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To deepen the healing power of relaxation, Gail Parker suggests affirmations to accompany each pose in this sequence. While in a posture, silently say the full affirmation to yourself 3 times. For example, “Breathing in, I feel alive. Breathing out, I feel grateful.” Then on your next inhalation, silently say, “Alive.” On your exhalation, say, “Grateful.” Repeat at least 5 times. Then return your focus to your breath, resting in silence. If you are doing poses that are done on both sides of the body, repeat the affirmations on each side.
“One size does not fit all,” Parker says of the mantras. “Feel free to choose other affirmations that you prefer.”
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1. Balasana, Supported (Child’s Pose)
Create a support vertically in front of you on your mat with firm pillows, blankets, or a bolster. Lower onto your hands and knees, placing them on either side of the support. Open your knees wide toward the edges of your mat with the tops of your feet flat on the floor, big toes touching. Sit back onto your heels, and without lifting your hips, fold your torso forward over the length of the support. Place your forearms and the palms of your hands flat on either side of the bolster, or bend your elbows and wrap your fingers around the top edge of the support. Turn your head to one side, resting with your cheek or forehead on the bolster. Let gravity pull your hips toward the earth as you release your tailbone toward your heels. Hold this pose for 5–10 minutes on each side. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, take two or three deep breaths and gently press both hands into the floor to lift up to sit on your heels.
“Breathing in, I feel safe. Breathing out, I feel secure.”
- Inhale: “Safe.”
- Exhale: “Secure.”
2. Salamba Bharadvajasana (Supported Side Twist)
With your bolster vertically in the middle of your mat, sit with your right hip snug against the narrow end of it. Bend both knees, taking your shins to the left and resting your left ankle in the arch of your right foot. Lift up from your sternum, and twist your belly toward the right to square your torso to the front of the mat. From this position, fold over the bolster. Rest your right cheek on it so that your head is facing the same direction as your knees. Keep the back of your neck long and the front of it soft, resting your forearms and hands along the sides of the bolster. Hold this pose for up to 15 minutes. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, press both hands into the floor, tuck your chin into your chest, and come up to sitting. Repeat on the other side.
“Breathing in, I feel peaceful. Breathing out, I feel calm.”
- Inhale: “Peaceful.”
- Exhale: “Calm.”
3. Supta Ardha Chandrasana (Supported Side Bend)
Place a bolster or a blanket roll horizontally in the middle of your mat. Sit with your right hip against the side of it; bend your legs softly behind you with one leg on top of the other. Place a folded blanket, block, or pillow between your knees, and lean to the right. Reach your right hand across the top of your bolster and lower down over it onto your right side. Extend your right arm straight out along the ground with your palm facing up, and rest your head on your biceps. Reach your left arm straight up overhead with your palm facing the short edge of your mat and lower it over your ear until your palms touch. Observe your breath as you lengthen, release, and relax your entire body. When you are ready to switch sides, slowly turn your body to face down, then gently press your hands into the ground to rise up. Hold for 2-10 minutes, then repeat on the other side. When you are ready to come out of this pose, take 2–3 deep breaths, tuck your chin into your chest, and press your hands into the floor to lift up to sitting.
“Breathing in, I feel open. Breathing out, I feel expansive.”
- Inhale: “Open.”
- Exhale: “Expansive.”
4. Baddha Konasana, Supported (Bound Angle Pose)
For support, place a bolster vertically in the middle of your yoga mat with a folded blanket or a neck pillow at the top of it to support your head and neck. With your back to the end of the bolster, lie back. The lower edge of the support should come directly into contact with your buttocks and low back. Bring the soles of your feet together, touching as if in a prayer position, and spread your knees apart. Each knee, fanned out to the side, is supported by a yoga block, blanket roll, meditation cushion, or bolster. Let your arms rest comfortably by your sides. If you like, cover yourself with a blanket. Breathe deeply and surrender to gravity as you relax. Hold the pose for a minimum of 5 minutes and up to 20 minutes. To come out of it, put the soles of your feet on the floor, bend your knees, and roll off the bolster onto your right side, coming into a fetal position. Pause there for 5–10 breaths, tuck your chin into your chest, and use the strength of your arms to lift into a sitting position.
“Breathing in, I feel rested. Breathing out, I feel renewed.”
- Inhale: “Rested.”
- Exhale: “Renewed.”
5. Savasana, Supported (Resting Pose)
Sit on the floor with your legs slightly bent. Slide a bolster or blanket roll beneath your knees, and slowly lower your back, neck, and then head onto the floor. If your cervical spine needs support, place a small rolled-up hand towel below the curve of your low back. Let your arms rest comfortably by your sides, preferably with your palms facing up, and place your shoulder blades more squarely on your back. Close your eyes and become aware of your natural breath rhythms, and let go of any tension you may feel. Rest here for 5–20 minutes. When you’re ready to come out of this pose, roll to your right side, coming into the fetal position. Pause for 2–3 breaths, tuck your chin into your chest, and gently press your hands into the floor to lift back up to sitting.
“Breathing in, I feel alive. Breathing out, I feel grateful.”
- Inhale: “Alive.”
- Exhale: “Grateful.”
More from Dr. Gail Parker: How Restorative Yoga Can Help Heal Racial Wounding
Correction: The wrong image appears above Salamba Bharadvajasana in the print issue. The correct image for this pose appears above.
Poses adapted from Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma by Dr. Gail Parker. (Singing Dragon, 2020). Dr. Parker’s new book, Transforming Ethnic and Race-Based Traumatic Stress with Yoga is available for pre-order now.