Yoga In-Between

This time of year, at the end of August, in Phoenix, Arizona, is definitely an in-between time. The days are getting shorter (one of my horses has started to grow her winter coat!), but the temps are still above 110 degrees. Schools have opened, but most students are attending virtually. Many people have settled into the “norm” of wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing, yet long for the company of strangers at bars and restaurants and concerts and the familiarity of hugging friends. Some have developed their own exercise routines, while remaining eager for gyms and yoga studios to reopen with a full schedule of classes.

As we approach the Autumnal Equinox, when we’ll have equal amount of daylight and darkness (depending on your location), we may find ourselves out of balance. Literally and figuratively. So why not use yoga to help balance what we can? An interesting experiment to try is balance poses now and on the Equinox. Prepare for balance poses by incorporating a mix of standing poses (Warrior I, Warrior II, Wide-legged fold, etc.) with seated poses (twists work for this as well). Alternate forward folds with back bends. Start with mild inversions (Child’s pose, Rabbit, Down-dog), and work towards shoulder- or headstands. Balancing energy—standing/sitting, forward/backward, upright/inversion—can help level energy, emotions, and breath.

At the beginning of August, I increased the time I spent meditating and varied the type of meditation. I always begin with at least five minutes of pranayama (breath work). Because of this in-between time, I’m practicing a yogic breath with suspension. I breath into my belly, filling up my lungs from bottom to top, then close off my throat and hold the breath for a count of two. I exhale in reverse (top to bottom), then pause for a count of two. I count at least four on the inhales and exhales. As I progress, I begin to lengthen the holds so eventually I inhale, hold, exhale, hold all for a count of four. (Remember, I’ve been practicing for a while. If you try this technique, begin slowly, and always drop the technique and return to a normal breath if you feel breath starved or are struggling.)

Yoga offers many benefits. Using poses, the breath, meditation, mantras, or any other tools and techniques can be helpful when not in crisis and life precedes with predictable routines. Having a yoga toolbox at the ready during these in-between times can help balance mental and physical energy and level out emotions. If we can become comfortable with a few techniques now, we may be able to approach challenges with a bit more clarity and return to routines with more ease.