This has been a pretty rough week thus far. I don’t need to rehash why. But where does one turn when the world seems a pretty rotten place. How do we heal ourselves and others? First step is inward and then outward.
Our approach to the inner realm must be slow, gentle and filled with compassion and respect. How would you approach a snake in the grass? (Or maybe you wouldn’t). The approach is much the same; slow, gentle, compassion-filled and with full respect.
We come back to our inner stillness through gentle waves of breath, soft focus on our body, observation of our thoughts, affirmations of our deepest longing, and acceptance of all things present without clinging to those things. A restorative practice is one of the best practices for going inward. Your body is supported so that your awareness can rest on the subtle body sensations, the breath, the mind and not on the muscular actions of the body. You may be guided via your own self-inquiry or by an experienced teacher to delve into the various sheaths of your being (see Koshas).
Once we are at the place of our inner sanctum, we can almost set a place marker there, so that when we return through our process of stilling ourselves, we know where we left off. From this place, we return through spiral waves of breath and awareness to the outside. You just don’t leave the aspects of your inner being in that sanctum, some of it comes with you like pollen on a bee. This residue will cling to all of your layers as you move to the surface. This residue will also burst through your skin and deposit itself into others via our senses straight to the hearts of others.
Try a little inner work first, the outcome of this work will be felt no matter what.
Alternate Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)
This breath invites the calm in, balancing both sides of our nasal passages and our brain. We tend to breath predominately with either the left or right nasal passage and we become unbalanced. A few minutes at the start of a class or practice, can merge the two hemispheres of the brain and allow you to become more receptive.
Breathing through the right or left nostrils gives different effects.
increases heart rate, increases verbal performance, stimulates left brain, increases rate of blinking
Left Nostril decreases heart rate, increases spatial performance, stimulates right brain, reduces rate of blinking,
The Practice: Find a comfortable seat or laying down. Using the right hand, bring the middle and index fingers to rest toward the palm. Alternatively, they can be placed at your third eye (forehead area). Begin with even breaths through both nostrils, gently close off right nostril, then inhale through left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Gently close off left nostril, as you inhale through right and exhale through left. Keep the same count for both sides. That is one round. Repeat for 5 to 6 rounds or more. Tongue comes to rest on roof of mouth.
Other variations of this breath are:
- Retaining the breath after the inhale while keeping both nostrils gently closed.
- Extending the exhale longer than inhale
- Cessation of breath after the exhale, with only one nostril closed
Mental Nadi Shodhana. Mentally instruct the breath to come in and out through alternating nostrils. Can even visualize breathing in from one far away place and breathing out to another far away place (Mt. Everest (Inhale), African plains (Exhale)
Boat Pose or Incline Legs up Pose
|Version with chair
Props: 2 bolsters, 2 blocks, neck rolls for neck and hand support, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: relaxes legs and drains excess fluid from legs, gives spinal support, gently lengthens the spine, shoulders relax,
refreshes the legs, relaxes the muscles and organs of the abdomen.
Place a bolster horizontally on your mat. If you need to elevate the body, you can place a triple fold blanket in front of the bolster, then place your hips on blanket to one side, swing the legs over the bolster so knees are supported. Lower your upper body onto the bolster with blocks set up underneath. Use a neck roll to support cervical spine. Place a blanket or sandbag on legs to ground you in the pose. Arms release to the sides with palms turned up. Use an eye pillow to shut out any light for ultimate relaxation. An eye pillow or some type of weighted object (I’ve used stuffed animals) can be placed in open palms to move and free up energy. Stay for up to 10 minutes. Your beginning practice may consist of only 5 minutes. Feel the legs drain, the stress melt away.
Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind. Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum
Place the two blocks at either the lowest or medium height, equidistant from each other bolster lengthwise on top of blocks. A s-fold or triple fold blanket on top of bolster. It may be more comfortable without blocks. Legs straddle the props at one end, and lengthen body over them. Head will rest on props. Additional blanket(s) may be used behind knees. Ideally props should extend all the way to the pelvis area but this may not be the case with your body structure. Stay here for 10 minutes to begin with, rotating head side to side.
Variation: Straddle Forward Fold – for those with discomfort in their knees. Support the knees with blanket rolls and straddle the propped up bolster with additional blankets on the top, if necessary.