Prior to my first hip replacement, I dedicated this forum to a 30-day exploration of “How to Hang On.” While the impetus for the series was the painful wait for surgery, each piece served as a stand-alone practice or commentary about ways to cope with seemingly relentless challenge of any kind.
Now, with the next surgery scheduled in five days, I find that I have gone in a very different direction. I am more still and calm, yet also less enthused: I know now the many rigors of rehab—mental, physical, and spiritual. Then, though, my psychological pendulum swings back to hope and hardiness: I may be more in the midst of challenge than I would have imagined at this juncture; however, I also am aware that my trajectory is one toward renewed health and vitality.
Why, then, do I feel “blank?” Several mundane tasks await me pre-surgery, and I am procrastinating as never before. Motivation and efficiency seem locked in and blocked by a brittle, hurting hip. Even my daily practices of movement and meditation lack the determination and devotion that typically accompany them.
The past couple of weeks also have been blanketed with earthly obligations and psycho-spiritual bewilderment, the combination of which has squelched the fire needed to stoke my reserves. Thus, this Silent Sunday focuses on the restoration of harmony among the Water, Fire, and Earth elements. When in excess, the Bladder and Kidney meridians “flood” Fire and Earth elements, leaving one physically extinguished and mentally muddy. In order to bring the elements into harmony, the following practice creates an interplay between front and back body—stimulating the former and pacifying the latter.
To begin, sit quietly to to contemplate your personal situation at this moment. Perhaps you feel at peace and in balance: Wonderful! In that case, this practice can be used to seal in your already contented state. If you feel uncertain, foggy, detached, or worn, begin slowly: Monitor your energies, and befriend yourself.
Start on your belly. Bend the arms to bring the hands underneath the forehead, palms down, one hand atop the other. If this position feels awkward, due to stiffness in the shoulders, adjust the pose slightly.
In this prone position, breathe deeply into a visualization. Take your inner eye to the center-back of your skull: Inhale, and imagine the breath spreading from that point, down and out to the sides of the torso, as if slowly opening and widening the back body. When you have guided your inhale all the way to the waist, pause with the breath suspended.
Take this brief moment to shift your inner gaze to the tail bone; once there, exhale through the mouth. Make this a steady, long “whooshing” sound as the breath travels down the back of the legs to exit through the soles of the feet. The inhale is as if you have filled a basin with water; the exhale is used to empty the vessel thoroughly. Repeat this breath and visualization 4 more times, for a total of 5 rounds.
Now, still on the belly, bend the knees. If possible, move into Bow, holding the ankles or feet with the hands, and lifting the upper body and knees off of the floor. If this is difficult, place the hands under the thighs (palms against the thighs), press them up, and raise the head and shoulders. Whichever position you can muster, begin to rock back and forth on the belly: Inhale as you rock back, exhale to roll forward. Give yourself time to find a rhythm, and then continue for 30-60 seconds.
From here, press back into Baby Pose for a few deep breaths. Then, sit up, and bring your legs straight in front of you. With the hands on the ground next to the hips, inhale to lift the body off of the floor into a table-like position: You may have to move the feet in closer, so that when the knees bend, the feet are under or slightly ahead of the knees. Exhale to lower. Again, find a consistent rhythm and workable body configuration. Move slowly at first, speeding up as your are able; continue for 2 minutes, taking breaks as needed.
Now that the front body has opened, and the back body has been contracted, Earth and Fire are beginning to step up to the overflow of Water. To further target this redistribution of energy, lie on your back: Arms and legs are in the air at 90 degrees (i.e., perpendicular to the floor). Inhale through the nose: Exhale through the nose as the right arm and left leg lower to 60 degrees (arm back toward the head; leg down toward the floor). Inhale them up; exhale to switch—left arm and right leg lower away from each other to 60 degrees. Continue this cross-lateral movement at a fairly rapid pace for 1 minute.
Next, draw the knees in, and wrap the arms around them: Inhale to rock back on the spine; exhale to rock forward. Continue to rock back and forth in this tight ball shape for 1 minute. Use this movement to press excess Water out of the back body (Bladder meridian), and to contract and shelter the arms and front body, respectively (Heart and Stomach, associated with the Fire and Earth elements).
When you have finished rolling, come into a seated position; you may also sit on a chair. Although I often suggest Spinal Flexes as a warm-up movement, this practice uses them to create a “conversation” between front and back body: The equal attention to both, by dint of the spinal movement, underscores the intended balance between Water, and Fire and Earth.
With the hands holding the knees, inhale through the nose as you arch the spine forward (extension); exhale through the nose to round back (flexion): The eyes are closed and gazing at the Third Eye. Move as fluidly and quickly as possible for 2 minutes.
Now, release the hands from the knees and bring the arms out to the sides at shoulder level. Inhale here; exhale as you bring the arms forward, as if hugging a tree, bringing the inner wrists to touch. Inhale them wide again, leading with the backs of the hands and allowing the wrists to bend. Continue with this variation for another 2 minutes.
Finally, move into a form of Svasana. In this version, you will use hands and breath to wrap your energies in a blanket of balance. On your back, eyes closed, settle into traditional Svasana: However, turn the left palm up, with the right down. As you inhale, imagine a warm, soothing breeze entering through the left palm and spreading within; exhale through the right palm, emptying any residual mental or physical “sogginess.” Breathe and visualize this way for 1-3 minutes.
Then, bring both hands to the lower belly. I tend to place the right hand first, thumb on belly button, with the left hand resting on top (both palms down); feel free to let your kinesthetic intuition guide the placement. This is your final resting position, in which all energy bodies and organ systems have the opportunity to flow in harmony.