Monday, March 30, 2009

Supported Reclining Bound Angle ~ Supta Baddha Konasana

 Supported Reclining Bound Angle
Enjoy Supported Reclining Bound Angle

Everyone's Favorite Pose

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. Lay back on the floor or on a 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.

To come out:
Loosen the belt, bring the knees together, roll to one side and sit up slowly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Therapeutic / Restorative Yoga Help

Can Restorative Yoga help me with my shoulder issues?

Question: I have damaged nerves in my left scapula and a frozen left shoulder, and because of the imbalance I am getting pain in my right shoulder also. Could you suggest a restorative pose that would gently stretch my shoulders out?

Answer: Sometimes in class I offer a pose based on the therapeutic work of Susi Hately Aldous (see a link to her Therapeutic Shoulders and Hips book below). We have firm foam strips at the studio but you can make do with a rolled up mat, a tightly rolled towel, or even a swim noodle.

Here's what you do: Roll up your mat (towel) tightly. Lay it lengthwise on the floor behind you and then lay down on it. The bottom of the mat/roll should be at about T7 or T8. If you don't know what I mean by this, here is how to tell. Place your finger tips on your breast bone then slide them down to where your body becomes soft just below the breast bone. The rolled up mat should be just opposite that soft spot where your finger tips are resting and the top should be sticking straight up from the back of your head. Keep one hand on the soft spot just below the breast bone and feel for the mat placement behind you with your other hand.

Now, you can just lay there if you want (this is what we do in Restorative class) or you can do some movement with your shoulders (this is what we do in Hatha class). Raising the arms to point at the ceiling (thumbtips touch so the arms move at the same rate), lifting the shoulders towards the ceiling and then letting them settle back towards the floor so they hug the mat can help relieve tension in the back and shoulders. Repeat 5-10 times slowly, moving with the breath.

Don't stay too long on the rolled up mat. If you are really frozen up it might be painful. Or in my case - I'm too mobile and I ended up getting misaligned (couple of ribs) by staying too long. Also, if you are uncomfortable in the low back or sacrum, place a folded blanket under your bum and keep your knees bent.

Check out this link if you are interested in exploring Therapeutic Yoga for the shoulders or hips: Therapeutic Yoga for the Shoulders and Hips

Check out Laying on the Foam Strip to view images and other ideas for relieving shoulder pain.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Comments on Open Class

Regarding class on March 20th, 2009...

Hello to the folks who participated in the open Restorative Yoga class at Yoga North last night (March 20th). I appreciate your participation and comments. Please feel free to offer comments, suggestions, ah-ha's, and/or questions by clicking on the "comments" link at the bottom of this post.

Thanks for trying out the Wall Hang Forward Fold. An idea I came up with at the end of class to make the Wall Hang Forward Fold more restorative is to (before you fold) place a block between the inner thighs and squeeze gently. For more support, wrap a belt around the outer thighs and press gently into the belt. If you can do both at once you will activate the adductors and the abductors (inner and outer thigh muscles) which will support you in your forward fold. Keep the block and belt in place during the forward fold.

A few people commented that once a month is not often enough for Restorative Yoga. I have been thinking about offering a weekly class or maybe a workshop or series of workshops. These would probably be registration classes instead of open classes but I would keep offering the once a month open class too. I haven't fully developed this idea and I am open to your comments and suggestions.

A question came up last night about more difficult poses than we usually do in the open class. There is interest in inversions and back bends. I would be happy to teach this but not in the open class. The set up for more difficult postures can be complicated and time consuming. This is something that I think would be a good fit for a workshop or smaller registration class.

One last comment I want to address: "I wasn't sure what to do in the forward fold. I thought once I was in a pose I should stay there but I kept having to move." I should have made it more clear at the beginning of class that in both the Wall Hang Forward Fold and in Hand to Big Toe at the wall you will find that your body opens slowly and you will have to adjust accordingly. I did see folks making adjustments as necessary and I think that is great. I'm glad you were listening to your body.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please make any comments below. Namaste.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold Option 2

Enjoy Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold Option 2

An alternative to Supported Bound Angle

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. 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 up, push the chair away from you, bring the knees together, and roll to one side or to your knees to move to the next pose or to get up.

Sara's note: This is a great choice for folks who have a hard time forward folding in Bound Angle Pose. Using a wedge or a blanket under the sit bones will help lengthen the spine and using a chair instead of a bolster will offer more height to allow a gentler opening. Decrease the pressure of the forward fold even more by placing a block on the chair seat and resting the forehead on the block as shown. You can also support the knees with blocks or pillows on each side.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Consumerism vs. Restorative Yoga

Does Restorative Yoga Promote Consumerism?

