Silent Sundays: Release and Harmonize–Practice to Alleviate Worry and Frustration

After a couple of days of irksome situations, I created today’s routine as a way to alleviate the anxiety and/or frustration that may accompany an inability to control process. The first step in the following practice is to identify the physical location and sensation of dis-ease in the body. For example, I typically experience frustration (or anger) as a red-hot tightness in or near the Heart Center: As the feeling deepens, it tends to move higher, into the Upper Triangle of chakras (e.g., throat or forehead).

With regard to this recent experience, however, the feeling had shifted: It was playing out “lower,” around the level of the Third Chakra. Interestingly, this region corresponds with this time of year’s associated organ systems: the Spleen and Stomach. Further, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a key sign that the systems are out of balance is a tendency to worry.

Thus, this Silent Sunday actively addresses emotional and physical imbalances that one may be most prone to now, in Late Summer. The movement patterns will relieve tightness or resistance in the mind and muscles, while harmonizing the Spleen and Stomach systems. And, should you find yourself blissfully unencumbered by challenging thoughts or circumstances, you may use this practice to ensure that your energies resonate optimally with the end of this season and into the imminent Fall.

Although today’s sequence is progressive and cumulative in its effect, you may find that one or some of the moves affect you deeply (or are not appropriate for limitations you may have). In that case, you may focus on the move(s) that resonate most strongly for you. Simply increase the number of repetitions; or, alternatively, repeat the sequence of fewer moves 2 or 3 times.

Ease your way into the practice with some breathing and free-form movement. I chose the following ambient sound frequency to support this portion of the routine:

To begin, stand naturally: With eyes open or closed, inhale through the nose as you raise your arms up and overhead through the side space; exhale through the nose, slow and steady, as you bring the arms back down. Repeat this clearing movement, deepening and lengthening the breath, 6-12 times.

Then, tune into your inner rhythm. With or without the background sound, let your body move in accordance with its natural vibratory state: Emotional and physical circumstances manifest in distinct movement qualities and patterns. As you move, there is no need to question, analyze, or label the motion: Let this be a time to unlock and release inhibitive thoughts and feelings. Continue moving in this way for 3 minutes.

If you feel unmotivated to move organically, i.e., from within, you nonetheless have received information from yourself about your current state. Resistance, trepidation, or a sense of “stuckness” signals imbalance: If that is your finding, honor it. Focus on breathing with the arm raises; however, as you exhale, breathe out powerfully through the mouth. Inhale through the nose as the arms rise; exhale forcefully through the mouth as the arms float back down

Special note: You eventually may feel inspired to move more as you breathe and clear the auric field. If that happens, heed your inner wisdom, and begin moving to the pulse of your personal vibration.

When you feel ready to end your intuitive movement, stand still, eyes closed, with hands on hips or on the lower belly. This touch helps ground the body and mind in the Lower Triangle of chakras, wherein lies a sense of security, purpose, and empowerment. The feeling of being out of control that accompanies frustration or worry can threaten these aspects of the First, Second, and Third chakras. Breathe deeply in your stance for about 1 minute.

Next, begin the first, admittedly challenging, move. From standing, inhale; then exhale as you bend the knees as much as you need to, in order to bend over and bring the hands to the ground. Breathe in fully as you walk your hands forward, bringing the body into a strong Plank. From the neutral Plank, exhale to rotate and tip the hips down toward the floor on the right; inhale to come back to center; exhale to make your Hip Drop to the left. Complete 8 sets of rotating Drops to the right and left. (One set is a Hip Drop to the right, then left.)

Special note: If the Plank with Hip Drops is not accessible to you, come into your best version of Downward Dog. There, “wag the tail”: Bend the knees, come onto the toes, and shift your hips back and forth, inhaling to the left, exhaling to the right.

From Plank, lower yourself onto the belly. Prop yourself on the forearms (elbows under shoulders, forearms extended forward on the ground, palms flat): As you inhale and turn the head to the left, chant (silently, whispered, or aloud), “Wahe Guru [wah-hay goo-roo]/“ Gently look left and right, eyes open to a soft, unfocused gaze, for 1 minute as you chant the mantra of trust in divine guidance.

Now, place one hand atop the other, and lower down to rest the forehead on the back of the top hand. Bend the knees, so that the lower legs are perpendicular to the thighs. Here, sway the lower legs from left to right, like windshield wipers: Inhale to the left, exhale right. Breathe deeply, and let your inner rhythm be pleasantly surprised and lulled by this unusual movement. Continue for 1 minute.

Next, help yourself up onto all fours. Do a few traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes to orient your body to its new place in space. Then, from a centered all-fours position, begin to circle the hips: Focus on the rocking and rolling movement through the tips and shifts in the pelvis. Circle to the right for about 30-60 seconds, and then to the left for another 30-60 seconds.

Now, bring the circling move into the torso by rolling the rib cage like a barrel. Shift the ribs to the right, then round them up and center; then circle them over to the left, and then down through center, creating an arch in the spine. Circle to the right, up and over to the left, and down and through to the right. Keep moving, allowing the breath to find its natural correspondence with the movement, for 1 minute. Then reverse, and circle the rib cage to the left for another minute.

Finally, shift your hips back into Baby Pose, arms extended forward. If you can not quite rest the buttocks on the heels, that is okay: The stretch will still be available to you. From Baby Pose—your deepest version of the posture—walk the hands to the right, with the arms reaching away from you. This will open the intercostal muscles in the rib cage, thus freeing the Spleen from limitation or resistance. Breathe here for 5-8 deep cycles of breath. Then, walk the hands to the left, opening the right side of the rib cage. Again, take 5-8 full breaths here.

Bring your body and arms back to center, and sweep the arms down to rest by the legs, palms up. Settle as deeply into Baby Pose as possible: Use whatever props are necessary to accommodate the position. For 1 minute, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, breathe in slowly and fully through the nose; exhale long and steady through rounded lips, creating a windy sound. As you breathe in this way, know that you are consolidating the effects of the movements: Worry and frustration will dissipate as the organ systems integrate the harmonious vibration of the practice.

