TOP 5 RESTORATIVE POSES TO HELP TRANSITION YOU INTO SUMMER
On Wednesdays we practice the Law of Least Effort (based on the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra and David Simon), so it is in this spirit that on this fine, hot Wednesday, we are sharing our top five restorative poses for Summer. The Law of Least Effort teaches us that nature functions with endless ease, and when you are in harmony with nature, you maximize benefit when you minimize effort. As you know from our YOGA 101 blog post, restorative/yin yoga is a style that utilizes props to hold the body in poses for an extended period of time. This is meant to allow the props, time, and gravity to gently stretch the body while the mind has time to slow the thoughts and find the spaces with nothingness. So as we minimize effort, we allow the body to get the maximum benefit from the poses.
During the transition from Spring to Summer the frenetic energy of Spring gives way to the heat of the Summer months and as we transition seasons, the summer months are a good time to stay grounded and keep the body cool. Yin is a great way to do this because of the body's connection to the earth and because of the slow nature of the movement you will not build up as much heat as you would in a vinyasa class. The mat based poses held for extended time frames allow our blood pressure to lower and you cool down. In Ayurveda, the heat of the summer months can lead to an imbalance in pitta doshas (see our "What is Ayurveda" post), and this cooling and grounding activity will pacify the heat of pitta. At our annual Fall Retreat in Malibu we always end our days beachside with a Restorative yoga class. We listen to the rhythm of the waves and let our bodies melt into the mat. Not only does it allow our bodies to cool down and relax, but it slows the constant chatter of the mind, allowing us to wind down for the evening. It's not all about just digesting our food and absorbing nutrients. It is also important to be able to mentally digest your day and process your emotional experiences (both past and present). A Yin practice provides us with the opportunity to turn down the mental chatter and receive and integrate any lessons learned that day.
We invite you turn on some relaxing music, put on comfortable clothes, and give these restorative poses a try. Get ready to slip into Summer BLISS....
What you will need to enjoy this practice:
- 2 yoga blocks, foam or cork work depending on what your preference is (usually the foam are a little softer)
- Bolster (a thick blanket can also work if you don't have a bolster)
- A quiet room or place where you won't be easily distracted - or - in our case - trampled on by your dog
- Music! set the mood to relax and enjoy taking some time for yourself
- Yoga mat
*We recommend staying in these poses for 2-5 minutes each
No. 1 | Child's Pose (Balasana)
From all fours, big toes touch, slide your knees wide to the edges of the mat. Tops of your feet press into the mat, seat on your heels. Walk hands out in front of you, press your palms into the mat, sinking your chest down towards the ground. Gently rest the space between your brows on the mat and press your hips back and down towards your feet. Your spine should be long from the crown of your head to your tailbone.
- Blocks under your hands
- Bolster under your hips to lessen the stretch in your hips and low back
- Block under your forehead
- Stretches muscles of the knee and ankle
- Alleviates pain in low back and neck by stretching the hip and shoulder muscles
- Quiets the mind and gives your 3rd eye (space between your brows) a nice massage
No. 2 | Reclined Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. Open your knees to the side like you are opening a book or sitting butterfly. Bottoms of the feet touch, allow your knees to sink towards the earth. In this supported version, we have used blocks under your knees to support your legs and decrease the intensity of the stretch in your inner thighs and hips. Depending on your flexibility, you can use the short or tall end of the block to give you more or less support.
- Use blocks under your knees and thighs
- Move your feet away from your body to take pressure off your knees
- Try a mudra with your hands to focus your mind
- Stretches hips and inner thighs
- Stimulates pelvic and abdominal organs
- Increases blood flow to the pelvic region, easing symptoms related to menopause and menstrual pain
No. 3 | Supported Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. Spread your feet apart to the distance of your hips. Press your feet down into the mat and lift your hips off the ground to a comfortable level. Place a block directly under your sacrum (just below your low back and before your butt - see link for reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacrum ) - photos above show different variations with the block, you can use the short or tall end of the block to give you more or less support. Keep your face toward the sky and your knees directly over your ankles while allowing your body to melt over the block.
- Change the height of the block to meet your comfort level
- Place your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your stomach
- Stretches quads, hips and abdominal muscles
- Balances the root and sacral chakra
- Eases symptoms of menopause and menstrual pain
No. 4 | Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Sit on your mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Place the bolster directly behind you so the bottom of it will hit about the middle of your back. Sitting up straight begin to slowly roll down until you are lying back on top of the bolster. Adjust the placement of it if needed. Push your shoulders down away from your ears and open your arms to the sides, palms facing up. Allow your feet to fall to the sides and let your back dissolves around the bolster.
- Folded blanket or small pillow under your head to accomodate for neck tightness
- Bend or butterfly your knees
- Use blocks instead of a bolster (one under your rib cage and one under your head)
- Stretches the hip flexors and psoas
- Stimulates the heart chakra by opening chest and stretching the shoulders
- Improves posture
No. 5 |Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Place a bolster along your left side, about knee-hip high. Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. Bring right knee to your chest and release the left leg to the ground, straight out in front of you. With your right knee still bent, "T" your arms out to either side of you. Lower your shoulders away from your ears and turn your palms to face up. Slowly twist your spine to bring the right knee across your body to the left until it gently rests on the bolster, shin parallel to your left leg. Both shoulder blades should still be firmly on the ground, if not, add extra height to your bolster (like a folded blanket). When both of your shoulder are on the ground and your right leg is resting comfortably, then you have found the perfect combination and you can relax and enjoy. Repeat on the left side.
- Stack a blanket or second bolster on top of the first one for extra support
- Rest your head on a pillow or blanket for extra neck support
- Turn head towards the knee on the bolster to lessen rotation at neck OR turn head away from your leg on bolster to intensify the rotation at the neck
- Stretches back, abdominal, and hip musclesB
- Brings circulation to the vital organs and aids the digestive process
- Encourages lymphatic flow (why twists are said to be detoxifying)
- Mobilizes the spine and stimulates the discs