I find myself more days than not going to bed with a hint of anxiety about what’s on the schedule for the next day. When I wake up in the morning, on these days, I am either pumped, nervous or slightly dreadful of the day ahead. Yoga and meditation has helped me to calm my mind, body and spirit while giving them a space and time to reconnect and harmonize. For those of you with a crazy, difficult, or confrontational day ahead of you, let me offer to you “Warrior, Dog, Meditation”.
In yoga there are three warriors and just as their name suggests, they are invigorating poses that strengthen and energize the entire body. These poses increase concentration, circulation, balance and focus as they strengthen the largest muscle groups in the body. I start every morning with yoga and meditation but on days when I need extra patience or clarity or focus, I make sure to incorporate the three warriors into my yoga flow.
Regardless of how I start my yoga flow for that morning, I always enter Warrior II before Warrior I because our hips to warm up a little bit more for Warrior I. I enter Warrior II from the side of the mat and then I turn my front leg to face the front edge of my mat. I line up my feet heel to arch and I make sure that when I bend my front leg, that my knee tracks over my second and third toe. A lot of knee injuries in yoga happen from the knee NOT being in line with the second and third toe and thus placing too much pressure on the medial (inner) aspect of the knee. As you rotate your pelvis towards the front of the mat, keep your back leg straight and your toes facing towards the front corner of your mat. Raise your arms so that they are parallel to the floor and send energy out through your fingertips. Your torso is straight up and down; not leaning forward. Your gaze is gentle over your front fingers. Breathe easily through all four sides of your torso.
When I enter into Warrior I, it is usually in the context of doing Surya Namaskar B (Sun Salutation B) so I enter from DownDog. I’ll go into more detail about Downward facing dog in a few minutes. I like to set up my feet or my foundation first, before standing all the way upright. The entry into Warrior I requires balance as you step your front foot forward from downward facing dog. Lift your back foot up and place your heel where the ball of your foot was. Line your feet up heel to heel and make sure that you keep your back leg straight as your bend your front leg. Keep your front knee tracking over the second and third toes. Your pelvis and torso should be facing the front of the mat (your pelvis can not completely face forward, but the action/energy is forward facing). Keep your back heel down. Upright your torso but make sure that your front ribs are down. Lift your arms up and keep them in line with your ears but make sure you’re not scrunching your shoulders up by your ears. Look forward and breathe.
Now comes the fun and challenging warrior: Warrior III. Warrior III is a balance pose as you are standing on one leg. It is so beautiful when done correctly. I like to take off into Warrior III from Warrior I. So, anchor your front foot, making sure that all 5 toes are pressing into your mat. Keep your arms straight as you hinge at your waist and lift your back leg. Straighten your front leg as you bring your back leg to hip level. Your aerial leg and your arms should make 1 straight line if someone is looking at you from the side. Keep your back leg strong and active. Flex your foot and spread your toes. It will help with your balance. Find one spot on the floor to look at to keep your neck neutral and long and to help maintain balance. I like to keep my arms in front of me.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog or Down Dog is definitely one of the fundamental poses in yoga. It’s probably the most well-known and recognizable pose in yoga. I love the pose because it prepares your body for so many other poses in yoga and, like the warrior poses, it energizes the entire body. In the context of getting ready for tough day, I like downward facing dog because it is an inversion. Going upside literally changes our perspective. When getting ready for a meeting with your boss or with a tough client or patient, sometimes you need to change how you think and from where you are viewing the situation to gain clarity and resolution.
Downward dog is a great pose to accomplish those two things. Also, your foundation is your hands and your feet, so you get an arm work-out as you balance your weight between your feet and your hands. I usually enter downward facing dog from upward facing dog or cobra while doing Surya Namaskar A (sun salutation A). From upward facing dog, I lift my hips up and back as I roll over my toes to bring my body into an upside down V. My heels try and reach the ground, but if they can not, I send energy out of my heels toward the ground. My legs are straight. My hips are lifted up and my core is activated. I lift up and out of my shoulders so that I am NOT shrugging my shoulders. My arms are shoulder width apart, straight and I am pressing into all ten fingers. The checkmark made by my thumb and index finger is facing forward as is the soft fleshy part of my mid arm (where the nurse draws blood/ front part of your elbow/where your arm bends).
Lastly, after I finish my yoga flow, with my last pose being Savasana or final resting pose (you know, the pose where you just lie on the mat), I come into a comfortable seating pose, usually with my legs crossed and I meditate. I meditate for twenty minutes, but even five minutes of focusing on your breathing is helpful. Our minds are thinking all the time. It’s like your running around doing errands, going to work, picking up the kids 24-7 without ever sitting down or going to bed. Meditation allows the brain and the mind a few minutes to organize itself and reconnect with the body. You don’t finish mediation and all of a sudden have the answer to life’s problems, but with meditation, you’ll find that solutions and calm and clarity come to you a lot easier. When you’re stuck in line at Starbucks you’ll be less frustrated. When you’re junior associate didn’t file that motion correctly, you’ll be able to breathe through the rage instead of flying off the handle. You’ll find that your memory is better and you might actually be in a better mood more days than not.
A simple way to start meditating is either to focus on your breath, and just say something easy like, “Breath in, Breath out” or you can set an intention for your meditation and use a mantra like, “ I breathe in calm and I breathe out frustration” or “ Love in, love out” or you can simply say one word over and over again until your mind is clear of thoughts. Common words would be “peace” or “clarity” or you can pick a sanskirit word like “shanti” which means peace. The goal of meditation is to calm your racing mind, so that it is no longer running around, but has time for rest. No thoughts, no dreams, no lists, just the breath or your mantra.
So there you have it. A few poses to arm yourself for the stressful day ahead of you. Of course you can use Warrior, Dog, and Meditation throughout the day if necessary. I know from experience that you can do all of these poses in your business casual attire or in scrubs!
For more fun poses, yoga inspiration, and yoga information check out my website: www.thejourneysamadhi.com or follow me on Instagram and Facebook @thejourneysamadhi. If you have subscribed to our mailing list, please go to www.beautyrefinedmd.com or our Facebook page Beauty Refined, MD and sign up. You’ll receive all of this good information and more, right to your email!
By Melynda Barnes, M.D. - Co-Founder, Facial Plastic Surgeon, and Yogi