New Audio Practice!

Look for the newest follow-along practice on anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson

There, the episode is called, “A Little Oomph!” It is a wonderful routine for sluggish, unmotivated days. A gentle start leads to subtle, then overt energizing movements; the practice closes with a focus-building pranayama and mudra seqence.

Silent Sundays: Help For A Bad Day

Special note: The audio follow-along version of today’s practice can be found at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson

For me, recent “bad days” have emerged as a bleakness, a hollow in the belly, and a pervasive sense of foreboding. Despite the heaviness of the description, this current state should not be confused with chronic or clinical depression.

Decades ago, depression was with me for several years. The “bad days” of recent weeks feel similar; however, I can discern the ephemeral nature of this current spate. The past depression surrounded, infiltrated, and threatened my existence. These recent invasions are off-putting, but not life-threatening. 

No one, though, likes to feel blue, down, scared, hopeless—ever.

My personal first step in addressing such a situation is to run a checklist.

First, “big stressors”: finances; loss; living situation; work life.

Then, “physical stuff”: food, water, alcohol, sleep, exercise.

And finally, “psycho-spiritual” state: contemplation, prayer, meditation.

In reviewing the list, I can readily determine the cause of recent “bad days.” Perhaps simply and obviously, the “big stressor” list looms large: Each sub-category is in an uncertain, unsettled state. And although I am not overcome with sadness or a deep sense of loss, certainly my mother’s passing has unleashed a host of fears with regard to the basic needs of earthly life: money, dwelling, sense of purpose.

But a Bad Day may not arise from the Large List. Perhaps a new friend proves disappointing; maybe car or house repairs seem incessant; or possibly, spiritual connection has gone adrift. Even if the culprit behind a Bad Day or Tough Times is transient, the immediate need to roust the deflating feelings is powerful.

This Silent Sunday offers a salve for the bleak moments or hours. The slow, gentle movement sequence will usher in enough light and hope to persevere through the dark. The 3-part mudra meditation then shores up inner strength and faith in divine wisdom and guidance. The practice is one for “fixable” Bad Days, and equally effective for seemingly inexplicable bouts of gray.

Begin on your belly. Bend the knees, so that the lower legs are perpendicular to the floor. With your forehead on the ground, there will be space between the upper chest/throat and the floor: Bring your hands into gentle fists, and nestle them into that space; the elbows are bent and tucked in next to the body. In this position, eyes closed with no special focus, become aware of the breath.

At this point, there is no prescribed count or technique: Simply notice the quality of the inhale and exhale through the nose. Change nothing.

After about 1 minute, let the hands open softly, sliding one over the other, palms facing the body. Turn the head to one side. Continue conscious breathing for 1 more minute. Then, turn the head to the other side, and switch which hand is on top. (Both are still underneath the body, palms facing the body.) Again, breathe naturally for 1 minute.

Now, rest the forehead on the hands: palms down, left hand on top of right. Let the legs straighten out onto the floor.

Begin to bring a count to the breath: Inhale through the nose for 4 beats; exhale through parted lips for 6-8. Infuse the exhalation with the sound, “Hoooo.” Continue for 30-60 seconds; then, switch the hands—right hand over left, palms down, forehead on the hand stack—and breathe with the same count and sound for another 30-60 seconds.

Next, roll on to the right side. Use the right arm, bent or straight, as a pillow for the head. For support, you may bend the right leg a bit. Lift the long left (top) leg a couple of inches, so that it is parallel to the floor. Visualize a shelf upon which the leg can rest: Then, begin to slide the leg forward and back along the shelf; only move a few inches in either direction. 

Exert as little effort as possible. The intention is to sense support from the visualization… from the mind, from within. Continue for 30-60 seconds.

When you are ready, roll onto the left side. Repeat the movement with supportive visualization for another 30-60 seconds.

Now, return to the belly, and press slowly up into an easy Sphinx Pose: elbows under shoulders, forearms parallel to each other on the floor. Then, move the hands toward each other: Rest them on their pinky edges, and touch each fingertip to its partner on the other hand; let the palms be apart.

With eyes closed, begin tiny head circles to the right. Move slowly and with an awareness of the uppermost vertebra of the spine: Atlas and Axis. 

Special note: The skull perches atop Atlas, which is the vertebra that allows the head to nod “yes.” Axis, just below, offers the ability to shake “no.” What we perceive as head circles is the alternating of Atlas’ “yes,” and Axis’ “no.” With that in mind, you are more likely to keep the “circles” small and slow: rolling around atop two small structures.

