Begin by finding a comfortable seat with your eyes closed. It’s nice to sit up on some padding to elevate your hips and start to feel your spine lengthen. As you close your eyes, start to tap into your breath without fixing or changing anything. Notice the quality of your breathing and whether you breath is located in a certain place in your physical body. After a few moments, you can start to let your breath begin to deepen, taking longer inhales through your nose and letting a falling out breath come out your mouth. Do this a few times in a way that allows you to feel grounded and to start to invite in whatever thoughts, emotions, or feelings may be bubbling up from your day. The beauty of this practice is that we get to invite and learn to breathe into all parts of ourselves, even our difficulties. So continue to deepen your breathing and notice which parts of yourself need some more space and attention.
When you are ready, bring your hands into a Lotus Mudra, a hand gesture that represents possibility and the movement from darkness to light. The Lotus flower grows out of the mud, in the same way we can transform our suffering into our strength and learn to be more compassionate and loving beings. As you hold your Lotus at your heart center, take 10 deep breaths into your hands and stay curious about what is happening. At your own time, release your hands onto your knees and let a big falling out breath come out your mouth.
Breath of Joy
Come to sit on your shins. You can place a blanket under your knees for more support. As you inhale, stand all the way up on your knees and lift your arms to the sky. As you exhale, give yourself a big hug and sit your hips all the way back to your heels, letting your forehead bow to the ground, like in child’s pose. Start to repeat this movement and find your own rhythm with it. You can explore moving a little more quickly to build some heat, or you may enjoy staying with longer, slow breaths. Give yourself permission to move like yourself.
On my way to teach a yoga class a couple weeks ago, I imagined eagle pose with the arms in a hug wrapped around oneself, and with a little smile I named it “compassionate eagle”. Eagle pose is a standing balancing shape that provides us with an opportunity to soften judgment and be gentle with ourselves if and when we lose our balance. Physically, this shape reigns all parts of the body into the midline and allows for a deeper inner listening. You can also play with bringing your Third Eye (center of the forehead) onto the top of the knees to stimulate intuition and inner wisdom, bowing your head to your heart. Move through both sides on your own breath, switch the wrapping of our arms. See if you can feel the warmth of your own embrace and trust the strength of your foundation as you connect your feet to the earth.
Suppta Baddha Konasana (Goddess Pose)
This is one of my all-time favorites. Come to lie down on your back. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to touch. Place a blanket or a yoga block under each knee. Bring one hand to your heart and the other hands to your belly. Let your eyes close. Start to breath into your palms, feeling each inhale lift your body towards your hands, and each exhale let your palms descend into your body. In yoga, the hands and arms are extensions of the heart. As you breath, invite self-compassion and forgiveness into your heart, allowing your breath to help you release any tension and allow for more connection. Relax your lips, tongue, and jaw. If you notice your mind wandering, continue to bring your attention back to your breath.
I have had a lot of resistance to practicing mantra, and it has taken me a very long time to open up to this aspect of the practice. Mantra in Sanskrit means to “protect the mind”. What I have discovered on my own journey is that repeating a mantra can help me distract my thoughts from wandering to something negative and unproductive. A teacher once suggested the mantra “I love myself, I trust myself”, and for some reason, this was the one that stayed with me. Sometimes we choose a mantra, and other times the mantra chooses us. You can practice this mantra, or a different mantra that speaks to you during any of the postures above or afterward in a comfortable seated position.