Yin Yoga | Four Agreements: Be Impeccable With Your Word
April 11, 2017
Yin Yoga – Throat Chakra – Four Agreements – Be Impeccable With Your Word
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
Hey there, yinsters –
I hope you are having a wonderful week so far and are enjoying the spring-like weather wherever you are located! I love the springtime and the sense of “newness” that accompanies it. My garden is popping up new buds. Each little spurt of color is a reminder that cold and darkness are just seasons that we face. There is always change occurring in one form or another.
The next 4 weeks in my classes, I’m discussing The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I told my students yesterday, that though I do not align with every word in this book – I deeply appreciate the wisdom it offers on how to best relate to and interact with ourselves and others.
This week we are focusing on the first agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word.
The way that we speak matters. And it starts with you. The thoughts you allow to take up residence in your mind are the ones that will shape your lifestyle, viewpoint and interactions with others. So the unhelpful thoughts you think, can truly impact the way that you live your life and the way that you decide to articulate your speech. This is HUGE!
As you practice this sequence which targets the “communication” portion of your body (specifically the throat and surrounding areas), my hope is that you utilize this time to pay attention to the internal dialogue. Yoga offers us time to close our mouths and go inward – listening to what’s beneath the surface (physically, mentally and even spiritually). However, sometimes we still remain in our normal mind during yoga practice. We allow many already-engrained negative and unhelpful thought patterns to stay active while we practice yoga. In the following poses what might happen if you were to identify and begin to change these habits? As you breathe and create space in the body and mind with the time/postures, perhaps invite in more helpful and positive thoughts to replace the old ones.
Disclaimer…It’s requires discipline and practice to transition the mind toward something more positive (just as you practiced memorizing negative thoughts by allowing them in over and over again) – but eventually you can change what feels and is most true of you. Devote yourself to reworking your thoughts until you have a more loving and positive outlook and watch your external world begin to transition as well.
CHILDS POSE (5 min) – Begin your practice by dropping the hips back to the heels and allowing the chest to rest onto the thighs. You can stretch the arms overhead or just keep them at the sides toward the feet. Take a few moments here to focus in on the moment at hand. Allow your breath and attention to expand into the throat, chest and upper back – notice where there is resistance here and extend grace to yourself from the start. We must face what is holding on in order to actually let go.
After 3 minutes here, you can remain with the forehead down or you can begin to gently bring your chin to a block or the earth to open up the front of the throat. This should not be painful at all. If you feel sharp pain, back out of this immediately and bring the neck back to neutral.
PUPPY POSE (3 min) – From a neutral table top position, take a deep inhale and as you exhale begin to walk the hands forward until you reach a stopping point and melt the heart toward the earth. You can support your chest or forehead with a block if it helps you. If you want to increase sensation, you can bend your elbows 90 degrees bringing the palms together above your head and then reach the thumbs toward the base of the neck. You can also do this with two blocks under the triceps (bottom photo) for additional release.
CAT/COW (1 min) – Come into a table top position and begin to move through a few rounds of cat and cow. Inhales bringing your gaze forward, tailbone high and exhales allowing you to round the spine toward the ceiling and relax the weight of the head. Continue to wiggle through these and any other shapes that are calling out to you. Perhaps observe more freedom and openness in the upper back/neck from when you first landed on the mat.
HERO/SUKHASANA (whatever seat is most comfortable) (3 min) – Move through the following neck releases.
Sides of the neck: Sit up tall to settle into the spine. As you take an exhale, drop the right ear to the right shoulder. Stay here or add the weight of one hand to the opposite side of the head. 30-40 seconds then switch to stretch other side.
Back of the neck: Interlace the fingers and place the palms to the back of the head. Begin to drop the chin toward the chest and let the elbows hang heavy. 30 seconds here
THREADED NEEDLE (3 min) – From table top, extend the left arm to the sky and begin to twist toward the right by threading the arm across the mat and through to the other side. Allow your head and shoulder to relax to the floor or a prop. Alternatively, you can drop your hips back toward the heels and do this pose in a childs pose variation. After you complete the first side, switch over to the other slowly and mindfully.
Optional: If you want to try a new arm variation, these are nice options for our purposes today…
HERO Reclined or Supported BRIDGE (5 min) – Find a position that is comfortable for you to open the front body. If reclining back with your legs in hero is too much on the ankle/knee joints or the low back, feel free to drop to supported bridge pose instead. Find a position where you can really hang heavy and breathe into the front of the hips, belly, chest and neck.
Stretch out in table top or down dog for a moment to move into that newly created space in the front body.
Make your way to the belly…
1/2 FROG (2 min) – Cactus the arms turning the gaze to the right, draw the right knee up toward the right elbow and breathe several moments here in this nice release for the low back. Try not to overthink this shape, it’s supposed to be more restorative than “intense”.
SUPINE TWIST (2 min) – From frog, thread your left arm across the chest over to the right side and begin to open your chest toward the ceiling dropping the right arm behind you. Align your right hip on top of the left and add any favorite variations to the twist here.
LOW LUNGE (4 min) – Press back to table top and step the right foot to the top of the mat. The first two minutes, plant your hands to the floor or blocks on either side of the foot or bring them both to the inside of the foot (pictured). Your head can hang here if you’d like. Allow your hips to settle down and forward. After two minutes, you can go deeper if you wish. Don’t rush this depth. Give your body time to release and rest into each burst of intensity.
A note on transitioning deeply into the hips, we find a lot of sensation and release. This is an area of the body we tend to hold emotional stress from our current state and from past seasons. As sensations arise here, breathe and trust the release to create space within you so you can start this new season with a renewed perspective.
COW FACE Fold (3 min) – Begin to rise up from your lunge and walk your hands over to the right. Gently transitioning to the long edge of the mat and crossing the legs into cow face pose. You can draw the left leg straight if you’d prefer to do that over bending the bottom knee. If the knees are both bent, walk the heels away from the hips until you find a good amount of sensation. If it’s too much to sit evenly on the hips, adjust as needed.
Repeat 1/2 Frog to Cow Face on the other side.
FORWARD Fold or SNAIL (5 min) – Transition to a seated position with legs straight out in front of you, locate a firm seat (using a blanket under the hips if your low back is strained in any way). Breathe a few breaths into the spine from an upright position and then take a few breaths to lower you forward. I like to use a bolster under my chest or block under my head (sometimes both!), so get creative with props and find a place to land here.
If you’d like to try your “Snail” pose, please do so mindfully. This pose does compress the neck quite a bit so if you have disc issues in the cervical spine or if there is any pain, back off and come to your forward fold. To do snail, prop your shoulders up on 2 blankets or one folded up (pictured). From your back begin to make your way through supported bridge placing your hands under the spine. Gently begin to lift the legs up and then drop them back behind the head. You can keep the legs straight or bent here. Ensure that you can breathe steadily and completely through the lungs.
Reclined FISH POSE (2 min) – Especially if you practiced snail pose, give yourself a moment with the upper back elevated to a blanket or block. Take a moment to balance out in this shape.
SAVASANA (option for Legs up the Wall) (10 min) – Find a wall and sit with it at one side of you. Begin to lay back onto your spine and then swing the legs up the wall. Allow all of the goodness of your practice and the release in the legs to begin to settle in and through you as you rest here for several minutes letting everything relax. If you’d prefer, you can take traditional corpse pose lying on your back.