Circle 10 times to the right, and then 10 to the left.

From Sphinx, press up as if to come onto all fours: However, come onto the knees and forearms. The elbows are directly underneath the shoulders. Bring the hands together as they were in Sphinx: on the pinky edges, fingertips touching, palms apart.

Inhale to rock the body forward toward the hands; exhale to shift back toward the heels. With each exhalation, push back far enough to feel a deep stretch from the hips, through the back, and into the shoulders and armpits. Move rhythmically forward and back, for 1 minute.

Then, press up into traditional all fours: hands and knees. Begin Cat/Cow spinal movement; however, work with “reversed” breathing. As you inhale, deeply round (flex) the spine; exhale to arch (extend) into Cow. Be focused: Muscle memory may try to return the breath to the more traditional version of the movement. Inhale to round, exhale to arch: 1 minute.

From all fours, slide the left leg back along the floor. Let the body move back as the leg does: Eventually, the right buttock will come be above the right heel. Rest down, so that the right buttock sits on the heel, left leg extended back, body resting on the forearms or floor. Remain here for 5-10 deep breaths through the nose.

Then, rise up and out of the posture, returning to all fours. Slide the right leg back, so that you can come into modified Pigeon on the other side. Take 5-10 full breaths.

Once again, come out of the posture, so that you can transition into your preferred seated position for meditation. 

Throughout the following sequence, the eyes are closed and gazing upward to the Third Eye.

The mantra for the meditation is: Sa Ta Na Ma, Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung. Chant each syllable at the rate of the second-hand tick of a clock: monotone, steady. 

Chant silently, in a whisper, or aloud. As the mudras shift throughout the meditation, feel free to alter how you chant. Use your inner wisdom to intuit the voice you give to the mantra. 

This is a chant for healing, and for invoking faith in the workings of the Universe. The mudras progressively infuse divine wisdom and healing into the subconscious and higher consciousness. 

As you are seated, wrap your arms around the torso: Let the palms rest on the side ribs in this tender self-hug. Begin to chant the mantra inwardly, as a whisper, our out loud. Continue for 1-2 minutes. Remember to chant somewhat slowly: methodically, like the tick of a clock.

Then, release the body mudra, and bring the hands up to rest against the chest, on the Heart Center. Begin as if in Prayer Mudra, but interlace the fingers, overlapping the thumbs, so that the hands become as one soft fist. Continue to chant the mantra for another 1-2 minutes.

Finally, shift the hands into the last, simple mudra: Place the hands in the lap, palms up, one hand resting in the palm of the other. Touch the thumb tips together, and stay with the mantra for  at least one minute, and up to 5. When you are ready, ease your way onto the back for Svasana: Rest in the soothing, affirming vibration you have created for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

 

New “Treasure Trove” Audio Practice!

The most recent episode of “Treasure Trove” on the Everything Elsa podcast helps to calm the heightened energies of today’s Full Moon. You will be able to follow along to a short, flowing warm-up, which will free you to sit comfortably for a pranayama sequence. Both the physical moves and the breath work reflect the routine’s intention to bring scattered, overactive energies (mental, emotional, physical) into a more neutral, refreshed state.

You can find this practice (and others) at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson

New Audio Practice to Release Tension!

The Silent Sunday practice, “Free and Easy,” is now available in its follow-along form. If you want to ease your body and mind into a state of optimal flow, visit: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson. This practice (and plenty of others) are ready and waiting for you.

Silent Sundays: Find Your Way–Pranayama Meditation

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. 

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Grief–The Process

When contemplating a direction for this Silent Sunday, my creative compass seemed to flit from North to South, then East, then West, and all the angles in between. The topic to consider was a given: My mom has passed, and with that, what else would I write about but that most human, most anticipated, and perhaps most dreaded state of Grief?

In addition to the “where to begin, and how to end” question, I mulled the tone that I wanted to sound: mournful, uplifting, accepting, questioning? 

What occurred to me is that all of the above eminently reflect the totality of Grief. There is not one trajectory, not one tone, not one pattern or sequence of “stages.” Further, whatever I wrote would not—could not—reflect even one other person’s experience of grieving. For each of us come with all the usual diverse suspects: sociocultural and familial backgrounds, learned and absorbed thoughts and behaviors; innate Soul tendencies; and most significantly, unique dynamics and experiences with the person or situation we mourn.

