By Susan Whitaker
One of the best things about yoga is how practical it is. If you’re tired, it can help refresh you through deeper oxygenation and simple movements of the spine. This also helps to improve your sleep. If you’re anxious, it can calm you down through strong or repetitive motions and deep breathing. If you’re sad or depressed, it can help you find your inner strength through changing your thought patterns and utilizing standing postures. Yoga is a natural process whether you have cancer or not, and can provide an anchor for deepening your experience.
In my classes, we often begin with a centering exercise called Seated Circles. This posture helps with becoming focused and centered, and also helps with digestion and discomfort in the belly. With the Thanksgiving feast on the horizon, I like the idea of stoking the digestive fire!
Begin by sitting on the floor with legs crossed and hands on the knees. Take a few slow, clearing breaths before you begin. Lengthen the spine gently. Start moving by leaning to the left, move forward, lean to the right, then lean backward, all the while keeping your balance. As you lean forward again, lengthen your spine, and as you draw backward, let your spine curve. Let the head follow the movement of the torso, and relax your neck. Enjoy the smoothness of the circles and relax your shoulders. Breathe comfortably and slowly. After circling about 5-8 times this way, change your crossed legs and circle the other way. When you feel complete, pause and scan your body to see how you feel.
Another part of our practice focuses on gratitude. You can follow the seated circles with the Heart Breath. This can be done either in a seated or standing position. Bring your hands together in front of your face, elbows bent and shoulders relaxed. The forearms are touching. As you inhale, gently move your arms apart, as though you’re opening a window. As you exhale, bring your arms and hands back together. Take 3-5 breaths like this, slowly, and focus on the sensations in the chest and the upper back. Allow yourself to relax with each breath, and feel your way into greater ease. Move according to your level of comfort, never pushing or straining. Sit for a moment and allow yourself to feel what arises.
As our bodies begin to relax, so can our minds and emotions. We then find ourselves open to what the moment has to offer.
“A tree sprouts leaves, blossoms, and bears fruit
Only by welcoming raindrops, sun and air inside.
Help us to welcome hardship, solitude, and others into our lives:
Nourished by profound experience, we too will bear fruit.”