Today’s reality is keeping us from planned wellness gatherings. While not the same as meeting with many in asana, meditation, and learning, you do have everything you need --inside yourself and in your surroundings-- to create a stress-reducing at-home retreat. Right here, right now, there’s no place like home.
Ayurveda teaches that everything in our environment influences our health including the colors, scents and shapes of our immediate environment. Consider this as you take the evening before your planned stay-in-place retreat to prepare your retreat space. Gather gear: your mat, candle, mala, cushions and props, crystals, music, favorite texts, essential oils, bell.
Consider nourishment for your retreat day: do your cupboards have healthy, non-agitating foods? do you want to juice fast for a day? are you organized to prep meals in a centered, meditative way? Maybe prepare a pot of khichdi (search google for lots of easy to make recipes); this healthy and easy to digest rice-moong dal is suitable for all doshas.
While it’s a hard time to commit to going offline or turning your phone fully off, consider 24 hours of silence and reducing your use of technology to only supply calming music or guidance for asana and meditation and necessary emergency communication.
Practice and lifestyle vary greatly by person. We offer the below suggestions as a loose roadmap; adjust your practice, meals and activities in any way so appropriate for your needs. The aim is to cultivate a sense of calm, reduce stimulation, lower stress levels and create a reflective presence.
Wake up and establish your retreat day... To begin you may want to clear your space with smudge or palo stick. You may want to create a small shrine to Ganesha, remover of obstacles and lord of beginnings. Or assemble a shrine with objects that inspire you: photos, candles, crystals. Consider including a moment of gratitude to those keeping our communities fed and healthy and to the those striving for racial equality and justice. Begin with a ring of a bell; this practice is used in Hindu temples to single reaching out to God; whatever your beliefs, it's a nice gesture to reach out -- to yourself, to a guiding loved one, to a teacher or deity you revere.
Healthy drink or light breakfast...Most can’t enjoy an energizing practice on a full stomach, so begin your nutrition with a juice, smoothie or light breakfast that will properly fuel you for exercise but not overwhelm your digestion.
Morning energizing yoga practice...You may be able and wanting to create your own practice, or maybe you’re using one of the many online yoga class resources. If designing your own practice, remember that a practice should build and be balanced…never start with shoulder stand or twists without first preparing and afterwards equalizing: enjoy a few seated floor twists before standing twisted triangle; follow shoulder stand with bridge.
In honor of the sun, your day retreat energizing practice may be a series of Suryanamaskar, sun salutations. Familiar to most, this sequenced flow warms and energizes your entire body. In the morning, face east to honor the rising sun. Begin by warming your back with cat cow, stretching into downward facing dog with bent knees, moving into a few engaging planks and leg extensions; come to the front of your map to begin. The illustration below from our yoga coloring journal shows the full Suryanamaskar A flow. Beware of linking your breath to asana, and be sure to cool down post practice.
Creative, noise canceling, calming activity...Consider coloring, collage, origami, soft singing, a jigsaw puzzle. Use this time to tap into your creative self; don't judge your effort or result, just enjoy the process.
Mid-day nourishment...Ayurveda teaches that to best support digestion lunch should be the largest meal of the day and eaten as close to noon as possible.
Rest...really rest...Take this time to completely pause for twenty minutes. Roll out your mat, place a bolster under your knees a covering over your eyes, have a blanket near by if you need warmth. Scan your body, allowing it to sink into the floor. Even if you're tempted to get back up, keep encouraging yourself to stay put in rest and enjoy.
Thought-provoking reading...A book is less stimulating to your nervous system than a screen. Poetry and yoga texts affirming and expanding your journey are good choices for this time in your retreat day.
Journaling...Times of challenge present a unique opportunity to evaluate what is truly important to us. Consider reflecting on and journal-ing about what you value most? What is truly important to you? How might you be inspired now to re-adjust and prioritize that which is most important to you? Or simply write a love note to yourself.
Dinner...Enjoy a light, nourishing meal as close to 6 as possible which will aid digestion and your night's sleep.
Walk...A gently paced walk after dinner is a great way to support digestion and unwind at the end of the day. Consider setting an intention at the beginning of the walk to cultivate gratitude. Stay present as you move and if your thoughts start to travel here and there, notice that and lovingly re-direct your attention back to all you are grateful for in the moment. And listen -- to the birds, the wind, your feet on the ground.
Evening gentle yoga/relaxation/meditation...For your evening practice, lay on your back, enjoying the weight of your body on the floor. Move through gentle twists and stretches, settling into a comfortable Savasana. Use props: a pranayama bolster under your chest to lift and open your heart; blocks under your relaxed, expanded knees to open your pelvis with no strain; a bolster under your knees to relieve any low back pressure. Add an eye pillow and warming blanket. Rhythm your breathing, equal breaths in and out. Focus your mind on your breath, gently resisting distracting thoughts. Enjoy this end of day relaxation for as long as possible, then slowly scan and recognize your body and with eyes still closed eventually rolling gently to your right then sitting in lotus. End your self-gifted retreat day by acknowledging yourself then expanding that gratitude with love and healing thoughts outward to many.
Suryanamaskar A flow for morning energizing practice
about chattra blogger Jillian Bobowicz
Jillian writes with a heartfelt intention to support others by sharing insight and information she has gained through 15 years of practicing Yoga and Ayurveda. A lifelong environmentalist and feminist she is passionate about women’s health and aspires to live more deeply in tune with the rhythms of nature as they manifest in her body and surroundings. Jillian holds certifications from YogaWorks(500hrs), The California College of Ayurveda, Cornerstone Doula Training, Karma Kids Yoga, Mama Tree Prenatal Yoga and earned a Bachelors Degree from the University of Delaware focused on History and Journalism. She is currently on hiatus from teaching yoga and building a career in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability with an emphasis on women’s and family health.