Not even those closest to us and thus also grieving will feel what we feel, when or how we feel it. Thus, to write about Grief entails grappling with a given in any human’s lifetime, while also acknowledging that that “given” will manifest differently for each of us.

To wit, this is some of how grief manifested for me in the past week: nausea, numbness, frenzied need to move—wild, unfettered movement. Also, erratic sleep, nightmares, short bursts of tears, profound urge to shower, and so much more.

Then, within the past 48 hours, just before and after Mom’s passing, I wrangled with anger, guilt, and fear, but also joy, excitement, and renewed vitality.

All of which apparently are “normal” reflections of Grief. The trick, I think, is to find a way to hold strong in the midst of the rising waters and threatening waves. For they will come, and they will hit hard: For me, it seems a matter of “floating above,” of calmly calling out directions and encouragement to myself as I am tossed around in the surf.

And this is where my beliefs and faith come to the rescue. Divine Wisdom usurps ego and intellect when Grief runs rampant; the key is to receive that great gift without question. Step aside, and let that which runs through Eternity guide and protect in the way that only It can.

When Grief arrives, you may feel submerged in its torrent. Remember that you have inner resources and external outlets. Pray, if that feels right to you; be still and go quiet, perhaps outside; get down and dirty with ugly thoughts and feelings, and then make peace with yourself for doing so; and finally, watch yourself. Take a beat, step back, and observe yourself with the eyes and heart you would use with a dear friend. Handle yourself with the most tender, most loving care.

Happy Sunday…

Next time: Grief—The Practice

Silent Sundays: For Another

Today’s Silent Sunday offers a way to reach out to someone—anyone—that may need some help moving through a transition. 

The practice is a personal one, as I and my siblings wait: All signs point to the imminent death of our mother. She is an intrepid character—a trooper, a toughie, a hugger, an eternal optimist. Those invaluable traits now become anathema to her departure from this earthly realm. Long ago, and most notably within the past year, what made this dynamo of a woman “Mom” began to wane. She became, instead, a being pressing valiantly onward, despite her ever-diminishing mind. When her body—uncannily strong, vital, and capable, all 5 feet, 110 pounds of it—began to flag, the story changed again.

A woman who, well into her 80s, hiked gulleys; mowed her own lawn; hoisted heavy loads; and would burst into a jog without warning suddenly slowed. Yet, until about 1 month ago, she climbed the stairs each night to tuck into her bed for longer and longer sleeps. Now, barely moving and no longer eating, she is washed by her caregivers; her waking time is almost null; and her words are garbled murmurs.

Yet she endures.

My tears now reflect my prayer that she move into God’s Grace, into the realm of eternal divine Love. I no longer mourn “Mom.” To mourn who she was is not the undertaking: To support this woman’s transition out of this earthbound life is my dedication. To that end, today’s practice summons, deepens, and transmits the energy of release and renaissance.

Special note: My father factors into this Silent Sunday, as well. He passed almost exactly 15 years ago, on February 9, 2007. At that time, I did not delve into meditation on his behalf; I did however, hold the same beliefs and faith that I do today. Back then, I consulted my dad’s horoscope on the day of his passing. We included it on the handout for his service:

“The concept of surrender continues to be a theme. A key relationship is growing in power, practically absorbing you. It is safe to let go for a minute—see where this takes you if you don’t resist.”

To begin your help-from-a-distance practice, find a special space in which to sit: inside or outside, near a window or nestled deep into a comfy cave. With eyes closed, hands on knees or thighs, palms up, focus your thoughts on someone, somewhere to whom you would like to send support, peace, and love. Hone in on the need of which they may have spoken, or that you discern on their behalf. Remove your own worries or desires: Reframe any self-motivated perspective; create a mental space of clarity and detachment.

Be sure to breathe deeply and consciously. This preparation ensures the integrity and power of the following experience.

With the elbows resting next to the waist, bring the hands to about the level of the low-mid ribs: palms face in, toward each other. As you breathe in deeply through the nose, let the forearms and hands respond to the expansion of the ribs by moving slowly, perhaps imperceptibly apart. As you exhale long and deep, let the arms and hands return toward center. Continue for about 2 minutes; allow a feeling of weightlessness to imbue the subtle movement.

