, chant, “Ong;” as you push back into Baby Pose, chant, “Sohung.” The Heart (Fourth) Chakra responds deeply to the vibration of the mantra; an open, energized heart allows us to feel connected to Universal Consciousness. As we move and chant, any sense of confinement gives way to the liberating energy of the Heart Center. Continue to chant and move for 3 minutes.
Next, come into a crossed-leg position. Be sure that the spine is long, and the hips and shoulders are relaxed; if you like, perch on the edge of a pillow or rolled blanket to ensure your ease and alignment. Sitting tall, inhale; exhale, and side bend to the right. Allow the spine to curve and the head to hang; place the hand or forearm on the floor for support, depending on the depth of your bend. Because you will be in this pose for 3 minutes, you may find that you start with the hand on the floor, but with time, can move more deeply, resting onto the forearm.
After 3 minutes, slowly rise out of the bend. Inhale deeply in the upright position, and exhale to bend to the left. Make sure that you curve directly sideways, and not to the front or back. Remain here, breathing fully, for another 3 minutes. These deep, yin-style side bends stimulate the liver and gall bladder, lending a detoxifying effect to the physical stretch.
Now, come onto your belly for Gentle Bow. With the chin or forehead on the floor, bend the knees; reach back with the hands to hold the ankles or tops of the feet. There is no need to pull or lift in this version of Bow. Simply draw the feet toward to the buttocks, and breathe deeply. Remain in the position for 2 minutes.
From the belly, roll onto the right side. With the right arm on the floor, stretched long, align the legs with the torso, so that you are in one long, straight line. Reach the left arm alongside the left ear, so that it stretches long, parallel to the right arm. Inhale to lift the left leg a couple of inches, extending straight out from the hip; lift the left arm to the same level as the leg. Reach the left hand and foot strongly away from each other, powerfully opening the left side body. Exhale to release the stretch and lower the arm and leg. Repeat two more times.
Then, help yourself onto the left side. Recreate the long line of your body, legs, and arms. Again, inhale to slightly lift and stretch the right arm and leg in opposite directions; exhale to lower. Repeat the stretch two more times.
Shift back into Baby Pose for a brief rest, breathing deeply for a few breaths. Then, come onto all fours, and move into Downward Dog. Establish your foundation, so that you can move from Down Dog into Upward Dog as smoothly as possible. This movement reflects the opening move, yet requires more strength and flexibility; begin gradually, finding the right positioning for your body’s structure, and then flow with the back and forth move. Inhale into Upward Dog, exhale into Down Dog. As with the original movement, chant, “Ong,” as you move into Up Dog; chant, “Sohung,” as you shift back into Down Dog. Continue for 3 minutes.
When you are ready, ease down onto the floor for several minutes of Svasana.