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You don’t need to be a master of advanced asana to drop into the deepest level of yourself each day. The star of this sequence is the breath.
You don’t need a fancy place to practice or to be a master of Handstands (although those are fun!) to drop your mind into a state of deep presence. Inner knowingness of the true Self is always available—even during the most chaotic times in life. All you need is an open heart and inner peace is only a few breaths away. Take time to drop down to the deepest level of yourself each day and let your direct experience of your own divinity light the path through your brightest and darkest moments alike.
The work of yoga may seem difficult at first but by surrendering your will, your inner world fills with ease. If it’s a struggle, keep the faith. Just by being truly and deeply present, your body can be healed, your mind can be freed, and your spirit can rest in its own infinite grace. This series of postures is designed to help you achieve a present mind and an open heart. The most simple posture is magic when infused with the sacred power of the breath.
Padmasana with Ujjayi Pranayama
Lotus with Conquerer Breath
Sit either in Lotus Pose (Padmasana) or any comfortable cross-legged position to start. Engage the pelvic floor and keep the lower belly drawn in. Root your awareness down in the pelvic floor and then initiate your inhalation by tightening the muscles of the pelvic floor and drawing the breath downward even as the oxygen floods the lungs and lengthens the spine. Feel your life energy moving up the central axis of the body until it reaches the top of the head. Try to extend the inhalation to 10 seconds long, or your maximum. Then exhale by rooting down through the base of the pelvis, controlling and elongating the breath to be equal in length to your maximum inhalation. Keep the spine elongated and lifted to maintain the space created on each inhalation. Resonate the breath in the back of the throat saying the sound “sa” as you inhale and “ha” as you exhale. Let the power of the breath come from a deep connection to the power of your pelvic floor. Let each breath kindle the fire of purification and awaken the seat of knowledge of the true Self within your heart.
See also Shiva Rea’s A Woman’s Guide to Mula Bandha
From a reclining position bend both of your knees, keeping the feet just wider than hip-width apart. Let your knees roll in toward each other and touch. Allow your lower belly draw in naturally with the aid of gravity, while lightly activating the pelvic floor. Let your shoulder blades roll under to free your neck and chest. Drape your hands over each other on the lower belly. Let each inhalation be a deep breath into the lower belly and each exhalation empty out the pelvic bowl. Keep your eyes closed and count each breath backwards from 10, saying to yourself “Ten in, ten out,” “Nine in, nine out,” and so on. Repeat as many times as you like.
Pause for a few breaths in Staff Pose (Dandasana), lengthening your spine and grounding into your legs.
Passive Heart Opener with Block
From Dandasana, place a block behind your sternum and exhale as you lengthen your spine, lean back on your elbows. Tuck your shoulder blades onto the block. Place your hands in prayer and allow your heart center to open. Stay for at least 5 breaths.
Throughout this exercise breathe into the upper chest and draw the lower belly gently in. Don’t force the pose, instead practice opening your heart and surrendering the weight of your body into the floor. If intense emotions arise, don’t try to change them, just experience them, as they are without generating attachment or aversion. This is an exercise in emotional and psychological surrender, as much as it is a heart opener.
See also Calm Heart Meditation
Passive Heart Opener with Block
Next, reach your arms overhead, bend your elbows, and align your thumbs with the top of your head, reaching your fingertips to the floor if possible. Keep your legs close together but relaxed. Stay for at least 5 breaths.
Passive Heart Opener with Block
Then, if you feel comfortable, extend your arms overhead completely and straighten the elbows. Keep reaching your elbows toward each other as you externally rotate your shoulders. Stay for at least 5 breaths.
To come out, bring your hands back to the center of your chest. Lean your body weight into one elbow and remove the block. Lie back down, flat on the ground, and rest for at least 5 breaths.
Overthinking things is the fastest way to move out of presence and into anxiety. A longer hold in Sirasana (Headstand) is one of the fastest ways to literally ground your thoughts, restore circulation throughout the body, and drop your attention back into your heart. Begin with this Headstand Prep. Place your elbows shoulder-width apart, interlock your fingers, and cradle the top of your head in your palms. Stand into your legs up while maintaining your foundation. Hold for at least 5 breaths to build strength and stability.
Sirsasana with a Longer Hold
From Headstand Prep, inhale and gently float up. Align your body around the central axis and pull everything in toward your midline. Tuck you lower ribs, draw your inner thighs toward each other, point you toes, and strongly activate your shoulder girdle as your foundation. Keep your gaze centered on the tip of your nose. Hold for at least 25 breaths, but up to 5 minutes. Maintain these key alignment cues and come down when you feel fatigue begins to compromise the integrity of the pose.
NOTE If you are not ready for Headstand, stay in the Prep pose for the duration of this exercise for the same grounding and centering benefits.
Rest in Child’s Pose for at least 5 breaths.
See also Kino MacGregor’s Clean Up Your Crow Pose
About Kino MacGregor
Kino MacGregor is a self-professed Handstand lover (just check out her Instagrams). She’s also a Pattabhi Jois-certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher who travels worldwide, author of three books, featured in six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs and a Cody App video series, and co-founder of Miami Life Center, where she and her husband Tim Feldmann are based.
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