Vinyasa flow yoga classes are usually the style that keeps me going through the week, but with the demands of life, lately my body has been craving a gentler form of yoga. Practicing restorative poses (asanas) along with a smooth even breath through your nose (Ujjayi) will help activate the parasympathetic nervous system in your body–which basically signals the body to relax. The great thing about restorative poses is that you can easily do them at home, on your own time without needing to get to a studio. Just set your playlist, turn off your cell phone, light a candle, and take at least 10 breaths per pose. Try this once per week and tell me you don’t feel like a brand new person!
Each pose is in the order of the gallery above. Here are the instructions:
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle): Sitting on the mat, bring the soles of your feet together in a diamond shape. Wrap the strap around the outside of your ankles, then over your head and down to support your low back–adjust the clasp to be tight enough so there’s no slack. Support both of your upper thighs and knees with a throw pillow underneath, and lay back on the mat with your spine supported on folded blankets, a bolster or an equivalent pillow. Relax your arms to the sides.
- Supta Padangusthasana 1 & 2 (Reclining Hand to Big Toe): This is a great hamstring and groin stretch. Laying on the mat, straighten your left leg directly in front of you and raise your right leg to the ceiling so that it’s perpendicular to the floor. Use a strap or small towel wrapped around the ball (not the arch) of the right foot, and hold both ends of the strap with the right hand. Gently keeping the leg straight and both thighs rolling inward towards the mid-line of your body (as opposed to external rotation), bring the foot closer to the head, keeping the right shoulder on the floor. Stay for 5 breaths, and then keep the strap, and let the leg open up to the right, then let the thigh rest on a pillow or bolster. Use the strap to keep the leg engaged, and use the left hand on the left thigh to help it stay resting on the mat. Stay for 5 more breaths and repeat on both sides.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall): Find a good wall space where you can comfortably keep your legs resting perpendicular to the floor for awhile. Support your low back by propping a bolster underneath your butt, elevating your lumbar spine as well. Wrap a strap around your ankles to prevent your feet from splaying outwards. Rest your hands where you feel comfortable, out to the sides or perhaps one at your heart and one at your belly (as pictured).
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge): Lay on your back, bend your knees and move your ankles directly underneath your knees. Lift your hips and place a yoga block underneath your sacrum. It should land in the sweet spot above your glutes on the low back. There should be zero discomfort here. You can adjust the block to your desired height – lowest, medium (pictured) or high. Walk your shoulder blades underneath your back to open your chest and collarbone area. Stay for 10 long breaths. Make sure to come out slowly — lift your hips, remove the block and roll down your spine. Counter this by releasing your low back and hugging the knees into the chest.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold): This is generally a very active forward fold with your legs and low belly completely engaged, but in this variation–it’s a juicy resting posture. Come to seated with your legs straight out in front of you. Place a folded blanket over your calves. Keep your legs internally rotating as much as possible and your feet flexed. Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale you will fold directly over your legs so that your head rests on the blanket. Rest your hands in front of your forehead. Stay for 10-15 breaths.
Savasana (Corpse Pose): This is the ultimate relaxation: the pose do we at the end of every single yoga class, Savasana. Coming onto your back, lengthen your legs and let your feet relax out to each side. Place a blanket on top of your thighs for great low-back release. Lay back with your head resting on another blanket; let the edge of the blanket reach the tip of your shoulders just enough to uplift your head and neck. Rest your hands where you feel comfortable, out to the sides or perhaps one at your heart and one at your belly (as pictured). Relax every single muscle of your body, including every muscle on your face. Stay for up to 10 minutes! Don’t fall asleep–the purpose of savasana is complete conscious relaxation.
This is a great playlist to enjoy while you relax:
Enjoy and let me know how you feel afterwards in the comments below!