This spring isn’t quite like any other spring we’ve been through before. The buds and blossoms are growing, and brilliant sunlight filters through our windows.
But for many of us, we’re seeing that sunlight and the natural world only through our windows — a global pandemic is changing the way we’re experiencing this time of year, and we’re not getting out much.
After the darker, colder, slower months of winter, we come alive as we step out into the spring and welcome the newness and potential of a hopeful season. But if the situation right now is extending the darkness for you, and causing stress, anxiety or grief, it’s more important than ever to welcome new light.
So here are three simple asanas to help you do that as you move, as gently as possible, through this season.
First, get yourself as close as you can to the sun. Maybe out in the garden, if you have one, or next to your sunniest window. Take your time to settle into these postures or flow through them in sequence.
1. Utkatasana - Chair Pose
Utkatasana is a physical expression of two powerful connections: your connection with the earth, and your connection with the sun.
- Start from standing.
- Gently draw in and lift your lower abdomen, and then slowly send your hips backwards and raise your arms up and forwards.
- Send your gaze beyond your hands.
- Keep the knees over the ankles — so you’re working into the backs of the legs.
- This might mean you don’t go as deep into the posture as you do when you enter it by taking your knees forwards, and that’s fine.
- Keep your hands at shoulder width apart, and stretch the fingers wide, as if you’re reaching for the sky, reaching to touch the sun.
- Ground down into the heels. Soften the shoulders back, and expand the chest.
- Use your powerful ujjayi breath. Slow it down; steady, strong, and present.
As your feet ground down, you share the energy of the earth beneath you. Your legs are strong and support you with steadiness.
As you reach up, and look up, and open your heart to the sky, you welcome the light of spring.
2. Malasana - Garland Pose
Next, malasana reminds refocuses your energy inwards. This posture helps to soothe and release tension held in the hips — a place where we often become tight or uncomfortable when we’re stressed out.
- Start from standing with the feet at the edges of the mat, or widen the feet to move straight into this posture from utkatasana.
- Bend the knees and move down into a deep squat position, bringing the hips almost to the ground.
- Some people will keep the feet flat to the mat as they do this, and others will lift the heels — either of those options is fine.
- Lean forward just enough to bring the elbows inside of the legs.
- Press the elbows to the insides of the knees, and bring the palms of the hands together in front of the heart.
- The spine is long; tailbone reaching down, base of the skull reaching up. The chin is tucked very slightly towards the chest.
- Take the gaze forwards, and allow the eyes to soften, bringing your attention into the body and mind.
- Take quiet, deep breaths.
- As you breathe in, imagine breathing into the hips — and the hips soften. Release.
- As you breath out, notice the softness of the lower abdomen.
When you’ve settled into this posture, bring the awareness to the palms, together in front of the chest.
Bend the fingers slightly and soften the hands so there’s enough space between them for sunlight to filter through. The hips soften, and the feet ground; and the light of the sun shines between the hands and into your heart.
The third posture is a deep twist to wring out tension and welcome light into every pore of the skin — even the soles of the feet. Sit down onto the ground from malasana to enter this pose, or flow through a vinyasa if that feels good.
- Sit tall, with the legs extended straight in front of you. Flex the feet so the toes point straight up.
- Bend the right leg, bringing the right foot flat to the mat, close to the hips.
- With a deep inhale, lengthen the spine upwards and raise the hands.
- Exhale and twist to the right.
- Take the right hand behind you and either take the left elbow to the outside of the right knee, or cradle the right knee with the left arm.
- The gaze moves behind you, too. But the twist begins at the abdomen, and then the ribs follow, and the shoulders follow, and the neck follows.
- Use your strong ujjayi breath.
- With every inhale lengthen the spine upwards, and with every exhale, allow the twist to deepen.
- Check that the left foot is still flexed — so the left leg is strong, and not rolling outwards.
- To exit the asana, come back to the centre on an exhale. Release the spine with a soft forward fold, or with a gentle half-twist in the other direction.
- Repeat on the other side.
As the light shines on your body, you twist out the knots and tension that darkness has created. You lighten and release. And when you come out of this posture, you notice a little more space in the chest.
Finish in Stillness
When you’re ready, close your practice in a comfortable seated position. Allow the hands to rest wherever feels best, and close the eyes.
Notice the light shining on the eyelids. Breathe softly, and acknowledge where you are.
This time will pass. The earth continues to come alive with the energy of spring.