To conclude, gently bring yourself into traditional Svasana on the back. Remain here for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday… 

Silent Sundays: Still to Come…

Special note: I write this after having published the following piece. When the writing appeared in finished form, all former typographical issues had disappeared! I nonetheless chose to print the suggestions below, as they seem to have been bidden from beyond…

As readers will immediately notice, something has gone awry with the typeface and point size of text. While I await instructions from Word Press on how to rectify this issue, today’s planned post will be delayed.

In the meantime, here are some suggestions for when the “best laid plans” take a tumble:

  1. Practice patience with Shunya Mudra: Touch the middle finger and thumb tips together on both hands. Extend the arms up and out to 60-degree angles, as if forming a large V overhead; mudras are intact, with the palms facing toward each other. Add a frustration-fighting breath to this position: Through a curled tongue (like a straw extended out through the lips), inhale; then, retract the tongue, close the mouth, and exhale through the nose. Continue, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, for 3 minutes.
  2. Chose a circular movement pattern, and move it counter-clockwise. (For example, you may stand with arms to the sides at shoulder level: Turn in circles, like a helicopter. Or, standing or sitting, circle the torso to the left. You could also make figure eights with your arms or hands, moving from the shoulders or wrists, respectively.) It is as if you are purposely going against the grain: As you move in the “wrong” direction, contemplate the situational roadblock. Breathe deeply, fueling the obstacle, which may feel counter-intuitive to the desire to correct the issue. Keep moving and breathing, drawing attention and energy to the circumstance, for 1-2 minutes. Then, stop suddenly: Inhale long and deep through the nose; exhale powerfully from the back of the throat through open mouth. Repeat twice. Then, reverse the circular motion (now moving clockwise, to the right), which will clear the path for progress toward your goal. Continue for 3 minutes.
  3. Finally, take yourself away from the physical space where the obstacle has arisen. In the case of this morning’s technological glitch, my recourse upon signing off today will be to go outside for a walk. Whenever you have exhausted efforts to correct a problem, take a break: In the time away, energy will shift, in you and with regard to the particular circumstance. In your respite, breathe consciously, chant a favorite mantra or hum a tune, and focus on the surroundings you have chosen for a short retreat.
  4. Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Shed

Open-heartedness. Empathy. Compassion.

Guarded. Closed. Impermeable.

Wherein lies the harmonious midpoint of healthily detached caring?

With and in the Shed.

The title of this piece is an intentional double-entendre: to shed and to create a shed. The former denotes active elimination; the later implies a space to hold what is most necessary for the maintenance of one’s inner environment. When one inadvertently resonates with the vibrations of others’ unsettled energies, it becomes imperative to expel the dis-ease that can begin to puncture personal Peace. Then, one does well to focus on the restoration and preservation of the Shed within.

After a few recent days of observing and subsequently taking in the distressing energies of others’ misfortunes, I come to this Silent Sunday motivated both to operate from the Heart and to protect said Heart Center. The practice that follows is especially beneficial if you have become enmeshed with others’ prickly energy or challenging circumstances.

Special note: Today’s practice also would be useful prior to meetings, discussions, or potentially divisive interactions.

Begin seated on the ground: Feel free to use any bolsters you may need to support a Wide-Leg Forward Bend. Bring the legs into a V shape in front of you; open only as much as allows your spine to remain upright and aligned. Then, maintaining the length of the spine, turn the torso slightly toward the left leg. Reach both hands to hold the leg while keeping the long spine. Inhale through the nose: Then, moving from the hips, stretch forward over the leg as you exhale through the nose. Inhale up, exhale down, without rounding the spine: It helps to look toward the big toe. Continue for 1 minute.

Then, without pausing, rotate toward the right leg, and repeat the same dynamic forward bend for 1 minute. Finally, repeat in the center (moving down and up between the legs) for 1 minute. This movement thoroughly awakens and stimulates the Life Nerve, which is responsible for stability, vitality, and longevity. The repetitive motion also will help to soothe accumulated anxiety.

Next, bring the legs together, straight in front of you; alternatively, you may sit in a crossed-leg position. Here, begin Sufi Grinds: Holding the knees (or with hands on the floor next to the hips), roll the entire torso clockwise. As you circle, allow the pelvis to be part of the movement: Tilt it forward, side, roll it back, and to the other side as you circularly undulate the body. Continue for 1 minute, and then another minute in the opposite direction (counter-clockwise).

After the profound eliminative action of Sufi Grinds, come onto the back with legs extended straight up in the air. Begin to kick the buttocks, alternating left and right heels to bottom by rapidly bending at the knees: The breath corresponds with each alternate kick, and thus becomes close to a Breath of Fire as the kicking speeds up. Exhale each time a foot kicks its half of the buttocks. Continue for 2 minutes.

Now, bring the knees in toward the body: If you are unable to hug the knees in tight, hold behind the thighs with the knees bent. Inhale to rock back, exhale to rock forward: Rock back and forth a few times on the back, in order to find a fluid, strong rhythm. Then, each time the rock comes forward, extend the legs forward, allowing the body to fall  into an easy forward bend. As the body tips toward a forward stretch, exhale powerfully through the mouth: “HA!” Inhale to lift the torso as the knees come in, rocking back; exhale to rock up, elongating the legs and moving seamlessly into a natural forward bend with “HA.” Repeat 26 times.

When you have finished the rolling forward bends with cleansing sound, lie quietly for a moment. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose; if an exhale through the mouth feels right, do so. Then, help yourself turn onto the belly. Come onto the forearms for Sphinx Pose.

Here, begin to turn the head left and right: Inhale through the nose to look left; exhale through the nose to look right. Continue for 30-60 seconds, being sure to stay lifted through the shoulders and open through the chest. Let the movement be free of tension, even if that means barely turning the head.

Now, add an “unlocking” piece: As the head turns left, keep the eyes trained to the right. When the head turns right, turn the eyes to the left. It may take a few tries to find a smooth rhythm: Additionally, take note of the breath; often, the oppositional movement causes unwanted breath retention. Double-check that you are inhaling as the head turns left (eyes right), and exhaling as the head turns right (eyes left.)

Once you have learned to accommodate the movement, continue for 1 minute. This opposing eye and head movement provides a surprise for the nervous system, ensuring that habitual patterns of thought and behavior do not guide your responses.

Special note: The above move also serves as a potent tonic after extended computer time, or other eye-straining activity.

