Special note: The following practice was created in response to the recent racially motivated attack in Buffalo, NY. The moves, however, will help to ground and fortify you anytime your inner or outer environment is shaken. You can find the audio version of the practice at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson
Shock and shifts may build adaptability and resilience. They also, however, can strain and deplete inner resources. Even the most even-keeled or optimistic person can be rattled by uncertainty, be it personal or societal. The following practice is designed to soothe jagged nerves, lighten burdened hearts, and promote a sense of agency.
To begin, stand with your feet a natural distance apart. Cross the arms beneath the breasts, so that each hand rests on the opposite side ribs. With eyes closed, bend the knees slightly; drop the weight of your body down, releasing the full load into the feet.
With your awareness now in the feet, begin a subtle rock forward and back, toe to heel. Keep the movement slow and small; stay aware of the feeling in the soles of the feet. With each shift into the toes, inhale: exhale to rock back into the heels. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
Take a full breath in the neutral center stance. Then, begin the same steady, slow sway, this time side to side. Keep the body as one, shifting the entire form from left to right sides of the feet. Again, focus on the feet. Inhale left, exhale right, for another minute or so.
Then, unite the two directions to move in a clockwise circle. Shift to the left, forward into the toes and right, then back into the heels and over to the left. Continue for 1 minute.
Switch directions, so that you circle counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the feet for 1 more minute.
Now, close the movement by releasing the arms to the sides; stand naturally, knees no longer bent.
Interlace the hands behind the back, and straighten them down, lengthening through the elbows. Look up, opening the eyes to focus on a spot above you. Breathe deeply, in and out through the nose, 3-5 times.
Next, back in neutral standing, bend the right knee, and step the left leg straight back, heel flat. With both arms extended straight up from the shoulders (palms facing each other), begin to raise and lower the left heel. Inhale up, exhale down, 8 times.
Then, switch sides. The left knee bends as the right leg reaches back. Again, complete 8 heel lifts.
Return to neutral standing. Bring the hands in front of the Heart Center; the palms face each other, a few inches apart. Soften the hands, as if to hold a ball of light.
Inhale: As you exhale, bend the right knee. Press down into the left foot to slide the left leg straight to the side. Keep the body upright. As the leg glides to the left, the hands move apart; let them float away from each other until you reach the apex of the leg glide.
Inhale to drag the leg back in as the right knee straightens, and the hands move back toward each other. Repeat to the other side.
Exhale to bend the left knee, slide the right leg out, and float the hands apart. Inhale to return to center, and continue the flowing, strengthening, Heart-centered movement, alternating sides each time. Inhale in the center position, exhale to either side. Complete 10 sets (wherein a set is one glide to each side).
Again stand in neutral. Interlace the fingers behind you, extending the arms straight down. Bend the knees, and move into a modified Forward Bend. Raise the arms up toward the ceiling. Breathe here for 3-5 full breaths.
When you are ready, release down onto the floor, and ease into Baby Pose. Stay here for up to 1 minute, arms where you like, breathing through the nose.
Now, shift onto all fours, and then into Plank. You may assume a modified version on your knees, or move into Full Plank. In either case, breathe long and deep through the nose for 1 minute.
From Plank, move to “stand” on the knees. Inhale to backbend slightly toward Camel, letting the arms open to the sides in a wide V; exhale to shift the hips back, so that you can bow down and touch the head to the floor. Let the arms swing down and back to each side. Inhale up into the modified Camel with V arms; exhale down. Repeat 3 more times for a total of 5 rise-and-bow’s.
Next, help yourself onto your back. Extend both legs straight into the air; flex the feet, pulling the toes down toward the body as you push powerfully up through the heels. Let the weight of the legs drop into the hips and low back; feel strongly rooted here.
With eyes closed, rest the right palm on the low belly, thumb tip on the navel point. The left hand rests on the Heart Center. Breathe here for up to 1 minute.
Now, release the legs down, and help yourself up to sit in your preferred position for meditation.
Bring the hands in front of the body at about chest level. Interlace the fingers, and turn the palms up; touch the thumb tips together. Without tilting the head forward, gaze down through barely open eyes toward the tip of the nose. You may or may not see part of the mudra. Breathe fully through the nose, gazing down, for 1 minute.
Finally, rest the hands in the lap, palms up. Let one hand rest in the palm of the other; again, connect the thumb tips.
With eyes closed, curl the tongue back to touch the rear upper palate. Inhale through slightly parted lips. As you do so, guide the breath up the spine from base to Third Eye.
Close the lips, maintaining the tongue position, and exhale through the nose. As you breathe out, send the breath down the spine, from Third Eye to root.
Continue breathing in this slight variation of a technique taught by Paramahansa Yogananda for 1-3 minutes.
Feel free to remain seated or in Svasana for as long as you like.