Today, we’ll practice moving your attention into your chest and heart space, where you receive and give love. By opening your wrists, collarbones, and upper lungs, you’re flushing toxins out of the joints and allowing your body to come into balance. Take your time to grow accustomed to these movements and stay with them, as this practice is a series of strong, safe releases for your emotional body.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN roll a blanket tightly into a little burrito and set it within easy reach of your practice space.
Cat-Cow Pose, with flipped wrists
Come to Tabletop and turn your palms laterally, so your fingertips point to the sides of your mat. Now, keeping your palms rooted in place, spin your fingers so they face your knees, opening your wrist joints, collarbones, and upper lungs. Though this position can feel uncomfortable at first, it’s important to practice if you spend a lot of time typing or using your hands; it will also come to feel more natural with time. Inhale to round your spine; exhale to arch, expand, and extend. Do at least 11 Cat-Cows, or more if you wish.
Opening the shoulders can be challenging at first, but eventually becomes magical. This sequence has helped me open my shoulders and my breathing to prepare for meditation.
a. Hand behind: inhale your left arm high next to you, tracking your hand with your eyes. Follow it as you round your hand back behind you, tucking it between your shoulder blades, palm facing out and as flat as possible. Breathe deeply here for 3 to 5 breaths.
b. Elbow hold: inhaling your right arm up, follow it with your eyes to circle it back behind you and grab your left elbow. You can use your right hand to help lift the left hand between your shoulder blades. Breathe deeply for 3 to 5 breaths.
c. Hand clasp: Now, inhale your right arm up and out behind you, and bring that hand high to bend the elbow behind your head for the clasp with your left hand. Breathe for 3 to 5 breaths.
d. Rest: Following each hand with your eyes, inhale your right arm up and exhale it down onto your left thigh; inhale your left arm out then up, and then exhale it down onto your right thigh. Take 3 breaths there. (Pose not pictured.)
Repeat this shoulder-stretch sequence on the other side.
This is an efficient way to broaden your collarbones, flush your wrist joints, and release your upper lungs for deeper breathing during meditation. After moving through the shoulder-stretch sequence 1, 2, or 3 times on each side, find a comfortable seat and then internally rotate your upper arm bones to press your fists or palms together at the back of your heart. Breathe deeply here for 3 to 5 breaths.
Moving Bridge Pose
Dwi Pada Pitham
Come to lying on your back, knees bent, arms at your sides, palms facing up. Inhale your arms straight up toward the ceiling and then to the floor behind you as you lift your hips; exhale and lower arms and hips back down to their starting position. Take your time to find a rhythm, repeating at least 11 times. End in a fetal position, knees to chest.
Set your timer for your desired duration and place your rolled-up blanket across the top third of your mat; lie face-up on the roll so that it supports the bottom edge of your shoulder blades. Let your heart expand open and your arms come up and out to the sides, resting on the floor. This might be the perfect meditation for you if you’ve not slept well, or if it’s later in the day and a rest is called for.
Elena Brower is the author of Art of Attention, a renowned yoga workbook, now translated into five languages. Studying and teaching since 1998, she’s respected globally for her distinct blend of alignment and attention in her teaching of yoga and meditation. Her audio meditation coursework, Cultivating Spiritual Intelligence, is beloved for its accessibility and relevance, and her yoga teaching is influenced by several traditions including Katonah Yoga, Kundalini and ParaYoga. Elena is also the founder of Teach.yoga, a global website for teachers, and her second book, Practice You, will be published in 2018 by Sounds True. Practices with Elena can be found on YogaGlo.com.