Sunday, November 17, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation Follow Up

I hope you have enjoyed taking a bit of time out for yourself each day. This challenge has reinvigorated my practice and has given me many great ideas for future posts. I have a list of about 20 new poses/variations of poses which I hope to share over the coming months. If you have enjoyed this challenge please sign up to "follow by email" on my blog's sidebar. Don't worry, I do not collect your email addresses; Google facilitates sending these blog posts by email. Just be sure to check your inbox for an email from "Feedburner" and authorize/confirm your desire to follow by email.

It's been nice practicing with you!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 30

Today is International Restorative Yoga Day (see this website for more info: I hope you can find a local Restorative Yoga class to attend. If you are in Duluth, MN, please join me at Yoga North this morning, 8:00-9:15 am for Restorative Yoga. If you are doing a home practice, here is a final sequence to enjoy.

Legs on a Chair
For details on how to do this pose click here.

Supported Reclining Twist
For details on how to do this pose click here.

Enjoy Supported Child’s Pose
For details on how to do this pose click here.

Supported Savasana + listen to a free relaxation practice from Dr. Baxter Bell (link below).
Click here for 4 free guided relaxation practices.

Enjoy your day and your new habit of relaxation. Nicely done!

Friday, November 15, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 29

We are coming up on the home stretch of our challenge. I thought I would post a couple of my favorite short home sequences for these last two days.

Also, FYI, tomorrow is International Restorative Yoga Day. I will be teaching Restorative Yoga at Yoga North in Duluth, MN, Saturday morning, 8:00-9:15 am. Please join me for a live class.

For today...

Supported Reclining Bound Angle
 Supported Reclining Bound Angle Details on how to do this pose here.

Supported Child's Pose
 Details on how to do this pose here.

Supported Reclining Side-Seated Twist.
Make sure to take the twist in both directions.
 Details on how to do this pose here.

Feel free to keep on going and take more poses or finish up here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 28

If yesterday's pose did not give you enough sensation, today's pose might be more to your liking. For today, let's try
Supported Wide-Angle Forward Fold

Wide leg forward fold can be done from a standing position or seated. Generally for my Restorative class we are seated and have multiple props to support this sometimes difficult opening.

Setting up for the pose:
Gather a number of different props: a chair, or a couple of blocks, or a few pillows/bolsters, also, either a blanket for sitting on or else a wedge.

Tight hamstrings? No problem. Just use more props.
Coming into the pose:
Sit in front of a chair, block, or bolsters with your legs open wide (about 90 degrees). Support your low back by sitting on a wedge or a folded blanket. Toes draw back toward the body and knee caps point toward the ceiling. Reach out through your heels. Hinge forward at the hip crease, walking your hands out and resting your forehead on the block, bolster or chair. If you are using a chair or bolster you can rest your head on your forearms, keeping length in your spine.

While in the pose:
Keep breathing, keep observing the pose in your body, allow the body to open at its own rate. Commit to the stillness but do allow yourself to adjust your props and your body as you settle in.

Coming out of the pose:
To come up, bring the hands to the floor to support the torso, inhale and hinge or roll back up from the hips, protecting the spine. Help your legs back together and move into a shape that is supportive to you: maybe Child's Pose, maybe Legs-on-a-Chair Pose, or maybe something else entirely.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - day 27

Alright, we've made through our back bending series. Now I have a few more forward folds before we have our final practice on Saturday. Saturday, by the way, is International Restorative Yoga Day so I hope you can find a live class to attend. If not, I'll set us up in a nice series so don't worry. For today, enjoy
Supported 1/2 Wide-Angle Forward Fold

1/2 Wide-Angle Pose looks very similar in set up to Head-to-Knee pose (Janu Sirsasana) as shown in the Yoga Journal image on the right, but instead of turning the torso to fold out over the leg, the body folds directly forward, hinging from the hips, as seen below. 1/2 Wide-Angle is easier on the inner thighs than the full version and can be used as a pose in its own right or as a warm up for Wide-Angle Pose (which we will practice tomorrow).

