The following poses can be done by themselves and in combination. The main thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to your body. Avoiding pain is key. If anything does not feel right, skip or modify.
The breath is most important. If we were in a face to face setting, I could work with a more skillful set of poses keeping your needs in mind. For now, I want to oﬀer these with the sense that your body is your best teacher. Please let me know what works and does not work when you write to me.
You can do these on a flat surface at the start or end of the day. A bed can work as long as it’s a pretty stiﬀ mattress. As you start, don’t try to take any of the poses to their fullest expression. Explore and get to know what feels good. A little bit of eﬀort goes a long way.
We usually do corpse pose at the end of a yoga session. This pose can also be used at the start of a class. It looks like a simple pose, but, in fact, it’s most challenging.
When in corpse you are not asleep nor trying to fix yourself or the world. You are in an in between state of awareness and relaxation.
(My right hand in is not flat on the ground because of the permanent curve on my elbow due to my bicycle accident. I usually place my right hand facing down.)
Feet are wider than the hips and pointing out, allowing hips to open. Shoulders are flat on the ground, arms are slightly out depending on your shoulders, and in this case, my elbow. Palms face up.
When starting with corpse pose, you can practice first paying attention to the pause in your exhale. Use this breath to slowly scan your body from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head. As you scan, notice sensations without imposing a judgment of good or bad. Go slow. In
the yoga tradition there are seven basic energy centers that can be used as focal points to sense as you scan your body.
Root Chakra (Muladhara)—at the base of the spine, often related to our sense of safety and survival.
Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana)—about two inches below the navel, related to a sense of wellbeing, pleasure, and sexuality.
Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)—upper abdomen in the stomach area, related to self-control, self-acceptance, and confidence.
Heart Chakra (Anahata)—center of the chest, just above the heart, related to love and connection with others. This chakra connects the primal (dorsal vagal) with the upper (ventral vagal) in our selves. Placing your hand on your heart chakra is a powerful gesture that can often settle unsteady thoughts.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)—located on your throat, related to communication and self-expression, speaking one’s truth.
Third-Eye Chakra (Ajna)—located in the space between the eyes, related to our ability to see beyond what’s obvious, imagination, and wisdom.
Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)—located at the very top of the head, represents our connection with all of life.
Reclined pigeon or thread the needle pose is one of my favorites. Once on your back, make sure that your lower back is making contact with the ground. Bring your right foot to your left knee, place your hands behind your left hamstring or knee, interlock your fingers, and on your next exhale, draw your left knee toward you. Do so to where it feels good and to where you don’t round your back.
Use each exhale as a means to explore how far you can draw your knee in without any pain. Hold for a couple of breaths or a couple of minutes. This pose works on opening your hips, stretches out your hip flexors and lower back. Don’t lift your head or lift your lower back from the ground. When ready, place your left foot down and do the other side.
From a flat back, find your breath, bring your heels as close to your glutei as possible. On an exhale lift your hips, and push down on your heels. Bring your shoulder blades together a bit more, draw your chin to your chest. Stay here for five inhales and exhales. Do this three times.
Balance this backbend by rounding your back as you hug your knees to your chest. You can move left and right gently adding a bit of a massage for your lower back as you do.
These next set of poses stretch the glutei, work the hips, and provide a gentle twist for the spine.
Once on your back and with an even breath (on the exhale) draw your right knee in. Hug the knee gently and explore the sensations in the body. Take your time. On an exhale, with your right hand, draw your knee to the right side. Hold the knee toward the side for as long as it feels good.
Notice your hips and your root chakra. This is an area that affects the dorsal vagal response. Working with this area allows us to unwind our tendency to freeze when we are not in danger. (Keep your lower back making contact with the ground.)
On an exhale, bring your knee back to center. Switch hands. Extend your right arm out. Make sure your shoulders are flat on the ground, and with your left hand draw your right knee toward the left side. Go as fast as your slow breath. Don’t twist to the full extent that you can. Sense your spine.
Hold the twist as long as it feels good. A couple of breaths usually does it for me. Come back to center and do the same thing with the left leg and knee.