Next, slightly extend the left arm out in front of you: Keep the elbow slightly bent, and let the hand, palm up, form a soft cup. The sense is that of waiting to catch a drifting, falling leaf. The right elbow is bent with the right forearm next to the body, and the hand at about the level of the shoulder. With the left palm facing forward, make Gyan Mudra—thumb tip to index finger tip. This arm position with mudra establishes your willingness to receive divine wisdom, and your vow to channel it to your dedicated recipient.

Again, with eyes closed—now gazing up toward the Third Eye—breathe slowly and steadily. If at some point you feel compelled to breath out through the mouth, do so: Then resume the deep, steady breaths through the nose. Continue for 2-3 minutes.

Now, begin a gathering-sending sequence. With all your heart, tap into the intention of the practice: to soothe, encourage, and free another from whatever ails or limits. Extend each arm to the side, roughly at shoulder level, with palms up; the elbows remain easy, not locked. Inhale deeply through the nose as you circle the arms forward at the level of the chest/shoulders, until the hands nearly touch. Continue the inhale as the hands draw in toward the Heart Center, eventually coming into Prayer Mudra in front of the Heart.

With a long exhale through the open mouth, burst the hands up and away from each other, extending the arms up at about a 60-degree angle, forming a large V. The feeling is one of a bird freed from a cage, moving into full, glorious flight. Let the exhale move through the burst up and out, and all the way through the arms moving back to the original position: extended to the sides at shoulder level, palms up.

As you repeat the sequence over and over, let your head move naturally in accordance with the movements. For example, you may tilt the head back as the arms soar upward; you may tilt the head down as the hands draw in to the Heart. Let the movement carry you into the aim and vibration of the practice. Continue for at least 3 minutes, but do not limit yourself. As this is a devotion to the Heart and Soul of another, guided by divine and universal energy, the practice ends only when it signals its completion to you. That signal will be personal, and thus not prescriptive.

When the movement completes. sit quietly. Let your thoughts and emotions flow in whatever way they do; again, no preconception, analysis, or judgment. When ready, find your way into Svasana, or simply sit in stillness for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Practice for Winter Weariness

Special note: You can follow along to this routine at anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson. Remember to scroll down the full list: The audio version of this practice is titled, “Spice of Life.”

Last week, a number of people I know spoke of how tired they felt; how their mood was low; and how any spark of desire to socialize had disappeared. One friend was so mystified by her fatigue that she took a COVID test.

Although a mid-Winter slump is common, this year may be more wearing than most. Last Winter, concerns over COVID were high, certainly. Wrangling with the virus was, however, still a relatively new challenge; energy reserves had yet to become depleted. Now, as we continue to cope with the pandemic and its attendant societal upheavals, the zeitgeist is palpably dejected.

This Silent Sunday offers a salve: a gentle, yet rejuvenating movement progression that will provide a physical, mental, and emotional boost for a weary body and mind. The practice also offers an opportunity to sample techniques inspired by Pilates, Feldenkrais, kundalini yoga, and qigong. 

To begin, lie on your belly. Slip a foam yoga block, firm pillow, or soft-bound book under the forehead: Let the nose and chin “float” in space. The prop subtly promotes a feeling of support and deep care. In this position, the arms rest by the sides; palms may be up or down. Focus on the breath, gradually lengthening and deepening each inhalation and exhalation through the nose. Continue for 1-2 minutes.

Now, remove the head bolster; let the forehead rest on the floor. Take your attention to the shoulders. In a prone position, the shoulders tend to rotate inward, or what may feel like “down” toward the floor. Inhale through the nose to roll, or rotate the shoulders open; think of squeezing the bottom tips of the shoulder blades together. Then let the shoulders roll back in, or down, as you exhale. Repeat 4-8 times.

Next, gently press yourself up into a very shallow Sphinx Pose: forearms are on the floor, wider than shoulder width, with elbows a few inches in front of the shoulders. With the eyes softly closed, begin to turn the head from left to right; move slowly and steadily. Inhale left, exhale right; alternate 8-12 times.

Then, lower back down, placing the hands under the forehead; left hand is on top of the right. As you inhale, lift the bent left arm an inch or so, keeping the forehead “attached;” simultaneously, lift the right leg a couple of inches. Exhale to lower. Keep the movement small and easy. Repeat the arm/leg lift 2 more times. 

Now, change hands: Rest the forehead on the top right hand. Inhale to lift the bent right arm with head resting atop, as you simultaneously raise the left leg. Exhale to lower. Repeat 2 more times.

