Category Archives: Restorative

Finding Ease in Savasana: Prop It Up!

At the end of every yoga class, we lie down in Savasana- yoga’s “corpse pose.” In this final pose, we practice letting go and letting be.  Trusting that we’ve done enough, we release any sense of effort and give ourselves over to rest. Neurologically, this is a chance for our nervous system to absorb and digest all of the new information we received throughout the practice.

Ideally, if the class is sequenced well, your body and mind are primed for rest, and this is a nurturing and relaxing experience. Many students really, really love this pose (we used to sell shirts at YogaFish that read, “I’m Just Here for the Savasana!”). Others (often, especially, newer students) find it challenging and would rather get up and leave than partake in mandatory adult nap time.

In order for the mind to really be able to rest, it’s helpful to make the body as comfortable as possible. If lying on the floor on a rubber mat isn’t your idea of a luxurious getaway, I’ve got some simple Savasana alternatives for you to explore that might help your body to feel more at ease. Most of these are pretty simple and will just require you grabbing an extra prop or two before practice.

Stonehenge SavasanaStonehenge is a favorite with several of my students. By placing a bolster on top of two blocks, you’re allowing your lower back to nestle into the floor more cozily. I find that sitting closer to the blocks (creating deeper hip flexion; that is, bringing knees closer to the face) feels better on my low back, but you are welcome to explore. Adding a blanket over the feet or the whole body can create a sense of comfort as well. 

 

 

Double Bolster SavasanaDouble Bolster Savasana is for the yogi that likes a bolster under the knees and wants to really snuggle in! Here the legs aren’t as high as in Stonehenge, but the second bolster under the calves and ankles provides a deep sense of fundamental support, signaling the primal brain that it’s okay to relax. A blanket or pillow under the head or neck is always great if you find that your head is tipped back; you want to feel that your forehead is the same distance from the ground as your chin.

A nice addition to this pose would be a folded blanket or sandbag over the hips. Adding a pleasant amount of weight here can feel good physically and creates a psychological sense of security.

 

Legs up the wall SavasanaLegs Up the Wall Savasana can be a real breath of fresh air if you want to take some weight off your legs. Here, Carol Dee has added a sandbag over the feet (your teacher can place this here for you).

If you’re adding a bolster or folded blanket under the hips here, try placing it about 6 inches away from the wall (setting a block between the bolster and the wall will keep it from moving and help you space it). This creates a mild inversion, which some folks really appreciate.

 

La-Z-Boy SavasanaLa-Z-Boy Recliner Savasana takes a little set-up, but may be well worth the effort! This is a favorite with prenatal students. It’s a great option for students who have difficulty lying flat on the ground. The chest is mildly elevated, but the spine remains fairly neutral.

The basic pose is simply two blocks (one on the high setting, furthest from the head; one on the medium setting, closer to the base of the spine) under a bolster. Here, Carol Dee has wound a rolled blanket around her ankles to gently hold them in place. I would love to add a folded blanket under each arm so that her elbows can relax more comfortably; an eye pillow would be the icing on the cake!

These are just a few options– why not have a little fun with it? Try out a different variation the next time you unroll your mat (psst–if you’re practicing at home, bed or couch pillows make great bolsters)!  In all of these variations, the common denominator is really giving the body as much support and comfort as possible. As you lie down, ask yourself “Is there anything I can do to make my body feel a little bit more supported?” If there’s an ache or a twinge you can’t quite figure out, please ask! Your teacher may be able to offer a suggestion that can allow you to rest more easily. Notice whether or not adding support to your body with a bolster, block, or even just a blanket over the body lends a little more serenity to your mind in Savasana.

Finally, please remember that Savasana, like any other yoga asana, is really an expression of your body and mind’s needs in that given moment. If for any reason you are unable to feel comfortable lying down or even closing your eyes, it is completely reasonable for you to sit quietly on your mat (perhaps in meditation) or to prop yourself against a wall.

In our next blog, I’ll include some techniques to encourage the mind to relax in Savasana. In the meantime, let’s hear from you! What are your favorite Savasana strategies? Are you a minimalist or do you bring your own eye pillows and lavender mist?

 

 

 

 

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Five Reasons to Add Yin/Restorative to Your Power Practice

Hey, Yoga Stud. Yeah, you, the one who’s doing the extra chaturangas during our child’s pose break. Handstanding your way into Tadasana on our first Surya A. Binding every posture, every chance you get. Doing three Wheel Poses while the rest of the class does Supported Bridge.

