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Try this restorative sequence to keep calm in the busy holiday season.
Practice this 60-minute restorative sequence as often as you can this busy holiday season. Or if time is limited, you can reap the rewards by indulging just once a week. Find a quiet, dark space, set up your props (if you don’t have traditional blocks and bolsters, use books and pillows), and settle into poses that will help you rest, digest, and ultimately recharge. Restorative yoga is a receptive practice, so you’ll feel open afterward, interacting with yourself and others in a more loving way.
OUR PROS Teacher Gail Grossman is the founder and director of Om Sweet Om Yoga in Port Washington, New York, and has been teaching yoga since 2000. Model Amanda Russcol has been teaching yoga for about a decade and runs her own studio, Yoga High, in Denver. Writer Kate Siber is a freelance health, travel, and environmental journalist based in Durango, Colorado.
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. If your knees are higher than your hips, prop yourself up on a blanket or two. Rest your palms on your knees, and on an inhalation, lengthen the spine, reaching up through the crown of your head. Close your eyes and draw your attention inward, practicing Apa Japa, or breath awareness. Try not to change the way you are breathing; instead, follow a natural rhythm. Focus on the length of the inhalations and exhalations. Notice the breath com- ing in through the nostrils and into your lungs. Feel the expansion and contraction of your ribs as you breathe in and out. This will help you feel present in your body and life, and grounded and connected to your center during this chaotic time of year.
Sit here and breathe for at least 2 minutes.
See also The Art of Relaxation
Supported Child’s Pose
1. Position a bolster on an incline—supported by a block in the middle, on its widest side, and a block at the top, on its long edge.
2. Sit with your knees on either side of the low end of the bolster, resting on your heels. If you have tight feet, place a rolled-up blanket under the tops of your feet.
3. Fold forward and rest your entire belly on the bolster, so you can fully relax. Use blankets under your forearms for support. Turn your head to one side, and then after a few minutes, turn your head to the other side.
Stay in the posture for at least 5 minutes total.
4. When you are finished, sit up, move the bolster to the side, and bring your legs out to stretch.
This pose gently massages the abdominal organs. This can get things moving with your digestion, which may back up this time of year, when we tend not to eat as well as usual.
See also Escape to Supported Child’s Pose
Supported Belly Down Twist
1. From a seated position, place the bolster along the middle of your mat. You may choose to put the bolster on a gentle incline using blocks.
2. Bring the right hip next to the bolster, knees bent.
3. Stretch your right arm along the bolster and then lower your arm to the floor next to your bolster. Place your left hand on the floor along the other side of the bolster and turn your belly toward the bolster.
4. Lower yourself onto the bolster. Turn your head either toward your knees, or for a deeper twist, away from them. Let the bolster support you: Relax your arms and try not to hold yourself up. If you need to, place blankets under your forearms for support, and a blanket or block between your knees to take any strain off the back.
Hold this position for at least 3 minutes.
5. Come out by pressing yourself away from the bolster and sitting up.
Repeat on the other side.
This twist helps to relieve stress and tension in the muscles along the sides and midsection of the torso, and it’s great for helping you digest big holiday meals.
Holding a twist for a long time in a relaxed state helps move things along, including blood flow to the stomach.
See also Restorative Yoga Poses
Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana
Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose
1. Set up another reclining bolster, but make it at a steeper incline than the one you used for Supported Child’s Pose.
2. Sit on the floor and bring your lower back to the low edge of the bolster. Take another bolster and place it horizontally under your knees.
3. Place your hands on the bolster behind you, puff up your chest, and then lie back on the bolster.
4. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop out to the sides.
5. With your arms straight out in front of you, drape a blanket folded in half over and envelop them so that they and your torso are swaddled.
Stay in this pose for 10 or more minutes.
6. To come out, free your arms first, then use your hands on the outer knees to bring your legs together. Roll to your right side and come up to sitting.
This pose should create a sense of calm as it opens up the back, pelvic area, and the hips and stretches your inner thighs.
See also Reclining Bound Angle Pose
1. Place a bolster on its flat side several inches from a wall.
2. Sit on the floor facing the wall, with one hip against one bolster end.
3. Lower your shoulders and head to the floor, lying on your side.
4. Then roll onto your back and up onto the bolster, eventually stretching your legs up the wall.
5. Adjust your position by scooting your tailbone toward the wall until it drops over the edge of the bolster.
6. Find a comfortable position for your arms, making sure they aren’t touching anything but the floor. Settle into the pose and breathe.
Hold this pose for at least 10 minutes.
7. To come out, bend your knees, push yourself off the bolster, and roll to your right side before pushing back up to seated.
This pose is great for reinvigorating tired legs and feet. Like many inversions, it also has a calming effect on the nervous system, by giving the heart a rest. And it’s great for staying balanced while traveling because it helps circulate blood after you’ve been sitting.
See also Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
Legs on a Chair Pose
1. Place a chair on your yoga mat, with a folded blanket on the seat.
2. Set up two bolsters in a T shape, positioning the one closest to the chair horizontally.
3. Sit on the bolster closest to the chair and lie to one side before rolling onto your back and resting your spine on the vertical bolster.
4. Support your head with a blanket, if that feels good.
5. Lift your calves onto the seat of the chair and place your arms alongside you, making sure they’re not touching anything but the floor. Settle in and connect to your breath.
Hold this position for at least 10 minutes.
6. To come out, hug your knees to your chest and roll to your right side.
Like Legs-up-the-Wall, this pose also provides the benefits of an inversion—including a calmed nervous system, restored legs and feet, and a relaxed lower back.
See also Restorative Comfort and Joy
Side-Lying Corpse Pose
1. Lie down on your right side with a folded blanket under your head.
2. Bring your right arm out away from you.
3. Place one bolster between your legs, from mid thigh or knee to your ankle. Place another bolster in front of your belly, so that your top arm can drape over it.
4. If your knees and ankles aren’t on the same plane, put a folded blanket under your calves and ankles to elevate them.
To get the true benefits of the pose, hold it for 10 to 20 minutes.
Side-Lying Savasana is especially effective at relieving fatigue. If you’re pregnant or need help with digestion, lie on the left, to avoid compressing the vena cava vein, which moves blood from the lower part of the body—the uterus—to the heart, and to encourage the natural flow of waste through the intestines.
See also Corpse Pose