Yesterday, my sister and I were talking about our sense of life “post-Mom.” Countless other people who have experienced the passing of a loved one have probably had similar conversations: There was nothing especially remarkable about our sharing of thoughts and emotions. One bit of our talk has stuck with me, however, as it marked a distinct shift in my typical approach to uncertainty.
Heretofore, my first step when confronted with a challenge of any kind is to pray. For me, the “directional” sense of prayer is probably that of many others: upward, vertical. Similarly, my overall energy tends to “float above”: I find my comfort zone in higher consciousness and vibrations.
Yet, as I described to my sister the way in which I was sussing out the new duality of void and possibility that our mother’s death had left behind, I found myself using the word, “wide.” In so doing, I stopped: Rarely, if ever had I kinesthetically felt or intuited anything through the horizontal plane. To process and connect through “widening” is a first for me: Up, up, and away has always been my path.
Such is the crux of this Silent Sunday’s practice: to hone in on your own typical trajectory through life, and to experiment with less-familiar routes.
Begin in Baby Pose, simply breathing in and out through the nose. As the breath deepens and lengthens, bring your attention to the rib cage. Often, one thinks of the “breath direction” as up and down, which is anatomically logical: Upon inhalation, the diaphragm moves down; upon exhalation, it moves back up.
Now, however, consciously ensure that the ribs expand out to the sides as you breathe in; let them retract back toward center as you exhale. Breathe deeply in this position, with the intention of horizontal movement, for 1 minute.
Then, slowly roll up through the spine, so that you are sitting on your heels in Rock Pose. If this is an untenable position for you, place a pillow between your heels and buttocks for lift and support. Alternatively, find another seated posture that allows you to sit comfortably upright.
With both hands on the low belly (one atop the other), lead your breath down a different path. As you inhale fully through the nose, feel the belly expand and push out, or forward. Through slightly parted and rounded lips, exhale through the mouth; feel the full retraction of the belly. Connect with the earthiness—the earthliness—of this forward and back movement throughout the Lower Triangle of chakras. Continue to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth for 1 minute.
Now, repeat the sideways “rib breathing” to bring the energy focus back up to the Heart Center. Instead of Baby Pose, however, sit with the legs open to a straddle (wide V). Add a subtle movement to the breath and rib work.
With the palms facing each other a few inches apart in front of the chest, allow them to separate a bit more as you inhale to expand the ribs to the sides. As you exhale and let the ribs return inward, the hands also move softly back toward each other. Continue for 1 minute, eyes closed, breathing in and out through the nose.
From the wide-leg seated position, draw the legs together, extended straight forward. Bring the arms overhead, shoulder width apart. Feel free to sit on the edge of a cushion, or to place a rolled blanket under the knees, if this position is hard to access.
Take your mind’s eye to the bony notch at the base of the throat: This is the starting point for the Upper Triangle breath. As you inhale through open, rounded lips, visualize the breath entering the Throat Chakra through that center point of the collarbone; draw it up, passing behind the Third Eye, to reach the top of the skull.
As you exhale deeply through the nose, slowly open the arms about 30 degrees to each side to form a narrow V. Simultaneously, imagine the Crown opening. As the breath moves up and out, it infuses the auric field, thereby strengthening aspects of higher consciousness that inhabit the Upper Triangle. Continue for 1 minute.
Then, ease your way onto the back: Hug the knees into the chest. Return to the Ribcage Breath in this position: Inhale through the nose to expand the ribs sideways; exhale through the nose to feel their gentle retraction. Continue for 1 minute.
To close the practice, roll yourself up to come into your favorite seated pose. The practice ends where so often it begins: with spinal flexes. Used at this point in the practice, the movements ensure that all portals and directions of breath, of possibility, and of divine connection are open and accessible.
Seated with hands on knees or thighs, inhale to arch (extend) the spine forward; exhale to round (flex) the spine back. This is the same movement as Cat/Cow on all fours, but transposed to a seated variation. Inhale to push the spine forward, shoulders back, chest open; exhale to round, shoulders forward, belly back and in. Let the movement flow from pelvis to shoulder girdle; the head and neck remain relatively neutral. Continue for 1 minute.
Finish with a round of Sufi Grinds. Circle the torso clockwise; undulate through the ribcage as if massaging the organs. Inhale as you circle through the front space; exhale as you pass through the back space. Continue for 1 minute, then reverse the circle; move counter-clockwise for 1 more minute.
Finally, still seated, bring the hands into Gyan Mudra. One of the most familiar mudras, it also is one of the most powerful when seeking guidance: Here, it harnesses universal, divine wisdom, and imparts it to the open, vibrating vessel of the body and mind that you have created. Touch the index finger tips to thumb tips on each hand; rest the hands upon the knees, palms up. With eyes closed and gazing to the Third Eye, breathe naturally, yet consciously for at least 3 minutes.