What is in your Toolbox?

Restorative Yoga can certainly be a yummy practice leaving you feeling warm, loved and safe.  But there may be times as life unfolds in our bodies, our thoughts, and in our deeper recesses of our being, that emotions and past scars rise to the top which makes the practice  downright difficult.  Not so delicious.  That is when the real work begins.  Before we lay our foundation, we have to uncover what is in the ground. But with any work, we need tools to accomplish the job.  So what is in your yogic toolbox?  What do we all have to work with?

Breathing – we all do this but different techniques and awareness can support our many layers of our being, our moods, our physical sensations, our thoughts.  This blog and many other sources on-line and otherwise can provide information on different breathing techniques.  Begin with breath awareness, paying attention to the air moving in and out.  That in itself may support your presence in the present, good or bad.

Take Inventory – awareness again and body scans.  There are multiple ways to do this. Start from the ground up (the toes to the crown of the head) noticing how each body part feels.  Or observe which part of your body is heaviest on the floor or chair, which is lightest, or what part of your body is talking loudest and quietest.  

Relaxation Techniques – from physically contracting muscles to mentally thinking of each part of the body and relaxing.  To name a few techniques, we have:

  • Imagery – active or passive
  • Breath
  • Visualization
  • Reiki
  • Massage
  • Guided Meditation
  • Sound Vibrations
  • Use of Props like bolsters, blankets, sandbags, connection to the earth
  • Senses
Mantra – the repeated use of a word, words or sounds may keep you present, out of the distracting thoughts and sensations.

Movement – sometimes in a restorative pose, we may need to move or adjust the body to be more comfortable.  This is also a good time to add or take away any props.

It is necessary to add that not all poses are right for everyone.  That being said, there are so many variations of poses that the student can probably benefit from a different version of the same pose and be safe.  But if you do feel pain, it may be time to come out of the pose and either modify, or rest in a a position that suits you.

The Breath
Straw Breath
Benefits: increase range of motion of diaphragm, aid in continuous and smooth movement of the breath, support complete exhalation and removal of toxins in the body, calming practice.
Props: narrow opening straw or just pursing your lips.

Begin in a comfortable position, either seated, lying down or even standing supported.  Inhale through the nose in a natural relaxed way, exhale evenly and naturally hrough the straw or pursed lips. The head position is neutral with the straw facing forward not down. A variation is to take the straw out for the very last bits of air releasing and exhale through the nose but it takes some practice to do this evenly.  Try 4-5 rounds at the beginning, returning to your natural breath between rounds.  

The Poses

Bridge Pose

Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow, can also use bolster for more stretch

Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Expands the chest muscles, opens the lungs, balances the glands, quiets the nerves and releases tension in the nervous system, increases oxygen intake to the brain, can stimulate the immune system (thyroid)

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift butt and slide the stack of 2 or 4 blankets under the base of your spine. Find a comfortable position, then let the upper back release on the floor. Arms are relaxed at sides or resting on belly. Feel chest and belly rise with each breath. Roll gently to one side when done and inhale up to seated.

Childs Pose Variation

Version with chair

Props: bolster, one blocks, 2-3 blankets, neck roll for forehead

Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release. Gently lengthens the legs.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place bolster on the mat lengthwise and lay a blanket over it. Make a smaller roll for the ankles and place at the other end of the mat. Also place a block at top end with a neck roll or eye pillow on top. Begin on all fours and lower  your upper body onto the bolster. Settle the tops of the ankles on the smaller roll and adjust the body so that the tops of the thighs rest on the edge of the bolster.  Lay the forehead on the cushioned block and place the arms to the side, shoulders dropping from the ears.  Soften your jaw and let the body sink into the supports and the floor. 

Nesting Pose

Version with one straight leg

Props: blankets, bolster

Benefits; Nurturing, sense of security, well-supported pose to regulate the nervous system, good for when you are feeling anxious, keeps body in alignment, supportive for the spine, hips, shoulders, head.  Allows for optimal healing and sleeping position. nurturing, sense of security, optimal for sleeping.

Choose a side of the body that you are comfortable lying on. Create a big enough folded blanket(s) or bolster to place between the knees to align the legs in Tadasana. Add a folded blanket to rest your top arm on. Rest your head on a blanket. A neck roll can go under the ankles for support.  Bolster can rest along spine for further support and grounding. Finally, cover yourself with a blanket from head to toes.  Sink down with each long exhalation.  Mantra to accompany pose “I am safe, I am supported”.