Festive season yoga time-out

Have you been busy? Although it’s the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, the festivities often start in early December. On top of that, there is the seemingly endless list of things to do and people to see before and during the holidays. For me, this pace has felt too hectic and I am looking forward to slowing down, taking some time to spend in solitude. Yet, I also know that when we chase something for which we long desperately, we often end up tripping over our own feet. Instead, I have been doing my best to set aside just 10-15 minutes every evening to rest and recharge. I could tell you that I spend that time in meditation, but lately, I have been feeling restless. Restorative yoga postures, however, allow my mind to follow my body into a settled, peaceful state.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of leading a group of beautiful women through a restorative yoga and intention-setting workshop at the lovely, cosy Forward Motion Yoga studio. The ladies graciously allowed me to take a few snapshots of them relaxing in a few of my ‘go to’ poses. So, join me for 10-15 of silence. Simply choose one of the poses below, read the instructions, and enjoy breathing deeply. If you have more time to spare, try two or more of the postures below in the sequence in which they are presented here. Please note that you will need a bolster or two large, firm rectangular pillows. You will also require at least two blankets. If you do not have yoga blocks at home, books or rolled-up blankets should be sufficient. Lavender-scented eye pillows or towels are optional, but I highly recommend them for the delicate, soothing aroma.

Supported wide-legged child’s pose

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Place the bolster (or two pillows) lengthwise on your mat. With the knees wider than the bolster, or as wide as your yoga mat, bring the big toes to touch. Fold forward over the bolster and either rest your forehead on the mat or turn your head to one side. If your knees are sensitive, you may place a blanket beneath the knees on the mat and/or between the thighs and shins. I also like to place a rolled-up blanket between the lower belly and the thighs to allow my lower back to round. If the bolster feels too low, prop it up by placing a rolled-up blanket or block beneath the bolster or between your face and the bolster. Allow the shoulders to soften, and breathe.

Supported spinal twist

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Come to sit resting on your right hip with the knees facing toward the left side of your mat. The right hip and thigh should be snug against the bolster. Twist from the navel to square the shoulders to the front and start to walk the hands forward. Again, feel free to lift the bolster higher with the use of the blankets or blocks. If your neck is healthy and you would enjoy a deeper twist, you may turn your head toward the right side of your mat. Otherwise, either press the forehead into a blanket on top of the bolster, or rest on your right cheek. After about 5-7 minutes on the right side, repeat the twist on the left side for the same length of time. Twists are excellent for the muscles along the spine and for the digestive system.

Reclined bound angle pose

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This gentle backbend opens the heart and hips. Place one block (or a thickly rolled blanket) at the medium height at the top of the mat. In front of that block, place a second block at the lowest height. Then, set up the bolster with the top portion atop the blocks, cascading downward. Come to sit with your lower back snug against the bolster. Keeping the spine long, use your hands to recline over the bolster. It’s a great idea to place a cushion or rolled-up blanket beneath your head at the top of the bolster. You may either stretch out the legs in front, perhaps placing a rolled-up blanket beneath the knees for additional support, or bring the soles of the feet together and open the knees out to the sides, with blocks or blankets supporting the thighs. If the backbend feels too deep over the bolster, you may need to sit with your lower back a few inches away from the bolster and place a blanket or cushion between the bolster and your sit bones to support the sacrum. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and allow your arms to rest heavy on the floor, with the palms open toward the ceiling. Melt your body into the floor and props, feeling fully supported.

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A variation of the backbend with the legs stretched out in front. You may place another bolster or blankets beneath the knees for additional support.

Supported butterfly pose

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Like supported child’s pose, this forward fold offers a chance to retreat from the noise into this cocoon shape. Sit on a blanket to elevate the hips, bringing the soles of the feet together or an inch or two apart, creating a diamond shape with the legs. I like to place blankets beneath the thighs to support this gentle hip-opening pose. Place the bolster on top of your shins, elevating it with the use of blocks, if needed. A blanket can be placed atop the bolster for additional support for your head. Allow your forehead or the side of your face to be heavy as the weight of your body leans into the props. Relax, and breathe into your backbody, starting from the kidney areas and moving up toward the top vertebrae.

Legs-up-the-wall pose

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If you have been on your feet all day, or dancing for several hours at the office party, this pose might be just what the yoga teacher ordered. Come to sit with one hip close to the wall. Leaning back on your forearms, begin to walk the hips toward the wall while reclining back, placing a blanket or cushion under your head for support. It is optional to elevate the hips with the use of a bolster or blankets, simply sliding the bolster or blankets beneath the hips. Walk the shoulder blades closer together and soften your torso on the mat, allowing the palms of the hands to open toward the ceiling and the weight of the legs to sink into the floor.

As always, I invite you to leave a comment below. Let me know your favourite restorative yoga pose, and feel free to share with me your trusted time-out methods to which you turn during this season.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend who could benefit from this soothing practice!

Please remember to consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting a new exercise program or yoga practice.

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