Next, come into Sphinx Pose again. This time, draw the elbows in, so that they are under the shoulders; the forearms thus become shoulder-width apart. Here, tilt the head to the left, as if trying to place the ear on the shoulder; then tip to the right. Alternate back and forth—inhale left, exhale right—8-12 times.

From Sphinx, lower down, and turn onto the right side. Bend your knees to an angle that is comfortable for you, and that will help support the side-lying posture. The right arm may be extended long under the head, or you may bend it and rest the head there; the left hand can also bolster the position by placing it on the floor in front of the torso. Do not allow the top hip to roll forward or back; hips remain in line with each other.

Now, extend the left leg out straight; keep the leg parallel to the ground. Inhale to move the leg forward; exhale to guide it back behind the line of the body. As you inhale to gently swing the leg forward, point the foot; exhale to draw it back with a flexed foot. This movement gently introduces flexion and extension into the hip; it also helps to soothe the sciatic, or Life Nerve. Move forward and back—inhale forward, exhale back—6-8 times. 

Then, with the leg extended behind you, reach the left arm out in front of you; find the angle that creates a long diagonal from left fingertips to left toe tips. Take a breath or two in this half-body stretch across the front body.

Now, roll onto the left side, and repeat the entire sequence. First, move the right leg forward and back, inhaling and exhaling, respectively. After 6-8 repetitions, find the long diagonal stretch with the right arm and right leg. When you are ready, come onto the belly again.

With the forehead on the floor and arms by the sides, begin to “shimmy” the hips. As they wiggle back and forth, let the low spine and hips relax fully; it is okay, even desirable for the buttocks to jiggle. As you move the hips in this way, you help to roust residual tension that can contribute to fatigue. Because the hips store emotions, this movement also brings peace to the mind and heart. Continue to shimmy the hips for 1 minute, breathing deeply all the while.

Now, shift back into Baby Pose for a few moments. Then, find your way into an all-fours variation: On the knees, lower down to rest on the forearms. Bring the arms in toward each other, so that the elbows are underneath the Heart Center; join the palms, resting on the pinky edge of the hands—the thumbs extend straight up.

Inhale through the nose to rock forward; exhale to rock back. Any rocking movement tends to pacify the nervous system: The position here adds a stimulation to the kidneys, which in turn begins to restore vitality. Move as slowly or as quickly as feels right to you—inhale forward, exhale back—for 1 minute.

When you are ready, rise into a traditional all-fours position for a few centering rounds of Cat/Cow spinal flexes. Inhale to arch (extend) the spine, exhale to round (flex). After a few of these, come into the seated pose of your choice.

Here, with eyes closed, rest the backs of the hands (i.e., palms up) on the knees or thighs.

After a few natural breaths, begin Sufi Grinds. With the hands now holding the knees, begin to “stir” the entire torso in a clockwise direction; allow the pelvis to rock and roll, too. This should feel like a circular massage for the low belly and back, organs, and rib cage. 

Generally, any practice that includes Sufi Grinds has a clearing or eliminative aim. Today, the intent is to squeeze out fatigue and tension. To that end, once you have warmed up to the movement, move a bit more quickly: Inhale as you circle through the front space; exhale as you move through the back space. After 1-2 minutes of the clockwise motion, reverse directions. Continue for another 1-2 minutes. 

Now, help yourself into a Half-Standing Forward Bend. With the knees bent, bring the torso parallel to the floor, or as close to the position as your back comfort allows. Let the arms dangle down from the shoulders. 

Begin to swing the arms in opposition: Inhale to swing the left arm forward as the right swings back; exhale to swing the right forward and the left back. Each swing brings the arms to the level of the body. Let this movement be as vigorous as you can muster. The arms house the Heart meridians: With the head in line with the heart as you swing the arms, you are helping to balance thoughts and emotions. Continue for 1 minute.

Next, stand up. Take 3 cleansing breaths here. Breathe in through the nose; stick the tongue out and down to exhale powerfully through the mouth. Let the force emanate from the back of the throat; allow any sound that wants to emit. Repeat 2 more times.

Now, with an open palm, use the right hand to rapidly slap the left arm. Begin on the back of the left hand and progress rapidly up the outside of the arm to the shoulder; work your way back down the inside of the arm. Repeat the upward progression: When you reach the shoulder, move into the armpit. Cup the palm as you slap the armpit. Then, after a few of these, slap all around the arm in whatever way feels right to you for another 30 seconds or so.

Repeat the entire slapping/cupping sequence, using the left hand for the right arm.

