Silent Sundays: That Which Is Meant For You…

In contemplating a topic for this Silent Sunday, I found myself in a position I often assume when summoning clarity or direction. (This is the body mudra that will accompany the closing meditation of the following practice.) As I began to be conscious of how my hands and inner gaze were affixed, two words came to mind: “intuition” and “yoke.”

The correlation between the two eluded me briefly: To associate what connotes to me a freeing, elucidating state of mind (intuition) with a physical harness (yoke) seemed oxymoronic. But then I recalled yesterday’s conversation with a friend.

She and I were discussing the idea of aligning our choices with that which is truly intended for us during our earthly existence. We have touched on this topic in the past, as both of us—and most of all of us—have had the occasion to question decisions, motives, goals, etc. How does one know when a chosen path is the way forward? For my friend and me, Knowing is visceral: Our bodies convey a physical sensation when thought yields to intuited deference to that which is divinely decreed.

And that is the Yoke of today’s practice: not a mechanism of restraint or attachment to another’s aim or function, but an alliance born of Faith. When the Third Eye—Sixth Chakra, seat of intuition—is clear and receptive, the ability to yoke to divine Truth awakens.

The practice begins with a series of four movements designed to shift energy from the Lower Triangle of chakras to the Upper. Not only does this approach ultimately drive power to the Third Eye, it loosens and ejects stagnant or detrimental energies that may inhibit the flow of intuition.

First, sit on the floor with the legs extended straight forward: Feel free to perch on a bolster if this position is challenging. Extend the arms far enough down the thigh, so that the elbows are long. Slide the hands under the thighs to establish an anchoring hold. 

Begin spinal flexes: Inhale to push the chest and belly forward as the shoulders pull back; let the pelvis tip forward. Exhale to push into the back, curving the spine, and rocking the pelvis back.

Continue: Inhale to arch (or extend); exhale to round (flex). Breathe deeply with the movement for 1 minute.

Then, legs remaining long on the floor, place the hands by the hips. With flat palms or fisted hands, press down to lift the legs and bottom off of the floor; abruptly drop the body down. Inhale to lift; exhale to drop. Complete 16 Body Drops.

Be aware of your aim: to clear and move energy up to the Third Eye. The stimulation of the spine, along with slight shock of the Body Drops is shifting the energy upward.

To further motivate the vibrational ascension, come onto the back. If possible, move into Shoulder Stand. If this posture is not accessible for you, slide a pillow under the hips to gently elevate. Regardless, begin to kick the bottom, alternating sides with each kick. Exhale upon each rapid kick. Move as quickly and assertively as possible; again, remember that the move encourages the ousting of stagnancy and the energetic shift to the Third Eye. Continue to kick in the inverted position for 1 minute.

Now, roll onto the belly. Place the forehead on the floor, so that you can specifically sense the contact of the Third Eye—above the nose bridge, between the brows—with the ground. Should your facial structure limit your ability to feel the Third Eye against the floor, accentuate your closed eye focus to the area.

Then, bend the knees, and reach back to hold the feet or ankles. Raise the legs as if coming into Bow; however, keep the head and torso down. This is Half-Bow. With an intense closed-eye focus on the Third Eye, breathe deeply in and out through the nose for 3 minutes. If necessary, release the Half-Bow briefly, maintain breath and focus, and then resume the posture to complete the 3 minutes.

When you are ready, shift back into Baby Pose to ease the back muscles. Stay attuned to the Third Eye; at this point, your entire focus is on the seat of intuition.

Now, come into your preferred seated position. Bring the hands into Prayer Pose in front of the face. The forearms are stitched together, with the elbows at about the level of the Heart Center. Bring the base knuckles of the thumbs to rest on the Third Eye: The structure of your hands will allow them to nestle into the area in the position that is right for you.

Begin a breath with visualization. As you inhale through the nose, draw the breath up through the spinal corridor from Heart to Third Eye. As you exhale, press the tongue firmly up into the roof of the mouth: Expand intuitive energy from the Third Eye through the Crown Chakra. 

Inhale from Heart to Third Eye: exhale to further yoke intuition with Universal Wisdom.