Restorative yoga can be affordable, green, and easy to practice.

I came across a posting of someone who has felt an aversion to doing Restorative yoga in the past. ( But then reports that after doing one class she “might be hooked.”

Part of her reluctance is about all the props needed in Restorative and how that contributes to consumerism. It’s true when I teach at the studio I do need a lot of props: bolsters, zafus, blankets, mats, blocks, belts, wedges, plus we have a big cushy carpet we roll out. Restorative is prop heavy (and luxurious and a great precursor to meditation).

But you don’t have to go out and buy things – especially if you are doing a home practice. When I am at home I use couch cushions, bed pillows, random blankets, etc. As you can see from most of my Restorative Focus Pose images, I am mostly using couch pillows like I said, although I do use some traditional yoga props as well. Please check back as I will be uploading more images and “how-to’s” soon.

Namaste ~ Sara

Friday, March 13, 2009

Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold ~ Baddha Konasana

Enjoy Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold

To come into the pose: sit on the floor 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. Position blocks or blankets under your knees on each side if needed. Rest the arms and head on a stack of as many bolsters or blankets as you need to be able to forward fold with comfort.

To come out of the pose: gently roll up, push the bolsters away from you, bring the knees together, and roll to one side or to your knees to move to the next pose or to get 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.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Restorative yoga may have positive effects for breast cancer patients

Restorative yoga may provide some relief of fatigue and depression problems for women with breast cancer, according to a new study.

The pilot study, published Wednesday in the journal of Psycho-Oncology, assigned 44 participants to a restorative yoga or a control group. The average age of participants was 56 and more than a third of the women were undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

The yoga group took 10 weekly 75-minute classes that combined physical postures, breathing and deep relaxation. By using props participants were able to find a comfortable position so they could hold the poses for several minutes.

Researchers found women who practiced this gentler version of the popular mind-body therapy had a 50 percent reduction in depression and a 12 percent increase in feelings of peacefulness.

Read the whole article here:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Supported Puppy Pose ~ Uttana Shishosana

Enjoy Supported Puppy Pose

A great pose in its own right or as an alternative to Supported Child's Pose

Kneel in front of a bolster or a stack of pillows/blankets. Walk your body out over the bolster pile and then rest the torso down, stretching the arms out in front. You can rest your forehead on a block or the floor if that is comfortable.

Supported Puppy is a great pose in its own right but it is also a great alternative if Supported Child's Pose isn’t comfortable on your feet or knees. To come into this pose from Supported Child's Pose you can raise the hips in the air, bring the knees a little closer together, and then rest your body over the bolster, arms stretch out in front, and the head can rest on a block if that is comfortable.

To come out of the pose, place the hands on either side of your bolster to support your torso and roll up gently. Take a few breaths before moving on.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Supported Child's Pose ~ Balasana

Enjoy Supported Child’s Pose

To come into the 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 over 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.
  • Discomfort in the back? Raise the height of your bolster pile.
Remember: In Restorative the difference between heaven and not-heaven can be as little as using ½ an inch more propping.

To come out of the 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.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Leading a Restorative Class - Part 3

Restorative Class Flow Plan

Develop a good flow plan and stick with it

For my Restorative class I set up 5 stations. I set a flow pattern and stick with it each class. One time I changed my order and then I couldn't remember where to direct people to go. And my regulars were confused too. In this plan:

  • Station 1 ~ Supported Child’s, Puppy, or Bound Angle Forward Fold (depends on a persons knees). Set-up: 2 Zafus with 1-2 folded blankets on top.

  • Station 2 ~ Supported Bridge Pose. Set-up: Mats, one block, belt optional.

  • Station 3 ~ Supported Side-Reclining Twist. Set-up: Long Bolsters with a blanket on top or 2-3 blankets folded slightly lengthwise.

  • Station 4 ~ Supported Reclining Bound Angle. Set-up: Bolster propped up on a Zafu or rolled blanket, 1 folded blanket placed at the top half of the bolster, 2 blocks per station to support the legs, 1 belt, might need additional blocks or blankets to support the arms.

  • Station 5 ~ Legs-up-the-wall Pose with hip stretch option. Set up: Mats and a small pillow or folded blanket for the head.

Each person will get to experience each pose. As I stated in Leading a Class - part 1, I time each posture and direct the students on when to switch sides and when to come out.

Before class starts I demonstrate each pose: how to get in, how to make adjustments for maximum comfort, what pose to take if the one offered is not available to you, and how to get out again.

Emphasize comfort again. It can't be stressed too much: Restorative Yoga should feel like heaven. Folks don't always want to ask for help so watch for signs of discomfort: scrunched foreheads, fidgeting, general tenseness, etc. and offer additional props as needed.