Restorative Yoga Poses that Anyone Can Do
The practice of restorative yoga can be a key component is creating ease and relieving stress in your everyday life, especially if you are recovering from an illness of injury.
As Andrea Marcum, owner of U Studio Yoga studio in Los Angeles says, “We use this [restorative] practice to connect with ourselves, as well as to connect with something greater.” She also suggests that as we relax into the restorative poses, we feel the dust begin to settle in our minds. When the dust settles, the mind becomes unclouded. Like a clear pool of water, which Marcum notes, “clear pools of water reflect the beauty of the surroundings.”
Her A,B,C’s of Breathing are brilliant in their simplicity, a key component of a restorative practice.
Awareness – having knowledge or consciousness Benevolence – kindness – the desire to do well to others Calm – tranquility – free from agitation
I consider this to be the path from the individual to the universal.
Or, more simply, that a restorative state helps us move beyond self-centeredness; from a state of ‘me’ consciousness to a ‘we’ consciousness.
In our typically busy lives, our nervous systems get over-stimulated. It’s as if our bodies are constantly on a cross-country road trip, in overdrive. Like a much-needed rest stop for our nervous systems, try these restorative yoga poses as recommended by Shannon Paige in her Anjali Restorative Chakra Roots to Rise.
To try the following six restorative poses you’ll need a blanket and a bolster.
Remember, you can create a bolster by simply rolling two blankets together. Create a neck roll by folding one of the outstretched blankets in half. The fold will form a large rectangle shape. Take one of the long edges of the rectangle and begin rolling it, about halfway.
Supported Reclining Pose
Place the blanket at the head end of your yoga mat. The rolled portion will support your neck, and your head can softly rest onto the remaining portion of the unrolled blanket. Adjust the bolster the width of your mat about 2/3 away from the blanket; it’ll go behind your knees to elevate your lower legs. Make sure your knees are wide.
Lay onto your back, ensuring that the bolster and blanket are in comfortable positions. Use your exhales to help you soften into the props and ground beneath you.
To transition out of this pose, bend your knees, bringing your feet onto the bolster. Roll your body onto the right side into a brief fetal position. You can rest your head on your right arm, and keep knees bent. When ready, turn towards the floor with a heavy head to keep softness in your neck, and rise to an upright position.
Elevated Caterpillar Pose
From a seated position, with wide legs over the bolster as in previous pose, drape your torso forward. If it feels as though your pelvis is rocking back, you can sit on top of the blanket roll that supported your neck in supported reclining pose. Rest your head on stacked hands or, if accessible, on the bolster between your knees.
To transition out of this pose, bring your hands beneath your shoulders, pads of the fingers press into the floor to lift your rounded torso up. Allow your head to come up last.
Place the fully rolled up blanket towards the head end of your mat. Move the bolster behind you, the width of mat. From seated, turn towards the right, your right thigh will be parallel to the width of the bolster. Pinwheel your legs so your right foot is in line with your left knee. You can pad your inner left knee if needed. Line up the right side of your torso, so when you lay on to the bolster, the right side of your ribs meet the bolster. Extend your right arm overhead on top of the blanket roll, and wrap the excess blanket roll on top of your arm, so your right arm becomes the middle of a blanket sandwich. Rest your head on this ‘sandwich’ so the blanket equally supports your right shoulder and head. Ensure that there’s ample space for the base of your right ribs and right hip to rest onto the mat. Only the middle portion of the right ribs is elevated onto the bolster.
To transition out of this pose, draw your left arm in front of your body, press down through your left fingertips into the floor to lift your rounded spine up. Keep chin towards your chest as you rise. Turn slightly towards your left, so your seat is on the mat. Bend your knees, feet hips width on the mat, and rest your forehead towards your knees for a few breaths. Then set up for Side Fish to the left.
Belly on Bolster Twist
Place the bolster vertical, from head end of mat to middle of the mat. Sit on your left hip (legs in side fish position), with hands either side of the bolster. From your navel, turn your torso towards the bolster and lay down onto it. Your head can rest to either side or you may like to stack your hands and rest your forehead onto them.
To transition, come out the same way you came into it. Before taking the twist to the other side, you may like to recline back onto the bolster, knees bent, feet wide, or simply stay upright for a few breaths. Then take Belly on Bolster Twist to the other (right) side. We typically take twists following the direction of our digestion: from right to left.
Supported Reclining Butterfly
From an upright-seated position, place the bolster vertical behind you; you may like to elevate the head end with a block, or use a blanket to rest your head onto. Bring the soles of your feet together, and wrap the blanket roll over the tops of your feet, and wrap the ends behind your heels and ankles. You may like to support the outer knees with blocks. Lower your back onto the bolster behind you.
To transition, bring hands to outer knees and draw knees in (blanket will fall away from your feet). Press your thighs away, creating the sensation of spaciousness in your low back. To rise, use your hands on either side of bolster, to lift up.
Supported Child’s Pose
From a seated position, bring the bolster out in front of you, lengthwise. You can place the blanket roll behind the knees for more support (you may want a block under your seat if knees are sensitive), or beneath the tops of the feet. Bring your knees the width of the mat, big toes touching, rest hips on heels and fold forward so your torso rests the length of the bolster.
