Could it be March already? I think the calendar is lying as 10 inches of snow surrounds our environs and cuddles the earth in its warm snow blanket. Our restorative practice this week included many comforting, anchoring poses. Winter is the season to ground ourselves and return to protection so we can go inward and build up reserves for spring. I think this picture of my youngest is a little too grounded but they had fun.
If you are nestled at home today enjoying the snow from inside, find some firm blankets and cushions or pillows and try these poses at home. The more blankets the merrier. And as an extra bonus, if you spent some time shoveling, it will help rest your back.
Bo Forbes, clinical psychologist, yoga teacher and integrative yoga therapist, shares in her newsletter, a reason to celebrate March 4th (Forth) http://boforbes.com. Inspiration as we transition to spring.
Happy Exelauno Day!
Today is March 4th, also known as Exelauno Day in modern culture (ok, a tiny portion of it, in this case those who’ve studied Greek or Latin in high school or college). Started by a classics professor at the well-known Roxbury Latin high school in the Boston area, the holiday was adopted for national observation. “Exelauno” translates both as “march forth” and “expel.” These disparate meanings neatly parallel two modes of being.
The first meaning, march forth, evokes an impulse to race out into the world, to be seen and heard, to engage with others and with new experience. There’s a triumphant, expansive nature to this version of Exelauno Day. It connotes tapas or energy. It speaks to new life force after a period that may seem fallow and barren, even ridden with inertia (yes, I’m thinking here of our record New England snowfall and cold this winter).
The other translation, to expel, implies something different. It intimates that before we can march forth in a truly new way, we might need to cleanse. Yet this cleanse is not the stuff of green drinks and brown rice, of water laden with maple, cayenne, and lemon juice. This kind of cleanse refers to old patterns in the mind, brain, and body. Ways we’ve come to think of ourselves: undeserving, perhaps, or unworthy of the deepest kind of love. Patterns in which we’re wired to react: instant defensiveness, for example, when someone touches a soft spot of vulnerability. Habits of being in our bodies: always moving from flexible, already-open places, while shying away from those in which awareness has been asleep, often for decades.
As the days get longer and the light changes, let’s see, together, if we can hold these different essences at the same time. Let’s create the space for noticing and releasing what no longer works for us—a psychic Spring cleaning. And let’s also balance this cleansing with an outer-directed action. Let’s march forth, together. Let’s burst out from hibernation to explore new ideas, colonize new awareness in the body, and ignite new paths of study.
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll, one bolster
Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.
Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft ones!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing. It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.
On your mat, place one bolster where your knees will be. Add a blanket to rest your soles of your feet on and a blanket to rest on your pelvis to help ground the hips. Place a neck roll for the cervical spine. Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up or come into Goddess arms. If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel. Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes. Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves. Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket. Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.
Legs up Variations (on bolster)
Props: 1-2 bolsters, blocks, blankets, neck roll
Benefits: drains fluid from the legs, releases pelvic floor, chest and shoulder opener, back of legs get a gentle stretch.
Place one bolster horizontally on mat (for the knees) and one vertically (for the feet, ankes and lower legs). Arrange a triple-folded blanket horizontally (lumbar and thoracic spine area). Recline legs over the bolsters and lower the upper body on the blanket. Adjust so that the tips of the shoulder blades are right above the blanket. Add neck pillow under neck and move arms to Goddess position if comfortable for your shoulders. Otherwise, they can go by your side or stack hands on top of your belly. Cover pelvic area with a blanket or whole body and add a wrapy for shins so legs stay in Tadasana alignment. 10 to 15 minutes, dropping the weight of your body on the exhalations.
Reclined Bound Angle
|Version with Legs Straight
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems.
Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow
Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week’s class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees) Bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment. Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.