Continue for 5-7 minutes. Then, ease into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: A Walk in the Park

More than two decades ago, I attended kickboxing classes at a local gym. While I was—and am—always eager to try new physical activities, part of the draw to this particular class was the instructor. He had his share of wide-eyed lady groupies (and perhaps a few men): The combination of a soft voice, focused demeanor, and extraordinarily handsome features kept his classes full. 

In addition to “C’s” physical and vibrational allure, I equally recall his oft-uttered phrase: “Just a little walk in the park…” He would soothingly remind us that although we were kicking and punching, it was not necessary to grimace, tense, or “over-effort.” In order to stay fluid, maximize a move, and build stamina, we were advised to practice patterns with the energy conducive to “a walk in the park.”

I remembered this particular encouragement recently when a couple of weeks of high physicality rendered me stiff and sore. Although I am nearing the time when a cane is no longer necessary after two total hip replacements earlier this year, my body still is in recovery: At times, I may become over-zealous at the prospect of a long walk on a nice day; or, I may be so thrilled that I can lift multiple objects at once, that I forget that my muscles spent nearly three years in progressive atrophy.

When I realized that I needed to incorporate more gentleness into my current movement practices, I thought of C: “Just a little walk in the park…” 

Today’s Silent Sunday practice would be effective for anyone who feels stiff or achy as a result of a hard workout, illness, or too much desk time. The sequence is further inspired by the concept of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. This condition arises after the body endures rigorous and/or long bouts of movement: Instead of immediate fatigue or ache, the symptoms arise a couple of days later, i.e., they are “delayed.”

Further, this routine would be useful as a way to settle the body for meditation, or as a reverent honoring of your body’s abilities. And if you ever find yourself in need of some “tender, loving care,” present this practice to yourself as a gift of self-compassion. 

Begin on hands and knees, and then bring your forearms to rest on the floor. Bring the forearms together with the elbows directly under the center of the chest. Turn the palms to touch each other, as in Prayer Mudra: The pinky edges of the hands are on the ground. Extend the thumbs straight up, and cock the head back slightly, so that the gaze falls just in front of the hands.

In this position, inhale as you slide the body forward, bringing the chest over the hands. Exhale as you slide back, moving the hips toward the feet. Inhale forward, exhale back: This move can be done as slowly or quickly as feels right, as long as the breath remains deep and full in conjunction with the movement. Continue for 1 minute.

Immediately release into Baby Pose. Keep the Prayer Hands; release the thumbs down, so that you can rest your Third Eye on the thumb side of the joined hands. Give yourself any bolstering that you need, so that you can rest easily here for 3 minutes. Breathe in deeply through the nose; exhale fully through the nose. Allow yourself the option to breathe out powerfully through the mouth during your time here: Be aware of your sensations and breathing; give your body what it asks for.

Still in Baby Pose, interlace your fingers behind your back. Lengthen through the arms, and lift them up and away from the back as you roll onto the crown of the head. You may have to adjust your position, so that you are directly on the center-point of the skull, with the hips lifted away from the feet and the arms stretched up as high as possible. Breathe here for 1 minute.

Special note: The more you extend up through the arms, the less pressure you will have on the head and neck. This Yoga Mudra is an excellent tool for ousting negative energy and for increasing physical and mental vitality. 

Ease yourself out of Yoga Mudra, and back up onto all fours (arms long, hands under shoulders).  Extend the right leg straight back, keeping the foot on the floor. Curl the toes under, and begin to rock forward and back through the ball of the foot: You will move in and out of a flexed and nearly pointed foot. Inhale as you rock back through the foot; exhale to come forward. Repeat 12 times, then switch sides.

After rocking back and forth through the left foot, return to all fours. Again extend the left leg back, foot on the floor. Inhale as you reach the right arm forward from the shoulder. As you exhale, bend the left knee to bring the foot toward the buttock, as if to kick it; simultaneously, lower the right arm toward the floor, sweep it back, and then up to tap the inside of the left ankle as it approaches your bottom. Inhale the right arm back to its forward reach as the left foot lowers down; exhale to repeat the arm reach back to tap the inside of the now-raised left foot. Repeat this reach-and-tap move 12 times, then switch sides (left arm to right foot).

