That blustery breeze in the air means that wintertime is around the corner. You can finally rock your favorite holiday sweater, sip on some warm cider, and slow things down. We can follow nature's lead and just like the grizzly bear take our active yoga practice into hibernation.
In most yoga classes, sustaining a yoga pose for 5-10 breaths is the norm, however in a truly Restorative yoga session students stay put for 5-20 minutes per pose. The benefits are endless! For starters, the mind will have greater clarity, the breath will deepen and send your whole body into a restful state that practitioners boast is more healing than sleep!
Are you ready to settle in for a super chilled Restorative sequence for the chilly season? Make sure you have 1 or 2 bolsters or firm pillows, 3 blankets, your cushiest yoga mat and an eye pillow.
Let's begin with the top 5 restorative yoga poses:
1. Side Lying "Spooning" Pose
Begin by folding one blanket twice lengthwise and place it along the width of the short end of your mat for a pillow. Second, fold another blanket in half just once and lie it down mid-mat to create a platform for your torso and rib cage. The placement of these blankets will ensure that your neck and spine maintain a neutral position.
Finally, have your bolster handy, and settle down on your right side, propping your left leg on the bolster while keeping the other leg straight. You can slide your right arm underneath you and rest your left arm at your side.
Feel free to gently explore movements with your arms to deepen your level of relaxation. Set a timer and roll over to the left sides at the half way point.
2. Queen's Pose
First, make a T formation with your 2 blocks at the back of your mat. This provides a stable set-up to protect your neck. Put your bolster down lengthwise, resting the upper portion against the blocks. Next, sit down at the base of your bolster making sure to keep your hips grounded, and place the soles of your feet together in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose).
Roll up your blankets and place one on the outside of each thigh. Finally, recline back keeping your arms extended out at your sides.
3. Surf Board Pose
Caution: This is a prone pose and not appropriate for pregnant women.
Fold your blankets in half lengthwise, and stack them so they cover at least half of your mat. Roll up a third blanket and place it widthwise at the back of your mat.
Lie face down on the blankets so only your upper to mid thigh is off of the blankets. Rest the top of your ankle on the rolled up blanket to keep pressure off of your low back. Have your hands cactus style with your palms facing down.
Rest your right ear on the mat and set a timer so mid way through you can switch to the left side, keeping your neck flexibility equally balanced.
4. Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose
Begin sitting sideways so you can scoot your hips close to the wall. Once you feel connected to the wall, roll onto your back, place both feet on the wall for support, and lift your pelvis off of the floor so you can set your bolster underneath your mid to lower back towards the top part of the pelvis.
Keep in mind, the bolster will keep your hips elevated from the floor. Extend your arms wide, keeping your palms up to maximize your heart opening stretch.
5. Supported Deep Relaxation Pose
Place a bolster underneath the spine, lengthwise, keeping the hips firmly grounded on the mat and legs straight. Fold a blanket on top of the bolster to create a supportive pillow for the neck.
Variation: If you feel discomfort in the lower back with the above set up, try lying flat with the bolster beneath your knees. Place one folded blanket underneath your head and a second blanket on the belly. Of course, don't forget your eye pillow!
In a Restorative practice, your comfort is key! Detach yourself from striving to get anywhere or do anything in these poses. If you really need a goal, make it one of finding complete and utter bliss while staying completely connected to a mindful breath.
When you learn to simply exist in this state of being not only will you heal and rejuvenate your mind and body, but you will cultivate a deeper love for yourself and appreciation for all the divine subtleties this practice and life offers you in each passing moment. Enjoy!