So here in Newfoundland we’re staring down some difficult times, as our government has landed a heavy austerity budget on the shoulders of a population that can ill afford it. There’s a collective feeling of frustration that’s palpable in our day-to-day interactions with each other around here. I’m not here to solve our political problems- though I did write my MHA with some ideas about how to do that, and you should, too– but I can offer some tools to help you get through stress and negativity. You can try these separately or together, on their own, or as part of your regular practice.
“I release all worry, and move forward without fear”
I’ve been using this in my own practice and in a few classes lately. Naturally, if you’re unsure about how your family is going to weather this storm (as I think a lot of us are) worry can be the prevailing emotion. The trouble with worry is that it isn’t productive. It doesn’t prevent negative outcomes or give us solutions. It merely weighs you down and prevents forward motion. The first step to moving forward is to let go of that worry.
Try this affirmation while lying on your back. I like to connect to myself with a hand on the heart, a hand on the belly, as a reminder that I have what I need and that to access that I simply have to go inside and find it. Draw deep, full breaths and feel your hands rise and fall with the rhythm of your breathing. Repeat the affirmation silently or out loud as feels appropriate to you, for as long as it feels right.
Including Lion’s Breath, on its own or in conjunction with other poses, is a beautiful way to get rid of tension, fear and a feeling of being closed-off. It may feel a little funny if this is new for you, but I encourage you to give it a go and notice how it makes you feel.
Draw a deep breath in, and as you exhale, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue. As your free to tongue, feel that you are releasing fear and negativity. Repeat 3-5 times.
Join your big toe mounds, but take space between your heels, so the outer feet are parallel. Activate your inner thighs and squeeze the together. Bend your knees and sit your hips down and back, drawing the tailbone down and the pubic bone forward. Free your hands to the sky and release the shoulderblades down the ribcage. As you inhale, squeeze the hands in fists, hug the thighs together. Exhale into a forward fold and you throw your hands down and back and release the tongue or Lion’s Breath. Repeat 3-5 times. Follow with a nice soft forward fold with the knees bent and the belly resting on the thighs, swaying side to side.
Take a high lunge with the feet connected strongly to the earth and lots of strength in the belly. Inhale and as you exhale, kick your back foot forward and throw your hands down and back with a strong “HA” sound. Step lightly back into the lunge as the arms rise overhead. Repeat 5 times each side.
Find Plank Pose with the wrists directly under the shoulders and the hips in line with the shoulders. Take a breath in to feel strong and steady, a straight line of energy from your heels through the crown of your head. Take your weight into your right hand and roll onto the outer edge of your right foot. Lift the left hand with fingers bright and boost your hips while squeezing your inner ankles together. Feel your strength in the midst of this challenge. For more spice, you can lift the left leg away from the right.
Now step the left foot behind the right knee and lift your hips and heart higher, finding a backbend in Wild Thing. If it’s comfortable, lift your gaze to your left hand. Use lots of core control to transition back to Vasisthasana, Side Plank, then to Plank Pose and cycle through a vinyasa or move to downward facing dog. Repeat on the other side.
From downward facing dog, draw the right knee forward and step the foot outside your right hand. Lower the left knee and turn the right toes out. Set your left and underneath your face as you inhale, and exhale to press the right hand into the right knee and revolve the ribcage to the right. Stretch the right hand behind you, arm parallel to the floor. Bend the left knee and reach back to clasp the foot- a strap may make this more accessible, as may a block under the left hand. Keep the breath flowing as you make space throughout the lower body, releasing fear and worry with each breath out, and feeling yourself move closer to your inner wisdom and strength with each breath in.
Sit on the bottom of your pelvis with a healthy, happy curve in your lower back- for most of us this will mean a block or folded blanket under the sitting bones. Extend the legs from the hip joint and activate the feet by pressing through the heels and drawing the toes back toward the shins. Press your fingertips into the mat beside your hips and inhale to lengthen the spine. As you exhale, keep that length and begin to walk the hands forward, moving the heart along the legs without rounding the back. Stay here with a long spine, breathing space into the backs of the legs. Inhale, and as you exhale let the whole body soften, releasing all effort and allowing everything to melt closer to the earth.
At the end of your practice, rest on your back, connecting the hands to your body or letting the arms rest by your sides. Return to your affirmation as you allow yourself to surrender completely, to turn inside and connect to your strength. Know that you have it in you to handle whatever obstacles you encounter. Stay here for as long as feels right (and maybe a bit longer besides), then slowly transition out of the pose and go knock ’em dead!