Next, shift back into Baby Pose, legs together with the body resting atop, or legs wide with the torso resting between. Regardless, interlace the fingers behind the back, and straighten the arms out and up: Bring them as high above the back and toward the shoulders as possible for Yoga Mudra. Breathe deeply here, in and out through the nose, for 1 minute.

Slowly release the arm lock, and help yourself to sit. You may remain seated on the heels, in crossed-leg pose, legs straight out front, or in a chair. When you have established a centered, comfortable seat, close the eyes and gaze up to the Third Eye. On each hand, touch the thumb tip to pinky fingertip. Inhale through the nose slowly and deeply; exhale with a long, steady whistle. This mudra and pranayama empowers and develops intuitive ability. 

Often when swept away by others’ energies or troubles, one loses the connection to the Divine Wisdom within—Intuition. Be with this mudra and breath anytime you need to regain a sense of the security that comes with aligning the mind and Heart with the guidance of the Universe. With that comes the ability to offer kindness while safeguarding personal energies. 

Immerse yourself into the energy of the mudra for at least 5 minutes, longer if you like. Finally, ease into Svasana to integrate the effects of the practice.

Happy Sunday…

Rock of Ages: The Practice

In the introduction to “Rock of Ages,” I mentioned that the following routine subtly affects the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). In so doing, the practice not only serves as a check-in for your overall state of being, it offers an opportunity to quiet down after a hectic day, to soothe frayed nerves, and to assuage insomnia.

Most of the practice involves subtle rocking movements. As indicated in the introduction, I first experienced this type of work through the Feldenkrais method, or Awareness Through Movement. The supine heel rocks that I will suggest below have stuck with me for decades; they would enhance any self-care repertoire.

Because the movements themselves ask one to relinquish tension, the practice moves along a trajectory of large to small movement: This allows the body to release, leaving the PNS available to receive the more subtle techniques. To begin, lie on your back with arms and legs extended straight up at 90 degree angles to the torso: Shake the limbs vigorously for 30-60 seconds. 

Then, place the feet on the floor with the knees bent and hip-width apart: The arms rest naturally by the sides. Now, inhale to curl the tailbone toward you, and continue to peel the spine off the floor, sensing each vertebra as you rise into a Bridge. When you reach the top of the shoulders, exhale and replace each vertebra back down, now “pasting” the spine back to the floor. Repeat 5-9 more times, for a total of 6-10 spinal rolls.

Next, with the knees still bent, inhale, and drop both legs to one side as you exhale. Inhale back up through center, and exhale to the other side. Continue with this “windshield wiper” movement for 1 minute.

From the neutral bent knee position, open the right knee to the right; let it find its natural opening (external rotation through the hip joint), and note that you will also roll to the outer edge of the right foot. As soon as your leg finds it natural stopping point, slide the foot (on its outer edge) down along the floor: The leg will naturally straighten, bringing the knee cap to face up in a typical long-leg position. Repeat the same fall-open move with the left leg, sliding the left foot down until the left leg is long and resting next to the right leg.

If you find that this move feels particularly beneficial or “organizational” for the pelvis and low spine, repeat as many times as you like. To do so, reverse the move: Roll the foot of the straight leg open, so that the foot comes to its outer edge; begin to bend the knee as you retract the foot back to the original bent-knee position. Then, retract the other leg by first rolling to the outer edge of the foot. If you like, move the legs from bent to straight and back to bent as many times as you like.

Eventually, end with both legs straight, as if in Svasana. Here, rock the feet from side to side: Bring your attention to the feeling of the heels against the ground. After about 30 seconds of the side-to-side rocking, let yourself be still. Consciously breathe deeply and fully through the nose: It at any time, you find that you need to yawn or want to release sound, feel free. This is the body’s way of sussing out emotional or physical tension. Breathe here for about 1 minute.

Now, begin the Heel Rocks. To an observer, it would appear that you are pointing and flexing the foot: However, in order to create vibrate and rock the body, focus more on pushing forward through the heels—tiny, rapid little pushes. The foot will naturally rebound toward a pointed (extended) foot, but keep your intention on bouncing forward and back through the heels. As your brain begins to understand this movement, the entire body will rock from head to toe: At this point, continue for 1-3 minutes.

Then, lie quietly, allowing the PNS to receive the shaken-free, soothed energies. Breathe deeply: Again, if it is helpful for you, try breathing in through the nose for 4 or 6, then out through the nose or mouth for 8-12 counts. Savor this integration of calm for another 1-3 minutes.

Next, slowly roll to one side, and help yourself onto all fours: Immediately place the forearms on the floor, parallel to each other, elbows under shoulders. Allow the head to hang if it feels right. Begin a forward and back rocking motion, moving slowly in conjunction with long, deep breathing through the nose: Inhale to rock forward; exhale to rock back, as if moving toward Baby Pose. This movement is extraordinarily soothing for a variety of physical complaints, so spend as much time here as you like.

From here, come onto the belly with the chin or forehead on the ground. Let the knees be bent, forming a 90 degree angle between lower legs and thighs. Begin the “windshield wiper” movement with the lower legs; let the legs be as loose as they can as you move them from side to side. Continue for 30-60 seconds.

Now, continue the side-to-side trajectory, and amplify the move. Bring the hands near the shoulders, palms flat. As the legs fall to the left, roll the right hip bone (front pelvic point) up and away from the floor. Roll back through center, and then drop the legs to the right, while rolling the left hip bone off the ground. Press down into the right hand when rocking to the left and peeling the right hip away; use the left hand to help roll the left hip up as the legs rock to the left.

Move back and forth in this way for about 1 minute.

Again, settle into stillness, allowing the legs to rest straight on the ground, and resurrect deep nasal breathing: Quiet down for 1-3 minutes. Then, with the arms by the sides, palms up or down (according to your body’s structure and comfort), place the forehead on the ground. (To rest on the chin for the next bit may compromise the cervical spine.) Now, initiate Toe Rocks: Curl the toes under, and begin small, quick pushes through the balls of the feet and tips of the toes: This is the same rhythm and intention as the supine Heel Rocks; now, in prone position, the front body receives care and release. Continue for 1-3 minutes, allowing the calming signals to reach the PNS.

Then, lie quietly, breathing deeply, for another 1-3 minutes.

