This post is dedicated to my lovely new friend aliada2! For an introduction to the thoughts that inspired this practice, read my previous post. The best way to practice from text is to take a read through the whole post first, and then use the quick guide images for your actual practice. I recorded an audio of this practice, but it is a bit boring, so I won’t put it up here. Email me if you want it at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once I am able to invest in quality video equipment, I will put together videos of my yoga practices. (P.S. I apologize for being late with this post! Publishing an actual yoga practice takes more time then a series of reflections do!)
Let’s come to a seated posture, and let our hands rest gently on our thighs. As you inhale, straighten the spine and reach the crown of the head up to the ceiling. As you exhale, root down through the sit bones.
Close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breath as you inhale and exhale.
As this may be your first experience with Sufi yoga, I will be providing both the Hindu and Sufi counterparts of various chants, meditative postures and philosophical ideas. The asanas are the same for both versions.
1. So let’s take a deep inhale in. Exhale everything out. Another inhale in and let’s chant together “Allah” or “Om.” Whatever you are most comfortable with. Both these utterances represent the vocalization of an all-encompassing principle in their respective traditions.
As we previously discussed, holding on to our anger is a misrecognition of the fact that a boundary has been crossed. The first step to healing is to ask yourself, “What boundary was violated for me? What need is being ignored?”
The next step is to recognize how we can come to our fullness without needing another human being to fill our hearts for us. When we are present in our own fullness, we honour the innate perfection of our being and existence, which can never be taken away from us.
As we move into our first pose, call to mind a source of deep seated anger within you. Feel in your body where there may be tension associated with this anger. Now come to standing:
2. Tadasana – Mountain pose
- Root down through the four corners of your feet. Feel yourself drawing energy up from the earth. Use this energy to ground yourself, feeling the steady, stable earth supporting you.
3. Uttanasana – Forward fold
- Rooting down through your feet, put your hands on your hips and hinge forward, lowering into a forward fold. This is an easy forward fold, so keep your knees bent and possibly use blocks so you can get a nice even spine going. We don’t want to overstretch the hamstrings.
- Uttanasana is an inward turn unto ourselves, what the Sufis consider coming to know the self to know God (man ‘arafa nafsahu, faqad ‘arafa rabbahu), and what the Yogis call svadyaya (self-study).
4. Ardha uttanasana – Half-bend
- Bend your knees and look forward, evenly extending your spine by scooping your tailbone to reduce any overarching in the lower back.
5. Tadasana – Mountain pose
- Reach your hands up and return to your mountain pose.
6. Repeat poses 2-5, three more times.
- We want to warm up the body, create an inner fire (tapas, or fervour in Sanskrit) to help us begin to unravel wherever there are energy blocks that keep us from freeing our anger.
- In Sufism, the purification and realization of the self comes from an alchemical process that takes place in the heart. Similar to tapas, alchemy requires a purifying fire to help transmute the baser parts of our hearts into a seat of everlasting felicity.
7. Uttanasana – Forward fold
- Stay in this forward fold for three full breaths, using the fire we are generating within to start healing.
8. Adho mukha svanasana – Downward Dog
- Another three full breaths here, letting this gentle inversion bring some much needed awareness and flow to your heart.
9. Sun salutations (3 cycles)
- We are still building up our inner tapas, so move forward into plank pose, down into upward facing dog, back to downward facing dog. Bend your knees and look forward, step to the front of your mat (forward fold), reach your arms up and stand straight in mountain pose. Fold down into forward fold, back to downward dog and repeat the cycle two more times.
10. Warrior 1 or Crescent Warrior
- Once you are back in downward dog, lift your right leg up behind you (try not to turn out your hips) and step forward into a lunge. Lift your arms straight up into the air. Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your front ankle. Hold for two full breaths
11. Revolved Forward Lunge
- Reach your left hand down to the floor, to the inside of your front right foot. Find some stability and reach your right hand up to the sky. Look up if you can. Twists help balance energy in our bodies. Hold for two full breaths.
12. Downward dog
- Bring your right hand down to the floor and step back into downward facing dog.
Other side (10-12)
14. Goddess pose
- Come up to mountain pose, move your feet further than hip width apart and bend your knees and elbows. Stay here for five long and easy breaths. On your final exhale, stick your tongue out and let out a lion’s roar to release any residual tension.
15. Uttanasana (forward fold)
16. Tree pose
- From mountain pose, lift your right foot and place it gently on the inside of your left shin, or up on your inner left thigh. If you can, raise your arms into a “V” in the air. If you are finding it difficult to balance, use a chair or the wall. Hold for three breaths.
17. Tree pose on the other foot
- From mountain pose, move your feet hip width distance apart and bend at the knees into chair pose, raising your arms parallel to the floor. Hold for two full breaths.
- From chair, bend further down into a squat, putting your hands into prayer position and using your elbows to push your knees out. Stay on the balls of your feet if you can’t put your heels down without turning out your feet. Hold for three full breaths.
21. Child’s pose
- Move into child’s pose (my preferred version has your toes together and knees out, arms outstretched in front of you and your forehead on the ground–but any iteration will do). Have three full breaths here. Having now used your body’s inner fire to burn up the tension inside, use child’s pose as a return to the place of inner peace within. Stay here for four full breaths.
- Come onto your back, bend at the knees and place the soles of your feet on the ground. Bring your feet a little closer to your hips. Lift your hips up into bridge pose and wiggle your shoulders onto your back, interlacing your hands beneath you. If you are able to get into wheel pose, feel free to. Hold for three breaths.
23. Reclined butterfly
- Lay down fully and bring the soles of your feet together with your knees turned out. Place blocks under each knee or thigh to make the pose more comfortable. Hold for three breaths.
- Lay down in full savasana for five minutes.
The final step in freeing our anger is to recognize and acknowledge our macrocosmic selves. Rumi says, “Stop acting small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
And from the Sufi perspective, that is exactly what you are. You are the world. You are the sky. You are the ocean and the trees. The birds, the rocks, everything.
There is no “I,” nor “you.” There is only being and you are being, a divine manifestation of mercy, love, wholeness.
Let’s take a few more minutes here. Return to your breath and hear the universe in every inhale and exhale. Rest here in the awareness of this new expansiveness within you.
Now whenever you’re ready, deepen your breath. Bring awareness to your fingers and toes, maybe wiggle them. Maybe stretch your limbs and rock side to side. Come onto your right side and pause here for a breath, in fetal position as a reminder of your embryonic form. Come up to sitting. Bring your hands either in yogic prayer position or put your hands on your heart.
Deep breath in. And in honor of our practice today, we say, “Alhamdulilah” or “Namaste.”
Here is the visual quick guide for your practice:
Just like with Hindu yoga, Sufi yoga originally had little to do with asana practice and was more about preparing the mind for extended periods of meditation. As I continue to explore the integration of Sufi yoga into yoga as we know it today, a few principles of the physical practice may change–even while most of the philosophy and spiritual principles remains the same.
This is a brand new learning journey for me. Thank you for being a part of it!
What do you think of the practice? I welcome feedback anytime.