What strange times we are in with the Corona Virus pandemic sweeping the world. Here in Costa Rica the borders have just been closed to all tourists, businesses are closing down and like most of the world we are encouraged to self-quarantine. They are now even closing the beaches! An upside to all of this is the compassion and goodness coming out of all of those supporting and helping others, the sense of being part of a global community and witnessing so many doing what is best for the whole.
Many of us are also being forced to slow down at great costs. All of us have had plans derailed, many are ill and many are dealing with tremendous personal and/or business strain and uncertainty; despite all of that, can we be the eye of the storm? Can we challenge ourselves to use this time to turn inwards to find calm and re-center rather than resist what is happening? With chaotic news coming at us from all directions, massive changes to our day-to-day lives and a fear of the unknown, can we lean in to the discomfort with an open heart and surrender to what is? It is a radical idea when you look at the circumstances that many are in and something that would require continual practice. Yoga offers us many tools. So I invite you with this short yoga practice to recoil your spring so that you are ready to spring forward once the tension has been released and this has subsided.
This practice begins with a short pranayama breathing practice using a 1:2 ratio of inhalation to exhalation. The emphasis on the exhale is meant to be calming to the nervous system. Then we will move to our backs for a few variations of reclining big-toe pose (supta padangusthasana). This is a foundational forward fold that lengthens and releases the hamstrings and other key leg and back muscles. In general all forward folds are considered calming and invite us to turn our awareness inwards towards the self. Many people are confronted with resistance in forward folds, either in the hamstrings or oftentimes in the mind. This gives us an opportunity to learn how to let go of the resistance and surrender to what is. We may even discover that in the resistance or the challenge lies our greatest opportunity for growth and change.
I will also introduce the concept of descending femurs (although I don't talk about it in those terms in the video). When bending forward or forward folding, you want to initiate the movement from the hips, rather than from the spine. When you bend forward, the tops of your thighbones or where the femur inserts into the hip socket should descend towards your hamstrings (or in this case away from your shoulders - see illustration below). This action creates a lot of space in the hip joint which allows for more movement of the thighbone and/or pelvis depending on the pose. It is a subtle movement but it changes everything and I think most people find it quite calming.
I hope you find a bit of reprieve and calm from this class. I am also going to post a short shoulder stand series that could be practiced along with this with. I'd love to hear how it goes in the comments below. Namaste.