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starfish

taking plenty of time in each shape…

stand and settle with your feet parallel and wide apart.

invite your hips and legs to feel their fluidity and strength.

bring your hands and forearms together, left to right, from fingertips to elbows – like a giant prayer position – the sides of your thumbs resting on your forehead. close your eyes perhaps.

can you feel your whole watery body breathing?

breathing out – let your arms open, exploring their own length – shoulders floating in your fluid back, as your body begins to understand its whole width –

like a starfish.

how does your new open shape effect your breath?

after a while, fold into a spread leg forward bend – hands connecting with your feet somehow. feel your way in, easing – like a starfish finding its footing.

let go of your out breath and then, when it comes, let the in breath flood in.

stay or repeat the sequence for as long as it’s helpful.

tidal

a few weeks ago i posted a ‘sitting’ practice.

here is some more material to explore in the same posture. you might like to refer back to that post first.

sit with your legs out in front, hands resting on your knees.

watch each outgoing breath wave wash down silently, delicately, thoroughly, through the beach of your body, into the earth. the next wave rises quiet, relentless, moving as far and as thoroughly into your body as it wants to… watch the breath tide for a while, as passively as if you were watching the waves on the beach – you can do nothing.

let your hands move down your shins as before – watch the waves again – feel the out breath eddy around the backs of your knees, and then wait for the high shore of the chest to call for the next wave.

now, using whichever version of a seated twist you prefer, twist to the left and watch the tidal flow again – stay for as long as you want to – easing the body, watching the tide.

come back to the centre – hands soft on the knees – how does your left side feel? go forward again towards the ankles – be with the breath tide at every step.

repeat to the right. return to the centre and sit again as before.

lie on your back. rest. keep the breath simple.

sitting

let your legs stream away to your heels in front of you and open the soles of the feet to the air; each toe reaching for its own place in space.

let your sitting bones find the earth deeply. you can use a cushion if it helps.

rest your hands on the open slopes of the knees for a while, feeling the warmth meet and mingle.

relax your shoulders. invite your sitting bones to sink again.

slide your hands down your long shins towards your ankles and let the warmth of your hands seep in to their intricate structure. now the sitting bones have tilted – let them sink again.

upright again, place your hands on the floor beside you, fingers facing forwards. let the palms open, inviting the fingers to find their own space on the earth.

watch your breath. breathe in to your soft waist and out from your sitting bones
and watch your body relax and grow with this.

after a while, move your hands further back – fingers pointing away from you – lean back – luxuriate in the open front of your body.

you can repeat all of this when you are ready.

‘as the sun delicately opens the flowers, unfolding them little by little, so with slow and careful training, yoga exercises will open the body.’ Vanda Scaravelli

shining

here is a beautiful practice to cleanse and awaken…

kapalabhati is a clarifying breathing practice, ideal for first thing in the morning.

it is suitable for most people, particularly if you take it slowly, but is best avoided if you have had recent surgery or heart problems. some people with abdominal or menstrual problems also find kapalabhati unhelpful.

sit comfortably.

be with your breath for a while.

when you are ready, take a deeper inhalation without any strain, then exhale through your nostrils by contracting your lower abdomen emphatically. you will hear the sound of the breath leaving you.

the inhalation follows completely silently and your abdomen domes again.

repeat this several times. eventually you’ll find a rhythm. if you aren’t familiar with the practice take it slowly.

check the abdomen is contracting with the short, sharp, noisy exhale and doming silently and automatically again on the inhale – all of this happens without you having to do anything.

after a while, relax the technique and move into the spacious, fresh feeling which your breath has made for you.

when you are ready take another round of kapalabhati.

if you are familiar with the practice you can make the breaths more rapid. but there’s no great rush – take your time to perfect the technique.

‘kapalabhati takes away uncertainty – doubts
especially first thing in the morning
with the whole day in front of you
and wondering how to cope
kapalabhati can ‘write the schedule’ for you
in a neat, clear way.’ sandra sabatini

release

settle so that your sitting bones, legs and feet rest into the earth and the crown of your head is free to move upwards – take your time – releasing, surrendering, rising.

tune in to your breath – take your time – turn inward

watch your exhalation leaving the body, cleaning and clearing every cell as it goes – making soft open space so that when your inhalation comes in you can receive it very peacefully.

that’s all you have to do.

let your exhalation release – over and over again

without any effort this will create lightness in your body

‘Everything that moves, breathes,
opens and closes
Lives in the Self.’

mundaka upanisad trans. eknath easwaran

breath

over the next few posts, i’ll offer some suggestions for using pranayama – an awareness of your breath – to help support you in these unusual times.

let’s begin by simply observing our breath –

lie on your back with your knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor
cover yourself with a blanket if you feel cold.

take some time to notice your body settling into the ground

make some small shifts to settle more deeply and to undo any tension –
do whatever feels comfortable – rocking, easing, releasing

when you are comfortable – let yourself become more still

notice how your natural breath moves your body

just notice

don’t do anything special –
you are not trying to deepen the breath at the moment

you may notice:

the rise of the abdomen as you breathe in
the fall of the abdomen as you breathe out

the freshness of the inhale in your nostrils
the soft warmth of the exhale

the pauses between the breaths

stay with this practice for a while.

‘and all the time and attention you spend on observation and awareness and obtaining emptiness in the body allows the cells to absorb the full beauty and nourishment of the new breath. breathing becomes a magic event, delicate and exquisite.’ sandra sabatini

blessing

‘This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.’

by John O’Donohue

forearm dog pose

this post is for those of you who are feeling ready for something more challenging.

forearm dog pose works the shoulders and legs and demands more of the breath. as it’s a more challenging posture, approach it sensitively and it may not be right for you at all. just trust your own judgement.

begin with your normal loosening and focussing practice, choosing whichever postures feel right and including some cat and downward dog.

from the cat – place your forearms on the floor – you can position your hands quite close together at first – your elbows splayed out a little.

as you exhale, come up into a downward dog shape but with your forearms resting on the mat.

see how it feels –

notice the different sensations – keep fluid – easing your body in (especially if you haven’t tried this posture for a while)

allow the breath to ease you away from the posture on the inhale and drop towards the posture on the exhale.

take rest in kneeling forward bend/child pose when you need it. explore this for a few minutes.

afterwards – rest on your back – draw your knees over your chest and keeping the body fluid and responsive, observe your breath.

complete your practice choosing any postures that you like.

i hope you enjoy exploring something a bit different. you can continue to experiment – moving the position of your hands/arms and perhaps raising one leg if you’re feeling fancy!