Setting up for the pose:
Gather a number of different props: a chair, or a couple of blocks, or a few pillows/bolster, also, either a blanket or a wedge for sitting on.

Instead of a block, you could use a chair
so your fold is not too deep.
Coming into the pose:
Sit in front of your chair, block or bolster with your legs open wide (about 90 degrees). Support your low back by sitting on a wedge or a folded blanket. Fold one leg in to the body so the soul rests on the inner thigh of the other leg and heel is drawing towards the perineum. Toes of the straight leg draw back toward the body and knee cap points toward the ceiling. Reach out through your heel. Hinge forward at the hip crease, walking your hands out and resting your forehead on the block, bolster or chair. If you are using a chair or bolster pile you can place your arms on the chair’s seat, hinge forward at the hip crease and rest your head on your forearms, keeping length in your spine.

While in the pose:
Keep breathing, keep observing the pose in your body, and allow the body to open at its own rate. Commit to the stillness but do allow yourself to adjust your props and your body as you settle deeper in. Watch the sit bones. They will want to creep up and often your body tries to tip more towards the folded leg. Don't let these two things happen.

Coming out of the pose:
To come up, support the torso with the hands on the floor, inhale and hinge or roll back up from the hips, protecting the spine. Take the 2nd side. After the second side you can be done or you could try a nice follow-up pose such as Supported Reclining Twist.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 26

Here's our final backbend. This one is a little bigger and includes a quad stretch. Today we will practice Supported Reclining Hero's Pose. If you feel like this is too much for you, then take Supported Reclining Bound Angle instead. The set up is the same.

Hero's Pose can be a very tricky posture to come into for anyone with knee issues, tight quads or low back/SI joint problems. Luckily, with props, this posture can be made available to most people--comfortably--not just to "get through it."

Setting up for the pose:
Gather a number of different props: a few pillows/bolsters, a few blankets, and a couple of blocks. Test your ability to sit on your shins with your bum on the floor between your feet. If this does not happen for you in an upright, seated position, it is not going to happen in the reclining version either. You need support.

Set up a bolster or a thickly-rolled blanket behind you lengthwise. Place a block, bolster, or additional pillows under the end of the bolster where your head is going to lay to create a ramp set-up. Like so:

This bolster set-up is good for Reclining Hero's Pose or for Reclining Bound Angle.

Coming into the pose:
Sit in Dandasana (sit on your bum with legs straight) in front of your bolster ramp. Get very close to your props - let your back body touch the bolster. Bend one leg and tuck your foot by your outer hip. Carefully lower your body toward your bolster ramp, coming into Supported Reclining Half Hero's Pose.

If this feels ok and you want to go for full Supported Reclining Hero's Pose, come back to seated and tuck your other foot next to your other hip and repeat the careful laying down process.

If your knees are saying "NO WAY" then you need more propping. Give yourself something to sit on - like a folded blanket or a small bolster and make your bolster ramp higher. With these modifications, most folks should be able to do this pose. But if it isn't working for you, be kind to your body and settle into Reclining Bound Angle instead:

 Supported Reclining Bound Angle
While in the pose:
Keep breathing, keep observing the pose in your body, and allow the body to open at its own rate. Commit to the stillness but do allow yourself to adjust your props and your body as you settle deeper in. Notice if you are gripping the knees, quads, hips or back (or of course the usual places like the jaw, forehead or shoulders). Try to let these parts soften. Stay as long as you are comfortable.

Coming out of the pose:
To come up, support the torso with the hands on the floor, and either push yourself to a seated Hero's Pose or roll to one side slightly and untuck your feet, one at a time. If you were practicing 1/2 Hero's take the 2nd side. After the second side you can be done or you could try the full version of the pose.

This posture is great for creating length in the quads. There may be discomfort in the knees to start but by lengthening the quads this problem can go away - at least for me it did. However, if the knee discomfort is sharp, stabbing or causes you to hold your breath, I would recommend doing this pose only with supervision.

Happy Exploring!

