This Silent Sunday morning follows a day of fierce heat and humidity: that which stifles breath, leadens the body, and stultifies the mind. Fortunately, those states were short-lived, as last night ushered in powerful thunderstorms. The temperature and suffocating air were forced to surrender to the bellowing skies.
The rapid shift from one extreme to the other has left a stillness in its wake. This is the kind of day that calls for inner expansion and breath born of gratitude. As such, I offer a practice to infuse the body with a mellifluous vibration, which in turn will allow the mind and spirit to soar.
Begin seated, on the ground or in a chair. With eyes closed, take the inner gaze to the bottom of the spine. As you inhale through the nose, guide the breath up the entire front of the spine.
Pause when the closed eyes reach the Third Eye. Then, as you exhale, press the tongue up into the roof of the mouth, moving the exhale up to and then through the Crown. Let the breath move up and away into the air around you.
Inhale again, this time drawing in fresh air through the Crown and into the Third Eye.
Exhale to send the breath down the rear cross-section of the spine, all the way to the Root.
Repeat the two-part breath with visualization 2 more times.
Now, lie on your belly. Make light fists of both hands, and snuggle them under the groin; the forehead rests on the floor. Lift both legs several inches, and breathe deeply. Remain here for 1 minute.
Then, lower the legs, and press up into Sphinx Pose on the forearms. Here, begin Sitali Breath: Curl the tongue into a tube, and extend it out through the lips. (If you are unable to curl the tongue, stick it out slightly through the parted lips.) Inhale through the tongue “straw” (or parted lips); close the lips to breathe out through the nose. Continue for 1 minute, eyes open or closed as suits you best in the moment.
From Sphinx, press up onto all fours, and then shift into Downward Dog. Let the emphasis be on the inverted quality of the posture, rather than a perfected pose. Come onto the balls of the feet, so that you can “wag” the hips from side to side with ease. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
Then, walk the feet toward the hands; you will be in a Forward Bend. Inhale, then exhale to lower the hips into a squat, as deep as you can go: Aim to settle the bottom behind the heels.
Inhale to straighten the legs into Forward Bend; exhale to lower into Squat. You will create a tipping action of the entire torso: upright in the Squat; inverted in the Forward Bend. Tip yourself up and down—inhale Forward Bend, exhale Squat—30 times.
Special note: This is a challenging movement whose benefits are well worth the effort. The combination of inversion and rootedness stimulates each chakra, highlighting Root and Crown. As such, the move invokes stability and calm, paired with an exuberant feeling of elevation.
Finish the above movement in Squat, and shift into a seated position on the ground, crossed-leg or legs extended straight in front of you.
Bring the arms overhead to press the palms together. Tension and tightness in the shoulders and arms may make it challenging to keep the palms as one; feel free to lock one thumb over the other to help join the palms.
Straighten the arms as best you can, and begin to twist from side to side. This movement is often referred to as Washing Machine in kundalini yoga. Inhale to twist the entire torso with raised arms to the left; exhale right. It can take a minute or so to help the body understand and accommodate the movement, so spend at least 2 minutes with the twist.
Then, release the arms, and bring the hands behind the neck in Venus Lock (fingers interlaced, one thumb over the other). Consciously let the shoulders release down away from the neck; open the elbows back as best you can. Breathe here through the nose, eyes closed and gazing to the Third Eye, for 1 minute.
Now, ease onto your back, close the eyes, and extend the arms and legs straight up: arms directly above the shoulders; legs directly above the hips.
Here, inhale through the sole of the left foot, and guide the breath to the low belly; exhale into this Second Chakra area.
Repeat on the right: Inhale through the sole, and bring the breath down through the leg; exhale into the low belly.
Shift your inner gaze to the palm of the left hand. Inhale to guide the breath down through the arm, moving to the Heart Center; exhale to infuse the Heart Chakra with breath.
Repeat on the right: Inhale into the palm, sending the breath through the arm to the Heart; exhale fully into the Heart Chakra.
Now, release the arms and legs, moving into position for Svasana. Take 3 more conscious, guided breaths: Inhale into the Third Eye; exhale to allow the breath to flow deep within. Repeat 2 more times.
Then, enjoy full, simple Svasana for as long as you like.