I was recruited to Guam as a VISTA volunteer in 1974 to serve as a Speech Therapist. I went local hire for the Special Education Department for the Government of Guam in 1976 and retired in 1999.
I began meditating and have been studying Yoga since 1975. Once I retired, I was certified in Yoga and have been teaching since then. I have also taken other Yoga certification trainings and workshops on an annual basis.
I went to a Yoga intensive workshop that Donna Farhi offered in 2005. That was the first time I would spend the majority of a Yoga class in restorative poses. It was also my introduction to Yoga Nidras, in which I inevitably fell sound asleep and would ‘snort’ myself and others to an awakened state.
I felt so rejuvenated and alive after those 3 days and knew I wanted to explore these ‘novel’ methods more. Soon after, I was inspired to take trainings in the field of Yoga Therapy. I now hold a 500 hour Integrative Yoga Therapy Certificate.
I absolutely LOVE Restorative Yoga. I personally find I do it more when I am not feeling well on a physical, emotional and/or spiritual level. It evidently is also a powerful tool to use with my students.
I was about to plan for a restorative class this past week and always felt there was a missing element to how I facilitated previous sessions. The students would be given as many props as I had available and I would demonstrate each pose first before they fixed up their props for the next pose. There was a degree of chatter amongst the students and extraneous movement during our transitions which didn’t make for a calm and organic flow to the sessions.
The books and DVD’s I had in my library were helpful to the degree of showing various restorative poses, but I knew something was missing. I then decided to Google Restorative Yoga and voila, Sara Duke’s website appeared and when reviewing it I knew that I found the missing link.
I also emailed Sara, who was receptive and generous with her valuable input and tips for planning my class.
I adopted her idea of the circuit restorative class. There were 8 students and 5 stations. There could be a max of 2 students per station. I had a sufficient number of props, but more would have been ideal. I had bolsters, blocks (cushy and hard), eye bags and one 10 lb. sandbag. I time-shared the sandbag on the low back for those in Supported Child Pose and on the feet for students who had their legs up the wall. One student reported that she got an adjustment from using the sandbag on her feet.
I heeded to Sara’s caution to plan which way I would want the rotation to go and then to stick with it to alleviate confusion on the teacher and students parts.
At the beginning of the session I explained the circuit course and demonstrated the poses and their variations for each one. There were photos and/or diagrams of the positions placed at each station.
I emphasized the importance of focusing on their natural breath, and moving quietly and slowly into and out of their poses. I also asked them to remain silent for the duration of their pose, unless they needed adjustments from me.
We then sat in a circle to get quiet within and centered. They were led through breath awareness, seated stretches, and set their intentions and/or affirmations for the session before beginning their practice.
They chose their first station and stayed in their pose for about 8 minutes. To indicate when their time was over, I used my singing bowl. They would then roll onto their sides and pause for a minute, I’d ring the bowl to indicate it was time to crawl or ‘butt walk’ their way to their next spot.
The class was small enough that I could help set up and/or readjust their positions. Sara had mentioned that some don’t want to say they’re not comfortable but their body language says differently. I offered to help one student get more comfortable, and she said she was a-ok, although I noticed she was still fidgeting in her pose. After the class she admitted that although a particular pose didn’t work for her, she still enjoyed the session. I noted the students who had target positions that didn’t work for them so next time I will have more alternatives for them.
While they were in Savasana I did a 15 minute Yoga Nidra narration.
It made a world of difference using this method, far more organized and fluid. I therefore will give two + thumbs up for the Restorative Circuit Method and to Sara for her generous, sharing nature and support.
CD’s used during session:
Shamanic Dream (Anugama)
Bija (Soothing Music and Mantras For Yoga and Meditation)
Liquid Mind (Balance)
Linda also shared what one of her students had to say. She writes:
Below is a letter one of my student’s emailed me regarding the session. (She has had a series of accidents during the last 5 years, resulting in shattering both heels, breaking her ankle, wrist and suffers from whiplash. She previously enjoyed long-distance cycling and was a Hot Yoga enthusiast. She recently began participating in my Gentle Yoga Classes.)
Throughout the rest of my day after class I felt flowing sensations at times throughout pressure points of my body. It was endorphins. I am sure it was felt by everyone in that class. It was a real gift, I had never experienced that in that way ever before.
Sara's note: Thank you Linda for sharing your story of teaching Restorative Yoga. I wish I could have been there for the class - especially for the Yoga Nidra narrative. I look forward to hearing about your future classes.
Also, I want to give credit to my teacher, Ann Maxwell, who introduced the Restorative Stations idea to me during my teacher training.