Fall leaves have finally dusted the sidewalks and trees have become vulnerable and bare. When I look around the city, I see people bundled up in furry boots, jackets and scarves with their coffee or tea in hand, as the cold exits their mouths in delicate puffs. For those of you who volunteer at a shelter or work with homeless youth, it can be a difficult time of year watching them dodge the elements. Sock drives and sleeping-bag donations are sometimes not enough to keep our streets from shivering – they need something they can carry with them, something no one can take while they are asleep.
Street Yoga’s mission of bringing portable yoga to anyone in need has been one that resonates with a season such as winter. In example, a smile is carried in our hearts and minds and when the time is right, we know how to use the 12 muscles it takes to lift our cheeks and curl our lips upward. When we offer yoga as a service to the cold and homeless, we give them that one thing that is locked away deep inside and ready to use, much like a smile.
With your actions you create the world around you. Together, this winter we can heal our streets from the shivers by actively sharing what we love – yoga. If you are not servicing the homeless at this time, I challenge you to give the gift of yoga this season by sharing a pose with a homeless veteran or youth on one of your city streets. Below are a few favorites that have been a hit with some of my students.
Kapalabhati Breath of Fire
Machine gun-like breath that activates the core and brings heat to the body for cold days.
Begin by having them locate the belly area and then suck in gently and release. Have them suck in their belly and then let go several more times. Now have them relax their belly entirely and breath out only through the nose as quickly as feels comfortable, pushing the air out. Piece it together by breathing out through the nose while triggering the belly. In the winter months this is easily measurable; they can visually see their breath flowing from their nostrils freely as heat builds in the body.
Standing Cat & Cow
Gentle combination great for those who sleep on hard services or wear heavy bags on their back.
Stand with legs hip distance and knees slightly bent. Place hands flat onto the legs just above the kneecaps with elbows comfortably bent to support a gentle forward lean. Make sure their shoulders are down away from the ears to bring space to the neck and chest area. Using the breath to guide them, allow their core to move freely with an open-close motion. Tuck belly in, hips moving inward and chin adipex 37.5 mg tablet tucked to the chest while mid-back rises like an angry cat. Flow safely by bringing chin towards the sky, head up, chest out and mid-back arched slightly like that of a cow. An even easier version can be done while seated, keeping the same upper body motions the same. This combination can help back tension, stretch the core and create heat when repeated seated or standing.
Simple stretch to alleviate back tension and awaken the energy along the spine for those with inertia.
Begin with feet flat on the ground, legs hip distance with shoulders back and down. Ask them to inhale and slowly bring their knee upward so the lifted leg is creating a 90 degree angle. Grasping their lifted knee with the opposite hand, ask them to stand tall and breathe in this space. If they need support, show them a building or wall they can can use to place their unused hand on for balance. Once they can stand strong they may begin to apply the twist motion. If they have their right knee bent then ask them to twist to the right. To deepen the twist they may extend their opposite arm and shoulder out behind them or crawl it along the wall to lengthen. For strong participants you may suggest they look in the direction of the twist, bringing the shoulder back and turning the neck to look behind them. They can switch sides in between short breaks, making sure they rest as needed. To build core and leg strength have them practice only the balance portion – similar to Tree.
Other poses to try would be forward bends, Warrior, Tree or movements that can be done on cold surfaces with little need to lay down. If they do want floor poses than suggest knee to the chest, leg stretches and Child’s pose to start. For vulnerable women, maybe Child’s is too awkward so have them try Canon Ball with a gentle rock from side to side to massage the back and kidneys.
Importantly, just giving them a small connection with their breath and body can be a wonderful gift. They may use the yoga to keep warm now but as winter defrosts they may realize in the end, that it can help them deal with much more than the weather. If you want to know more about our Teacher Trainings and ways to be of service in your community, check-out our website. If you are unable to be a part of Street Yoga but want to help with a donation, we have several options.
Do you work with the population mentioned? In your experience, what are some poses or techniques that have worked for them while in transit or outdoors?