By Andrea Rice & Lisette Cheresson, coauthors of The Yoga Almanac
A ritual is a practice to ground yourself into the here and now. This exploration of presence creates the sensation of oneness with the external world. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, considered to be the foundation of yogic philosophy, state that yoga is happening now. Incorporating rituals into your mind-body practices can foster connection and ease off the mat. Through intentional action, rituals can mark time and nurture creativity, and even reinforce positive thinking.
The practice of ritual has been invoked by humans for thousands of years to find meaning and spiritual insight during times of uncertainty. New-moon intention-setting is a common ritual, as is releasing what no longer serves during a full moon. That’s to say, rituals don’t need to be grand gestures or projects. Just like yoga, they can be simple markers that bring us back to our breath and provide some solace during difficult times.
The Yoga Almanac is a guide to navigate the continuing cycles of change and challenge, to present a lens through which we are able to reconnect with rhythms of the natural world through philosophy, yoga, and ritual. Each of the fifty-two chapters offer a weekly off-the-mat ritual to embody the alchemical potential of self-study. By doing so, we become more fluid and adaptable, and eventually, more accepting of ourselves, the world around us, and the situations that are beyond our control.
You may find that you have more time on your hands right now. If you’re seeking something sacred and significant to fill those spaces with meaning and purpose, try a daily, weekly, or monthly ritual to anchor yourself in the here and now.
Part of the practice is to discover what works for you, and what doesn’t—and even get creative and craft your own personal rituals accordingly. Here are five to get you started.
BREATH OF FIRE PRANAYAMA
We awaken when we clear the cobwebs of metaphorical sleep from our minds. Breath of Fire, or kapalabhati (“skull shining breath”), calms the nervous system and expands lung capacity. It is an energizing pranayama and a foundational practice in Kundalini yoga.
Come to a comfortable seat, and place the hands on the abdomen. Inhale deeply, and begin short and quick, evenly cadenced exhales and inhales (two to three per second), placing emphasis on the exhale. The belly button will pump as the diaphragm moves. Keep breathing like this for twenty to thirty seconds, and then deeply exhale. Repeat as is comfortable.
Note: This is an advanced pranayama. If you’re new to the practice, twenty to thirty seconds may be ambitious. Pause or slow your rhythm of breath as needed.
CRAFT A FAMILY HISTORY
Families form from all corners of relationships. Consider a group of people with whom you share a narrative—who, collectively, have played an important role in who you are. They could be blood related, friends, members of a book club, coworkers, et cetera. Choose a way to tell your story—an audio library or a digital album of videos, perhaps—and interview each person about what that specific time in your life meant to them. Share the project with your “family.”
If you’re fortunate enough to have them with you, you could alternatively gather everyone together to share stories in person. In this case, you could create a scrapbook of the event to memorialize your history. Pay close attention to each person’s story—are you surprised by what they remember?
HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Spring is an ideal time to take stock of the new habits we created at the start of the calendar year, noticing what we’ve prioritized and what we’ve let slip away. Is there a goal you put on the back burner that you’d like to revisit? Whether it’s sticking to a meditation practice, fitting in a regular exercise routine, eating better, or saving money, can you recommit to this habit now?
Consider your goal in the devotional or ritualistic sense—as part of your regimen—because it is nourishing the person you are becoming and not just another item on your to-do list. Better yet, enlist a friend or family member to help hold you accountable with regular check-ins.
WRITE THANK-YOU NOTES
It is beneficial to keep a gratitude journal and carve out time each day to reflect on your many blessings, regardless of their significance. Freewriting about what you’re thankful for in the morning helps set the tone for the rest of your day. Reflecting on what you’re grateful for at the end of each day puts your mind at ease, especially when you’re able to consider each item on your list as a beautiful gift.
Think of this practice as writing a thank-you note to your higher self. You could even choose to hone your focus on a specific entity in your life—maybe a person. Explore the thoughts and feelings that arise when you realize the many reasons for your gratitude as you write them down. Notice the richness you feel each time you perform the exercise. Bonus activity: send someone a handwritten thank-you note that expresses your admiration and appreciation.
IMPROMPTU DANCE PARTY
If yoga is a dance of the soul, dancing is the self—illuminated. Studies have shown that dancing can reduce stress and help alleviate depression and anxiety (Akandere and Demir 2011; Leste? and Rust 1984); the act of shaking the body releases endorphins that melt away tension and promote relaxation. Dance makes us more resilient, helping us live longer and with more vitality. Dancing is cathartic, creative, and healing.
Treat yourself to a private dance party for one. Put on your favorite song and shake off what no longer serves you. Much like your yoga practice, don’t worry about how it looks; focus instead on how it feels. Let your movement flow naturally, organically, rhythmically, and intuitively. Dance like you were born to, and dance like there’s no tomorrow—because all we really have, anyway, is right now. And right now is indeed something to celebrate.
Andrea Rice is a writer and editor covering health and wellness. Her work has appeared in Yoga Journal, The Wanderlust Journal, mindbodygreen, Astrostyle, SONIMA, and New York Yoga+Life. She has also worked as a journalist for The New York Times and INDY Week. As a yoga teacher with a decade of experience, Andrea completed her 200-hour training in New York, NY; and furthered her training with Elena Brower and Alexandria Crow. She has also studied astrology extensively with The AstroTwins, Ophira and Tali Edut. Andrea has offered yoga, meditation, journaling, and creativity workshops in Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York, NY; and has been a presenter at Wanderlust Festivals in Vermont. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband and their cat.
Lisette Cheresson is a writer, editorial director, and content consultant specializing in wellness, sustainability, and women’s empowerment. She has made short films with leaders such as Eddie Stern, Eoin Finn, and Elena Brower; and is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Wanderlust Journal, Quilt, Matador, The New York Times reference books Off Track Planet, and others. She completed her 200-hour yoga training in New York, NY; and her Reiki attunement in India. She also studied with Leslie Kaminoff of The Breathing Project, and attended a three-day intensive discourse with the Dalai Lama. She has offered workshops with Wanderlust Festivals and Manifest Station, and completed her end-of-life doula training in 2019. She lives with her husband and animals in the Hudson Valley in New York.