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 25

Using the Therapeutic Spinal Strip for Shoulder Release + Thoracic Spine Backbend

Many of my classes begin with "Laying on the Spinal Strip." This is 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.

Setting up: Fold your strip in half (or roll up your mat/towel tightly), place it lengthwise 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.

Settling in: 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 the soft spot just below the breast bone. The spinal strip should be just opposite that soft spot where your finger tips are resting. Run one hand behind you to feel for the spinal strip.

Now notice if you have any discomfort in the low back or if your lower ribs are flaring up. If you notice either of these things, try lifting your hips, elongating your tailbone and laying your hips back down again, keeping the knees bent.

If this does not really help, then you need to lift your hips up again and place a folded blanket under your hips/sacrum area. Keep your knees bent. Notice if this has lessened your discomfort and/or your flaring ribs.

If you still have discomfort or flared ribs, unfold your strip and lay on it in a single layer. Or if you are using a rolled towel or rolled mat, just unroll it a little to make your spinal strip a bit smaller. If you feel like your head is tilting back place a small pillow or thinly folded blanket under your head.

Allow yourself to settle here for at least 5-10 minutes, letting the shoulders settle in around the spinal strip. Focus on your breathing. You might play around with rolling the shoulders or floating the arms overhead (never moving into clicks, cracks, or discomfort).

Coming out of the pose: To come out of the pose, or if at any point laying on the strip becomes uncomfortable, push the blanket out from under you, roll gently to one side, push the strip out of the way and then lay on your back in Savasana.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 24

Supported Lumbar Stretch

I learned this lumbar stretch from my teacher Susi Hately Aldous during one of the Therapeutic Yoga Trainings I have taken from her. I'm a bit of a hyper-extender so I was surprised that this pose would be good for me. What it does is lengthen your lumbar vs. kink it - which is a typical move for me in any kind of backbending posture. Here's how it works:

Step 1. Get yourself a felted pad or a firm blanket or even a big towel (like a beach towel) and make a roll that is about a handful for you. Sit on the tail of the blanket if you have extra.

Step 2. Lay down over the roll, supporting yourself on your elbows to ease your body down.

Step 3. As you lay down, lift your seat up so you are in a tiny bridge pose. Adjust your roll so it is at your waist - not your sacrum). You know if it is in the right place if it is centered behind your bellybutton.

Step 4. Now start to lower your seat towards the floor, arching your spine over the roll. When you settle your seat your back should feel like "Ahhhh" not "Ow, ow, ow." You should not look over arched. Your belly is not raised by the roll under your back. If you are not comfortable, lift your seat (into little bridge again) and make your roll smaller until your back is happy. Conversely, if you feel nothing, you will need to lift your seat into little bridge and make your roll a little bigger.

Step 5. Lay here for 5-10 minutes or until you are feeling done.

A nice follow-up pose is a Supported Reclining Twist.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 23

This gentle heart-center opener will help you get rid of that hunched feeling you get after sitting all day.

Setting up for the pose:
The main prop for this pose is a therapeutic spinal strip. If you don't have one of these, you can use a swim noodle, a tightly rolled thin mat, or a tightly rolled towel. You might also need a thin, folded blanket and, if your roll is on the large side, a thick folded blanket.

Coming into the pose:
Sit in front of your therapeutic spinal strip (swim noodle/rolled mat/rolled towel) and then lay down on it at about the bottom of the shoulder blades. Your spinal strip should extend out from under your armpits - you should not be resting your shoulders on your prop. You can experiment with what feels the best to you. If your head is tipped way back or you feel unsupported in the neck, place a thin, folded blanket under the head and neck - not so thick that your head tips forward. Your head should be level with the body or slightly tipped back. If you feel like you are in too big of a back bend, place the thicker folded blanket under your bum.

While in the pose:
Send your arms out to the sides, palms up to encourage the heart center to open. Keep breathing, keep observing the pose in your body, and allow the body to open at its own rate. Commit to the stillness but do allow yourself to adjust your props and your body as you settle deeper in. I like to lay with my knees bent but some of my students prefer to have their legs straight. See what feels right in your body.

