Thursday, October 31, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 14

I think today's version of Bound Angle Pose is my favorite. It requires minimal propping but feels very luxurious. All you need are two medium-thick or thick blankets (three if you want one more to cover up with). I call it:

Blanket-foot Bound Angle

Setting up for the pose:
Roll one of your blankets into a small bolster and place it behind you lengthwise. It should be long enough to support your whole torso and your head when you lay back on it. The blanket roll should be right up against your sacrum and when you lay on it your head should not be hanging off the end.

Fold your second blanket into a hotdog fold (fold in half lengthwise) and lay it down at the end of your mat by your feet (perpendicular to your mat).

Coming into the pose:
Sit in front of your bolster-rolled blanket with bent knees and your feet on your hotdog folded blanket. Fold the "hotdog folded" blanket over your feet making a "foot sandwich." (Now your blanket is folded twice, lengthwise, with your feet inside).

Pull the ends of your foot blanket toward you, tucking the feet in snugly.

Lay down on your bolster-rolled blanket and get comfortable. Your behind should be on the floor but the rest of your back and your head should be on the blanket roll. Let your knees fall open to the sides, tucking the ends of your "foot sandwich" blanket under your knees and/or hips to support the bound angle opening.

While in the pose:
You can experiment with what feels the best to you. If your head is tipped way back or you feel unsupported in the neck, place a folded blanket under the head and neck - not so thick that your head tips forward. Your head should be level with the body or slightly tipped back.

If your inner thighs feel too stretched, wad up your support blanket a little more and give your knees more height.

Send your arms out to the sides, palms up to encourage the heart center to open. If you feel too much pulling across the chest or through the arms, put a folded towel or blanket under each lower arm, supporting all the way to the fingertips.

If any other place in your body feels uncomfortable or unsupported, experiment with more props until you feel at ease.

Keep breathing, keep observing the pose in your body, and allow the body to open at its own rate. Commit to the stillness but do allow yourself to adjust your props and your body as you settle deeper in.

Coming out of the pose:
To come out, you can either help the knees come back together or you can send your legs straight out to stretch. Either way, roll to one side to rest before coming back to seated. A nice follow-up pose is a Supported Side Reclining Twist.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 13

So our last two days we were folding forward. Now let's start to lay back. Today's Bound Angle Pose requires lots of props so get out all of your pillows, a yoga belt if you have one, and anything else you think you might need to get comfortable.
Enjoy Supported Reclining Bound Angle

(Just about) Everyone's Favorite Pose
 Supported Reclining Bound Angle
Setting up for the pose:
Set up a big pillow pile and practice laying on it a few times to get the angles just right. You should have support under your lumbar spine, blocks/pillows ready to support your knees, a yoga belt, and enough of a pillow that your head does not tilt backward but not so much that you are cranking your head forward either. Below is a basic set-up for Supported Reclining Bound Angle, used as a starting point when I teach Restorative Yoga at Yoga North):

Set-up for Reclining Bound Angle

To come into the pose:
Sit on the floor in Bound Angle pose (souls together and drawn in towards the body, knees out to the sides). Fix a belt/strap loosely around your waist, stretch it to the inside of the thighs and then wrap it around the back side of the feet/ankles (as shown). Lay back on your bolster/pillow pile. Allow your knees to open out to the sides, resting them on bolsters, blocks or blankets for comfort. Draw your feet in closer to the body by tightening the belt as much as is comfortable. Let the arms rest out at your sides, palms facing up. There should be no strain on the shoulders or neck from the arms pulling down towards the floor. Support the arms with blocks, blankets or pillows as needed. Close the eyes and try to keep your attention on watching the breath. Stay as long as you like.

Here's an example from Yoga Journal of a super luxurious Reclining Bound Angle. 

To come out of the pose:
Loosen the belt, remove any props you have stacked on the body, bring the knees together, possibly roll to one side and/or sit up slowly.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 12

If yesterday's Bound Angle Pose did not provide enough feedback in your body, try going a bit deeper today in this version:
Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold ~ Baddha Konasana

To come into the pose:
Sit on the floor on your bum and settle into Bound Angle pose - soles of the feet together while the knees drop out to each side. Feet can be as close to or as far away from the body as is needed for comfort. Sit on a foam yoga wedge or a blanket (or two) to give a lift to your sit bones and help straighten your lower back. Position blocks or blankets under your knees on each side if needed. Stack up pillows and/or blankets in your lap (on top of your feet) and then gently fold yourself forward, resting your arms and head on your stack of pillows/blankets. Settle yourself in and stay as long as you are comfortable.

To come out of the pose:
Gently straighten the spine, push the pillows away from you, bring the knees together, and ease yourself to your next pose or toward getting up.

