Friday, April 30, 2010

Regarding class on April 29

Hello All -

It was lovely to see so many faces at Restorative Stations last night. When I told Molly I would stop the class for the summer is was because I didn't think people would want to lay down and relax during our energetic, enjoy-the-outdoors-like-crazy season. But if last night's turnout was an indicator of what to expect for summer, I can happily say I must be wrong about that.

It was lovely to see so many people giving themselves permission to relax last night. And now that so many of you are familiar with most of the poses, it is easy to lead the class. You all know the rotation, you know the limitations of your bodies and are willing to make adjustments (rather than force yourself to stay in a pose that is uncomfortable), and you are doing great at asking for help if you need it.

I look forward to our continued practice in June. Scheduled dates for the summer are June 24, July 22, & August 19 (all Thursdays at 7 PM).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Restorative Stations ~ April 29, 2010

Restorative Stations - Join us Thursday, April 29 at 7 PM

This is the final Restorative Stations Class for Spring Session (no class in May). Restorative Stations will resume in June.

Scheduled Dates: April 29
Time: 7–8:15pm
Cost: Drop-in rate/ punchcard*

*Please pre-register. This class requires tons of set-up and I need to know how many people will be attending. Sign up online by visiting Yoga North or call the office at 218-722-9642.

You do not need to bring your own mat or any other props except a personal eye pillow (if desired). Wear warm, stretchy clothing.

Yoga Journal Magazine available free on line

I just found out from Daily Cup of Yoga that you can read every single Yoga Journal Magazine from #1 to January 2009 online on Google Books. So, for example, if you want to look at the tension melting restorative poses in the December 2008 issue, simply follow the Google Books link above, click on the December 2008 issue, scroll down to the table of contents on page 5 and click on the title link "Free from Worry" to view the featured article. Or you can scroll through the whole issue at your leisure.


BTW: There are tons of other books and magazines archived on Google Books too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Props for Restorative Yoga

Do you need anything special for Restorative Yoga or Deep Relaxation?

It's not necessary to go out and buy a bunch of stuff for restorative poses: You can use your own blankets and pillows. In fact, in most of the poses I demonstrate on this site I am using my sofa pillows and some spare blankets.

On the other hand, specialized equipment can be very nice. One such thing came to my attention recently. It is the Bheka Rectangular 100% Cotton Yoga Bolster. I haven't tried it myself but it looks heavenly. They say it is big, soft and durable; ideal for relaxation and restorative practices because it is softer than most other bolsters. You can really settle into it but its large size makes it supportive too. This bolster and lots of other stuff are available at

Of course there's lots of places to get props like Yoga Direct, The Yoga Warehouse, Yoga Accessories, Yoga Props, and even on Amazon, to name a few.

I'm a big proponent of using what you have on hand for your practice, but if you don't have what you need to get comfortable I would consider investing in a bolster. You have to be comfortable when you practice Restorative Yoga and Deep Relaxation.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Benefits of Deep Relaxation

Let go of tension, turn your mind off and build awareness with Deep Relaxation

In the state of deep relaxation, tension is released from the body on a physical level, and the mind completely switches off. (Not the same as lying on the couch and watching TV.) Studies have shown that deep relaxation affects us on a genetic level and has profound health benefits such as switching off disease-causing genes, while switching on genes that actively protect against illness. The relaxation response brings your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. Resting while awake, after having emptied the mind of worrisome thoughts, means reaching a state of true mental repose.

Deep Relaxation practice can include: meditation, breath work, and relaxation techniques such as 61 points, rotating consciousness through the body and point-to-point sweep. Throughout the practice your focus is always inside: on the breath, on the sensations in the body and on the thoughts and reactions in the mind.

Benefits of Deep Relaxation include: boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, and relieving fatigue, anxiety and insomnia without medication. Deep Relaxation contributes to an overall feeling of well-being and helps you uncover your natural clarity, right action and peace of mind. Deep Relaxation is a path of welcoming where you are: learning to meet, greet, and receive everything that life brings to you.

