September 13, 2011 Restorative Series

I felt it and I am wondering if you did too? Today was a day of breakthroughs. As we let go of the physical holding up of our muscles, of our bones, of our nervous system, we can finally let go. The tidal wave of emotions roll through, the tight binding of the muscle fibers loosen, the line between yourself and others begins to diminish. What works for you in the moment of that pose? What works for you outside of the pose, the class, the yoga community? I think I am getting way ahead of myself. Read on about the poses, the breath, and ways to incorporate relaxation into your real life.


The Breath
Left-Nostril Breathing


Benefits: Left nostril breathing is a very quick and effective way to wind down and get into sleep mode. This is because the left nostril is connected to the right hemisphere of the brain, which can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts the stress effect, calming you down, slowing heart rate, cooling you down, and increasing digestion.  For more information, check out the term "ida" which is the left side of our brain. The opposite is "pingala" the sympathetic nervous system, right side. 


Use the thumb or index finger of the right hand to gently close the right nostril. Breathe long and deep for three minutes or until you fall asleep. You can do this sitting or lying down. Lying on your right side will help open the left nostril. I like to allow my tongue to travel to the roof of my mouth in this breath to root my focus on my third eye (middle of the forehead).  Also placing my index and middle finger at the third eye assists in activating the parasympathetic nervous system. 


The Poses
Therapeutic Spinal Strip



Props: 1 rolled up blanket, lengthwise, 1 blanket double-fold, neck pillow

Benefits: reinvigorates the spine bringing fresh blood and oxygen. With deep breath, can give the effect of a massage on the spine.

Roll a single-fold blanket keeping the roll more on the flatter side.  This becomes your spinal strip.  Lay this strip down on the floor and place a double-folded blanket at one end (Letter T).  Sacrum is on the double-folded blanket and carefully lay the spine and head down on rolled up blanket.  Use a neck pillow in cervical curve.  Arms relax by the sides, palms turned up.  A variation is to have knees together, feet wide apart.  Stay for about 5 -8 minutes.  A nice alternative to the Heart Bench. 

Supported Childs Pose (Balasana)


Straddle Option with head on roll




Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets, neck roll

Benefits: gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind. Gives a sense of security.  Reduces swelling in the legs and feet. Can be helpful to ease into sleep.
Place the two blocks under bolster, height depends on your comfort, equidistant from each other.  If more comfortable, do not use blocks under the bolster.  Lay a s-fold or triple-fold blanket on top of the bolster.  Legs straddle the bolster at one end.  Inhale to lengthen body over the bolster, head rests on the props.  Additional blankets may be used behind the knees, at ankles, laying on the lower back, under knees, between pelvic area and props. See what is comfortable for you and adjust. Feel the support of the props and release muscular tension especially along the sacrum and lower back. Stay here for 5 minutes, slowly turning head to other side when needed. Gradually increase time in the pose up to 10 minutes.

Supported Reclined Twist*(Jathara Parivartanasana)

Props: bolster, 2-4 blocks, 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Allows breath to come in to the rib cage and belly more freely. Can reduce high blood pressure. Relieves fatigue and insomnia.  Safe for a Prenatal twist.
This can be a very prop intensive pose but once you are in it, it is worth it.  Begin with right side of body, place the bottom of your right foot against the wall with leg extended. Left leg is bent at a 90 deg. angle and propped up with two blocks and a bolster with maybe a blanket on top. at least two blankets, S-fold blankets, and/or pillows placed along spine for support, lengthwise.  Extend your left arm out to the left side and lay it on a smaller stack of blankets either s-fold or triple-fold out to your side.  Right arm extends out to the right.  This means the left arm is at a higher elevation than right. Head can remain neutral to ceiling or turn to one side.   Extra blankets can be placed in spaces that need more support.  Neck roll for cervical spine and eye pillow.
*we are digging placing the arms in Goddess pose (not pictured) so try that one out as well. Place blanket support under arms. 

Supported Reclining Pose

Props: bolster, two blocks, neck roll, at least 5 blankets
Benefits: helps with insomnia, congestion, relieves tension between the shoulder blades and is beneficial for the kidneys. Can help reprogram your nervous system.
Build an incline with the bolster and two blocks, make it sturdy. A smaller rolled up blanket is placed at the lower end of incline to support lumbar spine. One double-folded blanket at top of bolster to lay the head on. And one long-rolled blanket with ends tucked under to support knees and keep legs in place.  Two triple-folded blankets on either side to rest arms on (if arms out to the sides) or two blankets placed on floor just above the shoulders for Goddess arms.
Sit in front of bolster with tailbone resting on floor. Place rolled up blanket under knees. Lean back on bolster and place head on blanket and your neck roll in cervical curve. Let heels come to the floor (may add blanket for cushioning of heels or even wrap feet for extra comfort and warmth). Arms rest either at side or in Goddess position, palms facing up. Take several long, slow breaths. As you exhale sigh it out and drop the belly to drop onto the pelvis. Stay with the pose anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. 


Juicy Tidbits


One may ask how do I relax or bring relaxation into my life?  I watch TV to de-stress but I still wake up in the middle of the night with worry?  I grab a cup of Joe from my favorite barista when I need to take a few minutes to myself but I still crave action, chaos?  Well here are some suggestions from Judith Lasater, Restorative expert in her own right.  But before perusing this list, get out your journal and get to work.


Pick something you feel you can really do over the next several days to bring relaxation into your life. Write your choice in your journal and then write it to a piece of paper or a sticky note. Tape it to your mirror in the bathroom, your dashboard in your car, on the fridge.  Post it wherever you will see it prominently.  After several days, reflect on how you are doing with this endeavor, what you notice in  your physical being, your mental and emotional states and your relationships with others.   Journal this down.  Change your goal if you like or continue with this one on an ongoing basis.


Suggestions

  • ask for help when you need it
  • drive within the speed limit (seriously, I get better MPG if I'm driving less stressed)
  • be willing to say "I don't know"
  • in a stressful situation, ask yourself this question, "What is the most important thing right now?"
  • position the interior rear view mirror in your car so that you have to stretch a little to look in it. This will remind you to lengthen your spine and not collapse when driving. 
  • Write on your posted note, "Breathe"
  • take several long, slow breaths at every stop light
  • notice how often you say "Hurry up" to yourself or to someone else, especially a child.
  • Remember, the only people who are finished with everything are dead!

If you would like to see more of her suggestions, please refer to her book, Relax & Renew.


Happy Journaling.







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