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April 2 & 9 Restore Series

I am finally beginning to feel that Spring has arrived and will remain for the duration of her season.  I think that I have transitioned.  Both Mother Nature and I took our own sweet time to change over from Winter.  I still had some winter projects to accomplish, and she had a few more cold, snowy days to spit out.  You may be feeling slightly overwhelmed with the changes as your own systems are in flux.  This pertains to us and to nature. My restorative teacher, Jillian Pransky, said recently that a lot is happening in our soil right now.  The components and makeup of the soil are changing daily to accommodate and nurture the new life bursting forth.

Relaxing the Eyes
Sit comfortably and cup the hands over the eyes.  The heel of each hand will rest on the upper cheek bone with fingers pointing upward.  The eyes are closed. Do not press into the eyes.  Try to eliminate any light from the cracks between the fingers by pressing fingers together. Stay like this for a few minutes enjoying the darkness and the breath flow.  When you begin to feel more relaxed, try opening the eyes into the dark cupped hands - sensing the darkness around you.

You can continue this exercise by lifting the cupped hands about 6 inches away from your eyes, continue to gaze softly to the hands (half lids) then bring the cupped hands back to the eyes for a few rounds of breath.  When this is complete for you, release hands and slowly look around you.

The Poses
Supported Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukhasavasana)
My beautiful model Pat
Props: 2 bolsters, 1-2 blankets
Benefits: Gently stretches the spine, slight inversion to release pressure in low back, improve circulation, revitalizing while giving a bit of grounding through abdominal area and lower chakras, internal massage to organs, lengthens muscles fibers in quads.

Stack one bolster on top of another vertically on your mat.  Move the top bolster slightly back so that the two bolsters are staggered like stairs.  Roll one blanket for ankle support and place toward back of mat where ankles can lay across.  Recline your belly over the bolsters and reach legs back until ankles rest on blanket roll.  Legs will still have a small bend in the knees to keep alignment.  Your head hangs over so that the chin may either be resting lightly on side of top bolster or even resting forehead on a block which is placed on bottom bolster.  Make sure that the neck feels long.  Drape arms over sides of bolsters and let the tension drain down the arms to fingertips and out into a puddle on the floor.

Mountain Brook with Legs Supported
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll, two bolsters
Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.

Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft ones!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing.  It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.
On your mat, place one bolster where your knees will be and another where your lower legs can rest, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up or come into Goddess arms.  If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel.  Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes.  Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves.  Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket.  Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.

Reclined Bound Angle

Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. 
Props: bolster, 4 blocks (or firm cushions, pillows or rolled-up blankets), 4 blankets and one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow

Place a block lengthwise under one end of a bolster to prop it up on an incline, add another block under bolster for stability. We used the wall in this week's class placing the bolster at a higher elevation. Place a double-fold blanket on floor next to low end of bolster and a long rolled blanket on top next to bolster (for sacral support). Sit with your back to the short, low end of the bolster. Place two blocks where your knees will rest (can top with a soft blanket or use other props as necessary for propping knees)  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.  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 10 to 15 minutes.

Sublime Side Lean (Minimal Prop)
Props: 1 blankets
Benefits: Stretches the torso and provides a gentle twist which allows a release in tension in the lower back area. Emphasis on three-part breath.  Elongates side body.

Create a bolster fold from one blanket.  Fold a blanket into smaller rectangle from a a full half fold.  Lay flat on floor and fold in thirds, the final third folding under (s-fold) then fold 1/3 in and other third in with fringe on top third.  Lie on right side with hip at the base of the blanket. Torso should rest on the blanket.  Right arm rest on the floor with the palm up.  The left arm can reach over the head to increase the stretch.  Close your eyes and allow your body to relax and release any stress or tension. Slowly sit up and switch sides for the same amount of time.
Focus on your breath.  Breath into your right side allowing that gentle stretch to travel from the tip of your fingers down your lower spine.  Sense the left side of your body gently melting and surrendering to the ground beneath you.  All tension and stress being recycled by mother earth.  Sense the gentle letting go of your muscles and knowing that you are safe and supported.  Breath deep and exhale soft and long.

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. 

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