In these dark, bleak months, some days we just want to hibernate – go inside ourselves and wait for the sun to come back into our lives.
Why not try a 5 minute hibernation in Child’s Pose – Shashankasana?
Take this simple posture, relax by using any props you need to – a cushion on top of the heals and maybe a soft blockunder your forehead.
Consider memorising your favourite poem to repeat to yourself while you are in your ‘cave’. You could try this…
“This quietness dissolves the burden of all woes, for when there is stillness in your heart,wisdom will also have found its peace.”
“Change is not something we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.” Anon
Simhasana is a meditative posture. The weight of the body is evenly spread on the shins and the hands. The spine is straight and there is a feeling of extension in the spinal column. The abdomen is soft and relaxed and the pressure on the palms of the hands and wrists relieves stress and tension.
Closing the eyes and focusing the gaze on the eyebrow centre is called Shambhavi Mudra. This produces a profound calming effect on the brain waves and helps us move towards meditation.
Lord Shiva was married to Sati, the beautiful daughter of Daksha. (Daksha being the son of Brahma and one of the great creator gods.) Shiva and Sati loved each other deeply, but Daksha wasn’t so pleased with the match. Daksha’s ego was crushed when his wishes were not taken into consideration and Shiva and Sati married anyway.
Daksha hosted a great party, where all the other gods and goddesses were invited – except for Sati and Shiva. (Does this sound like Christmas in your family???) Sati was upset by not being invited, and decided to go to the party anyway. When she arrived, she was not acknowledged. Her red-faced, embarrassment conjured up so much heat and energy that she spontaneously burst into flames.
Shiva was distraught when he received the news. He was overcome with sorrow and cut his hair off in despair. From the matted locks he formed a great warrior- Virabhadra (vira meaning “hero” and bhadra meaning “blessed” and “fortunate”) Shiva sent Virabhadra to go to the party and slay everyone present.
It is told that he entered the ritual, coming up from the ground (picture Warrior I with arms raised high), finding his target and setting eyes on him with focus (picture the Warrior II gaze over the index finger), and slaying Daksha (Warrior III, as though our body was a sword, or as if we were holding a sword in our outstretched hands).
There is some violent drama in this story – not really very yogic. But let’s think, what is it all about? The ego of Dhaksha – he wanted things his way and was rather petty in his actions. How often do we let our own egos get in the way? Maybe our egos are barricading our happiness or that of our loved ones. Perhaps Sati over-reacted??? And Shiva??? 2 or 3 wrongs don’t make a right. There certainly were no winners in the story and the actions carried out in the ‘heat’ of the moment were certain to bring about remorse. Any similarities in your life???
It’s what is going on inside that really matters – with each and every posture keep the awareness on that important fact – in the words of Donna Farhi –
“When we realise that what we are advancing towards is not some physical form but an inward recognition of the truth of who we are, then we will not feel ourselves to be failing if we cannot obtain difficult postures.”
Even simple postures are not achievable on some days – so watch out for the negative thoughts that come along. It’s what happens on the inside that really matters.
Each time you unroll your mat, adopt the attitude of a beginner. Treat each exercise as a brand new experience. This helps us to shed anxieties about ‘being good’ at posture work. It doesn’t matter if you have been practising yoga for 10 weeks or 10 years, each asana has many layers – some extremely subtle – accept each time you try something to be open to the feelings, stretches and releases that come. Try not to have a prescribed activity or expectation – allow your body to ‘be’ and see what happens. You may well be pleasantly surprised. It’s another way of bringing you back to ‘you’!
Warrior pose 1 is called Virabhadrasana after ‘Virabhadra’ – a fearless warrior said to have defeated his enemies with a thousand arms. Channel his strength and determination in this version by pushing your fingertips to the sky and feel the stretch all the way from your heels up through your sides, shoulders and arms. Try to keep the hips and shoulders square to the front of the mat. Hold for up to 10 slow breaths on each side. Rest in Mountain pose with the arms relaxed by the sides afterwards.
Yoga breathing practices aren’t just for relaxation and helping us to feel calm…
You can literally alter the temperature of your body so that you feel a little more chilled – try it for yourself – it’s easy and may help you to keep your cool in this heat!
If you are able curl up the sides of your tongue to form a tube. Inhale through the mouth – well through you tongue – a feeling of chilled air will hit your mouth and throat. If you find it difficult to roll the tongue then inhale through the teeth – the same effect can be felt.
Draw the breath in nice and slowly, then close the mouth and hold the breath in slightly before breathing out through the nose. Do it 9 times and feel the coolness of the chest.
This practice is known as Sheetali Pranayama – Chill Out and enjoy!
Try this flowing balance sequence to bring about a state of quite, stillness in the mind.
Get your balance on 2 feet first. Sense that the crown of the head is lifting toward the ceiling, shoulders relaxed and hips neutral.
Lift up one foot and press the heel into the inner calf or thigh – avoiding the ankle or knee.
Press palms together at the heart and then inhale and lift them over the head. Focus softly on a point ahead of you and breathe in the posture – inhaling energy from the ground and up the strong standing leg, muscles sucked onto the bones. Exhaling, allowing the shoulders to ease down the back and softening the face. Retain the posture for up to 10 breaths.
Practice the posture on the other leg for the same amount of breaths.
If balance evades you… please practice next to a wall or chair for support and use one hand to hold the support while the other is held up in the air – alternatively, get a friend to hold around your waist!
Practicing balances helps to develop concentration. This posture also opens the hips and strengthens the legs and arms
Majari-asana, the cat stretch pose, is great for freeing the spine and the breath…
Begin on all fours – creating a lovely box – with the hands spread directly underneath the shoulders and the knees apart underneath the hips. Breath deep into the abdomen allowing the tummy to expand and then pull it in when you breathe out. You will notice how the spine wants to move naturally down as the tummy fills up and then the spine moves up as you contract the tummy and squish all the air out. Don’t worry if the movement is small – just keep with the breath and do about 5 rounds then relax taking the bottom toward the knees and the forehead towards the floor.
These pictures show an exaggerated movement – but you don’t have to go this far to get a lot of benefit from this exercise.
If your wrists hurt then you can make fists with the hands.
If you have a blood pressure issue, when you sink back to relax place the head onto your fists – so that the head doesn’t go below the heart.