So glad that you could join us on this incredible journey of a restorative yoga practice. I hope that your first class was one that sticks with you for awhile. This is your site to find the poses from class, the breathwork, information on sankalpa and much more as we journey on. Begin to incorporate a pose into each and every day taking even as little as 5 minutes a day. What a difference true “downtime” makes.
Legs on Chair Pose
Props: chair, 2-3 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: Sandbag, Webkinz stuffed animals
Benefits: relaxes the muscles of the lower back, legs, refreshes the legs, relaxes the muscles and organs of the abdomen. Blanket on belly or legs.
Place a blanket on chair so you don’t feel the hard surface. If you need to elevate the body, you can place a triple fold blanket in front of chair, then place your hips on blanket to one side, swing the legs up onto the seat of the chair as you lower your upper body onto the mat or floor. Use a neck roll to support cervical spine. Place a blanket or sandbag on legs to ground you in the pose. Arms release to the sides with palms turned up. Use an eye pillow to shut out any light for ultimate relaxation. An eye pillow or some type of weighted object (I’ve used stuffed animals) can be placed in open palms to move and free up energy. Stay for up to 10 minutes. Your beginning practice may consist of only 5 minutes. Feel the legs drain, the stress melt away.
Supported Lumbar Stretch
Props: Rolled up blanket, eye pillow
Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Lengthens lumbar spine, releases tension in lower back.
Roll one blanket thick enough to fit comfortably in your lumbar curve, resting at your waist not your sacrum (so right behind the navel). Test this out by laying down on it. Can lay on any extra blanket. Legs can be straight or bent. If bent, allow knees to fall into each other, feet outward. Arms to the side. Belly should not be lifted. Lay here for 5 to 7 minutes or come out when you feel ready. Bring knees to chest and windshield wipe them side to side to release.
Supported Childs Pose
Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets
Benefits: gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind. Gives a sense of security.
Place the two blocks under bolster, height depends on your comfort, equidistant from each other. If more comfortable, do not use blocks under the bolster. Lay a s-fold or triple-fold blanket on top of the bolster. Legs straddle the bolster at one end. Inhale to lengthen body over the bolster, head rests on the props. Additional blankets may be used behind the knees, at ankles, laying on the lower back, under knees, between pelvic area and props. See what is comfortable for you and adjust. Feel the support of the props and release muscular tension especially along the sacrum and lower back. Stay here for 10 minutes, slowly turning head to other side when needed.
Mountain Brook Pose for Savasana
Props: bolster, 2-3 blankets, block, neck roll, eye pillow
Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.
Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft one!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing. It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.
On your mat, place the bolster will your knees will be, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), a block for the feet or the heels can come to the floor and a neck roll for the cervical spine. Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up. If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel. Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes. Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves. Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket. Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.
Find a comfortable seated position or laying down. Focus in on your breath, becoming aware of its pattern before beginning this breath. Make a conscious effort to inhale and exhale for the same count (2 to 3). Find a calm, steady awareness of the breath, the feel, the temperature, the way it enters and exits the body. Practice this breath anywhere. Continue this for 2 to 3 minutes.
Resolve to Evolve
Give your New Year’s resolutions a yogic twist—set an intention and infuse the new year with positive change.
By Catherine Guthrie
A new year’s resolution is a noteworthy concept—start off the year with a change for the better. So how did it devolve into a subconscious exercise in self-loathing? Lose 10 pounds! (Message to self: You’re fat.) Stop drinking caffeine! (You’re unhealthy.) Call Mom and Dad once a week! (You’re ungrateful.) Why not celebrate this new year by trading in your tired (and probably familiar) resolutions for a sankalpa
POSITIVE POWER A Sanskrit word, sankalpa means “will, purpose, or determination.” To make a sankalpa is to set an intention—it’s like a New Year’s resolution with a yogic twist. While a resolution often zeros in on a perceived negative aspect of ourselves (as in, “I want to lose weight, so no more chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese”), a sankalpa explores what’s behind the thought or feeling (“I crave chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese when I’m feeling stressed or sad. I will set an intention to become conscious of this craving and allow my feelings to arise and pass, rather than fill up on fats”).
EFFORT COUNTS A sankalpa also praises the nobility of the effort rather than focusing on what you are doing wrong. “New Year’s resolutions leave me feeling guilty and mad at myself for not keeping them,” says Wendy McClellan, a yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. So, last year, in a conscious effort to reject the resolution rut, she taught a special New Year’s Eve yoga class and encouraged students to look back and let go. Her intention, or sankalpa? To open her heart to new possibilities. “An intention has much more of a global sense than a resolution,” she says. “It helps me be softer with myself.” With a sankalpa, the self-loathing that comes from dwelling on past transgressions can begin to dissolve. In its place is an exercise in effort and surrender—create an intention and open yourself to the universe.
LOOK INWARD For several days, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Mull over your typical resolutions. How do they make you feel? Anxious? Unsettled? Incomplete? Now contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year’s journey more joyful and worthwhile?
REPHRASE IT Create a short sentence or phrase for your sankalpa. Be careful not to set limitations based on fear. For example, instead of “May life bring me only happiness and joy this year” consider “May I be happy and open to what life brings me.”
BE FIRM BUT FAIR Change doesn’t happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your sankalpa, don’t berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve—it’s a good idea to incorporate your sankalpa into yoru daily routine. Use it as a mantra during pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep. —C.G
Catherine Guthrie is a writer and yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to Yoga Journal.