Hard-wired to achieve, we’re conditioned to plow through intensity, discomfort or intuition rather than sitting with our experience. Slowing down is not part of our vocabulary. It’s often the case that we don’t notice how exhausted we are, or how far off the path we’ve wandered, until we’re forced to stop.
Restorative yoga invites a parasympathetic, or relaxation, response in the body. Our heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption decrease and blood returns to our digestive system after having been called to our extremities in preparation to either fight or flee. I took an amazing restorative class last week and woke up to find myself drooling. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the following sequence in my home practice. You can use pillows and blankets from around your home. A lavender-filled eye pillow will likely push you over the edge (in a good way)! Finding the space to rest will create space in your life.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall)
This inverted pose relieves tired legs and feet. You can practice Viparita Karani without props, simply lying on your back and taking your legs up the wall. Long, folded blankets (or a bolster) can be placed under your sacrum (the back of your pelvis) to create a deeper inversion. Place the blankets a few inches away from the wall so that the buttock wedges between the blankets and the wall. Those of you with tight hamstrings can modify this pose by lying on your back and placing your calves over the seat of a chair.
Hold 5-10 minutes. Tingly or sleepy sensations in your legs/feet are an indication that it’s time to come out. You can also bend your knees and come into Supta Baddha Konasana on the wall. (Contraindications for this pose are pregnancy, eye issues, extremely high or low blood pressure, hiatal hernia and heart conditions.)
One word: heaven. This pose is known to soothe the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Stack two long-folded blankets on your mat. Place your pubic bone on the short edge of the blankets and your head (turned to one side) at the opposite end. A bolster or short stack of blankets goes under your ankles. Your elbows can be bent, arms shaped like a cactus framing your head.
Hold 5-10 minutes. Be sure to turn your head to the opposite side halfway through.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
This one’s my personal favorite. Using the same blanket set-up from Floating Pose. Lie on your back and place the edge of the folded blankets under your shoulder blades. Using your hands, grab the top blanket behind you and fold it back to support your head. Place a block or folded blanket under each thigh.
Hold 5-10 minutes.
I’m working hard to perfect this pose. Treat yourself at home with a longer Savasana, fully supported with blankets under your upper thighs and knees, or grounded with a stack of blankets over the thighs and pelvis. Sheer bliss.