Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sequencing Restorative Yoga Class

How should I sequence my Restorative Yoga class?

To create a balanced Restorative class I include a variety of postures: forward folds, twists, heart center openers, elevated legs, back body stretches, etc. One pose I include every time is Supported Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana) because it is everyone's favorite, but I mix up the other poses depending on what I offered in past classes.

Once you get your class flow plan figured out you can decide what poses to string together. For example, you wouldn't want to have 3 poses in a row where you do a heart center opener or back bend sequence. Since your students will be laying for an extended time in one posture it is better for the next posture to focus on a different opener.

I offer 5 stations which I set up before class starts. Each person picks a place to start, I time the postures and after 8 minutes or so, I invite the students to come out of the pose and crawl on to the next station. Here's the pose sequence I offered yesterday:
  • Wide Angle Forward Fold (legs are spread wide and then the torso is angled forward over the legs): students could choose to do this from seated or standing and could use a chair for support or zafu's, blankets and a wedge.
  • Zed Fold Heart Center Opener (fold up a firm blanket into an accordion fold, making sure that it is long enough to support the torso from seat to head, sit on one end of the folded blanket and then lay down) : students can keep knees bent using a bolster if needed, a pillow might be needed for the head.
  • Reclining Twist (one leg bent and one leg straight): lay on your back and draw one knee up to the torso, let the bent leg fold over the body so the legs and pelvis twist to one side, tuck a support pillow against your back and another one under your bent knee if it doesn't reach the ground in the twist (most folks need this knee support pillow).
  • Reclining Bound Angle (create a supportive pillow pile / bolster behind you and something to support the legs (I usually have a block on either side) when the knees open): sit with your sacrum up against the bolster and then lay back on it, soles of the feet touch each other and knees fall open to the side, use a belt wrapped around the waist and the feet to keep the feet from sliding away from the body.
  • Legs on a Chair (make sure the chair you have is not too high or too low to support your legs - the chair should support the whole lower leg - from backs of knees to feet): include a small lumbar support, sandbag to lay over the diaphragm and maybe a pillow for the head.
  • Savasana (this pose is not in the 5 station rotation - everyone gets to do this pose at the same time at the end of class): after the first 5 poses are done let folks use any and all props available to make this final resting position as comfortable and as supported as possible. Stay as long as you want.

So you can see that although I did have a number of poses which required laying on the back, they all focused on a different part of the body and did not keep pressure on one particular area for too long. If you are not sure what poses to sequence just try them out in your own body and see what feels good. If you are doing this practice at home try to have lots of different props close by so each pose can be supported as much as possible for maximum comfort.