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Health & Beauty

Yoga Break 10: Release Your Inner Child

Holy cup, Number 10!

Since we’ve been focusing so far on strength and stability — ie: Ti-Treeing and Oolong-Dogging — now is a good time to add a recovery pose into your yoga arsenal.

We’ve done recovery before with Savasana, but lying on the floor between Dogs and Planks is rather inconvenient, and unnecessarily lowers your metabolism.*

That’s why we have Balasana, or Child’s Pose. One of the most essential restorative poses, Child’s Pose is a deeply internal experience — even if you’re there for just one breath. You want to feel the softnesses of inhalation and exhalation, the breathing belly against the legs, the tender tailbone.

Oh yes, the tailbone. Have you ever considered that vestigial dude before?

To get an idea of where it is, try feeling the very bottom of your spinal cord, where the glutes separate. If you’re like me, and lacking in the junk-in-the-trunk department, this nubby guy gets in the way when doing situps or Boat Pose. He’s also the culprit behind uncomfortable rubs against the mat, and the ensuing awkward explanations for why you can’t sit well during a lecture.

(If you’ve never run into this problem, you are a lucky Downward Dog.)

The tailbone is connected to the sacrum, forming the tripod of sitbones, or sits bones. As you can imagine, these are necessary for pelvic stabilization, ie: sitting. But since the sciatic nerve lives right next door to the tailbone, it’s the sitting that leads to nerve compression within the pelvis, which in turn results in a whole host of hip and lower back problems. Sciatica, ITB syndrome, tight hip flexors, spinal curvature, etc.

It’s enough to make you want to curl up — well, like a child.

We’re pairing this pose with White Pearls, because white teas are childlike in and of themselves: timid, insecure.

It’s up to you to provide positive reinforcement, soft hands and softly simmering water to cajole the flavor out of them. As you steep the White Pearls, keep in mind that under-boiling temperature and see if you can coax these leaves out of their own tight Child’s Pose and into your cup.

If you prefer an herbal tea, I recommend Cha Cha. A soothing blend of chamomile, mint, and lemongrass, it contains all the anti-inflammatory agents to help you breathe through the pose and relax any strained muscle groups. Plus, reducing inflammation in the body also helps you sleep better, which I why I recommend trying this before bed, or at the end of a workout.

Step 1. Assemble the necessaries: yoga mat, kettle, water, tea, timer, drinking device. Pearl teas need space to unfurl, so use a steeping tool that allows them to do so at their leisure, such as the IngenuiTEA. You also have the option of just dropping in the pearl and letting it fill the cup by itself. Just one per cup — any more and you’ll be soaring on antioxidants for days.

Set the water to boil. If your kettle isn’t settable for a low-temperature tea, then you need to watch those bubbles closely to make sure they’re just at a simmer. Tiny bubbles, you want. No more.

If you’re doing the herbal variant — Cha-Cha-Child’s Pose! — , then follow standard procedure for an herbal tea: boiling water and 1 heaping teaspoon per 8 ounces of water.

Step 2. When the water is at your desired heat-point, pour it in. Set the timer for five minutes.

Step 3. Step onto the yoga mat and find your center with Mountain, toes deep and grounded. Take five breaths.

Fold down into Plank, and take five breaths. Real ones, please, in through the nose, out through the mouth, caressing the upper palette. The last thing you want is neck tension when trying to center yourself.

Scoop yourself into Downward Dog, and follow through with Cobra, followed by an extra five breaths in Cobra. Repeat three to five times.

From the final Cobra, gently lower the knees and press your hips back, stretching your arms overhead with hands and fingers sent deep into the ground.

This is your Child. Breathe here for as many breaths as you wish. The exertion from the previous poses will determine how long you need in this pose. Release the tailbone — see if you can give it a wiggle. (No rush, though. This takes practice and earns weird looks when you announce your new skill.)

Step 4: Listen for the timer going off, and rise into Mountain Pose to straighten the spine again.

Step 5: Enjoy your well-earned tea.

Remember that these Yoga Breaks are your time, no one else’s…

Take the chance to return to yourself — and your cup. The more comfortable you become, posing and steeping, the easier the movements will flow into sequence.

And life has a funny way of flowing right after.

Cheers and Peace.

*Yes, yoga can lower your metabolism (optional hyperlink: http://www.smarterbodies.com/exposing-yoga-myths/). Please keep that in mind if anyone tells you otherwise.