OM yoga mornings in Costa Rica


We gathered at 7am. I was the teacher. It is the first anyone has seen me in public at that hour for eons. The sun rose at about 5:45. It is a clear day and there was a rainbow out the opposite window as the one last evening.

Beginning in swastikasana. The feet are flexed and the shins are crossed so the legs are sort of in a box shape. Everyone is sitting on a blanket or a block.

Extend your arms out to the side and flex your wrists to open space between your shoulder blades and chest at the same time you connect the shoulder blades. Place your flexed palms on the very tops of your thighs and press your femurs down. Lift your ribs up. Slip your hands on to your ribs and lift them up with your hands, more lift in the back than the front.

Then interlace your fingers and lift your arms over head. Inhale and bend the elbows. Bring your palms — still facing up — behind your head. Reach your elbows away from each other. Exhale, arms up, Repeat 3x.

The next time you bend your arms place your palms on the back of your head. Inhale, lift the chest and face up. Exhale, drop your chin and elbows, creating a stretch in the back of the neck and upper back. Repeat 3 x.

The next time you inhale reach your arms up to the ceiling again. Exhale, and bend the right, letting your right hand come to the floor, left arm overhead. Then, bend your left arm, placing your left hand behind your head. Inhale, and spin the chest up to the ceiling, exhale and drop the elbow, curling the chin down to the right diagonal. Repeat 3x.

Final exhale, fold over your right leg on a diagonal. One hand on either side of your right knee. Let your head go. Let your shoulders and elbows be heavy and soft.

Walk around to the center and fold over. Roll up. Change the crossing of the legs and do the other side.

After the second side, stay folded over your legs. Reach around behind you and interlace your fingers. Lift your arms up — not from the hands but from the shoulders. Sit up on in an inhale, with your arms as high up behind you as possible. As you exhale, bend your elbows and place your two-handed fist on your right waist from behind. Inhale, sit tall, exhale, twist to the left. Maybe you can join your elbows together behind your back.

Inhale, center, extending the arms behind you, exhale, two-handed fist to the left waist and twist right.

Inhale, center, extending the arms behind you. Exhale, release the arms and swing them around in front and hug yourself. Shrug your shoulders and try to get your fingers inside your shoulder blades. Drop your head and breathe here.

Lift your head and in the self-hug, circle your torso three times in each direction. Let your head and neck go.

Back to center, keep your elbows crossed but lift your forearms, coming into garudasana arms. Inhale, lift the elbows and look up. Exhale, drop the elbows into your body and round forward. Repeat 3x.

Inhale garuda arms to shoulder height. Keeping your shoulders even, lean your forearms to the right, then the left. Then keeping the elbows and wrists crossed, reach your fingers forward as if you could straighten your arms toward the floor.

Uncross your arms, turn your palms up and place them on your thighs. Close your eyes. Sit quietly.

Repeat the second section of this stretch sequence.

Pranayama practice:

Being by palpating your ribs. Feel the bottom right rib and trace it all the way around to your back as far as you can. Then the intercostal between that rib and the next one. Do this with all your ribs and the muscles in between all the way to your armpits, and your collarbone. Then walk your fingers down your sternum to the bottom left ribs and repeat this exercise on the left. Come back down the sternum and place your fingertips on your sternum. Close your eyes and breathe. Notice if your sternum moves when you breathe.

Fold up two blankets in 4 layers of accordion fold. Gradate the ends so they are like a ramp. Make the fringe end be away from you. Sit on the floor in front of the ramp end and lie down. Reach around behind you and tuck the end of the blanket under your neck just enough to make a small pillow. You should be like a waterfall, forehead higher than chin higher than chest higher than belly higher than hips. Legs are in savasana. Arms are in savasana.

Begin to notice your breathing. Can you direct your breath into your side ribs and let your sternum stay soft? The sternum is like a valley and the two sides of your chest are small hills. Let the valley stay low. Breathe into the inside of the side ribs and if you feel any hardening or tightening in the inside of the side ribs, then you’ve gone far enough so just let go and exhale. Do this for several minutes.

Continue doing that but now we are adding another layer of interest and direction. As you inhale, draw the breath in alongside the inner aspect of the nostril, the septum. As you exhale, send the breath out along the inside of the outer curvy part of the nose. The breath becomes circular. How does this change your experience? Your breath? Your mind? Your nerves? Do this for several minutes.

Now, inhale fully and as you exhale, count. However long your exhale was, make your inhale half as long. Then repeat this, ie., exhale for 8 and inhale for 4. Do this for several minutes. Can you still maintain awareness of the soft valley of your sternum and the tidal quality of the inside side ribs, breathing ebbing and flowing? Do this for several minutes.

Then let it all go and rest in savasana for several minutes. Roll onto your right side and rest here. Slowly sit up, letting your head be the last thing to come up. Sit quietly on your blanket with your eyes closed. Feel what it is like to be you…or perhaps not to be you.


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