This Silent Sunday finds us in the first days of Fall. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is the season of elimination, as represented by Autumn’s organ systems: Lungs and Large Intestine. As the leaves lose pigment, our bodies and minds rid themselves of spent energies and acquired contaminants. To prepare for Winter, one needs to free the inner and outer environments from “clutter”: This is the time to clear mental and physical debris.
Sometimes, though, the path to clean-and-clear is itself marred. Think of a shaker bottle of ground spice: When the slightest invasion of moisture enters, the powder coagulates around the openings; the ability to pour the contents is stymied. In order to clear the holes, one needs to tap and knock the bottle. Such is the nature of today’s practice: With impactful movements, we loosen stagnancy and blockages, so that they are more easily eliminated.
The following routine is a series of physical “drops.” This is an assertive practice, but safe and effective when practiced with intent and awareness. If you typically use only a yoga mat or blanket, I do recommend a bit more padding: for example, add a folded blanket on which to do the session. None of the Drops should cause discomfort, although they may seem jarring at first: This is the desired effect, as it signals enough force to break up detritus.
Special note: Although the specific purpose of today’s practice is to align with and bolster the eliminative energies of Fall, the routine will yield an array of benefits. You will awaken and stabilize the nervous system; improve digestion; release muscle tension; and stimulate circulation, including lymph flow. Overall, this practice provides a heightened sense of physical and mental awareness, along with a feeling of calm and steady strength.
Begin standing for Heel Drops. In a normal stance, rise onto the balls of the feet: pulse twice quickly, then suddenly release the heels to the floor. Inhale twice—short sniffs through the nose—as you rise up for two small bounces on the balls of the feet; exhale once through the nose to quickly drop onto the heels. Repeat for a total of 12 Heel Drops.
Next, begin rolling down through the spine, as if curling your way into a Standing Forward Bend. When you arrive at the first place of stiffness or ache in the back, pause: Bend the knees slightly, and breathe deeply as you gently pulsate the body up and down to release tension. When you feel ready, continue to make your way to the floor.
Now on all fours, do a few traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes. Then, pause in the neutral, centered position. Typically, one firms the arms to support the upper body, in order to prevent “caving” in the upper spine. For today’s purposes, however, you will intentionally collapse the chest toward the floor: Inhale in the supported, traditional stance of all fours; then, as you exhale, let the elbows buckle and the shoulders release, so that the upper spine falls through the frame of the shoulders. Inhale to resurrect the neutral position; exhale to quickly “drop” the upper back and chest toward the ground. Repeat 12 times.
Next, help yourself onto the belly. With the forehead on the floor (or a thin pillow), rest the arms by the sides, palms down. Inhale to lift the belly, pelvis, and thighs away from the floor; the upper body and lower legs remain on the floor. Inhale to lift the torso and thighs off the ground; exhale to quickly drop it back down. Do 12 of these Front Body Drops.
Slowly turn onto your back. Bend the knees to bring the feet flat and hip-width apart, as if preparing for Bridge Pose. With considerable focus and awareness, inhale to begin the act of drawing the right knee toward the chest. The challenge of this move is to discern the slightest effort: As soon as the foot lifts, and the knee moves closer toward you, you have gone far enough. There will be an infinitesimal crease at the top of the thigh, and the foot will scarcely be off of the ground. Exhale to release the leg back down.
This move is as if you are marching in baby steps. However, the return of the foot to the floor is by dint of gravity: There should be no control in the Leg Drop; the iliopsoas muscles should fully relax, and the foot should “plunk” back onto the floor.
Alternate back and forth between left and right Leg Drops. Inhale to raise the leg; exhale to let it drop back down. Do a total of 20 “marches,” i.e., a total of 10 Leg Drops per side, alternating.
Next, extend both legs straight into the air. Inhale, then let the right knee bend as the right foot releases toward the right buttock. In this move, there should be a slight reverberation—a tiny bounce in the low leg—as the foot drops toward the bottom. Inhale the leg up; exhale to release it freely. Complete 8 Foot Drops on the right, then 8 on the left; finish with 10 alternating Drops (i.e., 5 on each side, alternating).
Now, stretch the legs long onto the floor, allowing them to find a natural resting point. Bring your attention to the upper body again: Extend both arms straight up above the shoulders, palms facing each other. Inhale to reach the right fingertips upward toward the ceiling, peeling the shoulder away from the floor; exhale to drop the shoulder back down. Again, there is a sense of free-falling; let gravity do the work for these Shoulder Drops. Repeat 8 Drops on the right shoulder, then 8 on the left; finally, alternate right and left Shoulder Drops 12 times (a total of 6 on each side, alternating).
Then, with the arms resting again on the floor by your sides, palms down, prepare for Back Body Drops. These are similar to Front Body Drops; however, the only points of support are the heels, upper back, shoulders, and head. (You also may use the hands to help with the lift of the body.) Inhale to raise as much of your body away from the floor as possible; exhale to quickly release it down. This will be a large “thump”: That is the desired result, which ensures full release of tension and stagnancy. Complete 12 Back Body Drops.
Rest briefly, and then help yourself up to sit. You may choose to sit in Full or Half Lotus; Easy Crossed-Leg Pose; or with the legs extended straight forward. Regardless, place the hands by the sides of the hips. Here, too, you may modify: Palms may be flat on the ground, or you may make fists. Press down through the arms and hands to lift the buttocks off of the ground with an inhale. (If in Lotus, try to elevate the entire package of the posture.) Exhale to drop abruptly back down. Move rapidly—inhaling up, exhaling down—for 16 repetitions.
Special note: In Kundalini Yoga, this move is said to “prepare the body for shock.” If you have been feeling a sense of foreboding, or know that challenging circumstances or interactions are imminent, practice these Body Drops several times. You will ground your anxiety and empower the nervous system to keep you feeling stable and calm.
You are now ready to close your practice with a short meditation. Sit in your preferred posture. Create a detoxifying mudra on both hands: Touch the thumb tips to the inner base of their respective ring fingers. Rest the hands, palms down, on the knees; if possible, rest the wrists on the knees, so that the hands hang over the edges of the knees. With closed eyes gazing up to the Third Eye, breathe in slow and steady through the nose; exhale in the same manner through the nose. Continue for 3 minutes, and then make your way into restful Svasana for as long as you like.