No judgies here.  I know you’ve got a totally sweet practice, and I love how strong and flexible you are. But I want to introduce you to something that can really change your practice, maybe even your life: A quieter practice of Yin or Restorative Yoga.

HEY! Hang on, don’t start backing away yet. Yes, we will be very quiet and very still for long stretches of time. No… no, there are no inversions or arm balances. Hear me out! There are a few things you need to know.

Yin and Restorative Yoga Practices are two separate systems that are often taught together. Here’s a really simplistic definition of each:

Yin Yoga postures are designed to stretch the connective tissue of the body. The focus is on long, slow holds. Props may be added for comfort, but relaxation is not the primary goal.

Restorative postures are designed to invite relaxation by supporting the body completely through the use of props (blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, maybe a cat if you have a lazy one). Stretching is not the primary focus, although it can be part of the experience.

Many classes offered will combine aspects of the two disciplines. It is possible to experience the Yin postures in a Restorative way, and by adding soothing music, dim lighting, and perhaps aromatherapy or inspirational readings, it can be a really wonderful experience that will KNOCK YOUR TOESOX right off.

Five Top Reasons to Add Yin/Restorative to Your Power Yoga Practice! 

1. Yin Yoga increases flexibility in a whole different way. In your traditional “Flow” class,  you’re stretching the muscles through active movements. Yin postures- held as they are for longer periods of time- stretch the connective tissue of the body. See, your muscles and bones and internal organs are all shrink-wrapped with special tissues that don’t respond to the active stretching we do in other types of yoga (not even hot!). Longer holds will help you to open more deeply, cultivating stronger and more flexible joints.

 2. A quiet practice will quiet your mind. I have news for you. You are not the only person on the planet whose mind is veryveryverybusy with lots of chatter. This is the normal human condition. It may seem like only vigorous physical activity (perhaps coupled with loud pop music) can drown out the critical auctioneer in your head, but you can do better than muffling. You can find peace. Through a quiet practice of yin/restorative yoga, you’ll learn to tune in to the breath and the subtle currents of your body, and gradually, the commentary in your head will become less obnoxious.

3. Ancient Eastern medicine Yin postures stimulate the same meridian lines of the body that are worked through acupuncture and massage. Our chi (or prana, or energy, depending on your point of view) runs through the connective tissue in a complex organic communication network. By opening and clearing these passages, we can help ourselves to maintain healthier bodies.

4. Release competition. I know, you might really like competition. Sure, it is fun to work toward a goal, and to measure your progress and effort against your own previous results (or, perhaps, others’, although that’s really sort of a yoga no-no).  It is exhausting to compete. It is often narrated negatively (Why can’t you balance today, you should be able to reach the floor with that hand, that other girl is doing it, why can’t you?) and it just drains the joy out of the moment-to-moment practice that yoga is intended to be. By releasing competition and comparison through a quiet, slow practice (often done in a dark room- I find it helps not to see what your neighbor is up to), you can access the practice, and the joy of moving and breathing in your body in a whole new way.

5. Let Go of Chronic Stress. Do you have any stress in your life? How about headache, heartburn, or a tight neck, back? In her classic volume, Relax and RenewJudith Lasater explains that, physiologically, our bodies have not changed much in the last few thousand years. Our lifestyles, however, have altered dramatically. We experience stress today in ways that our ancestors never would have imagined- and yet our bodies are reacting as though there were a tiger chasing us. When faced with stress (a missed deadline, a missed opportunity, a missed mortgage payment) our heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension are elevated, and “non-essential” systems (digestion, elimination, growth and repair!) are partially shut down. For some of us, this is an almost daily occurrence. Research shows that we can counteract the effects of chronic stress by relaxing deeply.

Still not sure? Listen, I get you. Sitting still for an hour, or more might sound like absolute torture to you. I struggled with the concept for some time- swore I could never do it. But I tried it, and after a few classes, the chatter in my mind started to subside. I felt the benefits of slowing down and letting go. I saw how my joints loosened and my postures opened. And I want this for you, too!

If you’re looking for more on Yin Yoga and its fascinating benefits, here’s a nice article by Paul Grilley that sums it up nicely. Or check out Bernie Clark’s amazing site over at YinYoga.com. 

Photo credit: myyogaonline / Foter