Although this Silent Sunday does not find us yet in the “heart” of Summer, Summer is nonetheless the season of the Heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart organ pairs with the Small Intestine; the two are further supplemented by the Pericardium and Triple Heater systems. All in all, Summer percolates with the warming, invigorating, and uplifting energy of the four meridians. Their balance is crucial, however: When the energy of the Summer organs becomes excessive, the result is anxiety; if blocked, despondency can seep in.
Because we as a society continue to bump our way through the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 (and perhaps beyond), our natural rhythms and resets may have become confused or stymied. So, in order to ensure that the Heart system and its associates are functioning optimally, today’s practice focuses on easing the organs of Summer into their prime environment. When the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, and Triple Heater are happy, the mind is capable of experiencing the joys of Life, even amidst the wildest challenges.
You will notice that the arms and their positioning factor greatly in the following routine: The meridians of the Summer systems flow through the arms, and into the chest and fingers. To ease into this area, come onto all fours for a few rounds of traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes. Use this simple, but deeply affecting warmup to deepen the breath; make sure each inhale and exhale is long and completely fulfilled.
Then, come to rest on all fours in a neutral position. From here, reach the right arm underneath the body; keep reaching the arm out through the left arm and hip along the floor. Eventually, your right shoulder will come to rest on the ground, with the right side of the face resting there, as well. (The left elbow naturally bends as you find your way into position.) Turn the right palm to face the ceiling, and feel the stretch all along the outside and back of the right arm and shoulder.
This move tracks the Small Intestine and Triple Heater meridians. For an extra salute to the systems, touch the thumb tip to the tips of the ring and pinky fingers outer edge of the right pinky nail to the inner edge of the right thumb nail; this “seals” the channel. After 5-8 deep breaths here, gently draw the arm back, and help yourself rise onto all fours. Then, “thread” the left arm through to open the other side. Breathe deeply for 5-8 breaths.
Next, move from all fours onto the belly. Bend the knees, so that the shins are perpendicular to the thighs. Bring both arms to shoulder level on the floor; bend the left arm to a 90 degree angle (“goal post”-style). Extend the right arm straight out, palm down; turn the head, so that the left cheek rests on the floor. Touch the right thumb tip to the tips of the right middle and pinky fingers, thus sealing the Heart and Pericardium channels on the extended arm.
A quick bit of encouragement: The following position of the hips and legs may seem daunting at first; however, it is more accessible than it initially appears. With your arm position for the right side of the Heart and Pericardium established, you will now heighten the stimulation of the meridians. Begin to tip the lower legs to the left; let them keep falling, so that the right hip bone lifts away from the floor. Continue to roll the lower body open: Allow the right knee to leave the floor as you arc the right foot and knee up and behind you; eventually, the right foot will find the floor. When you have “landed,” settle into the posture for 5- 8 breaths. Then, roll the body back to center, and shift the arm and head position to the other side. Accentuate the left arm stretch by arcing the left leg up and behind, until the left foot comes to roost. Breathe deeply for 5-8 breaths.
After the intense opening of the Summertime meridians, shift slowly into Baby Pose. Remain here for a few breaths, and then roll up to sit on your heels or in an easy crossed-leg pose. Here, engage Garudasana, or Eagle Arms: Extend the arms out in front at chest level. Cross the right arm over the left at the elbows. Bend the elbows, bringing the forearms next to each other. Finally, cross at the wrists, so that the palms come to touch. (More than likely, they will be working their way toward being together, but may not quite make it.)
Firmly draw the arms down toward the belly; gently turn your head to gaze up. This will awaken the Throat Chakra, which will further aid your ability to express the compassion and joy culled from today’s routine. To balance the body and meridians, release the Eagle arms, and repeat on the opposite side (left arm crossed over right, and so forth). Breathe, and move into the Throat opening, remaining in position for 5-8 breaths.
Finally, using a rolled blanket, pillow, or bolster, come into a Heart-opening Svasana. Place the support underneath your upper back, so that both shoulder blades rest equally on the bolster. Ease your head to the floor, and let your neck settle slowly into the modest extension. The arms are out from the body on the floor at about a 45-degree angle, palms up. Remain in rest for at least 10 minutes, eyes closed, mind stilled. With the Heart center open, yet supported, your body and spirit are free to accept and circulate mental steadiness and emotional warmth.