Now,roll slowly onto your back again, knees bent and hip-width apart. Use this body-awareness meditation to collect and embed the soothing energies. Bring the hands into Prayer Mudra (palms together, fingers straight), and rest the base knuckles of the thumbs ont the Third Eye, just above the bridge of the nose. Inhale and exhale deeply, 3-5 times. Then, release the hands, and cross one arm over the other, resting both on the torso: Let the arms find their natural cross and resting spot, and allow their weight to be fully supported by the body. Again, take 3-5 deep breaths through the nose.

Softly, with minimal effort, shift the arms again: Place one hand on the Heart Center, and the other on the low belly, resting the thumb tip on the navel. Breathe deeply 3-5 times. From here, slide the legs straight (you may repeat the knee-falling-open technique from earlier), and rest the palms of the hands on their respective hip bones or upper thighs. Again, give yourself 3-5 slow, complete breaths.

Finally, let the arms fall to the floor by your sides, palms up or down: Allow your need of the moment to dictate the hand position. Slip into Svasana, and remain for as long as you like.

’Til next time…

Silent Sundays: Rock of Ages–Introduction

On this Silent Sunday, I reflect upon a multifaceted sense that most of us have had at some time in our lives: a feeling of relief that a difficult time has passed; a determination that such a circumstance or person will never derail us again; and then, the humbling realization that while the details may be different, challenge always will make a return. 

Specifically, I allude to the state of my being following two total hip replacements in the past 6 months. Back in February of this year, I wrote the following: “Where once my hip[s] held unresolved emotion and pain, now [they] will be consciously refilled with only that which will aid and better myself and others” (https://everythingelsa.blog/2021/02/21/silent-sundays-fill-with-what-you-will/).

As Everything Elsa readers know, I have created many practices designed to oust psychological and spiritual detritus from the warehouse of the hip joints; and to clear the space for Heart-centered and spiritually minded energies. Now, the time has come to offer a subtle and surprisingly profound routine that inspects and corrects the quality of that which enters the new space.

While you may not have had hip surgery (or any recent physical upheaval), it is likely that you have or will encounter the need to expel unwanted energies; cleanse your inner sanctum; and protect the physical, mental, or spiritual space in question. And if you are unsure, investigate yourself: Have you noticed a return to old behaviors or detrimental thought patterns? Are circumstances or tendencies that you thought you left behind staging a return? Run an inner “system check”: If necessary, roust, clear, and decide to regularly re-inspect; the upcoming practice offers that opportunity.

A clue to myself that I needed to create such a routine came to my attention this morning, a day after I wrote about a resurgence of my family’s need to address our mom’s dementia. The piece pointed to my aim to not repeat previous missteps in the process. That honing in on old ways, and consciously choosing to take an alternate route is the impetus for what I write today, and the crux of the practice to come.

Ironically, the substance of the routine that I will offer in a few days stems from past studies: In clearing and detaching from past situations and emotions, I turn to the past to ensure ongoing clarity. To wit: In my 20s, I was a modern dancer with a local company, who also taught children and adult improvisational movement. Throughout this period, I was fortunate to have teachers who were curious and disciplined explorers: They brought in other teachers of bodywork and mind/movement techniques to enhance our learning. We sampled Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, reflexology, and Somatic Awareness Through Movement (SATM).

Two decades later, I attended massage school. One of the modalities taught was Kinesthetic Awareness Through Movement (KAM); I again flashed back to my dance days.

And now, almost another two decades later, I return to those techniques to safeguard the sanctity of my new hip joints. The practice that I will offer in a few days highlights the soothing and somewhat bewildering nature of the work: As opposed to the assertive, detoxifying purge of the old joints, and the pointed karma- and aura-clearing of the brand new hips, the current situation is one that needs a more refined approach.

The purpose of the practice is to access, assess, and ensure clarity and harmony within.

For anyone, on any day, for any reason, the routine provides a pampering treatment for the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): This “rest and digest” aspect of our wiring can become burdened by daily stressors, not to mention a lifetime of unresolved issues. The practice will suss out and gently escort out any intrusions of unwanted thought or behavior: Such “intruders” manifest readily in mind and body; the work to come offers a self-compassionate response to their presence.

Happy Sunday… 

Next time: Rock of Ages—The Practice 

Yet Again–The Path Already Taken (Or: How Not to Trip on the Same Stones)

Now, at 3:47 a.m., I have been up for 2 hours and 14 minutes. And so it begins (again)…

The last month has been another challenging period in our family’s interminable travels with Mom’s dementia. Around this time two years ago, we faced similar concerns: Mom was unhappy and frustrated with her living situation, especially as she had stopped driving. Back then, we, her adult children, scrambled and fumbled and whirled ourselves into a state of anxiety over how to address Mom’s issues: We had become certain that the only recourse was to move her out of Home, and move her into a “home.” 

When nothing seemed to be a good fit, or obstacles and uncertainties caused us to spin faster and more wildly, we finally realized that there must be an alternative to how we were thinking and what we were doing. Thank goodness for my sister, who managed to rally a neighbor of my mom’s to provide help: Long story short, “L” stepped in and up, and provided our family with care for our mom, and time for us to regroup.

So it has been two years of a deep breath for all of us. As of this moment, however, we have returned to the thought that Mom needs a different environment and a deeper level of care. (To be clear, this current state of thinking originated with our mother’s demand and declaration that she must, she will move “back Home.” She can not express exactly what that looks like, or where it is, but she has spent a month packing furiously and often waiting for a “ride home.” Over and over again, we have had to thwart her aim: She already lives in the one and only home/house she has.)

Finally, last week, all of us—including “L,” her intrepid caregiver—simultaneously agreed that the time has come: Mom must be moved. Ironically, that is the granting of her wish; however, it is a wish that she can not visualize or describe. Said “wish,” in its fulfillment, may be the very thing that brings her to her knees. 

Anywhere we move her likely will not sate the feeling that she craves: peace and purpose.

So how do we accommodate her and our hopes? Where lies that accommodation? Here, I could launch into a diatribe about “peace within,” or the universal presence of a divine kingdom and its inner dwelling. In the distant, milky past, these are ideas that my mother and I would discuss for hours. But then the harshest of earthly realities strikes: My mother’s dementia does not allow her to grasp abstracts, or at least to retain them; and her cognitive challenges include decreased judgment and reasoning. Her mood swings are certain to occur, but we never know when or for how long.

