Restorative Yoga is deeply relaxing & restful, yet it can also be powerfully transformative.
In Restorative Poses the body is carefully supported to allow deep rest and to allow gravity to do the work. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel gently stretched, or feel the shoulders opening up, or the tight spaces unwinding. But there should be no effort, and definitely no pain.
Before I started Yoga I had a crumpled up posture; narrow, tight shoulders that rounded forward, a tense straight neck with forward head posture, and an upper back that seemed to be made out of concrete.
I can honestly say that it was not the active, moving poses that changed this; it was the Restorative Yoga poses that transformed my body completely and helped me relieve tight shoulders.
If there was one pose more than any other that transformed my posture and eased away the tightness in my shoulders, it was the Pranayama Fold.
This pose is commonly called the Pranayama fold in Yoga because it’s also good for your breathing. Pranayama is the practice of studying and regulating the breath for a healthy body and a calm mind. Re-balancing your shoulders & upper back, and expanding your capacity for healthy breathing go hand in hand!
It’s a big favourite with many of my private Yoga clients who come to Yoga with tight shoulders.
Give it a go…
Fold a firm blanket into a flat, even column that is narrower than the width of your shoulders, so that when you lie back on it with your palms facing upwards, your shoulders can gradually release down to the floor a little, either side of the blanket.
A small blanket may be narrow enough if you simply fold it over, but for bigger blankets a “fan fold” may be the best way to achieve a very even, level support.
If you have a bigger blanket and need a fan fold to make it narrow enough, here’s how…
You’ll probably find that you have a soft end and a more bulky end to that fan-folded blanket. The soft end will be best placed under your lower back.
You’ll also need an additional blanket or cushion behind your head. How thick depends on your individual body. It’s important again that your forehead is just a little higher than your chin, with your eyes drifting downwards.
To lie back over the blanket fold, sit yourself in front of the soft end (not on it, but in front of it), and lengthen your spine back along the column. To feel more spacious and relaxed in your lower back, you may also need to glide your sacrum away from your back ribs as you settle down.
Let your arms relax out to the sides with the palms of your hands facing upwards.
Most people find that a bolster or something similarly shaped under the knees will be enough to lengthen the lower back so that it feels relaxed. However if you feel uncomfortable in your lower back, try experimenting with a little cushioning under your sacrum, or bending your knees more.
While in the pose, observe your breathing. Exhale fully. Allow the muscles all around your rib cage to be soft so that the rib cage can open more easily with your inhalation. Don’t fight with thoughts that come up, but don’t chase them either – as each one comes up, let it go. I have a free Breath Mindfulness recording you can download to help keep your mind focused in a relaxed way.
Remember, no one pose will suit every body. Sometimes a Restorative Pose feels quite unusual at first and you might need 10 or so long exhalations to allow yourself to get used to it before you decide. Generally, the more you soften, the more relaxing and supportive the pose will feel. However if you have discomfort that doesn’t ease, or even increases during the pose, then you should come out and perhaps try it another day.
If this pose does work for you, then you could build up the duration to 10 minutes or more.
Your shoulders will gradually release back either side of the blanket as you relax, easing out tightness in your pectoral muscles and allowing your neck muscles to soften.
These resources are excerpted from my Healthy Happy Back E-Course, which offers manageable step-by step techniques that you can choose from and slowly incorporate into your daily life. It’s completely suitable for beginners and anyone willing to slow down and take a gentle, easeful approach to rediscovering a healthier, happier back. Delivered via weekly emails for 12 weeks. Click here for all the details.
Like all Yoga practices, Restorative Yoga works best when it’s specifically tailored to your unique body, mind and lifestyle. For a customised Restorative Yoga practice tailored to your unique body and mind, via Skype or in person, drop me a line using the form below, or join my 9 month online YogaNurture Program…click here for more information.
Restorative Yoga sessions are also a big favourite at our YogaNurture Weekends and if you’re local to Southern Tasmania I offer Winter Wellness Restorative Yoga workshops in the Huon Valley, as well as at other times throughout the year. Sign up to the mailing list to keep in touch.
If you’d love more gentle restorative Yoga poses, audio meditations, and useful gentle Yoga, breathing and mindfulness for real bodies living real lives, sign up here. You’ll receive a nurturing Welcome Pack of resources for calm & ease, with 2 short videos, 3 guided meditations, & a chart for standing with a posture of ease & grace. You’ll then receive an email no more than once a fortnight or so, and can unsubscribe at any time.