If variety is the spice of life, such is Restorative yoga in the plethora of yoga styles and offerings. It is a sweet dreamy practice of chilling out to soothe the senses and learning how to feel good in your body again.
Restorative yoga involves long passive stretching where we use slow deep breathing to anchor our bodies in relative stillness. We work on releasing physical tension and muscular engagement by gently opening up the body and entrusting ourselves to the support of the props and natural gravitational pull, thereby, calming the mind and body.
As Metro Manila traffic worsens each day, we’ve all seen an uptick in our agitation and frustration meters. Sitting long hours in arduous traffic could wreak havoc on your low back. So gather your favorite yoga props and give these Restorative Yoga poses a test drive for some low back loving and destressing of the mind. If you don’t have access to these props, you can modify and find things around your home (like firm pillows, folded bedspread, stacking books) that will give you support and comfort.
Layer two blankets unevenly before folding it over to create multiple levels. Lie facing down with the pelvis resting against the highest mound of the blanket, followed by the belly, ribs and chest in descending height. Gently clasp hands together to create a pillow to rest the forehead upon. Spread the elbows away from each other while relaxing the shoulders. Extend the legs with the tops of the feet down. Let the belly grow softer with every smooth inhale followed by long exhales staying for a good 5 minutes.
SUPPORTED PRONE TWIST
Set up the bolster with the 2 blocks underneath to support it at a reclining angle. Place a blanket for added cushioning for the head and neck.
With the legs bent together, bring the side hip next to the bolster. Sandwich a blanket between the thighs to keep the back of the pelvis wide and the knees supported. Start out sitting up tall, inhaling to lengthen the spine. And then using the exhale to twist at the waist turning the torso towards the bolster with the hands to the sides. Slowly walk the hands forward to drape the torso down on the bolster. Relax the arms and shoulders. Keep the chin away from the chest to prevent any slouching. Stay here for 5 minutes and repeat on the other side.
Twists can release the hardened back muscles that constantly tense up to uphold the spine. It can also nourish the digestive system by bringing in renewed energy and may improve bloodflow as you come out of the twists.
SUPPORTED CHILD’S POSE
Separate the knees wide apart and bring the big toes together. Take a breath to draw the navel in and on an exhale reach the hips back and down while lowering torso on a bolster. For tight ankles place a blanket to support the feet that struggle to roll down. To prevent a dip in the low back, place a folded blanket to provide belly support. For those with knee discomfort, insert a blanket under the knees for padding or slide a blanket between the knees and thighs to relieve pain from the bend. Turn the head one way and then alternately turn to the other. Stay here for 3-5 minutes.
This foundation set-up can take various forms to accommodate more comfort. One can continue the previous reclined bolster to lay upon if the hips can easily lower to the heels. Or lift the blocks on even height to create a flatter prop support. Another option is to open the chest and reach the arms behind to rest clasped hands on the sacrum.
LEGS UP THE WALL
Sit sideways on a bolster by the wall. Lower down on one side, pivot around to extend the legs against the wall to rest the sacrum on the bolster. Fasten a strap to join the legs together so as not to exert muscular effort in holding the legs up. For added grounding place a folded blanket on the feet. Stay here for a comfortable 10 minutes or longer.
This inversion helps counter fatigue and other compound effects of gravity on the legs as it helps reverse bloodflow. Loosen the strap, bend the legs and roll over to one side to come out of the pose.
SUPINE BOUND ANGLE POSE
Commonly known as Butterfly pose with the knees splayed out and soles of the feet joined together. Prop the back of the thighs against the bolster set at a slight incline, while the feet remain on the floor. Slowly lower down on the back with the neck and head softly supported by the blanket. Clasp hands by the lower belly with a blanket on top to provide some comfortable weight to soften the belly. When the inner thighs and outer hips start to fatigue, inhale to softly ground the sacrum, exhale to bring the soles of the feet down and allow the legs to slowly float back together. Gently extend the legs in a supported Savasana letting the arms spread away from the side body. This pose allows the inner thighs to stretch and the hips to open. Luxuriate in this pose for 10 minutes or more.
Rina Nakayama teaches Stress Free Gentle Flow, Restorative and kids yoga classes in Urban Ashram Yoga. She is also certified in Yin Yoga and Thai Yoga Massage. Her caring and nurturing nature has students coming back to her relaxing yet strength building classes.