Coming out of the pose:
Option 1) Bend the knees, roll to one side, pull the spinal strip and other props out from underneath you, and then lay back down on your back.
Option 2) Bend the knees, press the feet into the floor, lift up the hips to bridge pose, and pull the spinal strip and other props out from under you.
Either way, hug the knees in and take a few sacrum circles or extend out to a full body stretch. A nice follow-up pose is a Supported Reclining Twist.


Friday, November 8, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 22

I'm going to start us on a back bending series. These will be gentle, but never the less, if you notice any pain please back off and take the pose in a smaller way. Less propping or even choose a different pose for the day. For today, we will try Supported Bridge Pose.

NEVER sit on your block and lay back. 
ALWAYS lay down first, then slide the block under you.

Supported Bridge ~ Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Getting into the pose:
Sit on the floor with knees bent. If you have a belt put it on around your upper thighs. Tighten it to where your legs can still open to hip width apart. Lower yourself down to the floor and lay on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips in the air and place a block under your sacrum. For Restorative I like to have the block on the lowest side but if you want to try it on the medium height or on the highest height that's ok too. Just make sure you are comfortable and nothing is feeling pinched in your low back or neck. Lengthen the back of your neck. Resist looking side to side. Rest your hands by your side.

Settling into the pose:
First, make sure that the block is under the sacrum (the big triangle shaped bone at the base of the spine), not the low back (lumbar spine). If you have a pinched feeling in the SI joints (low back or sacrum area) try lengthening your tailbone toward the backs of your knees so your body is in one long line from shoulders (on the ground) to knees (in the air). You also might need to lower your block height. Let the hands rest by your sides, close the eyes, and give your mind the job of watching the breath. Stay for a few minutes or as long as you are comfortable.

For a more dynamic pose:
If you want to add movement and/or more sensation to this posture here is a way to go a bit deeper:
walk your shoulders under you and clasp your hands together behind your back to open the chest. Stay for a few breaths and then slowly release.

Getting out of the pose:
To come out, lift the hips up, slide the block out from underneath you, drop the hips back down to the floor, rest here for a few breaths then take what ever movement would serve your body: hug the knees to the chest, take a twist, full-body stretch, etc. When you feel ready, roll to one side then gently push yourself up on one side back to an easy seated pose.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 21

Yesterday we did our relaxation in bed. Today you can too, or you can get back down to the floor as the picture shows. But if you want to do this twist in bed it is very easy to set up. All you need are two pillows.

Supported Reclining Twist

Coming into the pose:

Option 1: Lay on one side and snuggle a pillow into your low back from behind your bellybutton to below your bum. Stuff another pillow under your stacked knees and then roll your top shoulder open, letting the pillows support your lower body. If you need more support under your "top" shoulder and arm, lay a flattish pillow lengthwise under that arm from shoulder to hand.

Option 2: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Have a support ready on each side of your body. Shift your hips to one side and let your knees fall to the other side. Snuggle a bolster under your back hip and bum to support staying in the twist and let the stacked knees rest on a second bolster as they fall towards the floor.

Try to keep the shoulders on the floor (or bed), keep the heart center open by extending the arms away from the body, palms facing up, and let the head turn away from the knees. Stay as long as you are comfortable.

Changing sides:
Let the head come back to center. Remove the support from under the back hip. Engage the core slightly to support the spine and then bring the legs back to upright, helping the legs with the hands if needed. Settle into the second side the same way as the first and try to stay here an equal amount of time.

Exiting the pose:
Let the head come back to center and then keep turning towards the knees. Remove the props from under the knees, lay on your side for a few breaths, and then gently push yourself back to an easy seated position.

If this twist is not to your liking try Supported Side Reclining Twist ~ Salamba Bharadvajasana ~ like we did on Day 6 of the challenge.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 20

OK - we are 2/3 done with our challenge. Let's celebrate by not getting out of bed! Today, Restorative Yoga you can do in bed.

