This Silent Sunday focuses on the physical body. For most of us, there are days when the body feels sluggish or obstinate: Physical discomfort may try to convince the mind that movement is undesirable, thereby further decreasing energy and oomph. Remember: The mind is able to override the complaints of the body; this practice will help it do just that.
Special note: Here, a caveat is required. If your body is in prohibitive pain or you are ill, rest may certainly be in order. For bodies that feel stiff or rundown, however, the following moves will slowly and thoroughly reawaken muscles and motivation.
While today’s routine is particularly effective for aching lower backs and overall stiffness, it also can serve as a wonderful warm-up to another activity. Or, enjoy it as a release from a physically or mentally demanding day.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, the first round of moves are done standing. Often, a tender lower back can make getting to the floor a true challenge. If your low back prevents you from being on the floor comfortably, start and end with these. Eventually, you may loosen up enough to try the floor-based set.
So, to begin, stand firm with your feet aligned under the knees, about hip-width apart. If you feel that you may need support, place your hand on a chair for the opening bits. Very simply, one foot at a time, inhale and roll the heel up off of the floor to point the foot onto the toes; exhale to roll through the foot back down. Change to the other foot; alternate this way 5-10 times for each foot.
Then, flick the feet. One at a time, imagine that you are pushing forward, staccato-like, with the front of the ankle. This will push the foot into a point. Move back and forth, as quickly as you can, from foot to foot. Continue for 30-60 seconds.
Now, as you roll through or flick the foot, keep the movement going: Try to lift the knee as high as you can. Basically, you are moving into a march. Alternate sides for 1 minute.
Next, inhale in your basic standing posture: Exhale to round the back slowly into a C-curve; inhale to slowly straighten up. Continue for 10-15 reps: A sore or stiff back will need this repeated circulation from movement.
Then, begin to “open and close” the shoulders. With arms by the sides, roll the shoulders open; the palms will face forward. Exhale, and roll them decidedly closed; the palms will almost face backward. Continue this move for 1 minute, in order to gradually release through the chest and upper back.
Now make the previous movement bigger. As you inhale to roll the shoulders open, allow some extension (arching) into the spine; the arms will move further away from the body. Exhale to round deeply as the arms roll forward, bringing the backs of the hands to touch. Continue for another minute.
With the back likely more comfortable, begin to make big circles with the hips. Move slowly at first, especially if your back has been precarious. Aim to make 15-20 circles in one direction; then reverse for the same number of repetitions.
For the final standing move, do very basic side stretches. Reach the right arm overhead, and open through the right side body: bend the right knee to deepen the stretch. Inhale to lift the arm; exhale to stretch side; inhale up, and exhale the arm down. Repeat for the left side. Alternate sides for a total of 8-10 stretches on each side.
The next set of moves take place on the floor. This may a continuation of the standing moves, or you can start with these as your sole set. Alternatively, you can begin here, and move seamlessly into the standing series, as this set ends standing.
Come onto all fours for a Cat/Cow/Baby Pose flow. Inhale to extend (arch) the spine; exhale to round into Cat; inhale into Cow; exhale back to Baby Pose. Immediately inhale up to hands and knees and into Cow; exhale, Cat; inhale, Cow; exhale, Baby. Continue for 1 minute.
From the previous flow, end in Baby Pose. Breathe deeply here; if you like, use your palms to slowly massage the lower back. When ready, sit up, and bring the legs straight out front. Place a bolster or rolled blanket under the knees. Ease slowly into a forward bend for a Yin-style position: In this tradition, the spine can round naturally, and the head can hang. Remain here, giving in to gravity and breath, for 2-3 minutes.
Slowly release the forward bend: Yin postures may seem to add stiffness upon their release; this is temporary. Keep breathing, and find your way onto your back. With the knees bent and feet flat, begin pelvic tilts: Inhale to tip the pelvis forward; exhale to roll it back, as if beginning to roll the spine off the floor.
Next, inhale to bring one knee in toward the body; give a gentle squeeze. Exhale as you begin to lengthen it long onto the floor push through the center point of the heel. Keep the leg long as you bring the other knee in: inhale to hug the knee in; exhale to lengthen out through the leg. Continue this move, now beginning from long legs on the floor: Alternate side to side, for a total of 10 reps on each leg.
When finished, bing both knees in toward the body. Inhale: Exhale, and lower the knees to one side; they do not have to touch the floor, and you may use your hands for support. Inhale back to center; exhale to the other side. Move fluidly, side to side, breathing fully, for 1 minute.
Now, roll carefully to one side to help yourself up, and into Baby Pose again. From here, repeat the Baby/Cow/Cat flow: inhale into Cow; exhale, Cat, inhale, Cow, exhale, Baby. Repeat the sequence 4 times.
Finally, from all fours, press through the hands to lift the hips up and back into Downward Dog. Feel free to keep the knees bent and the heels off the floor; also, you may pedal the feet up and down through the heels. Take 3-5 slow, deep breaths here. Then, walk the feet forward toward the hands, keeping the knees bent. Let the arms and torso hang in a relaxed Standing Forward Bend.
After a few breaths, slowly roll up through the spine to stand. Place both hands on the lower back, and give yourself a gentle massage. Wriggle or stretch in any way that feels right. Then, bring both hands to rest on the lower belly, one hand on top of the other. With closed eyes gazing at the Third Eye, inhale slowly and deeply; allow the belly to gently move into the palms. Exhale, and feel the belly move softly away from the palms. Breathe here for as long as you like.