After the arm work, begin to lightly, yet decidedly address the entire body in this way. Use both hands to invigorate the chest and belly; as much of the back as you can reach; the hips, thighs, and lower legs. Move up, down, and all around. Continue the full-body revitalization for 1 minute. Be sure to breathe fully as you give yourself this stimulating treatment.

To close the movement portion of this practice, stand naturally. Inhale through the nose to raise the arms overhead; suspend the breath for a few seconds. Then, exhale slowly through open, rounded lips as you shake the hands and arms to lower them down. Repeat 2 more times.

Finally, bring yourself into your preferred seated position. Close the eyes, and gaze upward to the the Third Eye (above the nose bridge, between the brow points). Create Gyan Mudra (thumb tip to index finger tip) on both hands, which will draw in divine wisdom. When attuned to the wisdom of the Universe, one feels guided and supported; overall mental and physical energy seldom wane.

Place the left hand with mudra palm up on the left knee; the right hand with mudra rests palm down on the right knee. In this position, simply breathe in and out through the nose. Maintain the Third Eye focus as you settle into the meditation for 5-11 minutes. Then, if you like, rest in Svasana to further integrate the effects of the practice.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Ode To The Lobes–Conclusion

The past three posts—written and audio (at anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson)—contribute more than expected to today’s conclusion to the series, “Ode to the Lobes.” Part One revealed the wonders of a brain in perfect harmony, with an emphasis on the Frontal Lobe. Part Two noted the relationship between an anatomical understanding of the brain and aspects of higher consciousness, specifically through the Parietal and Temporal lobes. In between those two pieces, I offered a quick routine to cope with Mercury in Retrograde.

Cut to the day of the following piece. As I puttered about in my apartment at 4 a.m., summoning the “spark” necessary to delve into writing, the lights went out. A quick check told me that the entire house was powerless, as were nearby houses. No light, no landline, no supplemental heat source, no internet: in the dark, in every sense of the word.

Yet, as I lit favorite candles and clicked on the artificial ones, I, too, began to feel a “lightness.” After reporting the outage with my rarely used cell phone, I went to my meditation space. I used the time to center myself physically and mentally. As I moved into the soft dimness, a clear path toward Part Three came into view.

First, with regard to Part One’s whole-brain and frontal lobe attention, the need to remain on an even keel and to hone in on the bare necessities becomes readily apparent in the face of any challenge. Second, Part Two’s “ode” to the temporal and parietal lobes underscores sensory awareness as a means to navigate physical space. And finally, Mercury’s infamous games with all things electric and communicative were enthusiastically at play during the outage: The ability to adapt and move inward rises to the fore when pitched into darkness.

And for those first minutes before I found alternative light sources, my sense of balance was swiftly upset with the loss of visual function. Those functions—balance and eyesight—are controlled by the Occipital Lobe: the focus of today’s Conclusion.

It is not groundbreaking information that when one closes the eyes, balance is thrown off. In today’s session, however, we see how the brain provides alternative means to remain centered. The following practice stimulates those “second tier” abilities: The entire brain pitches in when a typically reliable player is benched.

Metaphorically, today’s routine highlights this comforting notion: No matter how deep in the dark, one can find a way through. More often than not, that means turning to means not typically considered, be they from within or without. The following practice will both strengthen the physical eyes and improve balance. In doing so, one will discover that the physical empowerment yields improved insight and confidence: vision and steadiness.

To begin the practice, stand in an unencumbered space: nothing to trip on or knock over. Establish a balance pose. It may be Tree Pose; it may be a knee held up at waist level; or it may be bringing foot-to-buttock, and holding the foot. Or, as you are getting your bearings, simply lift one foot slightly off of the floor. Note the body and mind’s first reaction to the removal of stability. 

In your selected pose, hone in on which muscles contract to maintain the posture; how the breath shifts; and where the energy flows. To be steady, the physical core—hips to chest, front and back—must be strong. A resilient calmness must prevail. And your overall vibration should emanate from your sense of a “center,” as it reverberates evenly and steadily throughout the subtle energy bodies.

Breathe consciously and evenly: Then, slowly close the eyes. If your body sways or shifts, notice any emotion or thought that arises.

Then, pause briefly, and open the eyes. Take stock: Did you release a breath that you may have held for most of the previous move? Do you feel a sense of relief, or realize that there was a diffuse sense of “threat” as you worked for balance? Simply make an inventory, and then proceed to the next move.

