There are days that our yoga practice needs to be vibrant, strong and heat building. And then there are days when we crave a practice that offers something soothing and restorative. This past Friday in the Pain Management Group we took restoration to a new level with two simple poses that are easily practiced at home. I know from first hand experience that it’s a struggle to keep the promise we’ve made to ourselves to practice our yoga at home. But these very simple, very calming poses may encourage you to find a little bit of space in your home and in your heart to begin the personal practice you’ve always wanted. Remember, you don’t need to worry if you’re practicing the poses correctly. Listen to cues your body offers. Don’t be afraid to practice variations of what you see here. Trust your instincts.
But what if you don’t have an exercise mat, a sandbag or yoga blocks? A little improvisation goes a long way. You’ll want to practice these poses on the floor for the firm support, but you can lie on a bath towel or blanket instead of a mat. Don’t have a ten pound sand bag laying around? No problem. Bags of rice, lentils or split peas – anything with just a bit of weight – will work. A stack of books will easily replace foam blocks and a firm pillow takes the place of the bolster.
In our first pose, using a sandbag or two large bags of rice on our upper thighs supports our breathing. Some individuals find the small shift in the angle of the pelvis caused by the weight temporarily relieves back pain. The weight is also an anchor that settles restlessness in the body and the mind. Adding a pillow or a rolled blanket under the back of thighs further eases the spine. Holding this shape for fifteen minutes is relaxing and refreshing. It’s like packing a full night’s sleep into a quarter of an hour. During this time you can add simple breath work. Try lengthening the exhalation, or taking the breath in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth as if blowing out a candle. When you’re ready, transition out of the pose mindfully, sitting quietly for a few moments before moving on with the rest of your day.
Our second pose, where we place weight on the forehead, is a variation of the head wrapping tradition you’ll find in many different cultures that is used as a remedy for headache. I can’t guarantee that your headache will be cured, but keeping a light weight on your forehead for just a few minutes can facilitate deeper relaxation. If you’re using a sand bag, place yoga blocks or a stack of books at the crown of the head to hold most of the sandbag’s weight. If you don’t have a sandbag a small bag of rice will work just fine, and you won’t need the books. You can even chill the rice in your fridge or freezer. Support the back of the thighs with a bolster, pillow, or rolled blanket. Close your eyes and allow your body to melt.
ps…by the way, I’m beginning to see what people mean when they say my clothes are too big! 🙂