To encourage that mind to look within, or to breathe deeply, or to be grateful for her lovely home and its nature-filled surroundings is a fool’s errand. She may understand the intention of such suggestions, but she will not remember them, nor would she be able to engage them.

Thus, here we are again. And here I am, watching my own mind try to retrace what we did in the previous version of this challenge two years ago, and how to do it differently. Thankfully, while Mom’s mind has shifted away from reasoned understanding, my own (by dint of sheer need) has acquired a greater ability to focus and direct intention. And as with distance healing for others’ physical concerns, one can stimulate and amplify a vibration of peace for others: So it shall be for my mother.

What I return to (which took me a while to access last time) is the mantra “Sat Kartar,” or, “God is the Doer and the Truth.” One could also say, “Let go, let God;” or, “What is meant to be, shall be.”

All such mantras reroute a wayward mind, one that attempts to juggle, analyze, or fix too much. When yoked to God’s will, one’s own will can ease up on the reins. When anchored in God’s wisdom, one’s own mind can discern and dismiss irrelevant or misguided choices. When one consciously breathes into the vast void that is paradoxically the eternal entirety and wholeness, one can temper the demands of this earthbound existence.

With the mantra—or whatever mantra “appears” on any given day—I also have returned to the most fundamental of breathing techniques: “in for 4; out for 8.” Typically, after a few rounds, the counts become closer to 6 and 12. And I find that I breathe in through the nose, and exhale through the nose, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye. Sometimes a groan or sad sigh emerges: Whatever is imprisoned within is given the opportunity to escape. Usually, after 5 minutes, I begin to play with the calmed, deeper breath: whistle in, whistle out; or, in through pursed lips, and out through the mouth with tongue extended.

This is a case when the body knows more than the mind: Let the physical need guide the remedy. And such is the case of the spiritual need and remedy: God knows, the Universe knows—let them lead the way. 

Onward…

Silent Sundays: Moon Meld–A Short, Soothing Practice

On this Silent Sunday, we find ourselves feeling the energy of a Full Moon. As noted two weeks ago, this moon will balance the unsettling New Moon of August 8; today’s moon will provide unusually pleasant vibrations. Nonetheless, any Full Moon inherently brings the heightened stimuli of a month’s worth of lunar energy

As many yogis know, Full Moon Days suggest a pacifying practice: Movements should be gentle, rest ample, and breath slower and deeper. Today’s session commits to those principles, and adds another—perhaps lesser known—aspect to consider: release and expulsion. As the moon moved through its phases, we, too, gathered and likely stored energy: With the Full Moon comes a time to release unnecessary emotion or thought. Think of the end of a year—the energetic culmination of 12 months—when one anticipates a fresh start. Many practices at that time call for a “detoxifying” approach: Wring out and jettison unwanted energies, in order to make room for the new.

Lunar energy is a bit more specific: In general, moon characteristics are “feminine,” i.e., yin. In the Full Moon phase, however, the cumulative energy takes on a more yang vibration: up and out, versus down and in. The balancing act that is the foundation of today’s practice occurs through the Heart Center: This seat of inner peace, compassion, and equanimity can ease the pull and sway of vigorous Full Moon energies. Thus, the following session will focus on two intentions: Open the Heart, and root out extraneous, stagnant energy.

Special note: Because this Silent Sunday centers on gentle movement in the chest, shoulders, and upper back, it also would be an excellent way to improve posture and ease stiffness in those areas.

If you enjoy working with essential oils, I suggest a pre-practice anointment with lavender and/or geranium; bergamot or neroli, and/or lemon balm; and chamomile. I tend to respond well to the use of several oils, either blended or individually; you may prefer otherwise. For today’s session, I would dab 1-2 drops of bergamot on the low belly (an inch or two below the navel) and sacrum. Then, I would dot 1-2 drops of lavender on the Heart Center, and into the tiny depression at the center of the collar bones. Because this addition of essential oils into the practice is optional, follow your intuition: Choose oils that you find grounding (for the lower chakras) and calming (for the Heart Center and upper chest or neck).

Now, stand a few inches in front of a doorway to begin. Lean toward the open door space, and place your forearms on either side of the door frame, elbows several inches above shoulder level. Feel that the armpits are reaching up, as the shoulder blades move down. Allow your full body weight to fall forward; as the chest opens wide, think of bringing the bottom tips of the shoulder blades together. “Hang” here, breathing deeply through the nose, for 30 seconds.

Slowly move out of the door stretch, and come to your usual practice space. Still standing, bend the knees, lean forward to place the hands on the thighs, and begin standing Cat/Cow spinal flexes: Inhale to arch (extend); exhale to round (flex). Continue for 1 minute.

Then, with the knees still slightly bent for support, bring your torso parallel to the ground, and let the arms hang freely. Begin a back and forth swing with the arms: Inhale as the left arm swings forward and the right swings back; exhale as the right comes forward and the left swings back. Move rapidly, bringing the arms to the level of the torso as they reach the apex of the swing. Continue for 1 minute.

Next, help yourself to the floor and onto your right side. Bend the knees, so that the knees are stacked one atop the other, with the feet in line with the buttocks. The right arm reaches out onto the floor at shoulder level, and the left rests on top of it. As you inhale, retract the left arm by drawing back from the shoulder; the hand will slide along the right arm to about the right elbow. Exhale to slide the left arm forward; the hand will likely slide past the right hand and onto the floor. Continue this subtle back and forth roll for 1 minute.

From your side-lying position, open the left arm all the way to the floor on the left: You will be in a reclined twist. If you need to adjust your leg or arm position, do so. Breathe deeply here: Inhale for 4, exhale for 8. Breathe in this way 3-5 times. Then, repeat the entire sequence—upper-body slide-rolls, and reclined twist with deep breathing—on the other side.

Now come onto your back. Bend the knees, feet flat and hip-width apart: Extend both arms straight up and out from the shoulders, and bring the palms together. Inhale, then exhale as you roll the upper body to the left; inhale back to center, then exhale to the right. The arms remain straight; one shoulder will roll off the floor as you rock to the opposite side. 

Take a few rocks through the upper body only, and then add the lower body. Inhale: Then, as the arms move left with an exhale, drop both knees to the right. (They do not have to reach the floor.) Inhale arms and legs back to center, and immediately exhale to rock arms right and drop legs to the left. Continue this oppositional, alternating movement for 1 minute.