To transition, roll yourself back upright. Option to take neck stretches: slowly draw right ear towards right shoulder, right arm outstretched. Use your right hand on your right check to lift your head back to center. Then slowly move to the other side.
The Ultimate Stay-cation
We often think that relaxation and de-stressing requires a day at a spa or a month-long Caribbean holiday. Don’t get me wrong, you can sign me up for either of those anytime, but we all need solutions that are cheaper to afford, easier to plan and don’t require a passport. Restorative yoga poses and breathing techniques can be added to your yoga practice anytime, anywhere. Cultivating a consistent restorative yoga practice can have a deep and measurable affect on decreasing stress and anxiety. Just think of it as the ultimate Stay-cation.
9 Yoga Poses for Relieving Shoulder Tension
Yoga, when practiced regularly, relaxes muscle tension and in the process, also strengthens the relaxed muscles. Here are a list of poses that will help relieve tension around the shoulder area:
1. BALASANA (CHILD’S POSE)
Child’s pose is a very good way to start a practice. It’s also an excellent rest pose during a vigorous flow.
Come to your hands and knees, press your hips back into your heels. Open your knees out toward the corner of your mat and rest your belly and chest between your thighs; arms out in front of you and palms up. Allow your shoulders to melt downward. This is a gentle way to start warming up the shoulders.
2. BHARADVAJASANA I (SEATED TWIST)
Sitting crossed legged, stretching your spine tall, place your left hand on your right knee and your right arm on the floor at your right hip. Draw a breath in and turn your shoulders and upper torso to the right.
The idea here is to stay gently grounded in the sits bones while extending the spine upward. If you’re twisting right, then ensure your left hip stays grounded. Lift as you inhale and turn as you exhale. Keep your gaze over your right shoulder. Try to keep your shoulders at the same height, and keep your neck soft. Your chin should be in neutral, but if you want an added stretch, you can tuck the chin. Hold for a few breaths, and then come back to center. Repeat on the left side.
3. SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA (RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE)
This pose offers a stretch across the chest and releases the shoulders.
Lying on your back, put a bolster or a block longways between your shoulder blades. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall open. If that is too intense, just leave the legs long and resting on the mat. Rest your arms by your sides. You will notice that if you turn your palms to face up, that will increase the rotation in the shoulders. You can either support your head or, if it feels good, allow your head to drop back (this will stimulate the thyroid).
4. PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA (WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD FOLD)
Standing with your legs wide, turn your toes inward slightly and heels out. Bring your hands to meet behind your back and interlace your fingers. If that is not accessible to you, hold a towel or a strap between your hands. With an inhale, lift your chest and roll your shoulders back, extending the hands backward. On the exhale bend forward, keeping a slight bend in your knees. Allow gravity to draw your hands over your head. This creates a lovely rotation in the shoulders. Hold this pose for at least eight breaths (inhales and exhales).
5. SETU BANDHASANA (BRIDGE POSE)
Lie down on your back and bend your knees, feet hip width apart and on the mat. As you breathe out, press your feet into the mat and raise your buttocks, lifting the sternum towards the chin. Elongate the back of the neck onto the floor and breathe deeply. Reach for your feet with your hands, while rolling on to your shoulders. Keep your head still with your nose pointing up and gently press the back of your head into the mat, all the while lifting the hips.
You have the option of supporting yourself with your hands under your hips, or on a block. As you breathe, and your body starts to open, try to walk your shoulders closer to each other and reach your hands towards your feet. This will help open the chest. Move your chest toward your chin. This pose is also great for calming the mind.
6. PASCHIMOTTANASANA (SUPPORTED FORWARD BEND)
This pose is meant to release and relax your neck. Sit on the floor in front of a chair. Place a pillow on the chair, and rest your head on the pillow with your arms just under your forehead. Gently stretch the neck muscles by dropping the chin to the chest. Breathe in and out while resting your head on the pillow.
7. GOMUKHASANA (COW FACE POSE)
When we sit in front of a computer we round our shoulders and push our chins forward. This pose is great for helping to correct our posture.
Sit up straight in a comfortable cross-legged seat. Lift your left arm straight up, palm turned inward and thumb pointing to the back of the room. Bend that arm and reach it down between the shoulder blades. Now extend your right arm to the side, thumb down and palm facing back. Bend the arm and bring the elbow in to the side and reach up between the shoulder blades. Take hold of the other hand. If this is a little hard, use a strap between the hands. Lift your heart and press into your sits bones. Keep your chin in neutral and the neck soft.
8. SAVASANA (CORPSE POSE)
This pose is often used in meditation with the intention of complete relaxation.
Lie on your back, arms by your sides. Spread your feet apart and allow them to drop open. Let your arms rest by your sides, palms up. Allow your fingers to curl up naturally. Lift your shoulders, broaden them and then let them melt into the mat as you exhale. Breathe with deep, smooth breaths.
Support your body where you need to. Sometimes a bolster under the knees, or between the shoulder blades feels good.
9. YOGA OFF THE MAT
In a seated position, come to the top of your sits bones and gently draw your belly in. Lift your heart and allow your shoulders to slide down your back. Keep your chin in neutral and allow for a good distance between the ears and shoulders. This is also a good posture to hold when you are standing or walking. Keep the tailbone gently tucked under.
Remember to keep moving your body. It is joyful, gives us energy and keeps us healthy.