Yoga and Meditation Are Not Restricted to the Mat, Studio, or Indoors!
Great news! Yoga and meditation are not restricted to the mat, studio, or indoors!
The yearning we have for a happy, wakeful, meaningful life and a sense of connection with something greater than our individual selves is a powerful motivation for the practice of yoga. Especially now when social distancing has canceled so many social activities large and small.
Yoga is the practice of aligning the body and the mind. Breath and movement align and strengthen the body, maximizing the flow of energy. The breath serves as a meditative, calming tool to relax the nervous system, reducing physical and emotional stress. During yoga, the vagus nerve is stimulated, taking it out of the stressful flight or fight state, so the mind can calm and the body can open up. Yoga keeps the heart strong and the lungs healthy.
Yoga and meditation are powerful tools that can be used anywhere. Get outside and into your body, mind, and soul!
Leave your phone in your pocket, music off so you can hear what is around you. Choose a familiar route at first so you can simply go. Tune into your body before you start. Do this by directing your attention to your breath. Balancing the length of the inhalation with the exhalation. Progressively deepen and lengthen the breath.
(this is the yoga part, moving with breath and intention)
Start to move, continue the focus on your breath, maybe counting in rhythm with your foot strikes. If you notice you are breathing heavily and cannot control and balance your breath, slow down, honoring your intention to move with the breath. Turn your attention inward, find peace and calm.
You can use props such as rocks, trees, mountains, and animals to inspire yoga poses and physical as props. Remember it is the connection of movement and breath that turns what might be an ordinary stretch into yoga for the full-body, mind soul connection.
Try these yoga poses outside or inside
Press into the earth through your feet. Begin to lift one foot bringing it to the ankle, calf, or thigh of the standing leg. Press the lifted foot into the standing leg and leg into the foot to draw your strength to the center. Lift your arms like branches, letting them sway to the rhythm of your breath. Fix your gaze, drishti, on something still for stability or gaze up to the sky for a challenge. Take a nice deep breath in before you lower your foot to the ground. Switch sides. You could use a tree for inspiration or physical balance. Trees are grounding and symbolize growth.
Malasana, squat pose (may have other outdoor uses as well!) :
From standing, turn your feet out to an angle (imagine the clock hands at 10:00 and 2:00). Slowly bend your knees and lower your bum toward the ground (but not all the way down) between your feet. Press the palms of your hands together and bring them to your heart center. Press elbows into knees and knees into elbows. Focus on your breath and feel the release. Lovely for opening your hips and balancing your sacrum. Maybe perch upon a rock or sink into this pose to enjoy a view, or to hide and quietly watch animals.
We all dream of souring. A spot with a view may inspire this pose. Stand tall, as you take in a long breath reach up for the sky with both arms. Slowly exhale and lower arms in front of you, to shoulder height, crossing one arm over the other stacking the elbows. Bend elbows so fingers are pointing up and hands are back to back in front of your face. Continue wrapping forearms until palms touch (probably fingers in palm). Lift arms upend press palms away. Breath deeply! Unfurl your wings and try the other way. This is a lovely shoulder stretch. Wide leg Forward Fold: Stand with legs separated about as wide as your outstretched arms, toes point forward. As you exhale, Allow your bum to drift back as you bend forward at your hips with a flat back. Reach for the ground in front of you or beneath your face. While you look at the world upside down, feel the glory of your hamstrings! Come up carefully, with hands at your waste, engage your core, and come up with a flat back.
Standing on one foot, exhale and bend the other knee bringing your heel toward your bum. Reach back with the same hand and grasp your foot, drawing in more closely to lengthen your quad.
Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your own breath moving or sitting.
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Your eyes may be shut or gaze downward to direct your attention toward your inner self and your breath. First, notice your breath as it enters your nostrils and as it moves down into your lungs. Then begin to count in a rhythm of your inhalation and your exhalation making them equal in length. Balancing your breath calms your nervous system. This alone is calming and meditative. If you’d like to add the silent mantra “Ham Sa” Breath in “Ham” and release “Sa”. These are the natural sounds of our breath, a “vibration of infinite consciousness”, increasing awareness. If your mind begins to wander, gently direct your focus back to your breath or mantra.
Try a walking meditation:
You can walk circles around your yard or take a walk/hike. Just don’t get yourself lost! Keep your eyes and mind open! So many ways to do this. Here are my favorites. Direct gaze down and in front of you, but expand your vision so you are also focusing on your peripheral areas off to the sides. Focus on your breath, balancing it as in the seated meditation.
Another version is to walk with gaze downward but direct your listening to all the sounds around you, select a sound and try to listen to it as long as you can hear it. It’s important to do this without judgment, some sounds irritate us! Try to enjoy it, don’t be stuck on a sound because it’s bothering you!
Full senses meditation:
Start with a single sense until you have gone through them all (maybe not taste, but sight, sound, touch, and smell). Then either choose one to focus on at a time or try to open up to 2 or maybe all of them at once. Probably most beneficial if standing or sitting stillness.
Let go and let your energy flow!
You can get out of yoga what you need to physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
My practice at ALIGN yoga generally includes a thought-provoking theme, calming breathwork for centering, and a moderately challenging slow-moving practice. Cues focus on aligning the spine and joints and breathing. Practice is designed to build strength, stimulate connective tissue, and calm the mind to stretch and release unnecessary tension. We practice outside as often as we can! Currently offering classes on Zoom. “Like” Alignwv on Facebook, leave a message to join the mailing list.