Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leading a Restorative Class - Part 2

Offer a General Introduction to Restorative

Let students know:
  • Restorative should not hurt
  • Ask for help if you have discomfort
  • Use props to promote maximum ease
  • Expect that there might be emotional responses
  • Best clothing to wear – warm, cozy and stretchy
  • Contraindications
    • Degenerative bone disease: any pose that puts pressure on the spine
    • Pregnancy: modify poses after 3 months
    • No inversions: hiatal hernia, retinal problems, glaucoma, migraines, heart problems, neck problem, infection in the head, menstruation

Centering and Warm ups:
I lead a centering breath and then a few warm-ups like neck rolls, Sufi rolls, standing forward fold, etc – about 5-10 minutes before starting. It is important to let people move before they lay still – works out the jitters. Then I demonstrate the poses before we start.
Lesson plan coming up in Part 3.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Student Observation

One Student's Reaction to Restorative Class

I spoke with a student who had attended my open Restorative Yoga class last Friday. His usual practice tends more towards Astanga but he told me he had been sick and was looking for yoga postures or ideas that would restore his body, not wear him out.

I saw him last night and asked what he thought about Restorative. He said he really enjoyed it. I think he was a little surprised that laying around totally supported could feel so good and be so beneficial. He reported that while laying in Supported Side-Reclining Twist he suddenly felt an opening and his twist got deeper. He said usually he tends to push into poses and was surprised to feel that kind of an opening in his body.

I was greatly encouraged by his observation of what was going on in his body. I know quite often students (and teachers) tend to go for the push rather than allowing an opening when the body is ready. This "allowing" is a lovely benefit in the practice of Restorative Yoga.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Leading a Restorative Class - Part 1

Getting ready
Picking your Poses, Setting up Your Stations, and Figuring out Your Timing Before Class Starts
  • I like to offer 5 stations of 4 spots each (can accommodate 20 in class). That means I have to pick 5 poses before class and develop a class flow plan/map. For example, I don't want to offer 3 heart center openers in a row. I want the class to be balanced.
  • I include a variety of postures: forward folds, twists, heart center openers, elevated legs, etc. There are definitely a few favorite poses which I include almost every time, but I also try to include something new.
  • Setting up all the stations can take 30-60 minutes depending on what poses you pick. The more props you need, the more time it will take to set up and break down.
  • Display examples of postures with instructions for people to look at before class. I have made an 8½ X 11 flier for each pose with a picture of the pose and text describing how to get into it and how to get out of it. I post it at the station for people to view before class.
  • Each pose is held around 6-8 minutes with 1-2 minutes allocated on each end of the pose for students to transfer to another station and get themselves set up. I encourage people to crawl from station to station (the stations are very close together) instead of standing up between poses. Folks think crawling is funny so it brings some lightness to the class.
  • Remember that you will have to let people know the ½ way time-point for twists and other poses where each side of the body needs to experience the pose (even if it is just a reminder to turn the head).
Read more on leading a class by clicking here.

Savor Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga

Savor the deep relaxation of restorative postures by preparing for them carefully.

By Claudia Cummins - from Yoga Journal's website:

Let's face it: Some yoga poses taste a little bit sweeter than others. And if yoga were a smorgasbord, restorative postures would most definitely be at the dessert table. These soothing and well-supported poses offer us the opportunity to linger quietly for a few moments and savor the simple sweetness of life.

In an ideal world every asana would feel restorative. But those that fall into the special category of restorative poses have a particular ability to leave us nourished and well rested. These postures are usually deeply supported by blankets, blocks, or other props and are held for several minutes at a time.

Restorative practice can be intimidating to beginners—all those props! But just a few guiding tips will help you start a regular restorative practice of your own.

Start out with a few minutes of gentle movement before settling into a restorative pose or practice. A little stretching will warm the muscles and create space in the body to prepare it for relaxation. Movement will also give your body a chance to shed its restlessness and busy-ness before settling into a place of stillness.

Don't skimp on the props. Blocks, straps, blankets, balls, towels, chairs, walls, sandbags, eye bags, and pillows are all considered fair game when supporting yourself in these poses. The more fully your body is supported, the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be. So go ahead: Raid the linen closet—your body will thank you with profound sighs of relief.

Take the time to get comfortable on your props and make any necessary adjustments before you settle in. In restoratives the distance between heaven and hell can be as little as half an inch. A small adjustment to a blanket or a minor shift in the body's position can transform a moment of exasperated agony into pure rapture. Be creative and use your inner wisdom to guide you toward greater comfort, making any modifications you need.

Incorporate restoratives into your yoga practice in a balanced way. Peruse several yoga books—Judith Lasater's Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times is a great place to start. You might be inspired to include just one or two restorative postures in your daily practice. Or you may choose to devote one entire practice each week to restoratives.

Although they look peaceful, restoratives can be challenging for beginners. Just because the body rests quietly doesn't mean the mind will settle into stillness too. Be patient, and be prepared for days when every inch of you rebels.

In time and with practice, you will be rewarded with the ability to drop with ease into a place of deep contentment. This is what yoga is all about, after all: stilling our fidgety bodies and calming our rambling minds so that we may rest quietly in the present moment and see clearly the peace that resides within.

Claudia Cummins teaches yoga in Mansfield, Ohio. At the moment, her favorite pose is Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose).

Sara's note: I love that Claudia calls Restorative Yoga the dessert of all yoga. It sure feels that way to me and I've had many students express the same thing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What is the Point of Restorative Yoga?

Why Should I Do It?

In a chronically stressed state, quality of life and perhaps life itself is at risk. The body’s capacity to heal itself can be compromised, inhibiting recovery from injury or illness, or it may create new illness or injury, including high blood pressure, ulcers, back pain, immune dysfunction and depression.

The antidote to stress is relaxation. Relaxation is a state in which there is no movement, no effort, and the brain is quiet. Restorative yoga focuses on relaxation, renewal, effortlessness and ease. Blankets, bolsters, straps, and other props safely support the body in various postures which allows the body to move towards a state of balance. This practice soothes your nervous system, helps you quiet your mind and invites you to release deeply held tension.

Restorative poses cultivate the habit of attention. The mind should always focus on the breath. When you notice your mind wandering bring it back to the breath. You can also focus on where and how you hold tension. Then use the breath as a tool to release the tension. Breathe to the area of tension and on the exhale release the gripping. During these periods of deep relaxation you will be healed and nurtured from within.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why I Love Restorative Yoga

Mmmm Mmmm Good!

I Love Restorative yoga. It is calming yet gives you energy; it restores your mind, body and soul and it feels great! I first experienced Restorative yoga during my teacher training at Yoga North in Duluth, MN. My teacher, Ann Maxwell, set up 5 stations of Restorative poses. I think we had 2-2.5 hours for this specific training. The training weekends were awesome and brutal at the same time. We would meet for 3 long days (6 or 7 am to 9 0r 10 pm). I would end each day exhausted. But the day we learned Restorative, I went home invigorated. I was so happy and energized that I couldn't shut up about it. I knew right then that Restorative yoga was going to be a big part of both my personal practice and my teaching.