(pictured left – yours truly practising Sucklingasana)
This asana adventure has been incredible. I've never felt so healthy. It's been 18 months since I had a cold; pretty amazing for someone who used to get a cold about 3 times a year, without fail.
Alas, it had to end... I finally caught a cold. I was helping out on an Art of Silence course, and getting 4 or 5 hours sleep a night. My body said "Enough!" and I came down with a cold on Sunday. My yoga friends tell me that this is a good thing; "Your body needs to cleanse", they purred. That's as may be, but what to do with my asana challenge? I got home and the house was freezing! It felt like I was being stabbed by a thousand icicles. Every time I got out of bed, I'd start shivering. The air was painful! I suddenly felt compassion for my friends who are always moaning about how cold Melbourne is. Back then I just couldn't understand it; to be honest, I was judgemental (wuss, wimp, softie... all those words sprung to mind). Now it dawned on me... to some extent, the perception of cold is an illusion. Yes, my study of yoga had taught me that all perception is a fabrication of the mind, but I hadn't let that temper my disdain for people who complain about the cold. I promise to be less harsh in the future!
Anyway, back to the problem at hand, how to do my asanas when I can't bear to be out of bed for more than a couple of minutes? Necessity being the mother of invention, I realised I could do them in bed, under the covers, in my PJs! I modified the Sri Sri Yoga sequence and left out the standing postures. It felt surprisingly good.
"Surely this isn't a new idea?!" – I was right – there's a DVD called Bed Top Yoga. I'm curious to know what's in it, but not curious enough to buy the DVD. Anyway, my Pyjamasana™ Sequence works a treat! For those interested, here it is (remember to keep your eyes closed and rest between each posture, feeling the sensations). I have a very firm mattress; not sure how well this would work on a soft one.
Pyjamasanas – lying on the back
1) Lying on your back, stretch your right leg towards the foot of the bed, making it longer than the left leg. Hold, then swap legs, and keep swapping. Feel your pelvis tilt each time.
2) Cross your legs, one in front of the other, slide down towards the foot of the bed so that you can stretch your arms towards the headboard. Stretch the right arm towards the headboard, hold, then swap and continue.
3) Rotate the wrists in a circle outwards. After a while, rotate them inwards.
4) Slide back up the bed and straighten your legs. Rotate the ankles like you did with the wrists.
5) Bend your right knee and place the top of your foot as high up on your thigh as you can. Gently press your knee towards the ground and gradually slide your left foot along the mattress up towards the buttocks, so that your left knee is in the air with left sole on the mattress. Keep pressing and feel the stretch. Swap sides after a while.
6) Straighten the legs. Bend your right knee and cradle your right foot in the crook of the left arm, taking hold of the knee with your right arm (or hold your bent leg any way that is comfortable). Press it in towards the chest, taking care not to pull too hard on the foot and thereby strain the knee. Hold. Repeat on the other side.
7) Lie flat, legs extended, inhale, bend the right knee and raise above the hip, taking hold of the shin with both hands. Exhale and squeeze the thigh to the chest as you bring your head up to meet the knee. Hold. Repeat with the other leg. Then do the same with both legs together.
8) Release the legs and straighten them but don't let them touch the mattress. With your legs straight and about 6 inches off the mattress, raise your upper body about 6 inches and point both hands towards the feet, so that there is a straight line between your eyes, hands and feet. Hold for as long as you can, then come down slowly.
9) Slide your feet up towards the buttocks, hip distance apart. Inhale and clasp your hands behind your neck, with your bent arms at 90 degrees to the body. Keeping your bent arms at 90 degrees to the body, exhale and gently raise your head and shoulders off the ground and look at your knees. Continue breathing normally as you look at your knees. Very gently come down. Repeat a few more times.
10) Extend your arms alongside the body, palms facing down. Inhale and raise your hips in the air, taking care not to put pressure on the neck.
11) Keeping your feet near the buttocks, slide them laterally so that they are about 2 feet apart. Have your arms out 90 degrees to the body in a crucifix position. Inhale, exhale and let your knees drop to the left as your head turns to the right. Hold for a while. Inhale as the knees come back up, and exhale to the other side. Finally bring the knees back up.
12) Bring the feet back together and straighten the legs. Slide your palms under the buttocks and pull your shoulder blades close together, same with the elbows. Supported by your elbows, raise the upper body and then let your head hang back (keep your head up if it hurts your neck to let your head hang loose). Arch the back. Hold. Raise the head back up and lower your body to the mattress.
