THE PRACTICE: Journey to the Self, A Fall Flow
As the sun continues to give way to night and we come more fully into the fall season, we may find ourselves rushing around, preparing for all of the celebrations coming our way, the extra workload before our holiday vacations, or other demands that arise in our so-called modern lives. Such moments of transition possess a strong tendency to pull us in so many directions and we risk losing track of our selves. Even worse, our minds may become restless and we risk breaking compassion for ourselves and others. It is then when we seem to have forgotten our-selves as we become lost in our own thoughts.
Journey To The Self
is a tribute to our efforts in this continuous cycle of life. It is a simple practice to move beyond the surface, return to place of harmony through discipline, inspire a sense of grounding and develop the confidence to move forward from a steady foundation.
GROUND DOWN. FIND CENTER.
SIX WEEKS TO THE SELF.
This 6-week at home, personal yoga practice will help bring you back into a regular self-care rhythm and is particularly well suited as a foundation for the larger goals and resolutions that await. Consider this six-week challenge as an opportunity to shed some skin before the new year.
- [ WEEK 1-2 ] Begin by committing to this practice 2x/week, aiming for (7) rounds of Sun Salutations (Sūrya Namaskāra), in the morning before you begin your day, or after your regular work day. Consider journaling your progress and mind-body transformation.
- [ WEEK 3-4 ] Increase your commitment to the practice to 3x/week. Increase to (10) rounds of Sun Salutations. Ditch one dirty habit (like swapping coffee for tea!).
- [ WEEK 5-6 ] The last two weeks, aim to practice at least 4x/week with (14) rounds of Sun Salutations. Consider adopting a specific self-care ritual into your practice such as self-massage, an essential oil bath, or late night meditation.
1. Bālāsana/ Child's Pose
Begin in bālāsana (child's pose), by bringing the shins to the mat, the big toes touching, and the knees wide apart. Sitting on the heels, reach the hands forward as much as possible maintaining contact with the ground, and allowing for a stretch under the arms as the chest slides between the knees and toward the earth. Relax the forehead comfortably onto the ground or a pillow.
- Breathe deeply with awareness, allowing the mind to settle. Use the breath to encourage the muscles to relax.
On an inhale, begin to peel the right hand off of the ground and reach it toward the sky. Take advantage of the exhale to deepen the thoracic twist. If the shoulder is extra stiff, move the arm in circles overhead. (Optionally move into Layer II variation.) Hold for ~x5 breaths. Repeat on left side and then return to a neutral child's pose.
+ Layer II Variation: Consider reaching the lifted arm through the space beneath the grounded arm to "thread the needle."
Next, lift the grounded arm to the sky on an inhale, allowing the chest to revolve open and upward. Lastly, if it is comfortable, bend the elbow of the lifted arm to allow the hand to reach behind the back, finding contact with the thigh.
3. Cat-Cow Pose
From bālāsana, shift the body weight forward to come into a "table-top" position on all fours to move through a dynamic cat-cow pose.
Bitilāsana (cow pose) Inhale: dip the belly low and reach the seat/tailbone upward as the chest opens up and the shoulders roll back creating an dip in the back.
Move into marjayāsana (cat pose) on an exhale: press into the hands and tops of the feet as you reach and round the upper back, bringing the chin into the chest. The abdomen moves upward toward the spine, the shoulders round forward and the pelvis curves slightly inward to create an arc in the back.
4. Cakravākāsana/ Goose Pose
Cakravākāsana (Ruddy goose pose): from cat-cow, lift one leg up, stretching it back behind you and up. Engage the glutes.
+ You can add on to this posture by lifting the opposite arm to challenge you balance or by taking a few rounds of "knee-to-chest" for more focus on the core. Move with the breath.
Repeat on opposite side and return to a neutral table-top position.
5. Adho Mukha Śvānāsana/ Downward Facing Dog
Inhale, tuck the toes, lift the knees, and reach the seat upward toward the sky. Exhale and release the chest toward the top of the thighs into Adho Mukha Śvānāsana (Downward Facing Dog)
On an inhale, lift the heels from the earth and lengthen the back of the legs. Exhale, bring the heels to the earth. Repeat several times, moving with the breath to release the ankles and back of the legs. Return to a stable Downward Facing Dog and hold for x5 breaths.
6. Sūrya Namaskāra/ Sun Salutation
From Downward Facing Dog, walk or jump the feet forward toward the hands into a forward fold. Slowly raise the torso up, bringing the body into a standing position.
Move through several rounds of Sūrya Namaskāra (Sun Salutations) to thoroughly warm-up and condition the body.
7. Vinyasa/ Flow
After finishing Sun Salutations, return to perform poses 1-6 at a faster pace, matching movement with the breath and moving into the deeper variations as inspiration comes. Upon returning to Downward Facing Dog, continue to the Rāja Kapotāsana (King Pigeon Pose), peak pose 8 below.
8. Rāja Kapotāsana/ King Pigeon Pose
From Downward Facing Dog, lift the right foot high and bring it forward through the hands, lowering the right shin to the front of the mat and placing the left back leg straight behind you. Make sure the hips are "squared" to the front of the mat as you allow the torso to hinge and fold forward into Pigeon Pose. Breathe deeply for several breaths. If this pose brings discomfort, opt for a simple low lunge. (Repeat on opposite side and continue exploring Layer II variations and beyond.)
Layer II + Beyond: Explore the endless variations of this peak posture. Consider bending the rear leg, reaching back for the foot, taking a "mermaid twist", or a bind.
+ Ayurvedic Notes: energizing and detoxing. grounds and frees up excess vata, moves tamas into rajas. plays on the movement between earth and water, ignited by fire element.
- Please consult a medical professional if you have any injuries, illnesses, or chronic pain before attempting any physically demanding practices.
Original text published Nov. 26, 2015