Although it is a bit early to dedicate the following practice to Spring Cleaning, a solid cleansing—inside and out—reinvigorates morale and motivation at any time. And if one does not feel well, mentally or physically, the energy to partake in a clean-up may be lacking. Today’s routine begins with tending to the external body and environment, which then likely will provide the desire to attend to the inner environment.
My entry into the practice began with washing my hair. It can be far too easy to let simple grooming fall by the wayside when socialization has lessened, and pain or illness has increased. One of the bars I—and many, I imagine—set for myself at the onset of 2020’s pandemic and self-isolation order was to maintain health and hygiene routines: My sartorial choices may have suffered somewhat, but clean clothes have remained a must.
So, feeling less than creatively vital this morning, I intuited the need to clear my head, literally and metaphorically. Without doffing my clothes, I stood over the kitchen sink and gave my hair a thorough shampoo and conditioning. Immediately, I felt revived and compelled to address other small cleaning tasks.
A quick hand-vacuum of the bathroom rug, followed by a hand-sponged floor cleaning, felt like a significant accomplishment. Then, a face wash with my favorite rosewater, and a facial massage with jojoba oil helped me “put my best face forward.” At that point, I felt not only ready, but eager to create a movement practice to eliminate physical and emotional stagnancy.
To begin, sit in crossed-leg posture, or with your legs stretched straight on the floor in front of you. Extend the left arm to the side at shoulder level, palm up: The hand forms a mudra for pain relief—index and middle fingers together, ring and pinky together, with the pairs separated, forming a V. The right hand rests in the lap, palm up, in Gyan Mudra: index finger entirely curled into and held down by the thumb, other fingers together, yet relaxed.
Now, begin a spinal flex, rounding and arching while maintaining the left arm at shoulder height. As you inhale through the nose, arch, open the chest, and look up, the palm turns up and back slightly, rolling open through the shoulder joint. Exhale slowly and deeply through rounded lips: Round the spine, drop the head, and rotate the shoulder forward, rolling the palm down and slightly backward. Inhale through the nose, open and arch; exhale through the mouth, turn inward and round. Continue for 1 minute. Then, switch hand and arm positions, right arm out with the V mudra, left hand in lap with Gyan Mudra, palm up. Arch and round with the shoulder rotation and palm flip for another minute.
Next, place both hands on the knees, using the hold to empower a full spinal flex. This time, inhale and exhale through the nose; move as quickly and fluidly as possible to stimulate spinal energy, thus clearing and enlivening the central nervous system. Continue for 1-3 minutes.
Then, come onto your back. Bring the knees in toward you, and begin to roll up the spine, as if preparing to enter Shoulder Stand: However, instead of extending the legs up and placing the hands on the low back, maintain your compact shape; rest the bent legs into the palms, which support at the top of the thighs. Your upper arms and shoulders form a tripod on which the package of your body rests: It is as if you have created an inverted Baby Pose. Breathe here, steady and strong, for 1 minute.
Remaining in the inversion, extend the legs straight back over your head. Hold the ankles (or shins); keep the lower legs still as you vigorously shake the thighs. Allow the flesh and muscle to thoroughly release. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
Now, roll down onto your back, and keep moving, raising the upper body off of the floor; use the forearms to support the torso, but stay lifted and open through the chest. With the upper body strong and supported, extend both legs up to 60 degrees off the floor. In this modified Navasana (Boat Pose), begin Breath of Fire through the nose. Continue for a full 3 minutes: If you need to do one leg at a time, or need to pause and reset, do so; then resume and fulfill the 3 minutes.
Then, lie again on your back, knees bent, feet hip width apart. Roll up through the spine into a modified Back Bend (Bridge); interlace the hands under the body, lengthening through the arms. Wriggle your shoulders as far underneath the upper body as possible, enhancing the opening of the chest and Heart Chakra. Breathe into this pose, long and slow through the nose, for 1 minute.
Finally, come onto your back, both knees bent in toward your body. Inhale: Exhale and drop both knees to the right; inhale back up to center; exhale to the left. Arms rest by the sides, helping to stabilize the twisting movement. Continue for 1 minute.
To complete the twist and the practice, continue the same pattern as above. Now, however, add a head turn and mantra: As the knees drop to the right, turn the head to the left, chanting (aloud or silently): “Sat Nam.” inhale the knees back up to center, and as you then lower them to the left, turn the head to the right, chanting: “Wahe [wah-hey] Guru.” Continue for 1 minute.
This final inner massage and soothing mantra will shed any remaining mental or physical dis-ease; ushered forth will be a state of fresh, clear calm. When you are ready, release the legs onto the floor, rest the arms with palms up, and enter Svasana. Remain in your deeply cleaned vessel of rest for as long as you like.