This Silent Sunday offers an active practice suitable for just about any person and any need. I have combined breath and both external and internal “pumping” to stimulate circulation and invigorate the lungs. The result is one of refreshment and unencumbered clarity. The combination of moves is a wonderful warm-up before meditation; or as a technique to sharpen focus and boost energy.
To begin, sit wherever and however your spine is most aligned and upright: Feel free to use any bolsters that will aid this goal. Once seated, close your eyes, draw your gaze up to the Third Eye, and take a few long, deep breaths through the nose. When you feel settled, interlace the fingers and bring the arms straight in front of you. Inhale deeply through the nose. Keep the breath in as you raise the arms as high as you can, then quickly lower them all the way down. Move as quickly as possible, pumping the straight arms with interlaced fingers up and down: Repeat 4 times. (One pump is up and down.) Then exhale, inhale, suspend the breath, and pump 4 times. Complete this pattern 4 times.
Now, maintaining the clasped hands, straight arms, and breath pattern with movement, increase the number of arm-pump repetitions: With the breath in, pump up and down 8 times. Repeat a total of 3 times.
The previous external pumping now turns inward. Extend both arms overhead, lengthening through the elbows, with the palms together. It can be helpful to lock one thumb over the other; however, the other fingers do not interlace. With the eyes closed, draw your inner eye to the base of the spine: Inhale deeply through the nose, leading the breath up through the spine to the Third Eye. With your closed-eye focus now on your Third Eye, suspend your inhale: Vigorously pump the stomach for as long as you can. Then exhale fully, guiding the breath down the spine to its base. Repeat the inhale up the spine; retain the breath: pump the stomach; exhale when necessary, and return the breath and gaze to the base of the spine. Continue for 3 minutes.
The next “pump” will address two things: 1) any arm or shoulder tension that may have accrued during the previous move; and 2) lymph circulation in the armpit nodes. Whenever one opens or stimulates the armpit, lymph flow in the upper body improves. For this kriya, the arms will shoot up and out to the sides at 60-degree angles. Your breath will naturally attach itself to the rhythm of the movement: Breath through the nose powerfully enough that you can hear the breath.
To begin, inhale as the left arm fires out to 60 degrees; exhale as it draws quickly back down, with the right arm simultaneously shooting up and out to 60 degrees. As one arm comes down and in, the other goes up and out. Pump the arms as rapidly as possible for 3 minutes. (The palms are open, with the fingers long and together; allow the thumbs to find their preferred position.)
Take a moment to shake out or stretch the arms, and to allow the breath to settle. Then, with eyes closed, prepare for your final pump. This variation builds focus, stamina, and self-control: If ever you feel as if you have become reactive (rather than responsive), or are giving in to self-defeating impulses, this move on its own will re-center you.
To begin, bring the hands into Prayer Pose in front of the Heart Center: However, keep the hands a couple of inches away from the chest. Lengthen up through the neck, roll the shoulders back, draw the shoulder blades down, and tilt the head back: The goal is to open through the thyroid and Heart Center by imparting a gentle, modest extension into the upper spine. Here, inhale fully: With the breath in, and the upper spine slightly arched, pump the stomach as quickly as you can. When you need to, exhale as you realign the spine and head to neutral, and bring Prayer Pose to rest on the sternum. In this posture, with the breath out, pump the stomach rapidly and for as long as possible.
Inhale into the original hands-off, head-back pose: Suspend the breath, and pump. Exhale to find neutral spine with the hands against the chest; with empty breath, pump until you need to breathe in. Continue this pattern for 3 minutes.
When you have finished, fit quietly to resume your natural breath rhythm. You may stay here, placing the hands on the knees in Gyan Mudra (thumb and index finger touching), palms up. Or, feel free to ease into complete Svasana for as long as you like.