This week's practice focuses on building energy through the breath. We will use gentle asana as a way to open the upper body to facilitate deeper breathing and better prana absorption. I recommend practicing this sequence first thing in the morning to boost your mental and physical energy.
Medha Prana Kriya Mudra
Touch index finger nails to the middle joint of the thumb and apply light pressure, extend all other fingers and turn palms up.
Benefits: Encourages breath in the side ribs
Breathe into Strap
Sit comfortably. Place looped strap around middle of the torso (for the ladies, right around the bra line). It should be tight enough that you can feel it when you take a deep breath. At first breathe normally and notice where the body expands into the strap. Then try breathing evenly into the circle of the strap. You can also try breathing into the front half, back half, right half, left half and the quadrants of the strap separately.
Circle the Ribs
Remove the strap and begin to rotate the ribs around in a circle. Isolate the movement in the middle of the torso, bo both directions. If you get confused, remember the Cabbage Patch dance from the Eighties? It's like that without the arms! Repeat 5 times
With the hands on the knees, inhlae into cow by arching the back and lifting the chest, the hands slide back towards the hips. Exhale into cat by drawing belly in and rounding back, the hands slide towards the knees. Repeat 5 times.
Seated Side Bend
Inhale the arms overhead and exhale the left arm to the floor beside you, side bending to the right. Inhale to center with arms over head and exhale to the opposite side. Repeat 5 times.
Inhale the arms overhead and exhale twist to the right with left hand on outside of right knee, right hand behind you on floor. Inhale to center with arms overhead, exhale to opposite side. Repeat 5 times.
Sphinx with Bolster
Lie on belly with bolster under solar plexus, pelvis on floor and forearms on floor in front of bolster. Press arms into floor and life through crown of the head.
Remove the bolster if you like and as you inhale lift right lower leg from floor by bending knee, turn head to the left. Exhale lower leg and return head to center. Inhale to opposite side and repeat 5 times.
Balasana to Bhujangasana (Child's Pose to Cobra Pose)
Begin in Balasana with the arms overhead on the floor. Inhale keep hands where they are and move torso through arms to come into a backbend with pelvis pressing towards floor. Exhale return to Balasana.
Repeat 5-10 times with the breath.
Come into Downward facing dog and place right hand in center. Reach left hand to the outside of the right leg, the lower on the leg you go the more difficult it is. Hold for a few breaths then change sides.
Breath of Joy
From standing, inhale 1/3 of a breath and raise both arms up in front of the body parallel to the floor; then release arms back to sides quickly; inhale 2/3 of breath and raise both arms out to the sides of the body parallel to the floor, then release quickly; inhale final third of breath and raise arms forward and all the way over the head; exhale and bend forward swinging arms down beside the bent legs and make a deep HA sound from the solar plexus. As you are taking your first 1/3 breath stand up and repeat.
Ganeshasana (Elephant Pose)
Begin standing with feet slightly wider than hips distance apart. Keeping the knees soft, begin to swing arms around the body like two elephant trunks, lightly tap the body with the hands wherever they land as you twist right and left. Go faster or slower depending on how it feels to you for about 1 minute. Then slow down the swinging until you are again standing still.
Begin standing with feet wide apart. Inhale and raise arms out to sides of body. Exhale and bring left hand down to floor, block or chair as you twist the torso to the right. Inhale return to standing with arms out to the sides of body. Exhale and bring right hand down to floor, block or chair as you twist the torso to the left. Repeat 5 times.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Shoulderstand)
Place a block on the first height against the wall and a bolster lengthwise in front of the block. Sit on the bolster facing the wall and lie back so that the upper shoulders and back of head reach the floor. Press feet into wall resting heels on the block. If low back is stressed, bend knees and place feet on floor. Hold up to 5 minutes then release by rolling to side.
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.