Sara's note: I offer this pose as an alternative for Supported Child's Pose if a student has had knee surgery or just cannot find comfort in Support Child's or Supported Puppy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 11

I think I will explore Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana) this week. I have 4 different supported options and I'll post one each day. For today:  

Semi-Upright, Supported Bound Angle Fold

To come into the pose: 
Sit on the floor in front of a chair in Bound Angle Pose - soles of the feet together while the knees drop out to each side. Feet can be as close to or as far away from the body as is needed for comfort. Sit on a wedge or a blanket to give a lift to your sit bones which allows your pelvis to tilt forward into a forward fold. Position blocks or blankets under your knees on each side if needed. Rest the arms and head on the chair's seat or add a block to the chair's seat in order to forward fold with comfort.

To come out of the pose: 
Gently roll your spine up, push the chair away from you, bring the knees together, and ease yourself to your next pose or toward getting up.

Sara's note: This version of Bound Angle is a supportive option for folks who have a hard time forward folding in Bound Angle without props. Using a wedge or a blanket under the sit bones will help lengthen the spine and using a chair to lean toward will offer a nice amount of height to allow a gentler opening. Resting the forehead on the block on top of the chair (as shown) decreases the pressure of the forward fold even more by creating enough height to keep your body long and aligned. Adding blocks or pillows on each side, under the outer thighs/knees, creates even more ease.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 10

Supta Padangusthasana, or Hand to Big Toe Pose, is good for folks who need a little more feedback from their body than a regular restorative pose provides. It is not exactly active, but the inner thigh stretch is noticeable. Just like in Legs-up-the-Wall Pose, all you need is yourself and a wall. 

Here's how this pose is most often practiced: at our mats using a belt or if we are especially flexible, our first 2 fingers wrapped around the big toe - the leg often comes out to the side. This Yoga Journal image shows the standard pose using a belt:

Here's how to set up to practice for relaxation:  use the wall for support instead of the belt. Lay on your back on the floor at about a 45 degree angle from the wall (as seen here):

The leg closest to the wall is bent at the knee and the leg farther from the wall is extended with the foot resting on the wall. Check your alignment here. Your extended leg should be in the same line as your body, it should not be at any sort of angle. Get comfortable here: perhaps a lumbar support or a small pillow under the neck.

Coming into the pose:
Raise the bent leg and extend it up the wall. Then let it fall open towards the floor until you are getting a good stretch in the inner thigh and maybe a little bit in the hamstrings (as seen here).

You may have to adjust your distance and angle from the wall to get the optimal stretch for your body. Try making your angle to the wall smaller (move your body closer to the wall) if you are more flexible or make the angle greater if you are less flexible. Keep your legs active but not rigid. Try to keep your pelvis from shifting or rocking to accommodate the stretch. Only go as far as you can go in your true range of motion (no compensation). Stay here as long as you are comfortable.

Switching sides:
Bring your leg which is up the wall back in towards the body, bend the leg which is on the floor and put both feet on the wall. From here you can walk your feet along the wall, turning your body around to the other side. Set yourself up here being mindful of support and alignment. Stay on this side for an equal amount of time as you spent on the other side.

Getting out of the pose:
Bring both legs in towards the body, bending the knees and hugging the legs into the chest. Roll to one side, rest for a few breaths, then gently push yourself back up to an easy seated position.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 9

After practicing our own sequence the other day, I thought we might enjoy a video guided practice today. Here is a link to Day 7 of Yoga Journal's Strong Core Challenge: Rest and Rejuvenate. It's a restorative practice, guided by Scott Blossom. I quite enjoyed it although I felt a little rushed. I think it's about 35 minutes. If guided video isn't your thing, practice something you have really liked from the past week.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 25, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 8

Let's round out our week with another guided relaxation practice. I'm borrowing this from a previous 30 day challenge: the 30 Day Meditation Challenge. If you participated in that you might remember this practice.

Here's the link to the guided practice: Deep Relaxation with Gong.

This is Yoga North's gong:
the very one you hear in the recording.

This was recorded live during my Yin Yoga class on my iPhone and the audio quality is only so-so. Parts are fairly quiet (and other parts loud) and there are background noises too but maybe that will help you feel like you are in class, meditating with the group. My students were all in Savasana but you can choose to sit up or lay down to start.

I think you can just click on the link to download, but if that doesn't work try right-clicking and then choose "save link as" in order to download this file and listen on your computer, iPod, or mp3 player. This file is 12 minutes, 10 seconds and about 6 Megs.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 7

Let's combine the poses from the last week into a slightly longer sequence. You can arrange your sequence how you like it. Perhaps Side Seated Twist - Child Pose - Side Seated Twist, or Child's Pose - Side Seated Twist - Side Seated Twist - Child's Pose, or add in Legs-on-a-Chair or Legs-up-the-Wall at the end. Or some other pose combo of your choice. I'll post a few picture sequences here and you pick your favorite or make up your own.

