Looking for a way to get your blood pumping in the morning? Want to give your morning yoga routine a boost? Take a cue from Tarzan and Jane, then greet the sun with a salute.
First thing in the morning, maybe during your yoga sequence, try beating on your chest. Seriously.
Beat all over your ribcage, up to your collarbone, down to your belly (gently around the breasts, ladies … ). Thumping, beating, banging on your chest, wakes up your internal energy, the energy running through the meridian channels in the body. Thumping gets the energy moving forward, after a night when your energy runs backward and slows, allowing the body to rejuvenate during sleep. Thumping is like the simian cup of coffee, and stimulates your kidney, thymus and spleen energy to help get you ready to digest your breakfast and digest your day. Start your morning yoga off by thumping, then move on to a whole-body integrated wake-up.
Now that you’ve unleashed your inner jungle ferocity, let’s move on. Many of you know that the sun salutation is one of the best ways to warm up the body. It stretches you into every position possible: backbend, forward bend, inversion, twist, extension. But something even cooler about this ubiquitous yoga sequence is going on. It helps keep you young! In a study published last year in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, it was determined that getting up off the floor with as little assistance as possible was a fairly accurate predictor of longevity. In other words, if you can get down to the floor without using your hands to help you, and then get back up again, you have a higher likelihood of living a longer life.
So … enter sun salutations.
Start standing up straight in mountain pose, arms by your side. Inhale and open the arms out wide, either low, by your waist, or overhead. Exhale and lean all the way forward, hanging the body over. Beginners can keep knees slightly bent. Inhale and come back up again, opening the heart and arms. Do this a few more times, matching the breath to the movement. Just this motion of lifting up and lowering over starts to get the blood moving.
Next time you come over, bring your hands all the way to the ground and step back to downward dog (shown at right). Stay in this pose for five to eight breaths, moving the body as you breathe. Pedal out the feet, stretch the spine. Don’t let your dog be static, but let the breath start to move the body and wake it up. Next come into push-up position (plank pose) and hold this for 10 to 15 breaths. If you weren’t awake yet, this should do it!
From here, step your right foot forward between your hands into a lunge and, using your core strength, release your arms by lifting them up and overhead. Keep your left leg rooted in the ground, straight and strong. You can play with inhaling, straightening the front leg into a high lunge, and exhale to bend again, or stay in this low lunge and feel the groins start to soften and open. Now gently twist your upper torso, placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, or keep your left arm on the floor and bring the right arm up (shown at right). Breathe here deeply. Then bring your hands back down to the floor and press back to downward dog. Switch sides, lunging and twisting with the left foot forward.
Back to downward dog for a couple of breaths, and then come into a squat. Use a blanket rolled up under your heels if they don’t reach the ground, and again, try a spinal twist, turning and lifting one arm, then the other up to the sky. From your squat, lift up into chair pose (shown here), knees bent and torso straight and breathe here for five breaths. On an inhale, press to stand, arching up at the top and opening the arms wide. If you went from squat to chair to stand, you just managed to stand up without using your hands to help you. If this was difficult, then you need to practice. Go slowly, using your core strength and your arms to help you. If you put this into your daily morning yoga routine, in about a week you should be able to go from standing, down to the floor to standing again.
You can do this whole sequence a few times.
Mountain pose, full forward bend, downward dog, low lunge to high lunge, spinal twist, downward dog, low lunge to high lunge to spinal twist on the other side, downward dog, squat, chair pose, mountain pose. Take a moment after this to lie on your back in corpse pose and let your body digest the effects. Then you have one more chance to stand without using your hands.
After you’re complete, swing your body out, back and forth a few times. Take another few deep breaths. Thump your chest a few more times. And then head out into your day!
You’ll live longer, breathe better, and be happier.