With winter weather depriving us of that much-needed Vitamin D3, and spring still a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to indulge in some much-needed restorative postures.
Restorative yoga aims at using props to position the body into soothing, relaxing, and blissful places. This benefits the body by improving circulation, opening tight hips and a stiff low back, and relaxing the shoulders, upper back, and neck.
Grab a block, strap, bolster or blanket, and your yoga mat. Then find a comfortable place (your living room will be just fine!), block out the noise and dim the lights. Have any lavender lying around? Essential oils are a great way to make these restorative yoga asanas even better.
1. Supported Supta Baddha Konasana
Place the bolster lengthwise in the center of your yoga mat. Place the blanket folded into thirds at the top of the bolster for head support, like a pillow. Take a seat in the center of your yoga mat with the base of the spine adjacent to the bolster. Bend your knees into your chest and allow them to fan open to the sides, opening your knees wide, soles of the feet together.
You may want to extend your heels further from your body depending on the mobility of the hips. You may also want to support your knees with a block or blanket if they do not relax easily. Gently lie back onto the bolster, supporting the back of your head and neck with the blanket. Hands can be placed by your sides, across the abdomen, or on the inner thighs. Close the eyes and take 10-15 breaths here. Repeat your mantra or affirmation. Allow the body to relax and enjoy the benefits of the posture.
2. Supine Spinal Twist
Lie on your back in the center of your yoga mat with your knees pulled into your chest. Twist from the waist until the knees fall to one side. Place your blanket (folded into thirds) or bolster (if not too wide) in between the knees, supporting the knees and shins. Allow the legs to relax.
Twist the upper body towards the midline, extending the arms out to a “T.” Roll your head to the opposite side, completing the spinal twist. If the opposite shoulder comes away from the mat, support it with another blanket. Close the eyes and take 10-15 breaths here, then change sides.
Repeat your mantra or affirmation. Allow the body to relax and enjoy the benefits of the posture.
3. Halasana with Props
Place the blanket folded into thirds at the top ⅓ of your yoga mat. Place the block at the head of your yoga mat. Take a seat in the center, and lie back until your shoulders and upper back rest on the blanket, back of the head on the mat.
Bring your legs up to the sky, then the hips, supporting your low back with your hands. Bring the legs over your head until they reach the block above you. If the toes press into the block, release your hands down by your sides. If the toes do not reach the block, consider stacking 2 blocks or a bolster and a block until the feet are supported.
Knees can be straight or softly bent. The throat will be compressed. Breath slowly and evenly in and out through the nose. Close the eyes and take 10-15 breaths. Repeat your mantra or affirmation. Allow the body to relax and enjoy the benefits of the posture.
4. Paschimottanasana with a Strap
Fold the blanket into thirds and place it in the center of your yoga mat. Take a seat on the blanket, making sure your sit bones are supported by the blanket. Extend the legs long in front of you and place the bolster on your thighs. Place the strap around the arches of both feet.
Relax the shoulders, flex the feet, and begin to pull on the strap to bring your chest towards the center of the room. If the back begins to round, hold the stretch before going deeper. Eventually, allow the spine to round as you rest the forehead on the bolster. You can turn your head to one side. Make yourself comfortable. Keep firm and gentle pressure on the strap. Alternatively, you can affix the strap around the arches of your feet and around the posterior hips in a loop, tightening the strap as you fold forward. Close the eyes and take 10-15 breaths. Repeat your mantra or affirmation. Allow the body to relax and enjoy the benefits of the posture.
5. Savasana with Legs Up the Wall (Eye Pillow Optional)
Place the short end of your yoga mat against the wall. Take a seat facing the wall, and begin to lie back, scooting your seat towards the wall until it touches. Extend the legs up the wall, resting your heels on the wall. If your low back tends to sway (lift away from the mat), place a blanket behind the low back.
Relax the body, allowing the toes to turn outwards and the hips to roll open. Relax the abdominals, shoulders, and upper back. Arms can be by your sides palms facing up, or resting on your abdomen. You have the option to use an eye pillow for deeper relaxation. You may also extend the legs out wide for a different experience in the posture.
Close the eyes and take 10-15 breaths. Repeat your mantra or affirmation. Allow the body to relax and enjoy the benefits of the posture.
These winter restorative asanas can be done at home, or added to the end of your yoga class at the studio. Taking time to rest, heal, and restore is good for the body and soul. Om Shanti.