Guided Deep Relaxation with Baxter Bell

Dr. Baxter Bell has four free guided relaxation practices available on his website. Visit his site here: Yoga for Healthy Aging Audio Tracks to listen to these practices.

Legs up the Wall 
 from HuffPost.
legs against wall

Kids laying upside down on the bed

Kids always know how to relax. We should take the clue from them. Have a good day!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 19

Yesterday I showed some images for Restorative Yoga on a Chair. Today, I've found some that show standing poses. It's not as much as I would like, but until I can take the time to do my own series, this will have to do.

Wide-Leg Forward Fold with Chair Support in front and Wall Support in Back from

Forward Fold with Support Table from Yoga Journal.

A deeper Supported Forward Fold modeled by Rodney Yee,
using the chair seat for the arms and head and the wall to support the behind.

And an even deeper Forward Fold modeled by Rodney Yee,
using only the wall to support the behind. I think it might be nice if the head or forearms had a block to land on.

Monday, November 4, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 18

Last week, someone asked me if I could recommend some Restorative poses which did not require getting down on the ground. I don't have any ready to go for this blog, but the request sure got me thinking. As in, I think I can do a whole new series. However, for the scope of this challenge, it's a bit too much (remember, I started all this so I would relax more! - lol).

That said, I figured that somewhere out there some one would have already conceived of some non-floor Restorative poses and posted pictures too. So thank you again people with images on Google. Here's some seated ideas for us. The first one is especially good for Mondays.

Head on Desk from The Healthy Living Lounge
This reminds of grade school - everyone put your heads down and have some quiet time.

Wide-Leg, Seated Hanging Forward Fold from Nirmala Yoga
Might be nice to have somewhere to rest your head: a block, another chair, etc.

Seated Forward Fold with 2nd Chair as Arm & Head Support 
Might be nice to have a folded blanket over the back of the forward chair to cushion your arms.

All good options for today, I think. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 17

Again, since it is the weekend, I am posting an article which shows an entire restorative sequence. This one is from Yoga Journal, written by Karen Macklin, sequence by Jillian Pransky. I am excerpting just the pose part of the article. I highly recommend going to YJ and reading the whole article though. Macklin dives into explaining how our brains process relaxation and why we might end up with anxiety when we are trying to relax. To see the whole article click here.

