There is a serious disorder in expectation about perfection in the yoga conversation. If you thought you were meant to come to the mat already ordered, saved, resolved, and put together, then you have had been fed some bad lemonade, friend. The whole idea is that we come to the mat messy, ever-changing, and hopeful, but it is the mess that leads us deeper into the practice, again and again. Somedays I feel like a dump-truck, and others, like a butterfly. Somedays I am the picture of patience and great perspective, and the next, mired in selfish and constraining ideas. This is the dance, the sloppy play of humanity, and of yoga. The process is in process, that’s why we call it so.
My invitation is to look, with love, at what is happening in the moment, and learn to design a practice for every day, different. On the butterfly days, I practice many pushups, firing a deep inner fire and yearning for strength, then flip over, around exploring the world from the upside, and roll into backbends that lovingly tear away the scar tissue over the vibrancy of my heart. It’s metaphor, of course, but my asana practice on the butterfly days is wild, playful, motile, and verging on passionate ferocity.
And the dump-truck days, are not so. I sit. I breathe. I look out the window. I sit on purpose (concentrate). I sit (meditate). I sit (do nothing). I wait. The practice’s end reveals itself, like a gentle embrace from a friend, calling me to sip tea, or take a bath. On the days when you are feeling far from your free-flying magical-mystical self, and more like digging your head into the earth to hide, try gentle pranayama (extending the life-force through breath), practices like anuloma viloma. In English, this breath is often called alternate nostril breath, and the idea is to balance the energies of opposing currents in the body, bringing the conversation to the table between butterfly and dump-truck, or maybe body and mind. The whole thing will last about seven minutes, dear dump-truck, and the invitation is to dive deeply into the breath, the earth, and all that you are carrying, dump the bucket of all that no longer serves, and find a balanced load for the moment.
Begin in a comfortable seat with an upright and relaxed spine. This position is important for pranayama practice and meditation as it opens the channel between the earthly world and the subtle world, linking like a ladder to what is below and above, alike. It’s pretty much the point; everything you do from this comfortable upright position is extra credit, rich and long-lasting crema on the espresso, so to speak. Open the channel, and then see what falls into your lap. Ten rounds anuloma viloma pranayama begins with a minute of mindful breathing, gently in and out through the nose, with attention on balancing the length of inspirations and expirations. If you find after this mindfulness practice that the inspirations have inspired you to do something else, follow, or that the expirations and letting go are leading you to a different practice of clearing the slate, go.
If you wish to move on, stay, and lightly place your right index and middle fingers at your brow-center. Gently rest thumb on your right nostril, just below the bridge of your nose with gentle pressure, and ring and pinky on the left side in the same manner. The mild restraint of the nasal passageway must be light enough to allow air through easily, but stable enough to bring your mind’s eye to the sensation and call attention. This tender pressure can be applied throughout the pranayama. Take a deep inhalation, completely close the right nostril and exhale left. Inhale left, pause at the top of the breath with both nostrils completely closed, exhale right. Inhale right, pause at the top, both sides completely closed, exhale left. This is one full round. Continue for ten rounds, release right hand and breath through both nostrils, watching the breath for another one to two minutes and enjoy your day deeply, best you can.
Love and respect, Suki