Now, from all fours, press up into and easy Downward Dog. Pedal the feet up and down several times as the head hangs loosely. Then, allow yourself to squirm and undulate in whatever way feels good. Feed your body this organic, free-flowing movement, in order to release tension and  open obstructed energy pathways. Continue for 1 minute, taking a break as needed.

From the Moving Dog, walk your feet toward your hands, letting the knees bend for comfort. Hang softly in this modified Forward Bend, taking 5 full, deep breaths. Then, bring the hands to the inner ankles (or wherever you can reach): Inhale as you sweep the open palms up the inside of the legs to the groin; exhale to swiftly move the hands out and away from the hips, as if  throwing stagnancy into the air behind you. Repeat, beginning at the feet and ending with the “throw,” 8 times.

After clearing the lower body, continue to roll up through the spine into a standing position. Here, begin a gentle sway through the upper body. Move without thought, guided only by your breath and your body’s current inner vibration. Take up space, change direction or level, emit sound: Follow your body’s lead for 2 minutes.

Then, stand in stillness, enjoying whatever energetic reverberations occur. Should you sense areas of mental or physical dis-ease or resistance, bring your full awareness there: Using the “sweep and throw” technique that you used on the legs, clear any region of old or blocked energy. 

Special note: Remember to inhale unwanted energy into the palm, and exhale forcefully as you jettison the stagnancy away and behind you or into the earth. Do this a minimum of 3 times on any spot that needs clearing. 

Next, bend forward again, so that the body is perpendicular to the legs, like a tabletop. In this position, swing the arms back and forth alternately: As the right arms swings forward, the left arm swing back; remember to keep the effort fluid and light, like “a walk in the park.” Continue for 1 minute.

Special note: This move helps to balance the Head and Heart, so that we think and behave from a place of rational compassion, toward ourselves and others.

From here, lower down onto all fours, and then all the way onto the belly. Turn the head to the left, resting on the right cheek. Bend the  left arm, so that the elbow is in line with the shoulder, and the left forearm is perpendicular to the upper arm: It is as if you have half-Scarecrow arms on the left side. The right arm rests alongside the body. 

As you inhale, slowly, barely lift the bent left arm and side-looking head as you simultaneously raise the right leg. Exhale down. This is move of very little effort and displacement: Lift the arm, head, and leg only an inch or two. Focus on the ease (or lack thereof); the coordination of breath and movement; and where other body parts tense to help fulfill the movement. Repeat the cross-body lower-and-lift 8 times. Then repeat on the other side (head looking to the right; right arm bent near the head; and left leg lifting and lowering in tandem).

Briefly press back into Baby Pose after completing both sides fo the above movement. Breathe deeply a few times, and then return to the repeat the above move; however, this time begin with the head resting on the left cheek (looking to the right); the right arm bent; and the left leg joining in the lift-and-lower. Again, repeat 8 times before switching sides.

Special note: This move fosters body awareness, which is crucial for maintaining physical and emotional balance. Further, the cross-body technique harmonizes the left and right sides of the brain, which inherently centers us in Neutral Body energy. In that state of being, we become less reactive, yet compassionately available to self and others.

Now, slowly and gently roll onto your back. Settle yourself into position for Svasana. Before entering deep rest, however, place your fingers into Gyan Mudra: thumb and index fingertips together, palms up, backs of the hands on the floor. With eyes closed, take your inner gaze to the soles of the feet, specifically to the center point of the balls of the feet (between the second and third toes): Inhale, and begin to draw breath in through the bottoms of the feet, guiding it with your mind’s eye all the way up the front of the lower legs, thighs, belly, chest and face, ending on the Crown Chakra.

Exhale slowly and deeply through the nose as you lead the breath down the spine, and then the buttocks, backs of thighs, calves, and out the bottom arches of the feet. Return the inner eye to the bottom center of the balls of the feet to inhale again, drawing the breath up; exhale to carry the breath down and out. Repeat one more time for a total of three Breath Treks.

Now, release Gyan Mudra, and float your way into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…