Rest & Renew

"I will let my body flow like water over the gentle cushions." SAPPHO

How can we make the most of our precious private time to support our need to recuperate from daily stressors?

In as little as five minutes a day, we can place ourselves kindly and gently into restorative yoga poses which support the innate healing capacities of the body. Developed by BKS Iyengar, living yoga master, restorative yoga has come into the mainstream through the writing and prescriptions of health care providers, as well as his own book, Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health; (Dorling Kindersley, 2001) Mary Pullig Schatz,MD; Back Care Basics ( Rodmell 1992) and Judith Lasater, PhD; PT; Relax and Renew,(Rodmell 1995)are useful references readily available in local book stores. The latter two are Iyengar certified teachers and both have studied with Mr. Iyengar in his special medical classes.

But you need not go to India to gain the benefits of a quiet yoga practice. All you need is five minutes, simple props and a space that is clean and quiet.

How does restorative yoga work?

Begin with one pose and listen to your body as you move into, hold and release the pose. It is best to practice your pose with an empty stomach. Wear warm comfortable clothing.

Here’s the Basic Restorative Pose: savasana

You will need two blankets or bath sheets. Fold one so that one end of the folded blanket is thicker than the other. The thicker side will support the bones of your neck and the thinner side will be under the back of your head. Roll the other blanket so that it forms a cylinder which you will place under the back of your knees. If it is difficult to get down onto the floor, place these on your bed and lay on your back.

Adjust the blanket that is supporting your neck so that the bones of the neck are supported. Some people like to use a soft cloth to cover the eyes.

Let your legs drop downward. Release your heels and let your inner arches deepen. Release the bones of the legs at the joints of the ankles, knees and thighs. Allow the abdomen to soften, spread and deepen. Allow the chest to feel broad and open. Rest the arms away from the side ribs. Let the hands soften and curl. The centre of the palms are deep wells of energy. Relax them.

Relax the throat at its base and let the lower jaw release away from the upper jaw. See that the forehead is somewhat higher than the chin so the eyes look downward and inward. Soften the openings to the ears and the nasal passages. Let the skin over the face loosen and become smooth. Let the scalp release from the bones of the skull.

Take a long, slow, deep and very gentle inhalation and follow with a slow deep gentle exhalation. Observe the movement of the breath as it glides up the nasal passages, touches the back of the throat and appears to arise from the deep abdomen into the ribcage; and, perhaps, under the collar bones. Notice how it leaves the body down the central channel. Keep your mind tethered to the breath.

Sometimes it is helpful to have a timer set up so that you know that you will be roused without disturbing your savasana to check the time.

Coming out of the pose, slowly increase your inhalations and bend the knees, roll to one side and sit, with the head coming up last. Sit quietly for a few breaths.

Savasana is different from sleep and more restful. Sleep brings dreams which cause muscle contractions and mental activity. Savasana is a pose which requires no such efforts. Mr. Iyengar likens this pose to the experience of Gulliver who, when he was captured by the tiny Lilliputians, had to cut thousands of fine threads which held him captive. In savasana, we sever the threads which bind us to tensions in our lives.