Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Laying on the Foam Strip - Step 3

Therapeutic Pose for the Shoulders and Upper Back

Step 3: If your low back hurts or your lower ribs are flaring and lifting the hips and resettling the spine (as described in Step 2) didn't help, then you need to lift your hips up again and place a folded blanket under your hips/sacrum area. Keep your knees bent if you are using a blanket. Notice if this has lessened your discomfort and/or your flaring ribs. If not, stay tuned for Step 4.

Review Step 1 and Step 2.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Laying on the Foam Strip - Step 2

Therapeutic Pose for the Shoulders and Upper Back

Step 2: Once you are laying down notice if you have any discomfort in the low back or if your lower ribs are flaring up. Try lifting your hips, elongating your tailbone and laying your hips back down again. If this doesn't help, stay tuned for Step 3. If you missed Step 1 click here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Laying on the Foam Strip - Step 1

Therapeutic Pose for the Shoulders and Upper Back

Sometimes in class I offer a pose based on the therapeutic work of Susi Hately Aldous. 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.

Step 1: Fold your strip in half (or roll up your mat/towel tightly), place it on the floor behind you and then lay down on it. Once you lay down, the bottom edge of the strip should be at about T7 or T8 on your back. If you don’t know what I mean by that 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 strip should be just opposite that soft spot where your finger tips are resting. You can feel for the strip with your other hand.

Stay tuned for Step 2.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What are the Benefits of Restorative Yoga?

Restorative poses offer benefits to both the body and mind, for conditions ranging from insomnia, asthma, chronic pain, migraines and depression.

According to Bill Gallagher,
Yoga is an effective rehabilitation tool. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that Yoga appears promising for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, epilepsy, burns, stroke, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain syndromes including low back pain and repetitive strain injuries.

So how can Restorative Yoga be helpful for rehabilitation? Restorative Yoga provides a low-load, prolonged stretch, elicits relaxation, improves breathing patterns and is compatible with gentle manual therapies like myofascial release.

A low-load prolonged stretch is an effective way to restructure muscle tissue. A restorative posture allows the client to remain still for an extended period of time so muscles lengthen and broaden safely without eliciting a stretch reflex. As the client “lets go” and the body relaxes, the therapist can then provide manual therapy that can further address the structural and functional issues observed. The synergistic combination of a supported Yoga posture with manual therapy is a powerful way to address soft tissue restrictions, improve flexibility, increase range of motion and improve body awareness.

Sara's note: I have seen this "letting go" happen first hand in my classes. I wrote about it in A Student Observation.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Does Restorative Yoga Work?

Again I have to quote Judith Hanson Lasater. This excerpt is from an article posted on NS House of Yoga:
Restorative poses help relieve the effects of chronic stress in several ways. First, the use of props as described in this book provides a completely supportive environment for total relaxation.

Second, each restorative sequence is designed to move the spine in all directions. These movements illustrate the age-old wisdom of yoga that teaches well-being is enhanced by a healthy spine. Some of the restorative poses are backbends, while others are forward bends. Additional poses gently twist the column both left and right.

Third, a well-sequenced restorative practice also includes an inverted pose, which reverses the effects of gravity. This can be as simple as putting the legs on a bolster or pillow, but the effects are quite dramatic. Because we stand or sit most of the day, blood and lymph fluid accumulate in the lower extremities. By changing the relationship of the legs to gravity, fluids are returned to the upper body and heart function is enhanced.

Sara's note: Ms. Lasater sums it up just right. In each of my classes I include at least one inversion (legs-on-a-chair is considered an inversion and can be done anywhere - close your office door and try it now), one forward fold, one twist, one heart center opener, and other poses too. Visit the Restorative Focus Pose category for ideas on poses you can do at home or in class.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What is the History of Restorative Yoga?

Judith Lasater says,

The development of these poses is credited to B.K.S. Iyengar, of Pune, India. Author of the contemporary classic Light on Yoga and numerous other books, Iyengar has been teaching yoga for more than sixty years. Widely recognized as a worldwide authority, he is one of the most creative teachers of yoga today.

Iyengar's early teaching experience showed him how pain or injury can result from a student straining in a yoga pose. He experimented with "props," modifying poses until the student could practice without strain. Iyengar also explored how these modified poses could help people recover from illness or injury. It is because of his creativity that the restorative poses in this book (Relax and Renew)-most of which have been developed or directly inspired by him-are such powerful tools to reduce stress and restore health.”

Sara's note: When you can experience the deliciousness of a Restorative pose for yourself you will know why I am grateful to both BKS Iyengar and to Judith Lasater for their work in this area. Visit my Restorative Focus Pose category to see how you can treat yourself to some deep relaxation and stress relief.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What is Restorative Yoga?

I sent my blog link to some friends and one wrote back and said, "Your blog looks great but I have no idea what you are talking about." I thought to myself, "Don't I talk about what Restorative Yoga is?" But I looked back and realized that I really didn't address the question: What is Restorative Yoga? So here goes:

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative Yoga is a therapeutic style of yoga which utilizes props to make it easier for the body to get into certain poses, and thus, surrender to the pose. Practicing poses using props provides a completely supportive environment for total relaxation. The more your body is supported in the poses the deeper the sense of relaxation. Relaxation is a state in which there is no movement, no effort, and the brain is quiet. Typically, Restorative poses are sustained for ten minutes or for as long as you are comfortable.

MasalaYoga.com says: Restorative Yoga, the yoga of non-doing, is a core practice underlying the very essence of yoga. Even those with an active dynamic yoga practice will benefit from the inner quietude and deep release of Restorative Yoga. Restorative Yoga is the practice of entering into yoga postures using an assortment of props: blocks, bolsters, blankets, straps, walls, chairs, tables, eye pillows, the floor, and even another yoga practitioner. Supported and stabilized by various props, one experiences the yoga postures as profoundly relaxing and deeply rejuvenating, invoking a natural state of healing rest, renewal and equanimity.

Santosha.com reports: This is a gentle, therapeutic style of Yoga that uses props to support the body to deepen the benefits of the poses. It is a soothing and nurturing practice that promotes the effects of conscious relaxation.

LizOwenYoga.com says: Restorative yoga might best described as a supported, conscious body/mind relaxation practice.

So I hope that helps everyone to understand a little better what exactly Restorative yoga is. If you want to see some poses check out my Restorative Yoga Poses.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Leading a Class - Part 4

Set-up for Reclining Bound Angle
Setting up for Reclining Bound Angle

The more props the better

Like I said in some of my previous Leading a Class segments, I set up my open/public classes for 20 people: 5 stations of 4 set-ups each.

To set up for Supta Baddha Konasana the more props you have the better. This is one of the more prop-heavy poses in restorative yoga. It is also one of the most luxurious. It seems that in my open classes it is also just about everyone's favorite so I include it every time.

My set up has varied as different props became available at the studio. At first I was using 2 Zafu's end to end, then placing folded blankets on top of that, then adding a pillow for extra head and neck support.

Now we have a few long bolsters plus some foam physical therapy rollers. Now I use the foam rollers as my base, set up the bolsters across the rollers (up against a wall), then add a folded blanket on top of that. I use a block for each knee and set up a belt at the front of the station (as seen above in the image).

When I practice at home I use anything available: bed pillows, couch cushions, random blankets, etc. As long as you are completely supported it doesn't really matter if you use "sanctioned" yoga props. I'd use anything you have at hand. Stay as long as you want and enjoy!