Over the weekend, I took my very first restorative class. I wouldn’t change my job for the world, but teaching has been tough on my body. Demonstrating poses (why does everyone want to see headstand?!?!), being on my feet all day, giving assists…not to mention trying to squeeze in my own practice–it all adds up. By the end of the week I’m hurting and I’m tired! So I thought I’d give restorative a try and see if I could press the reset button. Mind. Blown. I have no idea why I didn’t try this sooner, but I’m completely in love. By the end of the class, I felt like a new person. Well, actually I was a little out of it, in the best way possible. Had this been earlier in my practice, I don’t know that I would have been able to settle enough to enjoy the class. The 75 minute session consisted of maybe 6 postures held for extended periods of time. The poses are supported, and you are supposed to close your eyes and surrender to the experience. It’s really easy in a class like this to let your thoughts get the best of you, since you don’t have a teacher’s voice and the breath to focus on. I’ll admit in the beginning, the monkey mind was racing and I wasn’t sure how I’d like it. But once my body was supported and I let the thoughts come and go, the experience became meditative, and I enjoyed every second of it. I actually didn’t want the class to end! I definitely plan on making this a regular part of my practice and my teaching, and thought I’d share a few of my favorite poses here for you to try. You’ll need a bolster, block, strap, and at least 2 blankets. Make sure the environment in the room you’re practicing in is comfortable, as you’ll want to hold the poses for at least 5 minutes (though I was told they should be held for at least 20!)
Supported Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Grab your bolster and have a few folded blankets nearby. Take supported balasana (child’s pose) with your torso resting on the bolster and your arms extended straight in front of you. Take a few breaths here, and on an exhale, bend your elbows and press yourself up to downward facing dog, resting your head on the bolster. If your head doesn’t reach the bolster or this feels like a strain, pile a folded blanket or two under your head on top of the bolster.
Supported Prone Twist
Place your bolster long-ways on the mat and kneel next to it so that as you lay down, your left side would rest on the bolster. Line up the bottom edge of the bolster with your last rib. Bolsters are for supporting bone, while the fleshy part of your torso can comfortably suspend in air. Lay down and twist so that your belly and chest are resting on the bolster and your torso is supported from the bottom rib up to the head. The left side of your face should be resting on the bolster. Relax the arms down by your sides. Take this simple twist for a few minutes, and if it is comfortable, you can turn your head in the opposite direction to deepen the twist.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
You’ll need a bolster, strap, and blanket here. Grab your strap, unroll it completely, and wrap it around your waist. In a seated position, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together to a comfortable baddha konasana. Wrap the strap around the tops of both feet and secure it snugly so that there is one loop around your waist and feet. You want the strap to be secure enough that you feel a release in the lower back as you recline. Set the bolster up behind you so that as you lay down on it, face up, the bottom edge of the bolster lines up with your bottom ribs. Support the head with a folded blanket on top of the bolster. Let your arms gently fall out to either side, palms facing up.
This was my favorite of the day. Grab your bolster, strap, blanket(s)and block. Lift your legs and hips up onto the bolster (your feet will hang over the edge). Let the feet rest on a block. Wrap the strap snugly around both thighs (mid-thigh will do) so that the strap will support the legs as the feet fall out to either side. Lay back on your mat into a mini-backbend. You may be comfortable here, or you may wish to elevate the torso and head with folded blankets. Find a comfortable position, let the arms rest comfortably by your sides with the palms facing up.
Restorative Savasana (Corpse Pose)
This is a really a “whatever feels good” kind of set-up. Turn the bolster sideways so that your the backs of your knees rest on it as you lay back. Fold up blanket so that it supports the torso from the bottom ribs up, and another to support the head. You can go blanket crazy, with one for each hand and another over the eyes (eye pillows work here too, I have one at home). Often the extra weight of the blankets will feel settling. You can’t do much wrong here, so lay back, close the eyes, and enjoy!