Circle of Joy

One of my favourite areas to work with in my own practice is my shoulders. They tend to be the first place that I feel tension and I have learnt over the years to be aware of that. When my shoulders are a bit tight it is my bodies way of telling me I’m doing too much. I use this as an opportunity to pause and take stock of what is causing the tension, reassess my priorities and hopefully rearrange things so I can avoid it escalating.

Sometimes in life however it isn’t easy or possible to just let go, things need to be done, unexpected challenges can arise and everything can seem like a priority. To get through those challenging times it is helpful to remain aware of what is happening and the effects it is having on our bodies and minds. If we do this and take a little time each day to release the tension that can build up it means we are much better equipped to tackle all of those other tasks without risk of burning out.

The Circle of Joy series is one of my favourite practices for times like this, it is short so can easily fit into a busy day, doesn’t require warming up so can be done anytime and never fails to release tension through my shoulders and arms as well as calming my mind. The flowing movements with the breath allow it to become a moving meditation which is easy to fit into 5 minutes

I first experienced this practice during my teacher training when the lovely Fiona Hyde from Williamstown Yoga shared it with me. Since then I have come across a few other versions and played with it a lot so it may well have evolved from what Fiona shared with me. I am including it here with a few options which I’ve developed over the years. This sequence can be practiced seated or standing, you will need room around you – about your arms length out in front, behind and to the sides. Hope you enjoy it…

  1. Start with hand together in Namaskar Mudra, palms together in the heartspace. Inhale fully here.
  2. On the exhalation interlock your fingers and open your palms out in front at chest height, lengthening the arms without locking the elbows.
  3. Inhale and float the hands up above the head, palms still facing away from you.
  4. Exhale and separate your hands, taking them out to the sides and behind your back where the palms come together again.
  5. Inhale and once again interlock your fingers and lift your arms, opening through the chest and collarbone.
  6. Exhale and fold into a forward bend, continuing to lift the arms behind you. If you are standing keep your knees soft as you fold forwards.
  7. Inhale to come back upright from the forward bend.
  8. Exhale to relax and release your arms and hands and bring them back to Namaskar Mudra in the heartspace.

That is the whole sequence, here are a few notes on how to practice it and adapt if needed for yourself.

  • I usually practice at least four rounds of this sequence but even just one or two can help soften the whole shoulder region.
  • I have given the instructions to flow with the breath but it can also be very nice to pause in each stage for a breath or three, or if you have a favourite part of the sequence to stop there for a few breaths then resume the flow for the rest of the practice.
  • If you can remember it is helpful to swap the interlock of your fingers each round that you do. This might feel strange but will become less so with practice.
  • If your shoulders are very tight or you are working with or recovering from an injury instead of joining the hands behind your back you can keep them shoulder distance apart and lengthen them up and away so you still get that lovely feeling of opening through the chest without causing any discomfort.
  • For my prenatal students I often leave out the forward bend, if you have lower back issues you might like to do the same or just keep it very gentle.

Hope you enjoy this sequence as much as I do. It is one that I will be sharing at my next yoga retreat Mother Nature, Mother Nurture on May 6th, 7th and 8th at Clearview Retreat.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

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