Many students ask for a few exercises to practice at home. Below is a series of gentle, meditative exercises, safe to practice on
Standing: Rooted and Uplifted
Standing, rooted on the earth. Wiggle toes. Hand on belly...breathe with belly...inhale and let belly expand like a balloon,
exhale and gently press the belly toward the small of the back...relax
pelvic floor...feel the weight of body dropping down into fee...let feet relax
Now use your imagination, like a cartoon:
Imagine you can "breathe through your feet." Draw the energy of the earth up into your body.
Imagine a golden chord lifting out of head into heavens, and being lifted by that golden chord into the heavens.
Feel the coolness of the blue sky washing over the body.
Feel both rooted in feet and uplifted in top of body
Balance in middle of arch, so feet can relax
Breathe Through Body Like a Wave
Breathe deeply, and lift arms with breath like a wave, exhale arms go down.
Keep up this breathing and as you warm up lift arms
higher, lift neck, lift eyes; as you exhale drop down lower, rounding back. Only go as far as comfortable, though some can arch back a little and even bend knees and touch floor.
The breath focus helps give control, allowing you to lift your head and drop your head down yet still feel rooted.
Paint Your Yoga Space
Imagine you have paint brushes on your finger tips.
Breathe arms up overhead, and open to the sides,
following the movements of your arms with your eyes, and imagine you
are painting a yoga space around yourself.
Imagine a color of your choice.
Visualize your yoga space continuing all the way to the center of the earth from your feet.
You will be standing uplifted, energized, yet rooted "taking a stand."
Find Center of Balance
First put one hand on belly, other on small of back
Press stomach toward small of back, feel pelvic bone supporting internal organs
Now slowly, rock forward and back (very small movements), noticing when your muscles have to grip to hold you and
when they can relax because you're in a line with gravity. Let rocking get smaller and smaller until you're still, and you're in the
perfect balance point.
Weight should fall in middle of arch, so feet can relax.
Place your hand over your stomach. As you inhale, let your stomach expand, imagine it filling with oxygen like a
Exhale and gently press the stomach back toward the spine.
This outward movement of the stomach (inhale) allows the diaphragm to move downward so that the lungs fill up from
the bottom; then upward (exhale) to push air out from the bottom of the lungs. You must empty the air sacs of stale air before fresh air can replace it (like a sponge must be squeezed before fresh water can fill it).
Rib cage breath
Place fingertips on shoulders so elbows are straight out to the side.
Inhale, lifting the elbows and expanding the rib cage.
Exhale bringing the elbows down towards the body, contracting the rib cage.
This allows for breathing in the middle part of the lungs.
Upper chest and throat breath
Inhale, lifting the shoulders. Breathe in the back of the throat to open up the windpipe. You will make a
Exhale, bring the shoulders down.
Inhale using the belly (expanding stomach like a balloon), arms start to rise.
Keep inhaling as arm come up to rib cage level and expand the middle lungs.
Keep inhaling as arms lift above shoulders, breathing with the upper chest and throat.
Touch palms over head and hold the breath.
Now exhale in reverse, slowly as you bring arms down:
Upper chest and throat.
Rib cage, compressing ribs, middle lungs.
Belly, pushing stomach to small of back.
Breathe in, using belly breath to full capacity.
Breathe in 3 times more: “In, in, in.”
Breath out, using belly to exhale all air out.
Exhale 3 times more. “Out, out, out.”
(Like squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube.)
Clench it in and throw it out
Bend knees, round back, bend elbows and make fists like you're "clenching it in."
With a vigorous exhale and “HA” sound, “throw it
out” aiming the tension into the earth (Don't worry, Mother Earth will
turn it into a useful compost pile.) Repeat to each side.
Repeat sequence a number of times.
Inhale, and let out a large, audible sigh -- seven
times. You will notice your sighs become slower and deeper.
Sitting in a chair, lift knees and pound the balls of feet on the ground like you're riding a bicycle. Make fists
with hands, bend elbows and circle arms forward and back rapidly. This should (somewhat) imitate riding a bike fast.
Pretend to laugh while you ride your bike. Eventually you will actually laugh!
From a sitting position, stick out your tongue as far as possible, open your eyes widely and fiercely, stretch your hands
and open your fingers wide, like claws of a lion.
Small Hip Circles, Focus on Feet:
Standing feet together, with slight movement, circle hips slowly, noticing weight moving around outside of feet, very
Bigger Hip Circles Using Breath
Feet further apart.
Exhale as hips come forward, inhale as hips go back.
Then add variation: gently hold breath as hips go to side (relax and lengthen the holding to side time gradually).
Take a wide parallel foot stance with one leg in front of the other. Keep your hands on your hips, for awareness
and shift your hips a little to adjust the balance so your weight is evenly between two legs. Try to keep your feet relaxed.
Keep “breathing” through the feet.
Bend the front knee (again, adjust position of hips).
Slowly walk hands down front leg, as you keep adjusting the hips to keep evenly balanced. Stop at any point,
more advanced students can go lower, straighten the front knee and reach head toward knee.
Slowly walk hands back up leg, and straighten body.
This teaches you how to adjust your hips--the heaviest weight in your body--to keep in balance (hips, ribs and head in
a line) and avoid falls.
Imagine your feet as roots of a tree, reaching into the earth for water and nourishment.
Your body is the trunk of a tree.
Lift your arms over your head, palms touching (hands in a “prayer” position).
Your head, arms and hands are branches reaching up to the sun for nourishment.
(your body is pulling in two directions).
Let the “roots” in one leg become so thick and
strong you don't need the other leg to hold you, gently lift the toe.
If you can, lift that knee up and rest the foot inside the inner thigh (or leg) of the standing leg.
Balance, pulling in two directions, imagining yourself as a tree.
To come down, lift the head up higher, and gently put the foot down, feeling the weight now on both feet evenly.
The Willow Tree
Imagine yourself as a willow tree. Your arms are soft long branches. Imagine the wind is blowing your branches
and move freely, swaying with the wind. This is free movement, move as your imagination suggests. Your whole body can move like the trunk of a willow tree. Feel both rooted through the feet and flexible with the arms and back.
INVERSION AND ENDING MEDITATION
Rag Doll (or "Senior Headstand")
Inverted positions bring blood to head (brain) and face, throat, by reversing the pull of gravity. Sitting in a
chair (or standing with bent knees and pelvis tucked under).
Drop head, let it fall like a heavy weight, (imagine it as a rock) which pulls on spine slowly. Relax the neck completely. Arms dangle down, like a rag doll. Go down as far as is comfortable.
Rest in this hanging-over position. Deep breathe, keep letting go, letting tension pour out of back and arms into the earth. Open your eyes, experience looking at the world from this new upside-down perspective.
Uncurl the back slowly, rolling up from the bottom to top, sensing each vertebrae uncurling and stretching. Imagine a surge of energy moving up the spine as you uncurl (like turning a dimmer switch on). Take a huge breath in as you are lifting your chest, before you lift your head. Stretch your back tall when you are sitting straight.
Rest, sitting with hands in Namaste position (like prayer hands) and visualize a flame moving up the spine, like a swaying candle flame. Let your spine sway gently upwards like the flame of a candle.
Namaste means, "I honor the light within you." Remember to see the light within others as you go throughout your day.