Still standing, create your balance posture on the other side: From the first thought of doing so—on what you may perceive as your “bad” side—the brain already is gearing up for greater effort. Yet, you have the same resources and abilities to achieve balance on both sides, regardless of your preconception. Take the time to observe your physical and mental reactions, just as you did on the first side.

Now, take a break. Move into a seated position, either on the floor or on a chair. Here, you will revisit some moves from a previous podcast about the eyes.The exercises ease eye strain and introduce a feeling of “fresh eyes.” The mental focus necessary to play with visual focus ushers in an initial sense of disorientation, and then finds its home as you adapt. When “in the dark,” or presented with a confounding situation, new strategies and perspective are the way through.

First, turn your head slowly from side to side: Look to the left, using the eyes to track and focus; then, look to the right. Go back and forth a few times, inhaling left, exhaling right; be aware of the how the eyes travel with the movement. 

Then, when the head is turned to the left, maintain the left-facing eye focus as the head turns to the right. When the head is turned, bring the eyes to join it on the right. Then, keep looking to the right as the head goes left. Again, repeat the move until you achieve ease, still inhaling left, exhaling right. Once you feel comfortable, repeat 4 more full rounds of the alternating turns with oppositional focus.

Next, bring the head to center. Tilt the head to look up, then down—inhale up, exhale down: Again, bring the eyes along for the ride. After a few of these moves, prepare to engage the opposing eye gaze: As the head tilts back, look down toward the nose; when the hid tips forward, look up to toward the forehead. Repeat until you find fluidity, and then repeat 4 more full rounds.

When you have finished working the eyes, close them. Breathe deeply for a few moments. Then, come onto all fours. Place your body into Bird Dog position: left arm extends forward from the shoulder, right leg extends back, raised to hip level. Keep the eyes closed: Let the core help you establish steadiness in this balancing, conditioning move. Breathe deeply and consciously for 3 full breaths, then switch sides. 

After 3 breaths on the second side, switch again: take 2 full breaths before changing arm and leg. Repeat one more time, using one deep breath before switching. When finished, shift back into Baby Pose for a brief, centering rest.

When you are ready, help yourself to stand. Once again, find your initial balance pose. This time, configure it first on what was previously the “unnatural” side. Slowly close the eyes. Let the mind and body’s now-balanced eye function; stimulated core; and steadied vibration supersede any uneasiness. Take a couple of deep breaths, then open the eyes. 

Now, balance on the first—your “good”—side. Again, close the eyes. Remain here until the brain and body find stability: Breathe consciously and deeply. With all that you have done to harness the brain’s power, note the likely greater ease with which you can inhabit an inherently “precarious” situation. Call upon this potential whenever darkness descends

To close, return to a seated position for a grounding, yet elevating mediation. These seemingly opposed qualities are the same ones that must function in harmony when one is “in the dark.”

Bring the left hand over the head, palm down: Use your kinesthetic intuition—what somehow “feels right”—to tell you how far overhead the hand should be. It may be but 2-3 inches; it may hover aloft as high as you can reach. 

On the right hand, create Rudra Mudra: Touch the thumb tip to the index and ring finger tips. Although this centering hand gesture is typically associated with the Third Chakra—solar plexus—use it today to ground to your very foundation. Place the pinky-side edge of the hand on the low belly, a couple of inches beneath the navel point, just above the pubic bone: Palm is up.

With the eyes closed, gaze up to the Third Eye. Breathe in and out through the nose: Exhale for at least 2 more beats, or counts, than the inhale. (For example, inhale for 4, exhale for at least 6.) As you breathe in this stabilizing, calming way, maintain the closed-eye Third Eye focus; all the while, be aware of the hand on the belly, the mudra on the hand. Simultaneously, sensitize to the air and space around the raised, down-turned hand: The field in which it floats is the aura. Note the feeling of uplifted steadiness that you now abide. Continue for at least 3 minutes.

When you are ready, move into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Make Peace with Mercury

Special note: The following practice was first presented in July 2019. With all that has transpired in the world since then, Mercury Retrograde may seem the least of our problems. Yet, because of the global challenges that we collectively face, daily frustrations can take on an added weight. 

To remedy the likelihood of irksome situations that Mercury likes to unleash when retrograde, I offer an updated version of the original routine: The Miracle Bend is an additional move that clears the auric field, while also warming the back body for a subsequent Yin Forward Bend. New, too, of course, is the date of the retrograde phase: Mercury began its “backward” movement on January 14, 2022, and will get back on course February 3. 