13) Lie comfortably. Take a deep breath in and hum like a bee (bhramari). Repeat two more times. Rest and feel the sensations.
Pyjamasanas – sitting up
1) Sit up with your legs crossed (padmasana “lotus”, ardha padmasana “half lotus”, or sukhasana “easy pose”), gently swing from side to side, bending at the waist.
2) Take your left hand to the right knee and your right hand behind; look over your right shoulder. Swap and continue swapping for a while, warming up the spine.
3) Breathe in, exhale and bend forwards, rotate the body to the right (clockwise) as you inhale, exhaling as you come around to the front. Do about 5 rotations and then reverse the direction (counter clockwise). Synchronise the rotations with the breath.
4) Sit back up. Inhale, then exhale and lower your chin to your chest. Hold and feel the stretch in the back of the neck. Inhale, raise the head to the starting position, then exhale and tip your head back. Hold. Inhale and return your head to the starting position. Repeat three more times.
5) Inhale, then exhale and turn your head to the right to look over your right shoulder. Hold for a while. Inhale, bring your head back to the central position, then exhale and look to the left. Hold. Inhale back to the starting position. Repeat three more times.
6) Inhale, then exhale and take your right ear to your right shoulder, without lifting the shoulder. Hold and feel the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Repeat this sequence three more times.
7) With your arms alongside the body, inhale and take your shoulders forward, then up in a circle past the ears, exhaling as you come down and around. Continue a few more times, then reverse the direction.
8) Spread your legs wide apart, as in the splits. Take hold of an imaginary pestle and grind the wheat in an imaginary mortar between your legs. Keep your arms straight and make a big circular motion with your upper body. After a while, reverse the direction.
9) Bring your feet back together, legs straight. With arms alongside the body, breathe in and raise your arms sideways and up, stopping when they are parallel and pointing straight up. Exhale and lean forwards, reaching for beyond your feet, with your arms parallel to the legs. Hold for a while, continuing to breathe. Inhale, come back up and stretch your arms fully. Exhale and come back down, resting your arms on the legs. Hold for a while and then inhale and come back, reaching for the ceiling. Exhale and bring the arms down to your sides.
10) Inhale, exhale and take your left hand to the right knee, placing your right hand behind you and looking over your right shoulder. Hold for a while. Inhale back to the centre and exhale to the other side. Inhale centre.
11) Bring the soles of your feet close together and near the groin, with your palms underneath to stop your feet from sinking into the mattress. Gently bounce your knees up and down at varying speeds. After a while, come to a stop.
Pyjamasanas – transition to lying down
1) Come onto your hands and knees. Keep the hands shoulder width apart and the knees hip distance apart. The hands are directly under the shoulders and the knees are directly under the hips. Inhaling, raise your head up and press your navel towards the ground. Exhaling, press your chin to your chest as you arch your back. Continue.
2) Sit back on your heels. Rest your forehead on the mattress, and have the arms alongside the body. Rest in child's pose.
Pyjamasanas – lying on your front
1) Stretch your hands out in front and slide out of child's pose, coming to rest on your chin and chest, buttocks in the air, hands by the shoulders. Hold for a while.
2) Let your navel come down to the mattress and raise your upper body into cobra. Hold.
3) Come down to lie flat, arms alongside the body. With your chin or forehead resting on the mattress, breathe in and raise the right leg about a foot off the bed, keeping your hip bone in contact with the mattress. The leg is straight as if someone were pulling your ankle from behind. Hold. Repeat on with the other leg, then lower to the bed.
4) Make a fist with both hands, place them under the hip bones, breathe in and lift both legs off the bed, keeping your chin or forehead touching the mattress and the legs straight. Hold. Lower your legs.
5) Stretch your hands out in front, breathe in and lift your upper body and legs off the bed. Hold. Lower when you've had enough.
6) Bend the knees and take hold of the ankles and, keeping the knees about hip distance apart, lift the upper body and legs off the bed. Lower when you've had enough.
7) Support your head in your hands, up on your elbows, as if you were lying on the floor watching TV. Imagine yourself doing your favourite standing asanas (e.g. Surya Namaskar, Konasana, Virabhadrasana, Trikonasana, Katichakrasana, etc.).
Pyjamasanas – yoga nidra
Come down and roll onto your back. Take your awareness through your body and lie for 10 minutes, or until you wake up!