Call on today’s practice when energy flags, and the mind clouds. Be it 12:00 on the dot, or 11 or 2, midday motivation often needs revivification. Further, if you have been busily tending to other people’s needs or attempting to address several of your own, mental focus may have run amok. The following routine will synchronize right and left brains, and steady a perhaps over-stimulated mind.
By noon, many of us have been sitting at a desk; or driving; or otherwise have been in a position that hampers optimal mobility and meridian flow. Alternatively, your work or commitments may require you to stand for long periods of time, or to lift heavy or multiple items. In that case, stiffness and incomplete breathing may set in. For any of the previous scenarios, the remedy is to stir circulation and mobilize the spine and joints.
To begin, stand with knees slightly, comfortably bent. Inhale the arms overhead as you take a long, deep breath in; as you exhale, bring the arms down in front of you. As the arms lower toward the legs, curl your way toward a forward bend: Let the head hang, then let the shoulders curve forward and down, and finally, move your way through the rest of the spine. When you arrive at an achy or stiff part of the back, remain there, hang, and breathe deeply. Then, roll a bit further down, if possible. Once you have reached your limit, slowly uncurl to return to standing.
This version of a “forward bend” highlights movement through the spine, rather than flexibility of the hips and hamstrings. Roll up and down through this dynamic stretch 3 times.
Now, still standing, inhale the arms straight overhead, and interlace the fingers, index fingers pointing straight up. Here, with the breath suspended, pump the stomach 12 times. As you exhale, lower the arms, and interlace the fingers behind the back, lengthening through the elbows. With the breath out, look up and pump the stomach 12 times. Repeat the breath retentions with stomach pumps 2 more times, for a total of 3 rounds.
Next, come onto all fours. Inhale, and exhale as you round the spine up into Cat flex: Remain here as you inhale and exhale, 3 full rounds. Then, on your fourth inhale, extend (arch) the spine into Cow. Exhale and inhale, 3 times, in the static posture: On your fourth exhale, shift into Downward Dog.
Here, allow your head to hang, and your knees to bend; the heels do not have to touch the floor. If you are adept at the posture, and it feels good to express the full position, feel free to do so. Otherwise, be relaxed and comfortable in the pose. Shake the head; “wag” the hips; walk the heels up and down—move in any way that feels energetically correct for you, in the moment. Breathe deeply as you do so, continuing for 1 minute.
Then, from your version of Downward Dog, walk the hands forward into Plank; if you need to, place the knees on the ground. Whatever you choose, keep the spine long, with the arms and abdominal muscles engaged. With the head in line with the spine, begin Breath of Fire: Pant like a dog through an open mouth for 30 seconds; then, close the mouth and continue Breath of Fire through the nose, still in Plank, for 1 minute.
Now, ease yourself down onto the belly for a few slow, deep breaths. Then, roll over onto your back, arms by the sides, legs long. As you inhale, reach the right arm up and over to the floor behind you; simultaneously, bend the left knee in toward the body. Exhale back to neutral. Inhale to repeat with the left arm and right knee-bend. Alternate back and forth, as if marching on your back, 26 times.
Next, help yourself into a seated posture, on the floor or on a chair. Roll the shoulders backward, luxuriating in the slow, full movement and release of tension. Complete 8 rolls back, then reverse to roll both shoulders forward 8 times.
Then, move the shoulders in opposite directions: As the left shoulder rolls back, the right shoulder rolls forward. Give your brain a few tries to adapt to this left/right hemisphere “reset” move, and then complete 8 oppositional rolls, moving fluidly.
Repeat the move, switching sides: Right shoulder rolls back, left rolls forward. Once you have established the rhythm, complete 8 opposing rolls.
Finally, remaining seated, bring the hands into Hakini Mudra, a gesture for focus and mental efficiency. Touch each fingertip on the right hand to its corresponding tip on the left: The palms remain apart. With the fingertips together, fingers long, and pointing straight up, bring the touching thumb tips to rest against the Third Eye. (The thumbs are extended straight.)
With eyes closed and gazing to the Third Eye, focus on the sensation of each finger pairing: Inhale, and as you exhale, press the pinky tips together. Then, release, and move to the ring fingers: Inhale, and exhale to apply pressure into the tips. Release to move to the middle fingers. Continue this pattern through all fingertips.
When you reach the thumbs, inhale: Exhale, and as you press the tips together, also press the pair firmly into the Third Eye.
Repeat the full sequence, moving through each set of fingers and the thumbs, two more times, to complete 3 rounds. Then, relax the hands onto the knees, left palm up, right palm down. With eyes closed and your natural breathing rhythm re-established, remain here for as long as you like.
Next time: Part Three—Evening Elixir