If you like, you may practice with the audio version at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson

From today until July 31, the planet Mercury once again begins its backward-seeming movement through space. Although this retrograde phase occurs 3-4 times a year (in different months, thus in different astrological signs), each time typically manifests mix-ups and frustrations. The reverberations of Mercury’s rush past Earth affects all areas of communication: spoken, written, business, computer coding, etc. Additionally, the retrograde period precedes a shift in some area of your life; however, this fluctuation is unpredictable and will usually be felt only after Mercury returns to its normal orbit.

Today’s Silent Sunday suggests an unusual strategy for that scamp, Mercury: Instead of combatting the potential for skewed energy, the practice honors Mercury. As we can not yet know the change that Mercury will usher in; and because earthly miscommunication is likely at this time, intuition takes on a significant role in our ability to dance with Mercury. Certainly it is no mistake that the pinky finger, which channels intuitive energy, is called the Mercury finger.

To begin, come to stand with feet a comfortable distance apart. Touch the thumb tip of each hand to the fleshy mound at the base of its respective pinky; make a fist with the thumb inside. Now, with both arms at your sides, circle the arms outward, keeping the circles low and about 8-12 inches in diameter. Continue for 30-60 seconds.

Then, start to move the circles upward at a steady pace. Circle 8-10 times to bring the circling overhead. With your arms shoulder-width apart, continue the outward circles for 1 minute, breathing deeply and strongly as you do. When you have finished open the hands, and shake the arms as you bring them back down to your sides.

For the next movement, use each thumb to clamp its partner-pinky into the palm of the hand: The other three fingers are together and straight. Begin to seesaw the arms: Inhale as the left arm rises above the “horizon” about 45 degrees; exhale as it lowers and the right arm comes up. The palms of each hand face forward as you seesaw the arms up and down.

Next, still standing, begin what is called Miracle Bend in kundalini yoga. Inhale the arms up through the front space; exhale to bend forward to touch the ground. When in the standing position— with the arms overhead and shoulder-width apart—introduce a modest back bend into the spine. To modify, feel free to bend the knees for the forward bend; or, simply come down as best you can, and touch the hands to wherever you can on the legs. Further, if the standing spinal extension (arch) is not comfortable for your back, simply stand as tall as you can. Continue to inhale up, exhale down at a steady pace for 26 Miracle Bends.

Now, you may bring yourself to the ground for a yin-style forward bend. Yin yoga focuses less on perfecting alignment of a pose, and more on connecting deeply with the specific energetic quality of a posture. Forward bends access the back body, in which the Bladder meridian lies; the Life Nerve, which courses through the back of the entire leg, is also stimulated. As these energies are awakened, we deepen our ability to flow with the twists and turns of Life. 

If you like, prop yourself: perhaps a pillow or rolled blanket under the knees, or a bolster on your thighs to support your torso fully as you relax into the Forward Bend. Feet can be at ease: no forced arch is necessary. With your legs out in front of you, and your body resting on them, close your eyes and breathe consciously, but naturally. Focus your attention on the sensations and emotions that arise as you descend fully into the posture. If you need to adjust slightly as the muscles release, do so; then, return to the aware stillness. Remain with the pose for 3-5 minutes.

Now you are ready to close your practice. Lie on your back with feet flat on the ground, knees bent. Move your feet slightly wider than your hips, and angle the toes inward: Let the knees fall inward to rest against each other in this classic Constructive Rest position. Bring your arms about 12 inches away from the body, resting on the floor, palms up. On both hands, reconstruct the mudra of the thumb holding the pinky into the palm of the hand. Bring your closed eyes to focus on the Third Eye. As you inhale, draw communicative, intuitive energy from around and within to your Third Eye: upon exhalation, send the vibration deeply into your brain, and your Throat and Heart chakras. As you inhale to fill, and exhale to imbed your “ken” into this Upper Triangle, you allow the positive aspects of Mercury to ride along with the bounces that the planet’s retrograde phase can create. Continue this breath mediation for 3 minutes.

Finally, release yourself into Svasana. Acknowledge Mercury’s need to be “out of phase” for these few weeks; imbue yourself with the awareness and equanimity that a retrograde period can stifle. As you relax into the throes of the cosmos and allow yourself to greet the energy, rest assured that Mercury recognizes your efforts to make its acquaintance.

Happy Sunday…