Ooooh, it is that time again: when movement slows, bodies curl in upon themselves, and couches and beds become the preferred locale. This year, however, the imminent Winter comes with the thought: “Is this not how it has been all year long?!” The 2020 pandemic forced dramatic slow-downs of activities, goals, and plans: It also compelled many of us to accept the challenge with a sense of curiosity and creativity. We could not change the overall circumstance of a virus run globally amok, but we could change how we dealt with frustration, fear, and a necessarily restricted world.
And the coming season of freeze and darkness may be addressed in much the same way. Just as scores of people dedicated themselves to a new hobby, practice, or attitude when Lockdown struck, one can commit to a mantra, perspective, or physical adjustment that corresponds to the unique demands of a long Winter. Today’s Silent Sunday offers a few ways to prepare for and endure the months ahead, with regard to both the ongoing pandemic restrictions and to the natural hibernation tendencies that arise at this time.
First, because a warm bed is hard to leave on a frigid morning, perhaps incorporate a short, centering routine into your day before you leave your toasty sanctuary. Keeping the eyes closed, create a favorite mudra with your hands, or hold a crystal. You could also concoct an essential oil elixir that generates energies of positivity and calm: Keep it bedside, and upon waking, anoint the temples, upper and lower spine, and soles of the feet with the oil. With mudra, crystal, and/or oil activated, silently pray or chant a mantra of your choice. If you feel yourself drifting back into sleep, allow that if you have time; if not, transition from your meditation to the following enlivening movements.
Take a full-body stretch that feels natural to you; then, twist through the torso several times, slowly and completely, left and right. Next, shift onto the belly, and curl the toes under; push through the heels to open the soles of the feet. Then point the feet as you rise into Sphinx, supported by the forearms. Repeat the sequence 5-8 times: Inhale when you point the feet and come into Sphinx; exhale as you lower down. Keep the breath out as you take the time to curl the toes, push through the heels, and stretch the bottoms of the feet. Inhale up with a pointed foot; exhale down, and stretch the soles. (Each time you lower from Sphinx, turn the head to one side, alternating left and right.)
Now, still under the covers, draw the knees up underneath your torso, and move into the gentle back-opening of Baby Pose. Rest the forehead on your pillow, or bring your hands underneath the forehead. Take several deep breaths here. Then, help yourself out of bed, and stand, either in your bedroom or in your usual practice space.
I suggest that you aim for at least two of the following four moves: If you feel energized from two, perhaps do three or all four.
- From standing, march for 26 beats: Alternately bring the knees as high as you can; reach the opposite arm high.
- Then, bring the arms to the sides at shoulder level: Swing the arms back and down, and try to clap the heel between the hands as the foot comes up toward the buttocks. Alternate left and right feet for 26 counts.
- Now, again with the arms at shoulder height, bring the right foot up and in toward the left groin or inner thigh. As the foot comes up, swing the left hand down to touch the inner edge of the foot. Alternate left and right taps 26 times.
- Finally, move the arms in wide circles, “wax-on/wax-off” style: As the right arm circles up and out to the right, the left circles counter-clockwise. As the arms circle up and out, lift the right leg to the side; next time, circle the arms and side-lift the left leg. Repeat 26 times, moving as quickly as you can.
If you now find yourself ready for a full movement or meditation practice, proceed, and relish the time. If you are ready to continue into your morning, perhaps try a new tea: Warming ginger and turmeric offer a spicy jumpstart; they also can help promote healthy digestion when the Winter metabolism can get sluggish. Bright lemon or soothing orange also contribute to a positive start to the day.
Finally, the above suggestions could be done in reverse for an evening practice. If you have had a day when you felt unmotivated or thwarted by your own or another’s negativity, detach from those feelings; the benefits of sleep will be more effective if you have cleared the detritus of the day. So, sip some tea, circulate the blood to relieve tension, cozy into bed for some stretches and prayers or mantras, and drift into the restorative energies of the night.