1) Twist-Child's-Twist

Just make sure to turn the other direction for the 2nd 1/2 of your twist.

2) Legs-up-the-Wall + Child's


3) Twist + Child's + Legs-on-a-Chair 

Just make sure to turn the other direction for the 2nd 1/2 of your twist.


4) Make up your own sequence and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 6

Let's help out insides refresh today with a Supported Side-Seated Reclining Twist.

Setting up:
Get yourself a bunch of blankets or pillows and stack them up neatly into a lengthwise pile. As long as your props are of a length equal to or greater than your torso, you are set.

Coming into the pose:
Sit on your shins on the floor with a bolster (or pillow pile) at your side (next to one thigh). The bolster should extend long-ways away from the body. Let your seat slide off of your legs towards your bolster / pillows so that you are seated with your knees bent and your feet are slightly away from your body, off to one side.

Turn the torso so the belly is facing the bolster, place one hand on either side of the bolster, lengthen the spine, then start to lay the body down on the bolster for a side-reclining, supported twist. Head can rest facing either side. Arms can rest in a comfortable position.

For full support make sure that the bolster / blankets /pillows are right up against your thigh before you lay down. Height of your bolster is determined by length of torso. For example, a more petite person may only need 2 folded blankets or pillows, whereas a longer waisted person might need 3-4 folded blankets and possibly an extra one to raise their head.

Stay in this pose as long as it is comfortable for you. Try to take this pose on each side for about the same length of time.

Switching sides and/ or exiting the pose:
To come out or change sides, push the palms against the floor to gently raise the torso up off of the bolster, unwind slowly, and take a few breaths before switching sides or moving to a new pose. I like to swing my knees in front of me to come to the other side, but some of my students sit on their butt and swing their legs all the way around instead. Either way is fine.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 5

I think I'll bring us back to some basic poses. One of the most nourishing and comforting poses we can do is called Child's Pose. When propped correctly, this pose can be maintained for a long time without knee or ankle discomfort. It is also super snuggly.

Enjoy Supported Child’s Pose

Coming into Child's Pose:
Sit on your shins, knees spread wide around the bolster/pillow-pile in front of you. Lay forward in Child’s Pose resting the body onto the bolster. Arms can rest forward or behind, the head should take equal time being turned to each side. Make sure to have enough support under the belly. You don't want any strain in your back.

Add props as needed:
  • Discomfort in the ankles? Try a small blanket or pillow under the fronts of the ankles.
  • Discomfort in the knees? Put a pillow or blanket between the calves and the backs of the thighs or add a thick cushion under the bum. Adding height under the behind may necessitate adding height under the body too.
  • Discomfort in the back? Raise the height of your bolster pile.
In Restorative the difference between heaven and not-heaven can be as little as using ½ an inch more propping.  Check out all the props being used in this Yoga Journal image:

Nice! I like how her arms can rest under her body bolster.

If you just can't do Supported Child's Pose you could try out Supported Puppy Pose instead:

Click here for specific instructions on getting into and out of Supported Puppy Pose.

To come out of Child's pose:
Place the hands on either side of the bolster pile to support the torso and gently roll up. Take a few breaths before moving on.

Monday, October 21, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 4

I know Mondays can be busy with a lot of people going back to work so here's a link to nice guided relaxation and breath practice you can do sitting at your desk. This was suggested to me by Vickie Pashion who joined the 30 day practice on FB.Thanks, Vickie!

Follow this link to listen to this practice directly on YouTube:

This six minute practice, published on Oct 11, 2013, is from Carol Krucoff. For more information visit her at

Sunday, October 20, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 3

OK, it's Sunday. Should we make our practice a bit more meditative? Yes, I think so. To this end I am linking us to a FREE Yoga Nidra (Guided Deep Relaxation) practice (13m8s) by Richard Miller, founder of iRest Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Journal offers a free Yoga Nidra Practice by Richard Miller. YJ says,

Yoga nidra is the practice of conscious deep sleep. It's extremely effective for reducing anxiety and stress, and for facilitating deep relaxation. Practice this yourself with this 13-minute audio recording, and then share it with your class.

I would recommend setting yourself up in Supported Savasana to listen to this practice (as shown below).