Finally, bring a soft pillow, or folded towel or blanket under your upper back: The head and neck rest easily on the floor. The bolster should be only thick enough to suggest a subtle opening to the Heart Center. With the legs long and arms resting palms-up on the floor, remain in this restorative rest for 1-3 minutes. Then, remove the prop, and settle into traditional Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Foot Notes–Release and Invigorate

Today’s routine is the result of a spontaneous session that found its way into my morning practice yesterday. Although a licensed massage therapist who started her bodywork adventures with the study of reflexology, I nonetheless sometimes forget how immediate and profound the results of working with the feet can be. If this Silent Sunday finds you feeling out of sorts in any way, I recommend the following practice: These techniques will roust you from any lethargy or malaise, and promote a strong sense of vitality and centeredness.

Begin with a sequence designed to awaken breath and unfurl the feet and ankles. On all fours, lower your upper body to rest on the forearms (elbows under shoulders, palms flat, forearms parallel to each other): Hips remain directly over knees. Now, bring the forearms to touch each other, and slide the elbows in a bit, so that they are under the center of the chest. The palms are now together, head is slightly cocked up, and the thumbs extend straight up. In this position, begin a gentle rock back and forth: inhale as you shift forward, moving the chest over the hands; exhale to shift back, allowing the hips to move straight back. Maintain this inhale forward, exhale back rhythm for about 30 seconds.

Then, still moving fluidly, forward and back, extend the breaths: Inhale deeply for 8 counts—you will probably rock back and forth about 4-6 times; then exhale long and deep for 12, maintaining a steady back and forth movement, probably 6-8 rocks. Continue for 3 minutes.

From here, press up onto the hands, elbows slightly bent to protect the joint. If your wrists bother you here, fist the hands, or remain on the forearms (in the original forearms shoulder-width apart/palms flat position). Extend the right leg straight back along the ground, ball of the foot on the floor. Begin another forward and back rock, moving through the ankle joint and opening the sole of the foot. Inhale forward, exhale back 12 times (6 rocks in each direction). Bring the right leg in, extend the left leg back, and repeat the same move, pressing through the ball of the foot.

Now, lower onto your belly, knees bent, lower legs hovering and releasing toward the buttocks. If possible, keep the head down, resting on the forehead or chin. Reach back to lightly hold each ankle with its respective hand. (If you can not reach without strain, lift the head slightly, and keep the chin slightly tucked.) With the fingers on the fronts of the ankles, thumbs resting on the heel or Achilles tendon, begin to pulsate the fingers to vibrate the ankles: Continue until the entire foot responds and shakes loosely and easily. It may take up to a minute for the feet to release; once they do, continue the rapid vibrating and shaking for another minute.

From here, release the hands and feet, and shift up onto all fours, and immediately into Downward Dog. In this variation, forego any need to “perfect” the posture; mostly, you want the benefits of the inversion and long spine. In your version, begin to walk the heels up and down, alternating from right to left, for about 30 seconds. 

Then, help yourself lower to the floor, and lie on your back. With knees bent, feet flat and hip width apart, place the hands on the mid-thighs. Use the hands to keep the knees still, and begin to supinate and pronate the feet: Inhale as the feet roll to their inner edges; exhale to roll to the outer edges. The entire leg will try to join the back and forth movement; by keeping the knees quiet, the movement emphasizes ankle mobility. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, draw both knees in toward the body. Bring them in just enough, so that you can rest the right hand on the front of the right ankle, and place the left thumb to the right heel. (For some, the opposite hold may feel better: Use the left hand to steady the foot, and the right thumb to create movement.) Use the thumb to vibrate the ankle rapidly; the opposite hand acts a s a ballast to localize the vibration. Ultimately, the entire foot will shake free. Continue for 30-60 seconds, and repeat on the left side.

You may remain on your back for the next bit, or rise to sit: Whichever position you choose, you need to be able to reach the feet without strain.

Once you have a comfortable position, begin by massaging the right heel, fingers on one side, thumb on the other. Use firm, but not deep pressure: Move organically, allowing your innate energies to determine speed and direction of the stroke. Continue for 1 minute, right heel only.

Now, begin to pinch-and-release the right Achilles tendon with the right thumb and index finger: inhale to squeeze, exhale to release. If any tender area arises, pinch firmly with the inhale; hold as you also rub-and-roll with the thumb and finger; then exhale to release. Repeat until you feel a sense of relief.

Next, apply more specific pressure. Bring the thumb tip to the inner ankle bone: palpate around the edges of the roundish malleolus, noting top, bottom, and rims. Mentally divide the bone in half—front half of the circle, and back half: Think two half-moons. With the thumb, begin to exert pressure just behind (i.e., toward the Achilles) the top edge of the posterior (back) half-moon. Inhale to press, exhale to release. Repeat 4-6 times.

Then, move down a bit, still adjacent to the edge of the rear half-moon of the ankle bone. Repeat the pressure technique 4-6 times. Again move down, repeat; and finally, press on the fourth point at the base of the ankle bone.

Each of the above points stimulates Kidney energy. As such, a steady flow of qi (“Life Force”) is released through the meridian: This organ system settles fear and anxiety, and provides a deep sense of calm and connection to the Universe, while increasing physical vitality.

To complete the “trip” around the ankle bone for this practice, apply another round of pressure to Bladder 60 (or, Urinary Bladder–UB– 60). This point lies just behind the top rim of the lateral ankle bone, directly opposite the first point—Kidney 3—practiced above. Because Kidney and Bladder are each others Yin/Yang partners, respectively, the addition of a Bladder point to the primarily Kidney session promotes a profound sense of harmony. The application of pressure to Bladder 60 also can help with headaches and insomnia.

Repeat the entire pressure-point sequence on the left ankle bone. Then, simultaneously bring the middle finger tips to the soles of their respective feet. Press just beneath the center ball of each foot, in a line down from between the 2nd and 3rd toes. Inhale to press, exhale to release: Breathe purposefully, as the exhale will flush out stagnant qi, and make way for fresh energy to fill this “Bubbling Spring” point. It is said that this is the most crucial of all foot points: Life Force emanates from this point, and floods the system with beneficial Yin energy. Continue the pressure-point work until all tenderness and tension has dissipated.

