28 Jul Rest and rejuvenate with Restoratives
A student asked me the other day, “What do you practice when you don’t really want to practice, but you know you should practice?” My immediate reaction was: restoratives. When I don’t really want to practice, it’s often because I feel like I don’t have the time or the energy. If I don’t have the time, I might be in headless chicken mode, which means restoratives are exactly what I need to slow down, get grounded, and actually become more productive, more efficient, and more effective. If I don’t have the energy, I definitely need restoratives. And they’re also great to do when you’re on your cycle and might not feel like doing much of anything.
Here’s a short restorative pose I did the other night when I really didn’t want to practice. What started out as a “C’mon… just get 15 minutes in.” turned into a 45 minute long, thoroughly enjoyable, restorative practice. Rest is something that many of us don’t get enough of, but the benefits to our health and well-being on a cellular level are many. Restoratives reduce the stress response in the body, help us feel more relaxed and therefore more focused and effective, and reduce tension and ease the pain of achy joints better than sleep. And this is just the short list of benefits (longer list here).
This sequence could take you 15 minutes, 45 minutes, or even longer depending on how long you want to hold the poses. The amount of time I spent in each of the poses is listed next to the pose name. Expand or shorten your time as needed. Above all, feel comfortable, warm and cozy in the poses.
Restorative Yoga Sequence
Helpful Props: a bolster or several blankets, Three Minute Eggs, a small pillow for your head, a strap
Balasana (Child’s Pose) – 5 minutes Start by kneeling on your shins with your thighs apart, feet together, so the thighs form a V. Sit back on your heels as much as you comfortably can. Bring a bolster or several folded blankets in to fit snugly between your thighs and then forward fold, using the bolster/blankets to support your torso. Use as many blankets or a bolster or a combo of both to allow your torso to rest comfortably with your spine parallel to the floor and your belly supported. Turn the head to the left or right or let the forehead rest on the backs of your hands as they rest on the bolster. If you have your head turned, let it also turn the other direction during the pose, so you spend roughly equal time facing each direction. You’ve got a couple of options with your arms and hands. You can hold your feet, or clasp the hands on the head-side of the bolster, or take the arms overhead but leave the hands separate. The first two contain your energy. The second disperses it. The second is best if you’re feeling tense or frustrated. The first are better if you’re feeling tired or run-down. Bring your hands beside your chest and press down to lift the torso up to come out of the pose.
Supta Baddha Konasana – 5 minutes This is the pose pictured above. Start sitting about a fist-width in front of your bolster with a folded blanket or pillow for your head on the other end of the bolster. Bring the legs into Baddha Konasana, place your hands beside your hips on the ground and press down to help lift your chest. Lean back and lie on the bolster, lifting the bottom of your belly to lengthen the low back. Use Three Minute Eggs or rolled blankets under the legs to support the knees. If your knees get achy, come out of the pose. You can extend this chest opener by straightening the legs after spending your chosen allotted time in SBK. Spend as much time as you’d like in this second, pranayama-prep position. Bend your knees, place your feet on the ground and roll to the right to come out of the pose.
Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – 5 minutes Set up your bolster so it’s lying longways on your mat about 18 inches from the top edge of your mat. Then place a block or a Three Minute Egg another 18 inches or so away from the other end of the bolster. Sit on the block end of the bolster with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Take your strap and loop it at mid-thigh to hold your legs together so your inner groins can relax. Place your hands on the mat behind you, at the sides of the bolster, and support yourself as you lie back. Lie on the bolster so your head and shoulders are on the ground and your lower ribs are on the bolster in a back-bending chest opener. Extend the legs, resting your feet on the block or egg. You might find it necessary/more comfortable to shift your body more towards your head if your shoulders are off the ground.
Shavasana with bolster/blankets under the knees – 10 minutes From the previous pose, bend your knees and place your feet on the ground. Remove the strap, lift your right arm alongside your ear, then roll to your right off the bolster. Sitting up, move your bolster so it’s cross-ways on the lower portion of the mat. Lie back, in Shavasana, with the bolster under your knees and a blanket under your head (if it feels comfortable without compressing the front of the throat). Make your exhalations longer than your inhalations to deepen your relaxation.
Want to learn more about restoratives? My fellow Purna Yoga instructor, Rutu Chaudhari is doing a restorative yoga teacher training in October and December in Atlanta. Even if the only person you want to teach how to relax more deeply is yourself, this training might be worth checking out.