You can practice Deep Relaxation from Savasana. It's best to prop yourself anywhere you think you might have discomfort. Here's some ideas for increasing comfort and adding support (you don't have to do them all - but you could try for fun):
  • A small roll under the low back for lumbar support 
  • A bolster under the knees
  • A small roll or pillow under each wrist
  • A small roll under the neck and/or a pillow under the head
  • A small roll under the ankles or under the feet
  • Add a sandbag over the pelvis to encourage the hip flexors to let go
  • Add a sandbag on each shoulder to encourage releasing tension
  • Add a sandbag over the diaphragm to increase breath awareness 
  • Eye pillow to shut out distractions
  • A blanket over the whole body to keep warm

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Linda's Restorative Circuit Method

The following article is by guest blogger, Linda Frank from Yoga Guam. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists and of the Himalayan Institute Teachers Association. She currently holds a 500 hour level Integrative Yoga Therapy Certificate. Linda has a strong interest in Restorative and Therapeutic yoga and contacted me through this website to talk about restorative. She wanted to try a "Restorative Stations" class but didn't have lots of props. I invited her to write about her class and share it here.

She writes:
I was recruited to Guam as a VISTA volunteer in 1974 to serve as a Speech Therapist. I went local hire for the Special Education Department for the Government of Guam in 1976 and retired in 1999.

I began meditating and have been studying Yoga since 1975. Once I retired, I was certified in Yoga and have been teaching since then. I have also taken other Yoga certification trainings and workshops on an annual basis.

I went to a Yoga intensive workshop that Donna Farhi offered in 2005. That was the first time I would spend the majority of a Yoga class in restorative poses. It was also my introduction to Yoga Nidras, in which I inevitably fell sound asleep and would ‘snort’ myself and others to an awakened state.

I felt so rejuvenated and alive after those 3 days and knew I wanted to explore these ‘novel’ methods more. Soon after, I was inspired to take trainings in the field of Yoga Therapy. I now hold a 500 hour Integrative Yoga Therapy Certificate.

I absolutely LOVE Restorative Yoga. I personally find I do it more when I am not feeling well on a physical, emotional and/or spiritual level. It evidently is also a powerful tool to use with my students.

I was about to plan for a restorative class this past week and always felt there was a missing element to how I facilitated previous sessions. The students would be given as many props as I had available and I would demonstrate each pose first before they fixed up their props for the next pose. There was a degree of chatter amongst the students and extraneous movement during our transitions which didn’t make for a calm and organic flow to the sessions.

The books and DVD’s I had in my library were helpful to the degree of showing various restorative poses, but I knew something was missing. I then decided to Google Restorative Yoga and voila, Sara Duke’s website appeared and when reviewing it I knew that I found the missing link.

I also emailed Sara, who was receptive and generous with her valuable input and tips for planning my class.

I adopted her idea of the circuit restorative class. There were 8 students and 5 stations. There could be a max of 2 students per station. I had a sufficient number of props, but more would have been ideal. I had bolsters, blocks (cushy and hard), eye bags and one 10 lb. sandbag. I time-shared the sandbag on the low back for those in Supported Child Pose and on the feet for students who had their legs up the wall. One student reported that she got an adjustment from using the sandbag on her feet.

I heeded to Sara’s caution to plan which way I would want the rotation to go and then to stick with it to alleviate confusion on the teacher and students parts.

At the beginning of the session I explained the circuit course and demonstrated the poses and their variations for each one. There were photos and/or diagrams of the positions placed at each station.

I emphasized the importance of focusing on their natural breath, and moving quietly and slowly into and out of their poses. I also asked them to remain silent for the duration of their pose, unless they needed adjustments from me.

We then sat in a circle to get quiet within and centered. They were led through breath awareness, seated stretches, and set their intentions and/or affirmations for the session before beginning their practice.