Finally, lie on your back. Begin to flex and extend the feet: Note how these “ankle pumps” move more freely and fully now; you may even feel that the toes are further apart from each other, and more relaxed. Additionally, the foot movement creates a “flossing” of the sciatic nerve, which will help keep back and leg pain at bay. Flex and extend the feet, simultaneously or alternately, 8-12 times. Then release fully into Svasana, and allow the energetic nourishment to flow. Remain in rest for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Moon Mix

This Silent Sunday coincides with a New Moon. Typically, this monthly event ushers in a ripe moment for new approaches and ideas: a fresh start. This August’s New Moon adds a not-so-hidden punch: As Susan Miller writes on her astrology website (astrologyzone.com), “The new moon [in this ‘high-contrast’ month] is a shocker; [however], while the new moon can cause some jitters, the full moon [will be ‘enchanting’].”

So often, one may feel or notice vibrations or signs that forecast disruption, yet be uncomfortably uncertain of their origin or meaning. With a cosmological alert—such as the one above—one can choose to prepare for and marvel at yet another example of Life’s inherent surprises. With regard to this month’s lunar extremes (today’s New Moon, and the Full version on August 22), one can be assured that the latter will provide a sense of divine relief.

The following practice will aid the calming of the New Moon’s provocative “jitters,” and remind each of us that “when chaos erupts, it is for a reason” (Miller, astrologyhzone.com). I have created several previous practices to cope with Full Moon energies; today’s routine focuses on the atypical aspects of an unsettling New Moon.

Because this New Moon’s usual vibration of positivity and possibility is conflated with jangled energy stemming from its interaction with other planets, today’s practice provides a centering counterpoint of Trust and Hope. As noted above, we have the soothing reassurance that all will be well by the end of the month: The ride until then will be much easier when seated in a rock-steady Will, buoyed by Faith.

Begin standing. Let the arms hang loosely by the sides: As you move through this first round of spinal flexes, allow the shoulders to roll open and close (or not) as your body dictates. With the knees comfortably bent for support, inhale to extend (arch) the spine and tip the pelvis forward; exhale to flex (round) the spine, as the pelvis rocks back. As you arch and round, silently chant, “Sat Nam,” respectively, 4 times. This mantra imbues the mind and energy centers with the idea that “Truth is my name”: self-empowerment rooted in eternal divine wisdom.

Continue the spinal flexes at a steady pace, now whispering the mantra 4 times in correspondence with the movement: Sat to arch; Nam to round. Without pausing, chant 4 more times with movement in full voice. When you have completed this, straighten through the legs as you inhale the arms overhead; exhale to sweep them down.

Begin the spinal flexes with chant again, this time first rounding, then arching: chant Sat aloud as you curve the spine backward; Nam aloud as the spine arches and presses forward. After 4 repetitions of the mantra with movement, repeat in a whisper 4 times; then finish in a silent chant 4 more times. Again, inhale to straighten through the legs and stretch the arms overhead; exhale to bring the arms back down.

Now, still standing, repeat the chanting sequence—silent; whisper; aloud—with a new movement. As you chant Sat, shift the ribcage to the left; slide the ribcage to the right as you chant Nam. Repeat 3 more times, then without stopping the movement, chant in a whisper 4 times, then aloud 4 times. 

To fully awaken and empower your energies through each chakra, you now will add an oppositional head movement to the ribcage isolation and mantra. Starting out loud, chant Sat as you shift the ribs to the right, and turn the head to look left; chant Nam aloud as the ribs move left and the head looks right. Repeat 3 more times.

Special note: This move is admittedly tricky, and will force the brain to focus and harmonize. If you need to practice a few times before committing to the fluid combination of movement with mantra, feel free to do that.

After the out-loud version of Sat Nam with oppositional movements, repeat (again starting by shifting the ribs to the right, as head turns left) 4 rounds of the mantra in a whisper; finish the movement with mantra in the silent variation, 4 times. Then, take a few moments, standing with eyes closed, to breath deeply and sense any physical or mental changes.

For the final standing movement, begin to circle the ribcage. The move is akin to seated Sufi Grinds, and not as large as a full torso circle: The emphasis is on the rib cage, which highly stimulates and frees the flow of Third Chakra (Will Power) energy. Let the arms hang or naturally respond to the first clockwise circling of the ribcage 12 times; then reverse directions to circle counter-clockwise 12 more times. Typically, the breath will find its way into an inhale as you circle through the front space, and exhale as you circle into the back space.

Now, help yourself to sit on the ground. In your preferred posture for meditation, interlace the fingers, and place the palms on the Third Chakra, at the juncture of the low ribs below the breasts. With eyes closed and gazing to the Third Eye, inhale deeply through the nose; exhale through the mouth. As you breathe, focus on the interconnection of the fingers; the feeling of the palms against the body; and the side-to-side expansion and regression of the ribs with each inhale and exhale. Continue for 2 minutes of this alignment between your Will and the current of the Universe.

Then, bring the backs of the hands together, pinky finger edges resting against the sternum (Heart Center), and curl the index fingers into their respective thumbs. Thus, the backs of the middle, ring, and pinky fingers of each hand touch, with the index finger of each hand held down by its thumb. This positioning of an enhanced Gyan Mudra turned outward, connected to the Heart Center, with the closed-eye focus on the Third Eye is a profound, multifaceted way to reaffirm your earthbound, human self’s connection to the Divine and the Universe. Breathe deeply in this “package of protection” for 3-5 minutes.

If you like, release into Svasana for rest, or simply sit quietly for as long as seems right to you.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Current State–The Electric Path to Meditation

In the year 2000, I began to study the Lessons of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). At the time, I was an ashtanga yoga teacher who also regularly practiced kundalini yoga. As my body became stronger and more centered, my emotions balanced and my mind opened, and I intuitively and consciously sought spiritual advancement. The Lessons introduced an idea of how and why such progressions occur, and provided a framework of understanding that resonated with me. 

There was, however, an early sticking point: the concept of electricity within the body, and how it relates to meditation. Upon first reading of this notion, I felt mildly disappointed: Because I craved esoteric insight, the idea that something as scientific and mundane as electricity may be behind feelings of spiritual connection was anticlimactic. I was looking for mysticism, and science pushed in.