On Solid Ground

by Karen Macklin, sequence by Jillian Pransky

The poses in this sequence are designed to give you the experience of being cradled and protected while providing the opportunity for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. When you're practicing them for the first time, it can be helpful to have a friend assist you in setting up the props. Warm up with a few rounds of Cat-Cow Pose, or any other gentle poses that help you connect with your breath. Once you're propped and positioned, take the first few minutes in each pose to sense where you connect with the floor or the props. What part of your body rests most heavily on the support underneath you? Let this area be like an anchor rooting you to the earth. Slowly allow this sense of connection to spread to all the areas where you meet the ground and the props.
When your body feels completely supported, let your attention turn toward your breath. Like an ocean wave, each breath will rise and fall on its own. Rest your mind on the tide of your breath. Throughout each pose, let your attention move back and forth between the earthlike qualities of your body and the fluidlike qualities of your breath.
Stay in each pose for up to 15 minutes. Even a few minutes will make a difference. If you feel restless but want to stay in the pose, you can do small vinyasa movements with your hands to help yourself settle down: Roll your open palms to the sky as you inhale; roll them back to the ground as you exhale.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose), variation
This pose is usually done with the legs extended all the way up the wall. Having the legs lower, with the feet against the wall, encourages grounding by creating a sensation of "standing" on the wall, as opposed to having the feet wide open to the sky.
Lie on your back with your calves and feet supported by either bolsters or blanket-covered blocks. Wrap or cover your calves with a blanket. Rest the soles of your feet against the wall. Place an additional folded blanket across the pelvis to help release tension there and to encourage the pelvis to rest more heavily on the ground. Rest your arms by your sides, either palms down or, if facing up, with an eye bag in each open palm. If your upper back and shoulders don't rest heavily on the floor, support them with towels or blankets. Place a folded blanket under your head.
You should feel firm support all the way up the torso, out through the arms, and up through the neck and head. Your throat should feel open and tension free. On each exhalation, allow the weight of your lower legs, pelvis, upper back, and head to be fully held. On each inhalation, allow your ribs to expand in all directions. Stay in the pose for 5 to 15 minutes.
Salamba Balasana (Supported Child's Pose)
Place blocks underneath the two ends of a bolster and come into Child's Pose, with your torso supported by the bolster. It should feel as though the support is coming up to meet you rather than your torso dropping into the support. Slide your arms underneath the gap between the bolster and the floor, bringing each hand toward the opposite elbow. If the forearms or elbows don't touch the ground, fill in the space with towels or blankets so that you are supported from the elbows to the fingers. Supporting the elbows and arms helps to release tension in the upper back and neck and to integrate the arms back into the body. In order to release tension in the lower back and create a deeper sensation of groundedness, place a heavy blanket on your sacrum. If the base of the shins or the tops of the feet are off the floor, prop them with a rolled-up towel.
Turn the head to one side, alternating sides halfway through the pose. On each inhalation, feel the back body expand; on each exhalation, feel the support under the chest and belly. Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose), variation
Supta Baddha Konasana opens the whole front of the body: the pelvis, belly, heart, and throat. These are areas we instinctively protect, which is why a pose like this can leave one feeling exposed and vulnerable.
Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline. Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place a second bolster under your knees and bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose with the soles of your feet together. Wrap a blanket around your feet to create a feeling of containment. Place another folded blanket over the pelvis to create a feeling of insulation. Lie back on the bolster. Place supports under your arms so that they are not dangling and there is no feeling of stretch in the chest. Stay in the pose for 5 to 15 minutes.
Side-Lying Savasana and Jathara Parivartanasana (Side-Lying Corpse Pose and Revolved Abdomen Pose), variation
Twists are generally good for the nervous system, but some twists can make breathing feel constricted, which can be anxiety provoking. This gentle, supported twist allows more room for the breath to come into the rib cage and belly.
Start by lying on your left side with your feet at a wall and your back against a bolster that is at least as high as your spine. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees and support your right knee and shin with a bolster or folded blankets so that the right leg is as high as the right hip; rest the sole of your left foot against the wall. Next, place folded blankets under your top arm and hand to lift them to the height of your shoulder. Finally, tuck a folded blanket under your head and neck to lift your head in line with the spine. Rest here for 2 to 5 minutes.
To move into the twist, roll your torso to the right over the bolster, keeping your right arm fully supported by it from shoulder blade to fingers. Your right hand should be no lower than the height of your right shoulder. If you have tightness in your shoulder or chest, try placing more support under your arm until your hand is higher than your shoulder. You should not feel a stretch, but rather as though your chest is open and your breath is fluid. Stay in the twist for 2 to 5 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Savasana can be a very expansive pose, especially when done with the legs wide apart and the arms away from the side body. Keeping the legs and arms a little closer to the body encourages a more contained feeling.
Roll up a blanket and place it alongside a wall. Lie down with the soles of your feet against the blanket. Place an additional rolled blanket or bolster under your knees to encourage the thighbones to drop deeper into your pelvis. This helps release tension in the iliopsoas and allows the pelvis to rest more heavily on the ground. Place a folded blanket over your belly to release tension and weigh the hips down even more. Rest your arms by your sides, palms facing down.
If your upper back and shoulders are rolled toward your heart and don't rest heavily on the floor, fill in the space with towels or blankets so you feel firm support all the way up the torso to the neck and head. Support your cervical curve with a small rolled towel and place a folded blanket under the head to create a cradling effect. Your chin should be perpendicular to the floor, and your throat should feel open and tension free. With each exhalation allow the earth to fully hold each part of your body: your heels, thighs, pelvis, upper back, and head. Once you feel completely connected to the ground, rest your mind on the waves of your breath. Stay in the pose for 5 to 15 minutes.
Reverse Savasana (Corpse Pose), variation
This reversed variation can feel more secure for someone who feels vulnerable in Savasana. Lie on your belly. Turn your head to the right. Bring your arms out to the side, elbows bent. Take your right knee out to the side. If needed, place a blanket for cushioning and support under the right arm, knee, thigh, belly, or all four. Cover your entire body with a blanket, including the exposed soles of your feet. After a couple of minutes, turn your head to the other side and switch the position of the knees. Stay here 5 to 10 minutes, releasing your whole front body into the ground.