They chose their first station and stayed in their pose for about 8 minutes. To indicate when their time was over, I used my singing bowl. They would then roll onto their sides and pause for a minute, I’d ring the bowl to indicate it was time to crawl or ‘butt walk’ their way to their next spot.

The class was small enough that I could help set up and/or readjust their positions. Sara had mentioned that some don’t want to say they’re not comfortable but their body language says differently. I offered to help one student get more comfortable, and she said she was a-ok, although I noticed she was still fidgeting in her pose. After the class she admitted that although a particular pose didn’t work for her, she still enjoyed the session. I noted the students who had target positions that didn’t work for them so next time I will have more alternatives for them.

While they were in Savasana I did a 15 minute Yoga Nidra narration.

It made a world of difference using this method, far more organized and fluid. I therefore will give two + thumbs up for the Restorative Circuit Method and to Sara for her generous, sharing nature and support.

CD’s used during session:

Shamanic Dream (Anugama)
Bija (Soothing Music and Mantras For Yoga and Meditation)
Liquid Mind (Balance)

Linda also shared what one of her students had to say. She writes:
Below is a letter one of my student’s emailed me regarding the session. (She has had a series of accidents during the last 5 years, resulting in shattering both heels, breaking her ankle, wrist and suffers from whiplash. She previously enjoyed long-distance cycling and was a Hot Yoga enthusiast. She recently began participating in my Gentle Yoga Classes.)

Throughout the rest of my day after class I felt flowing sensations at times throughout pressure points of my body. It was endorphins. I am sure it was felt by everyone in that class. It was a real gift, I had never experienced that in that way ever before.

Sara's note: Thank you Linda for sharing your story of teaching Restorative Yoga. I wish I could have been there for the class - especially for the Yoga Nidra narrative. I look forward to hearing about your future classes.

Also, I want to give credit to my teacher, Ann Maxwell, who introduced the Restorative Stations idea to me during my teacher training

Deep Relaxation Resources

Hello to the Deep Relaxation Workshop attendees - I hope you had a wonderful time last night. I am so happy you all made it out to the workshop. I thought you might like to know where you can find more information about deep relaxation.

A couple of CDs I recommend are The Art of Relaxation by Deborah Adele (available at Yoga North) and Yoga Nidra by Robin Carnes (available on Amazon).

 With such a great turn-out last night I think it is safe to say that I will offer this workshop again. I am already brewing up some ideas for new relaxation exercises. In the mean time, if you need to de-stress, I recommend listening to either of these CDs, paying attention to your breathing, and running a body scan on yourself, consciously relaxing each part of your body as you bring awareness to it.

Happy exploring!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Restorative Yoga for College Students

Advice for Desk-bound Students from E-College Finders:
It’s important to recognize our bodies’ need for movement. When we don’t move, we not only lose flexibility and slump our shoulders, but we also inhibit our circulation. This blocked blood flow, blocks the flow of prana (life force) or qi (“chee”) as it’s called in Chinese medicine. Blockages equals a plethora of ailments—lack of lymph drainage, lethargy, excess muscular/emotional tension amongst others.

But what to do—you’re working toward your degree, working in an office—there’s no escape. There is Yoga. Yoga, done on the mat, at the beach, or at your desk can provide a compensatory series of stretches and strength balancing postures to help re-balance the computer-weary body.

The ancient practice, born in India, has fantastic physical benefits for the mind, body and spirit: the whole kit and caboodle. Yoga coordinates breath with movement as it asks you to release and surrender rather than strive and “do”. To bring yoga to the computer-bound, we’ve polled the yoga community and compiled experts’ suggestions for alleviating the elearner’s common cramps and preventing potential complaints.

Here's my offering:

I'd like to recommend that students take a break from their studies to go upside down by taking the pose "Legs-on-a-Chair." This will help them to relieve stress, get rid of neck and back pain and it will help send any fluids that are stuck in the legs and ankles back to the heart to be recycled.

To read the whole article visit E-College Finders and read Off the Mat and at the Desk: A Comprehensive Yoga Guide for College Students.