You can’t get very far without hearing about different styles or forms of yoga, from hot, power, core yoga to gentle and restorative yoga. I wanted to write about restorative yoga because it is such a wonderful style, yet virtually unknown. Restorative yoga doesn’t seem to have the same appeal to the marketing world as more aggressive styles of yoga that strengthen and tone the body – However, unlike the “hard” yoga styles, restorative yoga is a style that everyone can do, and everyone will benefit from.
Restorative yoga promotes deep and total relaxation – a state that is rare in this day and age. The physical demands of restorative yoga are low, because all the poses are done completely supported on props (cushions, bolsters, blankets), and the physical benefits are high. When the body is properly supported and the focus is relaxing into the position, it allows the physical body to open in a way that is very gentle and soft. Further, it is through the mechanism of rest that the body can heal – on a cellular level, as well as mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Restorative yoga does just what it says it does: It restores you. It is meant to be practiced when your energy reserves are low, you are under stress or fatigued. The poses are such that you can practice them when you are unwell, or recovering from illness or major life stressors.
In Yoga for Grief Support, I use restorative poses frequently. The lethargy experienced with the grief and mourning experience can be quite profound, and restorative yoga provides a way to gently approach the body and create both openness and ease.
Mountain Brook Pose
“I will let my body flow like water over the gentle cushions.” - Sappho
Below is a restorative pose that I use to open the heart, and deepen the breath. It allows us to open parts of our body that we generally protect – our throat, heart and belly. For this pose, you will need the following props: One rolled blanket, rolled pillow or rolled yoga mat for behind your knees. Two stacked folded blankets for behind your shoulder blades. One blanket or towel rolled for behind your neck.
Do not practice this pose if you have disc disease or another condition of the spine, or if you are more than 3 months pregnant.
To set up for this pose:
1. Sit at the long edge of your stacked, single fold blankets. You will lay onto these blankets so they support your shoulder blades – the center line of the blankets should be just below the lower tip of your blades. This set up should not be uncomfortable in your lower back – you want to feel as though your heart is lifted, but your shoulders can relax and your lower back is long. If you feel over arched, decrease your set up by one blanket.
2. Place the rolled blanket/pillow/yoga mat behind your knees. Have enough height that the legs feel supported.
3. Place the rolled towel/blanket behind your neck so your neck and head feel support from beneath. Your neck should feel 100% relaxed. If it does not, try decreasing the height behind your shoulder blades.
4. Place your arms out to the sides at about 90 degrees or in a comfortable position in relation to your blankets.
5. Stay here for 5 minutes. Focus on relaxing your body onto the supports, as if it were water, flowing over stones in a mountain brook. Let go of tension in the muscles of the face, jaw and throat. Notice any feelings as they arise from your heart -and simply be aware of their presence. Soften and relax your belly with each exhalation.
6. When you are ready to come out, roll to one side and pause there. In time, gently press yourself to sitting.