December 2009

Saturday, November 2, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 16

Since it is the weekend, I hope we have time for more than just one Restorative Pose. I'm posting this article by Kelly McGonigal on relieving chronic pain. There are 4 wonderful Restorative Poses listed here. The entire article is quite long so I am excerpting the part specific to Restorative Yoga. Enjoy.

Yoga for Chronic Pain
By Kelly McGonigal

 Most chronic pain has its roots in a physical injury or illness, but it is sustained by how that initial trauma changes not just the body but also the mind-body relationship. The complexity of chronic pain is actually good news. It means that trying to fix the body with surgeries, pain medications, or physical therapy is not your only hope. By first understanding chronic pain as a mind-body experience and then using yoga’s toolbox of healing practices—including breathing exercises and restorative poses—you can find true relief from pain and begin to reclaim your life.

The Protective Pain Response
Understanding the difference between acute pain and chronic pain will be critical to your ability to reduce and manage your pain. Let’s begin by examining the basic steps of the pain response: sensation, stress, and suffering.

The protective pain response begins when the body experiences some physical threat, such as a cut, a burn, or an inflamed muscle. This threat is detected by specialized nerves and sent through the spinal cord and up to the brain where, among other things, the threat signals are transformed into pain sensations. Emotion-processing areas of the brain also get the message, triggering a wide range of reactions, from fear to anger. Combined, your thoughts and emotions about the physical sensations of pain make up the suffering component of the full pain experience. Any kind of injury or illness, even one that is short-lived or appears to be fully healed, can change the way the nervous system processes pain.

Pain Again
Through the repeated experience of pain, the nervous system gets better at detecting threat and producing the protective pain response. So unfortunately, in the case of chronic pain, learning from experience and getting “better” at pain paradoxically means more pain, not less.

What you practice, you become. Learning is lifelong, and none of the changes you’ve learned have to be permanent. Your mind and body have learned how to “do” chronic pain, and your job is to teach it something new.

Unlearning Pain Through Relaxation
The best way to unlearn chronic stress and pain responses is to give the mind and body healthier responses to practice.

By helping you transform chronic pain-and-stress responses into “chronic healing” responses of mind and body, yoga helps reduce your suffering of chronic pain. Your mind and body have built-in healing responses that are just as powerful as their protective pain-and-stress responses. Relaxation specifically has been shown to be healing for chronic pain. It turns off the stress response and directs the body’s energy to growth, repair, immune function, digestion, and other self-nurturing processes. Consistent relaxation practice teaches the mind and body how to rest in a sense of safety rather than chronic emergency.

Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining gentle yoga poses with conscious breathing. There are several factors that make restorative yoga so relaxing. First, each pose is meant to be held for longer than a few breaths. You can stay in a restorative pose for 10 minutes or even longer. The stillness allows the body to drop even the deepest layers of tension. Second, restorative poses use props to support your body. Props can include the wall, a chair, a couch, pillows, blankets, towels, or bolsters designed especially for restorative yoga practice. The right support in a pose will make it feel effortless, so your body can fully let go.

You shouldn’t feel strong sensations of stretch or strength the way you might in a more active yoga pose. Stretching and strengthening, although healthy, are both forms of tension in the body. They are a kind of good stress on the body, asking the body to adapt to the challenges of a pose. But restorative yoga is all about letting go of tension and stress.

Although these poses may look as though you are doing nothing, this is far from the truth. Restorative yoga rests the body but engages the mind. The breathing elements of each pose make restorative yoga an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions.

