The holiday season is upon us, within us, breathing us with the effervescent invitation to celebrate. It’s meant to be a realm of pleasure and reverence for the cycles of life, but our western world approach has become a bit distorted and less than hale. Excessive indulging and hyper schedules lead to stress, rather than ease, and expected gift giving has exorbitantly perverted generosity to gross over-spending. For those far away or separated by life and death boundaries from their loved ones, the holidays are a time of isolation and solitude. It is no surprise that the rates of suicide, violence, and accidents rise during these times of supposed pleasure.
This year, let’s not botch the party. Rather than creating dissonance according to race, religion, lifestyle choices, sexual preference, and financial means that perpetuate the illusion of separateness between us, I propose that we connect, (make yoga), rather than dissipate our forces. To begin, a practice in linking the heart to the guts. Whether the issue is a slow-burning sadness that follows the holiday blush or a heaviness in the body from too many cookies, the tonic of a supported back-bending practice can be just the ticket to freedom.
Have at the ready: a blanket, a yoga block or large book and a warm, clear space to explore your practice. To begin, rest on your back with hands folded lightly over the front of your body and follow the course of your breath in and out for three to five minutes. Just the simple exercise of watching the breath can stimulate feelings of gratitude for the gift of life, and shift perspective from the external world of chaos, within. It is no matter what the state of within is, just that you are connected to it. You’ve got to know what you’re working with to make a shift.
Next, roll your blanket up into a mini-bolster and place it across your practice space, laying the bottom tips of your shoulder-blades upon it. The blanket will loft your heart slightly and begin to stretch the front of the chest and respiratory tree, deepening your breath. Bend your knees and rest in this pose for two minutes, allowing inhalations to lengthen and flush across the front of your body. Mind that the front ribs and sternum remain gently anchored toward the back of the body to keep from over-extending your spine, particularly in the lower back.
Third, place your block underneath your sacrum with head and shoulders resting firmly on the floor and your knees bent in a bridge-style pose. Experiment with pressing more into the block to gently flex the lumbar spine, and then more into your feet to extend the lumbar spine. Then find the middle place, reaching your knees away from your heart. Two minutes here to open the hip flexors and lower torso. Keep your neck and face relaxed above all the magic happening below.
Fourth, try setu bandhasana (bridge pose), with your hands clasped behind your back and no block. Create a deep extension along the front of your body but remain calm and easy in the back (especially relax your gluteal muscles to send the weight of the pose down into your legs). This work will open the channels for deep detoxification of the digestive pathways and a clearing, enlightening, and joyful energy to flow into your heart all at the same time. May the theme of your season (and your practice), be to avoid over-extending yourself, literally. Happy holy time and be gentle with yourself. Love, Suki