A 10-minute guided talk through on some movements you can use to make your Active Rest practice more expansive. Listen on SoundCloud here. Transcript is below.
'Find a quiet place without many distractions and with open space. Leave any devices you have out of arms reach so you won't be tempted to use them during your lie down. This is time for you and you alone.
Place a couple of paperback books, spine facing away from you, on the floor. A yoga mat or area rug can be an excellent way to cushion yourself while still making sure the surface beneath has firmness and support.
Lay yourself down with your head on your books, hands lightly placed on your abdomen, soles of your feet in contact with the ground, knees coming up and away from your hip sockets. It can be nice to come down into fetal from half-sitting and roll over onto the books rather than curling straight back as you are more likely to arrive with optimal length in your spine.
Accept the support of the ground underneath you. Imagine that you are on a beach under a nice, not too warm summer sun and your body is allowed to melt into the ground. Or, alternately, pretend the ground is rising up underneath you like an elevator and is ACTIVELY supporting your weight, and see if you can give just a little more up to it.
Give yourself a sigh of relief. Let it drift out on a simple whispered 'Ah' sound. Good. Now give yourself another sigh, and see if you can extend the exhale just a little, letting your breath out in an even un-held stream.
Turn your attention to the back of your neck. Send it an image of expansion--imagine it is a stretched rope and let a little slack into it. Or like its made of silly putty and is able to stretch a little bit. Imagine a spot of warmth on the back of your neck and let it expand until it is like a warm collar covering all 360 degrees of your neck and relaxing tight muscles. Give yourself the first direction: My Neck is Free
Let your eyes track to the left, without your head moving. Notice if you feel a pull towards that direction in your neck. Let your eyes 'reset', and then look again. After a moment, allow your head to roll and follow your eyes to the left. Send the muscle on the front right of your neck a little bit of coaxing to come into more ease. Now let your eyes lead your head back to center on the books. Your Neck Is Free. Now look to the right, first just with the eyes, and then allowing your head to roll to the right, allowing some ease into the muscles on the left front of your neck.
Allow your head to recenter on your books. Get a sense of your whole spine, from between your ears to your sacrum. Imagine that these two points are playing tug of war with each other, bringing the space in between into a stretch. Now imagine both sides of the tug of war let go and the whole spine remains at maximum length. Give your self the direction My Head is freeing up. Pause, breath. Don't react. Just think it. Now give yourself the direction to My Back is widening and lengthening., thinking of your pelvis freeing away from your spine. Pause, breath.
Keeping a sense of This whole spine, bring your attention to your hip sockets. Notice if you are holding them tightly, and ask for a little release. What is the minimum tension you need to keep your legs suspended? Bring your mind's eye to your left knee. allow a gentle rock to come into it. Play the game of 'how easy can this movement be'. Increase the amplitude of the rock, but not the force or tension. Eventually, allow the knee to fall to the side and the leg to un-bend into length. Pause. Feel space in your left side, especially in the lower left side of your torso and the lower back. After a moment, allow your heel to rock on the ground, and sweep your left leg back up into semi supine, allowing the knee to bend to the side in the process. Use a gentle heel-toe movement to find an optimum balance of the leg where you feel you do not need to spend much or even any effort to keep it in place. Now allow a rock to come into your right knee and hip socket--can your left leg remain in place without tensing while you work with the opposite leg? Good. Let the right leg sweep down into length. Pause. breath. Allow a rock in your right heel and hip socket and sweep your leg back up into relationship with your body. Heel toe to a best position. Do you perhaps feel more connected from your legs to your torso? Do your hip sockets feel a little less tense? Does your lower back feel a bit longer and more relaxed?
Repeat your head-turn from side to side, asking your neck to be a little more free as you do so.
Bring your attention to your hands on your belly and your elbows being supported by the floor. Can you encourage your elbows to free a little more away from each other? If so, can you let your shoulder blades drift apart as well? Lets help them a bit. Allow your right forearm to drift up to stand straight above your elbow, elbow still on the ground. Send some energy through your fingers as if your fingers are being pulled by strings. Let this lead your elbow to unbend (without locking), leading your whole arm to balance over your shoulder blade. Now imagine you have a night's sky above you. Track a shooting star going across your body, letting your arm follow it and your shoulder come off the ground. Allow your elbow to bend and your hand to be replaced on your belly, shoulder and elbow coming back into support on the floor. You might notice a little more space in your shoulder and upper back. Repeat on your left side: balance your left hand over your elbow, allow your strings to lead the arm up into the air, track a star moving across your body and bend the elbow to replace. Take a moment to feel if this creates a difference in your breathing.
Let your head roll from side to side once again. Notice if there is any increased freedom. Allow your neck to be free.
One last piece of movement. Allow both arms to extend balancing above your shoulder blades (which are still spreading on the ground). Let your palms face each other as if you are holding a beach ball. Allow your arms to move towards your head, elbows not bending, as if you want to bring the beach ball above your head. As you do you might feel your spine want to arch. See instead if you can let it remain long to support the movement of your arms. Now bring your arms to balance above your shoulder blade again. Allow your arms to move down to your side, suspended slightly off the floor, beach ball still in hand, and see if instead of allowing your spine to curve you can keep it lengthened. Let your arms return over your shoulders and re-fold onto your belly.
By now, you should feel your body freeing into the support of the floor better than at the beginning of this talk. Feel the length of your spine, the suppleness of your neck, the ease of your hip sockets, the space between your shoulder blades, the unraveling of the large muscles of your legs. Continue to stay in semi-supine for as long as you wish, giving directions and using any of the movements from this talk you want to continue to explore, and then bring yourself slowly back into the upright and out into the world. '
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.