A common misconception these days is that in order to benefit from yoga asanas, we have to strive hard, work up a sweat, do extreme poses, and really push our limits. While there’s nothing wrong with challenging ourselves, practicing yoga asanas in a gentle, passive way has many benefits. It allows us to slow down and really check in with what’s going on in our body, to respect our limitations and work with them to gradually increase our well-being.
Sometimes, due to an illness or an injury, we can’t practice poses we normally do. Instead of being frustrated and leaving our asana practice aside altogether, we can practice restorative yoga poses. For example, simply lying back over a bolster with a folded blanket under the head is a great way to relax while gently opening the chest.
When we’ve had an especially hectic or stressful day, practicing easier supported poses with attention helps release tension in the body while calming the mind and soothing the nerves. This is far better than continuing our frenzied pace with a challenging class when our nervous system really needs a break (in spite of what the mind may be telling us). Gentle, restorative poses help us calm down and restore our energy, rather than further depleting it. These poses help bring both body and mind back into balance. So don’t feel guilty about taking some time to do passive stretches, using props to support you in sitting or lying poses. Slow down, get comfortable, feel your body, deepen your breath… relax!
One simple restorative pose is to lie with your legs up the wall. Or practice supported Cobbler. Get 2 folded blankets and sit against a wall with the soles of your feet together. Rest one blanket under each thigh or knee, so that you’re comfortable, maybe feeling a tiny stretch, then close your eyes and relax. Stay for 2 or 3 minutes or as long as you’re comfortable, depending on the pose. Enjoy the quiet time. Or practice Lying Butterfly, our pose for this week.These poses help to counter the chronic stress that is all too often a part of life these days.