What a delicious practice it was this past Tuesday.  Carmen invited me to join you in the first restorative pose and I felt so grounded from there on.  I thought about energy as I relaxed in the Therapeutic Spinal pose and how we can manage our energy using such practices like restorative and breathing.  What I was feeling prior to that magical pose, was a mind not at rest and full of whirling dervishes.

On this particular day of class, I was experiencing Prana or the life force energy of Vata.  Vata is one of three such Ayurvedic Doshas or constitutions of a person.  According to Ayurvedic philosophy, everything takes on the qualities and energies of our natural world.  These are the elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth.  So my mind was vacillating from thought to thought, like wind moving to and fro among the limbs of a tree. This essence of movement is Vata (light, airy, dry, mobile, …).

It is important to understand the flow of Prana.  Then to address when it is out of balance and finally decide what practices will bring it into balance.  Enjoy this image that I drew of the 5 Prana Vayus or pathways that energy can take in you.  Sometimes our energy is non-exsistent, we may feel lifeless.  Or other times like in class this week, we feel the energy moving fast and furious.  There may also be times that the energy is stuck and we are lethargic.  These vayus correspond to many of our biological imbalances and disease when not regulated.  This is also just another way of describing your own feeling of energy in your body, mind and soul.

In my state of anxiety, I needed a practice that would ground me and bring my energy downward. The restorative practice and the gentle guidance and energy of Carmen, provided that grounding.

Try these poses at home and notice your energy at the beginning of the practice and at the end. Which one for you was most grounding? Which one provided more upward energy? Which one did you feel below the navel or above?

The Poses
Therapeutic Spinal Strip (Heart Opener)

Props: 1 rolled up blanket, lengthwise, 1 blanket double-fold, neck pillow
Benefits: reinvigorates the spine bringing fresh blood and oxygen. With deep breath, can give the effect of a massage on the spine.

Roll a single-fold blanket keeping the roll more on the flatter side.  This becomes your spinal strip.  Lay this strip down on the floor and place a double-folded blanket at one end (Letter T).  Sacrum is on the double-folded blanket and carefully lay the spine and head down on rolled up blanket.  Use a neck pillow in cervical curve.  Arms relax by the sides, palms turned up.  A variation is to have knees together, feet wide apart.  Stay for about 5 -8 minutes.  A nice alternative to the Heart Bench. 

Sublime Side Lean

Props: bolster, 2 or 3 pillows or blankets
Benefits: Stretches the torso and provides a gentle twist which allows a release in tension in the lower back area.
Lie on right side of bolster with hip at the base of it.  Torso should rest on the stack.  Right arm should be under the head.  The left arm can reach over the head to increase the stretch.  Close your eyes and allow your body to relax and release any stress or tension. Slowly sit up and switch sides for the same amount of time.
Focus on your breath.  Breath into your right side allowing that gentle stretch to travel from the tip of your fingers down your lower spine.  Sense the left side of your body gently melting and surrendering to the ground beneath you.  All tension and stress being recycled by mother earth.  Sense the gentle letting go of your muscles and knowing that you are safe and supported.  Breath deep and exhale soft and long.

Nesting Pose
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

Create a big enough folded blanket to place between the knees to align the legs in Tadasana. Add a folded blanket to rest your top arm on. Recline on a side that is comfortable, resting 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”.