The order of poses presented here is just one possible sequence. As you explore the poses, you may find that your body prefers a different sequence or that you would rather stay longer in one pose than practice several poses for shorter periods. You can also integrate restorative poses into an active yoga session.

Nesting Pose
Nesting pose creates a sense of security and nurturing. It may also be a position you are comfortable sleeping in, making it an excellent posture to practice if you have insomnia or other difficulty sleeping.

Lie on your side, legs bent and drawn in toward your belly. Rest your head on a pillow, and place a pillow or a bolster between your knees. Rest your arms in whatever position feels most comfortable. If available, another bolster or pillow may be placed behind your back for an extra sense of support.

Rest in the natural rhythm of your breath, observing each inhalation and exhalation as it moves through the body. Take comfort in the simplicity and effortlessness of this action.

Supported Bound Angle Pose
This pose relaxes tension in the belly, chest, and shoulders that otherwise can restrict the breath. Lean a bolster on a block or other support (such as telephone books). Sit in front of the bolster with your legs in a diamond shape. Place a pillow or a rolled blanket under each outer thigh and knee, making sure that the legs are fully supported without a deep stretch or strain in the knees, legs, or hips. Lean back onto the bolster so that you are supported from the lower back to the back of the head. Rest your arms wherever is most comfortable.

Now notice the whole front of your body relax and gently open as you inhale. Follow this sensation and feel the ease in the front of the body as you breathe.

Supported Backbend Pose
Supported backbend is a heart-opening pose that reinforces your desire to embrace life and not let challenges—including pain—separate you from life. This pose also works magic to release chronic tension in the back and shoulders, undoing postural habits that come from spending too much time at a desk, at a computer, or driving.

Sitting, place a bolster or a stack of pillows or blankets under slightly bent knees. Place one folded pillow or rolled blanket or towel behind you; when you lie back, it should support the upper rib cage, not the lower back. If you need extra support underneath the lower rib cage and lower back, roll a small towel to support the natural curve of the spine. Place a rolled towel or a small blanket to support your head and neck at whatever height is most comfortable.

This pose improves the flow of the breath in the upper chest, rib cage, and belly. Allow yourself to feel this movement as you inhale and exhale. Imagine breathing in and out through your heart center. Visualize the movement of breath from your heart to your lungs as you inhale, and from the lungs back out through the heart center as you exhale.

Supported Forward Bend
This pose relaxes the hips and back, unraveling the stress of daily activities on the spine. Hugging a bolster and resting your head on its support provides a natural sense of security and comfort.

Sit cross-legged on the floor. Lean forward onto the support of a sofa, a chair, or a stack of pillows, blankets, or cushions. If you have a bolster, place one end in your lap and the other end on the sofa, the chair, or the stack of support. Rest your head on whatever support is available. If you are using the bolster, you can hug it in any way that feels comfortable, turning your head to the side. Be sure that whatever support you are using is high enough and sturdy enough to support you, without creating strain in the back or hips. If you feel a strong stretch that is uncomfortable to hold, you need more support.

In this pose, the belly, chest, and back all expand and contract with each breath. Feel the movement of the whole torso as you inhale and exhale. Feel your belly and chest gently press into the support of the bolster or pillows as you inhale. Let the sensation of your breath deepen the sensation of being hugged.

These simple relaxation practices will lead you on the path of ending your suffering. Yoga can teach you how to focus your mind to change your experience of physical pain. It can give you back the sense of safety, control, and courage that you need to move past your experience of chronic pain.

Kelly McGonigal is the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.

This article is excerpted from her book, Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Calm Your Mind and Heal Your Chronic Pain, which is available at

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Relaxation - Day 15

To round out our week I've searched the web for variations of Reclining Bound Angle. Here's a few more version you might enjoy:

Lots of props plus eye pillow.

No props.

Bound Angle at the Wall.

Super luxurious with hands weighted.

Set up using books instead of yoga blocks. Good creativity.

Using rolled towels for leg support.

While pregnant.

With a group.

With breath awareness.

Upside-down with a partner - lol.

Have fun!