For more information about Yoga Nidra and Deep Relaxation click here.
For more information about iRest Yoga Nidra click here.
For more information about Richard Miller, founder of iRest, click here.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 2

We practiced Legs-on-a-Chair yesterday. I thought I'd "ramp it up" a little today and go for Legs-up-the-Wall. This one is nice because it is a bit more of an inversion and can help reduce swelling in the legs. For me though, often my feet fall asleep so I end up sliding my legs down the wall into a Supported Bound Angle. Here's a few more ideas to make it your own.

Legs up the Wall Pose ~ Viparita Karani

Legs up the wall pose is a great pose to do if you don't have any props. All you need is a wall. It can be a little tricky to come in to but once you get the hang of it you'll be hanging around upside down all the time.

Getting into the pose:

Here's the easy part - Sit down on the floor with one hip pressed right up against the wall.
Here's the tricky part - As you start to lay back, you must also swing your body around so your bottom is towards the wall. When you are turned tail to the wall, start to extend your legs up the wall.

Settling into the pose:
If you cannot straighten your legs or if your tail is curling up, you are too close to the wall. Push yourself back a little. Now your legs won't be straight up, they will be more at a slant, but that's ok. Let yourself soften here. Watch your breath. Let the belly rise and fall naturally with the breath. Try to maintain a neutral spine. If you notice your low back pressing firmly against the floor you may need to back off the the wall a little bit more or use a small bolster to keep the natural curve of the spine. Let the arms rest out to the sides, palms up. Stay here for as long as you are comfortable.

Getting out of the pose:
Bend your knees, roll to one side, take a few breaths, then gently push yourself back up to a seated position.

More Options:

 Legs up the Wall with a small supported back bend / lumbar spine opener.

 For directions on adding the lumbar roll visit this blog post:

 Legs up the Wall Pose + Hip Stretch

 For directions on adding the hip stretch visit this blog post:


Friday, October 18, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 1

Let's start out easy. This is one of my favorite, stand-alone, restorative poses. It can be done every day, any time, whenever you feel like it. For 5 minutes or longer, this pose will refresh you.

Legs on a Chair

OK - Legs on a Chair sounds silly, I know. But it is actually quite delicious and easy to do. Plus you can do it at work, home, or on the road. All you need is yourself, the floor, and a chair, couch, or some other raised surface.

Setting up without additional props:
Sit down in front of a chair or couch with the seat of the chair/couch towards you. Sit with one hip facing your prop. As you start to lay back, you must also swing your legs up and your body around so your bottom is towards the chair. When you are turned tail to the chair, settle your legs onto the chair's seat, making sure they are completely supported from the backs of the knees down to the feet.

It's best if there is no "drag" on your body - i.e. the chair/couch is not taller or shorter than the natural length of your legs from the backs of your knees to the floor (when you are laying on your back). Try a couple different chairs and couches until you find one that is the right height for your body.

Setting up with additional props:
Start the same as above but add a small lumbar support, an eye pillow and sandbag (or big bag of rice) to lay over your stomach and lower ribs.

Settling in:
Lay here as long as you are comfortable. Close your eyes, give your mind the job of watching your breath, and commit to the stillness.

Coming out of the pose:
Bring awareness back to the body, remove the eye pillow, remove the sandbag, draw the legs into the body and roll to one side. Linger on your side for a few breaths then slowly push yourself up to seated.

This is a great thing to do as soon as you come home from work, after a walk, as a short break at the office, in a hotel room if you are travelling, or any other time you want.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Free Home Study

I'm interested in renewing my Restorative Yoga home practice. It's been a very busy summer: selling and buying a house, building the new place out, losing our dog, traveling to France, starting a new book project...

Anyway, I do best at keeping myself to the task if I make a public announcement and invite others to join me. So here's my idea:

30 Days of Restorative Practice

It can be restorative poses, guided relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, therapeutic yoga, soma yoga, etc.

My idea is to start on Friday, October 18th and finish on Saturday, November 16th which is International Restorative Yoga Day. I don't have a set amount of time per day that I will hold myself to. I am imagining anywhere from as little as 5 minutes to as much as 60 minutes per relaxation session.

I'd like to invite anyone and everyone to join me in this challenge. You relax & restore in your house, I'll relax & restore in my house, and we'll meet up here and on Facebook to share our experiences and support each other. Anybody can do this even if you've never done yoga before.

Here's how:

1) Follow this blog: You can navigate to the site each day or you can sign up on the side bar to get each post as an email to make it really easy. (See where it says "Follow by Email"? Sign up there.)
2) Follow on Facebook: I've created an event which you can "join." By joining, you should get updates in your Facebook newsfeed.

Either way, I will post a link to a restorative idea each day. You can use that idea in your practice or you can do your own favorite thing. The main thing is that we are each making a commitment to slow down, nourish ourselves, practice mindfulness, and de-stress for 30 days in a row.

Looking forward to relaxing with you. Namaste ~ Sara