Until recent years, the art of cursive handwriting was taught in most schools in the West. Perhaps you remember learning it. Having mastered printing one letter at a time, we learned gradually to write whole words without ever having to lift our pens, gracefully connecting one letter to the next. The flowing script was the standard for the written word before the advent of typewriters and computers. It came from patient practice, as we learned to build one loop or line onto another. Eventually we found ourselves writing it with fluid ease.
The flow of energy that moves continually from one pose to the next in YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine is like this. I call it the golden thread. We quiet our minds, focus on our breath, open to possibilities and tap into its gracious movement so that it may guide our practice.
As we become familiar with the flow of energy throughout our body-being in a single asana, we learn to string asanas together as one continual, unbroken movement. In their co-creation, we encounter a more complex energy pattern, having laid the foundation in our practice.
In the last few articles on YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, we have explored both the feline fluidity of Cat Pose, the flow between it and Extended Child, and the deep stretch of Downward Dog. This month, we put it all together. Please take the time to become familiar with these previous asanas on their own before beginning the flow in this month’s practice.
From Cat Pose, rest your sitting bones back onto your heels, coming into full Child’s Pose. As you breathe, feel the release in your tailbone towards the ground. From that rooted anchoring, allow your spine to unwind and rest forward over your thighs, so that you are in a fetal position, sensing the crown of your head move away from your tailbone. Feel the support your thighs give your torso, so that you can deepen the feeling of letting go and lengthening of your spine. Let your forehead broaden, as it rests on the floor. Feel the back of your neck and shoulders ease.
Take a few breaths here. Inhale through the whale spout down your spine, your central channel of energy. Exhale two-way moving energy, releasing down towards your tailbone, legs and feet, while simultaneously feeling the energy expand upwards towards the crown of your head.
Now, come into Extended Child pose as you outstretch your arms in front of you, placing your palms flat on the floor, palms broad, energy engaging the ground. Keep your shoulders neutral, so that you neither are slack nor pull them too vigorously out of their socket. Keep your elbows straight, not locked, so that you feel energy run smoothly from your belly and spine, out your arms and hands as you breathe. Your arms too are channels of life force energy.
On the next exhale, round your back, coming up onto all fours, then inhale, opening up your chest, rolling through each vertebra one by one, from your tailbone, middle back, upper back, neck and head. Feel the crown of your head move away from your tailbone as your spine lengthens in a long arch. The palms of your hands are active and engaging the ground as you press up into Cat Pose.
Exhale, tuck the toes under. Bring your hips up and heels down. Keep your arms and shoulders neutral and open as your hands press into the floor in Downward Dog.
Feel the crown of your head release towards the floor, and your tailbone release towards your heels. Let your energy root into the ground. Feel the two-way moving energy here, as the crown of your head moves away from your tailbone, and your spine lengthens.
Then, inhale, bring your knees to the floor. Exhale, bring your hips to your heels, keeping your arms outstretched, now back in Extended Child Pose.
Follow your own breath rhythm, moving between Extended Child, Cat and Downward Dog. See how fluid your breath rhythm can become. Remember that it is the impulse to breathe that guides the rhythm of your movement.
As you inhale, draw life-force energy in from the crown of your head, through your whale spout, and into your central channel of energy, your spine. Exhale, feel that energy move in two directions, upward and downward energy and then throughout your limbs and into your every cell.
As you breathe, you are getting out of your own way, so that there is a greater sense of spaciousness through your whole body-being breathing.
Allow your breath awareness, and the energy that follows the breath awareness, to move freely through your whole body. Let your breath guide the pace and rhythm of your flow from one pose to the next, as life-force energy arises through you to initiate your movement.
Your mind is focused on the breath and on the sensations moving through your body. Move from one posture to the next in a fluid-like continuum. Follow your own natural rhythm.
Complete the flow by returning to Extended Child, then placing your hands back into full Child Pose, hands back by your feet. Pause here for a moment before moving on to your next asana or closing your practice, by rolling onto your back for Savasana.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS). More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.