I nonetheless completed the Lessons over the course of a year, and eventually became a Kriya member of SRF. This advancement required that I practice and become adept at the meditation techniques taught by Paramahansa. At the time, I kept my disappointment about electricity’s role in the process to myself: I devoted myself to the technique, and it remains part of my practice these 21 years later.

During this time, I was simultaneously practicing kundalini yoga. The practice felt natural and made perfect sense to my body and mind: The results of kundalini kriyas were immediate, and the benefits accrued exponentially over time. As I learned more about the basis of the practice’s body angles and their relationship to the meridian system, I harked back to the idea of electrical flow in the body. 

My “disappointment” began to fade as determined curiosity emerged. 

And then came massage school just a few years later. Perhaps no surprise, I was drawn swiftly and easily to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and its foundation in elements and their related systems and meridians. Textbook diagrams illustrated the flow of qi (“chee”) through clear pathways, or channels: I saw a similarity to the idea of electrical current, or Life Force (Prana) traveling through the body. 

Two years after massage school, I began to study qigong, which essentially taught me how to harness and direct the qi, or energy in the body to promote the health of myself and others. My hands always have been able to sense and guide energy; qigong enhanced their natural ability by providing specific techniques and explanations for their work.

Now, 15 years after those qigong classes and 20 years after delving into SRF techniques and kundalini yoga, I have embarked on an intensive course of meditation, in general. In the very first modules of reading are myriad articles about the nervous system and its “bioelectric” role in meditation. 

The idea of consciously “conducting electricity” through the body may be daunting, if not ridiculous to some. Recall my own disappointment that something as common and available as electrical impulse may be the route to spiritual evolution. But then I recognized the essence of the idea in ancient practices. Further, I found “proof” of its efficacy in the experience and practice of relaxing the body and controlling the breath, in order to access the mind and open to unseen realms.

On this Silent Sunday, I offer a practice to address your “current state,” your innate electric juice and the opportunities it offers. One component that links the idea of Life Force, body electricity, and chakra vortexes is the vagus nerve. This cranial nerve runs from the brain stem, through the neck, lungs, and digestive track. A strong vagus nerve (“high vagal tone”) supplies the ability to relax easily, and conversely, relaxation and meditation strengthen the nerve. 

In order to create the prime environment in which to access, harness, and direct energetic forces, it is necessary to clear your magnetic field. Come to stand, feet comfortably apart. With a slight bend in the knees, inhale as you raise both arms overhead, arching back gently; exhale to bring the arms and torso forward and down, only as far as feels safe for the lower back. Immediately inhale back up; exhale into your version of a forward bend. Continue this “miracle bend” for 2 minutes: Use the first minute or so to warm and ease stiff muscles, and then move more fluidly and fully for the second minute.

Having cleared the vertical field, begin an upper-body swing. With the arms out to the sides at shoulder level, palms down, inhale: Exhale, and rotate to the left; as you do so, the right elbow bends, bringing the hand toward the Heart Center. Inhale back to center, lengthening  though the right arm again; exhale to the right, bringing the left hand toward the Heart. Inhale back through center with both arms long, and continue to the left, through center, then right. Breathe deeply and fully as you twist at a good pace, being aware that you are clearing the horizontal plane. Continue for 1 minute.

Now, as you remain standing, again bring the arms out to the sides at shoulder level. With palms down, touch the thumb tips to the inner bases of the ring fingers (next to the middle finger): Keep this detoxifying mudra as you begin to see-saw the arms rapidly. Inhale as the left arm lifts and right arm lowers; exhale as the right comes up, and the left goes down. Continue powerfully for 1 minute.

Next, help yourself to the ground for traditional Cat/Cow spinal flexes. Inhale and exhale, arching and rounding the spine for 1 minute.

Special note: Those who regularly read Everything Elsa and/or Silent Sundays know that I include spinal work in almost every practice and meditation. This is a direct result of my involvement with SRF techniques and kundalini yoga: Both systems—and yoga, in general—acknowledge the spine as the central channel for conduction of all energy, be it neural or spiritual.

With the auric field clear and the spine warm, lower down onto the belly. Begin by raising up onto the forearms—as in Sphinx Pose—with an inhale; exhale to lower down. Repeat 26 times.

Next, bend the knees; reach back to hold the ankles or feet. Inhale to raise the thighs, head and chest up; exhale to lower down. Repeat 12 times.

Now, after the subtle stimulation of the physical regions associated with the vagus nerve, rise up into Full Bow (hands holding feet or ankles; body and legs raised off the floor). Inhale as you rock back; exhale to rock forward. It may take a few tries to find momentum and rhythm; stick with it—the eventual rock with actively stimulate the areas through which the vagus nerve runs. Continue for 1 minute.

Briefly, push back into Baby Pose or Downward Dog. Breathe here for a few deep breaths, and then bring yourself into a seated position. With the eyes closed, bring your attention to the anatomical domain of the vagus nerve: neck, thoracic spine, upper belly. As such, one can connect the nerve’s “areas of interest” to the Third, Fourth, and Fifth chakras.

With the Heart Center forming the crux of this energy system, we now want to guide the vibration of the vagus nerve through the channel of the Heart. Here is where kundalini’s angle specificity comes into play: Whenever the arms (the location of the Heart and Pericardium meridians) are held up at 30 degree angles, the flow of that energy is optimal.

So, seated comfortably and sensing the “electrical buzz” in the neck, chest, and abdomen, bring the arms up to 30 degrees on either side of the head. Essentially, you create a large V with your arms. With the palms facing each other, inhale for 6 counts to gather the ball of energy in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th chakras; exhale for 10 to send the energy out and up through the arms and into the center point of each palm. Repeat the visualization with conscious breath 5 more times.

Special note: The extended exhalation also helps to increase vagal tone, thereby contributing to the relaxation response and readying the mind for meditation.

Now, continue to breathe in and out through the nose, without counting or visualizing, and allow the breath to meld with the pathway. Turn the closed eyes up to gaze at the Third Eye; focus here as you continue to breathe. In this way, you have connected your body’s physical energy—its electricity—to your personal spiritual endeavor.  Bolstered by your human current, the mind can now make its way toward communication with divine and universal energy. 

Hold the arms aloft as you breathe and focus into the Third Eye for at least 3 minutes. Then, with the arms remaining up or hands placed—palms up—on the knees, continue to meditate for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…