On this first Silent Sunday of 2022, I share no reflection or intention. Rather, I offer empathetic encouragement to those who may have wandered into the turn of the calendar year under less-than-desirable conditions. And if that is the case for you or someone you know, today’s practice honors the uncertainty and doldrums that can arise when one’s experience does not match the expected feeling of the moment.
Of the trio of end-of-year holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations), January 1 is lauded as a clean slate—a prime opportunity for growth, change, and most of all, Hope. If, however, one leaves the previous year with unresolved issues—or, in the case of someone dear to my heart, painful challenge enters the fray as the year ends—the “new beginning” can seem like a cosmic taunt. How does one wrangle with an off-putting circumstance when the expectation is one of exuberant determination to progress and evolve?
In such times, I return to the adage: Begin where you are. To try to force energy and optimism into a weakened body or heart is, indeed, a fool’s errand. To address a vulnerable state with kindness and gentleness, on the other hand, is a wise and loving gift to oneself or another.
When confronted with heavy emotion or physical ailing during what is typically a time of renewal, recognize outright that the psycho-spiritual self is not bound by the human construct of time, nor by social admonitions. Preserve your energy, in order to direct it to that which needs your attention. In doing so, you clear what will be a hard-won path forward: When the moment is right for reflection, that pathway will shine as the undergirding of your newfound strength: a fortitude that can only have arisen as a result of your devotion to honor “where you are.”
Special note: If you are fortunate to be ringing in this New Year in a state of Hope, Joy, and Peace, today’s practice will enhance those vibrations. And for all, remember that you can find an audio version of this practice at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson
For those who are physically well and able, begin on the floor in Baby Pose (buttocks on heels, forehead on floor): If mobility is a bit limited, feel free to sit in a chair. Regardless, close the eyes, and inhale through the nose; exhale through rounded lips. Complete a few rounds of this pattern, and then, if in Baby Pose, rise up to sit on the heels.
In the posture or in a chair, place the hands on the knees or thighs: Inhale deeply, and then exhale through the nose as you bow the torso forward, coming as close to the legs as possible. Inhale up, exhale down: Complete 26 bows.
Now, shift onto all fours: If in a chair, remain seated for the imminent spinal work. To introduce the notion of change—and thus, reassurance that “where you are” is not permanent—you will reverse the breathing typically associated with Spinal Flexes. On all fours or seated, inhale deeply through the nose: As you exhale, arch (extend) the spine, opening the front body and looking up slightly; inhale long and steady to round (flex) the spine, freeing the back body and allowing the head to hang. Inhale to arch; exhale to round. Complete 16 sets. After the final exhalation, inhale to sit back on the heels if you were on all fours: Suspend the in-breath as you elongate the spine; eyes are closed and gazing at the Third Eye. Then exhale powerfully through the mouth, and sit quietly.
Next, help yourself into a soft Standing Forward Bend, allowing the knees to bend. With the hands on the floor (or the ankles, or wherever you can manage), inhale to bend the knees more deeply; exhale to lengthen through the legs as much as possible. Inhale bend, exhale straighten: Complete 26 repetitions. This move will help to restore any stability that may have wavered during the previous atypical breathing. Simultaneously, moving rhythmically and fluidly in an inverted position will suggest to the mind and body that a change of perspective is achievable.
When you are ready, return to standing. Cross the arms over the body, so that the hands rest on the opposite ribs, just under the armpits: Imbue tenderness into this supportive hold. Close the eyes, and inhale slowly and fully. As you exhale, bend to the left; inhale up to center, and exhale to the right. Moving in this way through the sagittal plane ushers in the idea that one can cope and ultimately thrive in external environments. Continue to alternate these gentle side-bends 32 times (a total of 16 to each side).
Then, release the arms, and simply breathe as you stand with the eyes closed. After a couple of centering breaths, inhale to sweep the arms out to the sides and up, bringing the palms together overhead. Exhale as you draw this Prayer Mudra down to the Heart Center; at that point, tip the hands, so that the fingers point down as you continue the downward trajectory to its end.
Immediately open the palms to inhale the arms back up through the side space and overhead: Exhale to bring Prayer Mudra to the Heart, before flipping it to finish its path. Continue this aura-clearing movement, which also helps to draw divine guidance and universal wisdom into your earthly life. Repeat 12 times.
Finally, still standing, rest the right hand on the low belly: thumb tip to navel, palm settled naturally beneath. Place the back of the left hand on the low back (palm faces out). Here, take 3 breaths in through pursed lips, creating a soft whistle; exhale through the nose. Then, breathe in slowly and fully through the nose; exhale a “double breath” through the mouth, short-long, as if to say, “Hah-haaaah.” Do this breath 3 times.
If you like, conclude your practice with Svasana, easing your way into the New Year.