These accessible yogic tools will keep you centered during this potentially charged and stressful season, and all year long.
#1 - MANTRA/PRAYER
“SO HUM” = “I AM.”
Breathe in while you say the word “SO”, then exhale while you say the word “HUM.” Repeat silently in your mind as you go about any task. Some teachers recommend moving the tongue as though you were speaking the words aloud. The tiny vibrations of the tongue on the hard palate may affect the brain. You can even use mantra while talking to a difficult family member. It is especially powerful for those tasks your resist doing and those moments in which you tense up and lose connection to the present. For me that can happen while doing a long list of household chores like cleaning up clothes, laundry and dishes. The spirit of the mantra transforms irritating tasks into a sacred offering, and can make difficult, uncomfortable moments less taxing on your psyche.
More ambitious students can use the Gayatri Mantra for removing darkness and illusion and elucidating that which is true and good:
OM BHUR BHUVAH SWAHA TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHIMAHI DHIYO YO NAH PRACODAYAT.
If you’re new to the Gayatri Mantra but want to learn it, you can start by listening to my Spotify playlist. Play whichever versions you like as you go about your tasks. Gradually you can learn the mantra in this way. You will gain its benefits even by listening!
Of course, you can recite any prayer you know instead of these.
BENEFITS: Focuses the monkey mind, brings you into the present moment, improves mood and outlook, centers your energy in the divine.
#2 - MOVEMENT - Spinal 6
The spine moves in 6 basic directions, extension, flexion, side bending right and left, twisting right and left. Use the Spinal 6 to warm up your spine by moving it in all directions. You can do these while sitting in a chair, on the floor or kneeling. Check my reference video on Instagram. Each spinal position is held for one breath and you can cycle through the sequence a few times. Alternatively you could hold each position for up to 5 breaths. There are many possible variations!
Tips: Focus on the spinal cord which is in the very center of your body. Visualize the breath moving up the spine as you inhale, all the way to the brain, and down as you exhale, all the way to the tailbone.
BENEFITS: mobilizes the spine and cerebrospinal fluid, builds concentration, relieves stress and anxiety, deepens breath, gently warms you up.
#3 - BREATHING - Kapalabhati
a.k.a. Skull Shining Breath
This pranayam is performed by breathing quickly in and out through nose.
Sitting comfortably upright, inhale to a comfortable level, then forcefully and quickly exhale by pumping the belly in toward your spine. Relax your abdomen immediately to inhale. This is one round. Repeat 25-100 rounds. Note that the exhale should be active and audible, but the inhale should be relatively passive and quiet. There are many free reference videos on YouTube.
BENEFITS: Builds heat, clears nostrils, strengthens the diaphragm, activates the solar plexus, energizes the third chakra for willpower and strength.
#4 - REST & STRETCH - Restorative Yoga
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
Use a yoga bolster and 2 blankets if you have them, or improvise with household objects like pillows and blankets.
Place the bolster vertically on your yoga mat, then lay down with it supporting your entire back. Your hips will be on the floor, snug up against the bolster. Start with bent knees and feet together, flat on the floor. As you exhale, open your knees out to opposite sides, feet remaining together so that your legs form a diamond shape. It’s important to use pillows or blankets under the knees. It should be very comfortable and not too strong of a stretch! Rest your arms on the ground and close your eyes. Settle in with few deep breaths, fully exhaling through the mouth 3 times. Then allow the breath to be natural and easy. Remain in the pose for 5-20 minutes.
BENEFITS: parasympathetic nervous system activation (rest and digest), gently opens the front body and inner thighs/groin, releases tension in pelvic floor and abdomen, reduces menstrual cramps
If you try these 4 tips, please save me from my echo chamber and let me know how they affect you!