Yoga is one of the best tools we have to deeply rest and restore the body, mind and spirit. I came to yoga as a way to manage stress and anxiety, and found it so effective I ended up studying to teach yoga so I could share these benefits with others. Yoga postures (asana) are one of the tools that yoga offers us to help us rebalance our nervous system after short or long term stress. In all of the poses, practice slow deep breathing. Inhale until your lungs are full, and exhale until they are empty. Keep your breath easy and relaxed, not forced.
The first three poses use a bolster – which is a long dense cylindrical pillow-like yoga prop. If you want to practice yoga to reduce stress on a regular basis, I highly recommend you invest in one. In the meantime, you can roll a thick blanket and use that instead.
1. Supported Forward Bend
+ Sit on your mat or the floor and stretch your legs out straight
+ If you notice that your lower back rounds, sit on some height like a blanket or sofa cushion
+ Place your bolster under your knees and let your heels come to the floor
+ Allow your upper body to fold forward over your legs, without pulling yourself forward
+ Let your spine round, and your head relax
+ Find a comfortable place for your hands to rest, and release all effort
+ Stay in this position for up to 5 minutes
+ If you notice your neck & shoulders feel tight – place something underneath your forehead for support
The idea is to remain as still and relaxed as possible without using any effort to stay in the pose. When you are ready to come out, slowly, vertebra by vertebra round your spine back up to straight.
2. Restorative Twist
+ Place your bolster near the back of your mat, lengthways
+ Turn to face the right side of the room, so that the outside of your right hip touches the short edge of the bolster
+ Bend both knees so that your knees point in the same direction as your face, and your feet face behind you
+ Make your legs comfortable – the exact positioning isn’t super important
+ Turn to face the bolster and place your hands on the floor on either side
+ Press your hands into the floor as you inhale and lengthen your spine
+ As you exhale, place your belly, chest and then your right ear down on the bolster
+ Relax your arms so that your elbows come down to the mat
+ Stay here for 5 minutes, and surrender your body weight to gravity
When you are ready to come out, slowly press your hands into the floor, straighten your arms and lift yourself back up. Repeat on the left side.
3. Supported Bound Angle Pose
+ Place your bolster at the back of your mat lengthways ( the same position from the twist )
+ Sit on the floor, in front of your bolster with your feet facing the front of your mat
+ If your low back is sensitive, keep a few inches between your bum and the bolster.
+ Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are on the floor and your knees point up towards the ceiling
+ Place your hands behind your back and lower yourself down onto the bolster
+ Tuck your shoulder blades underneath your upper back, and find a comfortable place to rest your arms
+ Bring the soles of your feet together, and let your knees drop out to the sides
Note: For more support you could also place something under each thigh, such as a yoga block or cushion.
Stay here for up to 5 minutes, when you are ready to come out, use your hands to bring your knees back together. Once the soles of your feet are on the floor, roll onto your right side and press yourself up.
4. Legs Up The Wall
+ Start by bringing the short edge of your mat close to a wall
+ Lie down on your right side with your feet facing the wall
+ Shimmy your butt down towards the wall, until it is a few inches away from the wall
+ Then, roll onto your back and kick your legs up the wall
+ If your hamstrings feel pretty tight, then slide your butt a bit further away from the wall so that your legs can relax
+ Find a comfortable place for your hands to rest
+ Close your eyes and relax here for up to 5 minutes
When you are ready to come out, slide your heels down the wall and draw your knees into your chest. Wrap your arms around your shins and lift your head to your knees, squeeze yourself into a little ball. Next, release your legs, roll on to your right side and press yourself up to sit.
If you still have time, take a 5 minute savasana – lying down flat on your back, legs straight, bolster under your knees and with your feet as wide as your mat. Let your hands rest wherever they are most comfortable, and relax fully.
There you have it – just a few yoga poses that help your body and mind deeply rest and restore. If you are short on time, any one of these poses can be practiced independently. A little practice each day, no matter how short, is one of the best steps you can take towards taking care of yourself in stressful times.
If you want to give yourself the gift of DEEP REST and live in Sydney – I’m holding a 2 HR DEEP REST practice of restorative yin yoga & therapeutic yoga nidra on August 28th. To learn more check out the Studio Listing.
If you don’t live in Sydney – but would like to experience DEEP REST – comment below with where you live, and your favorite studio to practice at. I would love to come visit you!