On this Silent Sunday, I awoke with a mental outline for today’s practice. As so often is the case, I “pre-write” in my mind for a day or two before anything hits the page: On writing day, I organize my thoughts and contemplate tone and description before opening my eyes. This morning was no different. Within a couple of hours after arising, however, my creative spark and focus were dimmed by a rush of weariness. Given that my initial idea for today’s routine centered around the Second and Fifth chakras—i.e., creative and expressive energies, respectively—the irony was undeniable.
Typically, when confronted with an internal obstacle, I urge myself forward with the experiential knowledge that doing so will override any stagnancy or resistance. Rarely do I surrender in the face of limiting thoughts or emotions; however, that discipline is paired with the compassionate self-assurance that I will be able to discern when I need to give myself a reprieve. Today required the latter.
The following gentle practice may be particularly useful for those times during Quarantine 2020 when the ongoing uncertainties and daily—sometimes hourly—need to adjust attitude and energy lead to generalized fatigue. The routine also may prove useful for bouts of insomnia, or when tension results in headache or digestive troubles. Each position profoundly balances mind and body: Performed as a cohesive practice, all the energy centers (chakras) are revitalized.
To begin, lie on your belly. Let your legs be comfortably apart, and allow the heels to fall naturally inward or outward. Place your right cheek on the floor. Bring the arms up to shoulder level or slightly below: Bend at the elbows to form 90-degree angles on both arms; you have formed a trident or pitchfork shape, with the head facing to the left arm. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply and restfully for about a minute. Then, turn the head to the other side, left check on the floor. Again, breathe slowly and fully for another minute, or so.
Now, turn the head back to rest on the right cheek again. Inhale, and simultaneously lift the bent left arm, your head (still turned to the left), and right leg a few inches off of the floor: Exhale down. Repeat two more times. Then, switch sides (head turned to the right, on the left cheek). Inhale to lift the right arm, head, and left leg: Exhale down. Repeat two more times.
Next, press yourself up onto the forearms, creating a gentle bow in the spine for Sphinx Pose. Draw the shoulder blades down, press firmly into the forearms for lift and opening, and bring the chin in slightly to help lengthen the back of the neck. Here, inhale as you turn the head slowly to the left; exhale to turn right. Eyes are closed, gazing at the Third Eye. To enhance the harmonizing quality of this simple action, chant, “Sat Nam,” as the head turns left; then, “Wahe [wah-hey] Guru,” as the head turns to the right. Continue the movement with or without the mantra (chanted silently, whispered, or aloud) for 3 minutes.
Then, push back into Baby Pose. Bring the arms behind the back, interlacing the fingers; extend through the elbows, straightening the arms as much as possible. Keeping the forehead on the floor, raise the arms up and away from the back. Breathe here in Yoga Mudra for 3 minutes. Notice that you may be able to release further through the shoulders as the body settles into the posture; if so, raise the arms further up and away from the back.
From the Yoga Mudra position in Baby Pose, sit up: Remain seated on the heels, and feel free to place a pillow or blanket between the heels and bottom for added comfort. Place the right hand on the floor: Curve into a side bend to the right, keeping the left hip rooted on the left heel; allow the head to hang sideways, or turn to look down toward the floor. Use the right hand for support; as time goes on, your body may allow you to walk the hand further to the side, or even to come down onto the forearm. Curve into the deep stretch for 3 minutes. Come up, and repeat with a side bend to the left, deeply opening the right side of the body. Breathe here for another 3 minutes.
Now, help yourself onto your back. Extend the right leg and left arm straight up; the left leg remains long on the ground, and the right arm lies naturally at the side. Then, lower the right leg toward the floor about 30 degrees; the left arm also lowers toward the floor above the head about 30 degrees. With this cross-lateral half-V, bring the right thumb up to close the right nostril. Breathe in and out through the left nostril, body position intact, for 1 minute. Then, switch sides: Left leg raised at the previous angle, right arm up and angled back, and left thumb closing the left nostril. Inhale and exhale through the right nostril for another minute.
Finally, rest both arms on the floor, palms down. Raise both legs, straight and together, about 2 feet off of the floor. Breathe deeply and steadily through both nostrils for 3 minutes: If you need to place your hands or a small pillow under your hips to protect the low back, do so. Remain strong through the abdominals and legs, and soften the closed eyes, jaw, and shoulders.
Before you enter into a long Svasana, draw the knees in toward the chest; rock side to side as you hug the legs into the body. Then, lengthen out, opening yourself to full rejuvenation. Remain in Svasana for at least 10 minutes, longer if you like.