Silent Sundays: Keep It Simple, Part I–Calm And Cool

This Silent Sunday welcomes a new, three-part series: Keep It Simple. A great irony of a physical or spiritual discipline is that when one most needs to engage with the practice, is also the moment when it may be most challenging to do so. If tired, how to find the energy to revitalize? When despondent or frustrated, how to rise up and find perspective?

When you are short on time or motivation, turn to the routine that speaks to your particular need. Each practice uses only a few moves; however, their synergy will powerfully stimulate the quality of mental, physical, and/or spiritual energy that you intend to evoke. 

The themes of each practice roughly correspond with specific chakras. For example, in today’s “Calm and Cool” session, there is a strong emphasis on the Root (First Chakra) and Heart (Fourth Chakra). Grounding, stabilizing moves, plus those that ease Fire energy will leave you feeling steady, centered, and at peace.

To begin, you will need a foam or cork yoga block (or large paperback book, or firm pillow). Begin in Baby Pose. Settle the buttocks down onto the heels, and let the body rest on the thighs; adjust the position, so that your base is narrow, i.e., knees together, or very close. 

Rest your forehead on the block, brows on the near edge; eyes are closed. The arms rest on the ground alongside the legs, palms up. Inhale through the nose; extend the tongue out, and exhale through the open mouth. Complete 5 of these breaths.

Then, remove the head prop; forehead rests on the ground. Interlace the hands behind you, and raise the arms as high above the back as you can. Breathe in and out through the nose here for 1 minute.

Now, ease up to sitting on the heels, and come forward onto all fours. Curl the toes under, so that you can lift the hips, and move toward an easy Downward Dog. 

Let the position be relaxed, rather than a “perfected pose.” The heels are lifted, the knees are slightly bent, and the head hangs freely. Here, begin to “wag” the hips from side to side; let the knees and heels swivel, too, as you move your “tail” back and forth. Breathe deeply, and continue for 30 seconds, or so.

Bring the movement to a close; perhaps find a more traditional, fuller expression of Downward Dog for a few breaths. When you are ready, walk the feet toward the hands.

In this approximation of Standing Forward Bend, inhale: Exhale to bring the hips down into a crouch, i.e., buttocks drop to heels. Inhale to lengthen the legs, returning toward Forward Bend; exhale into the crouch.

Each time the hips come down to the heels, the torso becomes upright; each time the hips lift, the body inverts forward and down. Continue this inhale hips up, exhale hips down motion for 1 minute. Breathe powerfully through the nose.

Next, come into a seated position for Sufi Grinds. Circle the entire torso clockwise: Deeply “stir” the ribcage and organs to eliminate stagnancy and negativity. Circle to the right for 1 minute; reverse, circling counter-clockwise, for 1 more minute.

Now, still seated, extend the arms to the sides at shoulder level. Bend at the elbows to create “pitchfork” arms. With the arms aloft and bent to 90 degrees, curl the middle finger into the palm of each hand; use the respective thumb to hold it down. Palms face forward.

Begin to twist the upper body: Inhale left, exhale right. Breathe deeply through the nose. Start as slowly as you need to, and aim to pick up the pace as the body becomes comfortable with the movement. Eyes are closed, breath is strong, arms and mudra are up: Each exhale to the right releases overstimulated Fire energy, and eases the Heart into harmony. Continue for 1 minute.

Finally, prepare for Sitali pranayama. In your preferred seated position for meditation, curl the tongue into a tube, and extend the tip through the lips. If you cannot form this “straw,” simply extend the tongue tip through the barely parted lips.

Inhale through the tongue (or parted lips); exhale through the nose. (Slightly retract the tongue when you breathe out through the nose.) Eyes are closed, gazing to the Third Eye. Hands rest on the knees or thighs: left palm up, right palm down. Sitali breath cools the mind and body, and introduces gentleness and serenity to your system. Continue for 3 minutes, and then ease into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…