Reminder: The audio version of “Grief: The Practice” is at: anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson. While created specifically for those moving through the grieving process, the routine also offers a sense of stability and comfort during any time of uncertainty or emotional vulnerability.
Despite the above Reminder, there is only so much Winter Weariness, Pandemic Fatigue, and Grueling Grief that anyone can take. Today’s Silent Sunday offers exactly the opposite: a practice culled from previous posts, all created to rejuvenate and uplift. If you feel the need for a reprieve from “serious” thoughts or circumstances, today’s session offers just that: a light-hearted treat for body, mind, and mood.
The first movement is a classic tai chi exercise: Bear Swing relieves physical tension, particularly in the low back. Additionally, the swinging arms gently stimulate the Liver and Gall Bladder, thereby helping to shed metabolic and emotional waste.
Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width, with the knees slightly bent and the pelvis in a neutral, relaxed position. Smoothly turn your torso to the right, allowing the arms to swing naturally by your sides; then twist to the left as the arms begin to feed into the back-and-forth swing. Adjust your breath, so that you consciously breathe in as you move through center, and out as you turn to one side or the other. Continue this grounded, yet breezy swing to the left and right for 1-3 minute: Move to the point where your arms feel weightless, your spine feels free, and your legs feel rooted and steady.
Still standing, bring your legs closer together, about hip-width apart. Inhale to rise onto the toes as the arms sweep up and overhead; exhale to drop the arms as you drop onto the heels. Inhale up, exhale down: Complete 12 Pranic Drops. This move acts as a total qi “cleanser”: The body releases stagnant energy that may prevent the intake and circulation of fresh, vibrant qi.
Now, prepare for Buttocks Bounce, which is an energizing, full-body alignment technique. Step your feet about a yard apart; the distance depends on your height and range of motion. Bend the knees as deeply as you can; bring the body forward and down; and reach your arms back between your legs, fingers facing behind. Set your position, so that the thighs and torso are about parallel to the ground: Keep the head in line with the spine. Begin to bounce in this posture, maintaining the overall shape of your legs and body, but with quick vibrational bounces. Stick your tongue out, and briskly “”pant” 11 times in time with 11 bounces.
Inhale to stand. Exhale thoroughly, and then re-enter the posture. Again, Bounce and breathe through an open mouth, tongue extended, 11 times. Inhale to stand, exhale deeply and fully, and move into the position one last time. Complete the 11 bounces-with-breaths, and then slowly move your legs together: Hang in an easy, relaxed forward bend for a couple of breaths.
Next, lower yourself onto all fours for a few rounds of traditional Cat/Cow: Breathe in to arch (extend) the spine; exhale fully to round (flex). Then, come to neutral. Inhale as you reach the right arm forward, bringing it in line with the shoulder; simultaneously, extend the left leg back and up to hip level.
As you exhale, bend the left knee, and reach the right hand back to grasp the left foot or ankle. Inhale to arch the spine into extension while lifting the left foot and opening the right side of the chest. Exhale again to release the arm and leg back into the long cross-body line, and then all the way back down to the all-fours base.
Repeat the entire sequence on the other side: inhale to lift the left arm and right leg to shoulder and hip height, respectively. Exhale to reach the left hand back to hold the right foot or ankle, and so forth. Repeat two more times, alternating sides, for a total of 3 sequences for each side.
Remain on all fours for this next, somewhat challenging move: Mental focus and physical agility must rise to the fore. Keep the torso as still as possible as you quickly bring the hands away from the floor to clap underneath the Heart Center. Expect that you will have to “rehearse” a few times before you learn to stabilize the torso while clapping quickly. Once you find your way to steadiness, repeat 8 times.
Then, lower yourself onto the belly. With the arms by the sides, palms down against the floor, rest the forehead on the ground. In this position, begin to “jump” the body up and down. Everything from chest to knees should lift as you inhale the body up; exhale to drop the body down. Continue vigorously for 1 minute. (As always, modify your position, and/or add padding where necessary to be able to complete the exercise.)
Next, roll onto the back for an empowering movement that is nonetheless fluid and accessible. It To begin Water Wheel, extend both legs straight up into the air, perpendicular to the floor; the arms may rest by your sides, or feel free to slip the hands under the hips for additional support. Inhale, then exhale to lower the legs to about a 45-degree angle; at that point, draw both knees in toward your chest, then inhale to extend the legs back up to 90 degrees. Exhale to lower part way, bend and retract the knees; inhale to return to the starting position.
Continue for 30-60 seconds, and then reverse the flow. In the starting position, inhale: Exhale as your bend the knees toward the chest, and then extend both legs out to 45 degrees; inhale as your raise the legs up to 90 degrees. Exhale as you bend and extend; inhale to lift. Again, continue for 30-60 seconds.
Now, help yourself into a seated position; feel free to bolster as needed. This “pranayama pump” builds focus, stamina, and self-control.
To begin, bring the hands into Prayer Pose in front of the Heart Center: However, keep the hands a couple of inches away from the chest. Lengthen up through the neck, roll the shoulders back, draw the shoulder blades down, and tilt the head back slightly. Here, inhale fully: With the breath suspended, and the upper spine slightly arched, pump the stomach as quickly as you can, for as long as you can.
When you need to, exhale as you realign the spine and head to neutral, and bring Prayer Pose to rest on the sternum. In this posture, with the breath out, pump the stomach rapidly and for as long as possible.
Inhale into the original hands-off, head-back pose: Suspend the breath, and pump. Exhale to find neutral spine with the hands against the chest; with empty breath, pump until you need to breathe in. Continue this pattern for 2 minutes.
Now, in your preferred seated posture, form Pran Mudra to further cultivate overall vitality. Touch the tips of the ring and pinky fingers to their respective thumb tips. Bring the arms to shoulder level, reaching straight out to the sides; the palms face up with the mudra intact. Here, with eyes open, inhale deeply through rounded lips, and then exhale powerfully with Lion’s Breath (tongue extended out and down, eyes rolled up). Repeat 5 more times.
Finally, in order to consolidate the fresh energy you have supplied to your physical, mental, and emotional bodies, lie on your back. In traditional Svasana pose, eyes closed, inhale deeply and fully: Use the exhale to create the sound, “Heeeee.” This is the sound associated with the Triple Warmer in Traditional Chinese Medicine; this organ system regulates the metabolism, and thus ensures optimal circulation of energy.
Imagine the long, soft sound as an internal shower or stream of water flowing from head to toes. Continue the vocalization, inhaling deeply before sounding upon exhale, for 1 minute. Then, allow yourself to drift into silent rest for as long as you like.