Many of us walk around with the weight of the world on our shoulders – Often without even realizing it. The pressure to get everything done makes for exhausting work days and stressful personal lives. Sometimes even the activities we do in our spare time contribute to our buildup of tension. Don’t believe me? What about that intense workout you pushed through without taking time to stretch, or the hike that was so fun you forgot to eat? This behavior, though led with good intentions, leaves us depleted instead of energized or fulfilled. In order to restore balance and well-being to our lives, it’s important to take time to slow down and unwind. This restorative practice is the perfect way to show your body some love for all it does on a daily basis. By the end, your muscles will feel refreshed, your mind focused, and your heart happy.
- Block (stack of books)
- Bolster (sofa cushion)
- Strap (bathrobe belt)
Take a comfortable seat using a block under the sit bones to encourage length in the spine. Draw the eyes to close and focus on the natural rhythm of your breath. Notice areas in the body where you feel built-up tension and exhale to release it. Place the peace fingers on your right hand to the center of your forehead and use the thumb to block off the right nostril. Take a deep breath in through the left nostril, and at the top of the breath, release the thumb and block the left nostril with your ring finger. Exhale through the right nostril and immediately follow with an inhale through the same side. At the top of the breath release the thumb and exhale through the left side. Continue this breathing exercise for one to three minutes before releasing the right hand down and breathing naturally.
Starting with mild neck rolls, lower your chin towards your chest and begin to make slow circles with your neck in a clockwise direction. Drop your right ear towards your right shoulder, release the head back, and left ear to left shoulder. Complete three rolls before switching directions.
Garudasana — Eagle Arms
Bring your right arm in front of you at a 90-degree angle and wrap your left arm under crossing at the elbows. Bring the backs of the hands as close together as possible, and if they touch, try to take a full bind bringing the palms to touch. Draw the elbows up and away from the body as you breathe space into the center of the back. Take five full breaths here before slowly unwinding and switching sides.
Marjaryasana — Cat/Cow Pose
Carefully make your way to all fours with wrists stacked under shoulders and knees under hips. If you have sensitive knees, bring a blanket under for support. Spread your fingers wide and press down in the fleshy space between the thumb and index. As you inhale, drop the belly down while lifting the gaze and tailbone. As you exhale, round the spine while tucking the tailbone and chin. Flow through this movement for five rounds.
Salamba Balanasana — Child’s Pose
Starting on all fours, bring knees wide and big toes together as you settle the hips back. Walk the fingertips forward and place the forehead to rest on either the mat or a block. Use a bolster under the upper body for a more therapeutic experience. Fill up and create space in the back body on the inhale, and surrender to gravity on the exhale. Stay here for five to ten cycles of breath.
Uttana Shishosana — Extended Puppy Pose
From a tabletop position with hips directly over knees and toes tucked, slowly walk the hands forward and begin to settle the heart down towards the floor. Feel free to bring blocks or a bolster under the elbows if this feels too intense today. Let the forehead soften as you melt your heart down. Use blocks or a bolster for additional support if the ground feels a little too far away. After five breaths here, press through the elbows to make your way back up. Slowly find your way to Downward Facing Dog Pose to set up for the sequence of standing postures.
For this sequence, perform all six postures on one side before making your way to Downward Facing Dog Pose and repeating on the opposite side.
Ashwa Sanchalasana — Low Lunge Pose With Twist
From Downward Facing Dog Pose, step one foot forward between the hands and lower your back knee to the mat or a blanket. Inhale your arms overhead, bringing the torso perpendicular to the floor. Inhale to reach towards the ceiling, and exhale to settle the pelvis down and forward. On your next breath in, bring the hands together at heart center and twist towards the front leg. Choose whether to keep the palms together or reach the arms out to the sides. Take three full breaths before lowering your hands back to frame the front foot.
Ashwa Sanchalasana — High Lunge Pose
Starting from your low lunge, isometrically pull the thighs together and inhale the back knee off the ground. Keep the front knee stacked directly over the ankle as you lengthen your crown towards the ceiling. Rise high on the ball of the back foot and engage the entire backside of the leg. Bring both arms up by your ears on an inhale, and exhale to cactus the arms. Draw the elbows down and press the backs of the hands behind you. Settle down into the pelvis and relish in the power of your lower body. Hold for three breaths.
Virabhadrasana II — Warrior II Pose
From your high lunge, turn your back foot flat so the front heel aligns with the back arch. Extend both arms out wide in a T-shape so the hips and shoulders both open to the side. Take your gaze over your front hand as you stack the front knee directly over the ankle, pressing the thigh out. Hold for five breaths.
Viparita Virabhadrasana — Reverse Warrior Pose
As you inhale in Warrior II, flip the front palm and bring your arm overhead, reaching towards the back wall. Extend the back arm down the rear leg as you continue to bend deeply through the front knee. Lengthen through the waist and find space between the ribs as you take three full breaths.
Utthita Parsvakonasana — Extended Side Angle Pose
Continue to hold the same position with the lower body as you bring the front hand down to the inside of the front foot. Use a block here if that feels more accessible, or bring the forearm to the front thigh. Reach the back arm overhead and breathe into the line of energy stemming from the fingertips and moving through the back foot. Stay here for five breaths.
Trikonasana — Triangle Pose
From Extended Side Angle, inhale to straighten both legs and bring the arms out in a T-shape. Gaze over your front hand as you exhale and reach forward. Drop the front hand down to rest on either your shin or a block as you reach the back hand straight up towards the ceiling. Engage through the core and broaden across the shoulders as you take five breaths here.
Paschimottanasana — Seated Forward Fold Pose
Make your way down to a comfortable seat with the legs straight in front and feet flexed. Sitting with a tall spine, ground your sit bones into the floor or a blanket for extra support. Inhale your arms up by your ears and draw the belly in. Exhale to drape the upper body towards the thighs, letting the head and neck relax. Avoid pulling yourself deeper with the upper body by activating the legs to deepen the stretch. Continue to use your inhalations to lengthen and your exhalations to surrender for thirty seconds to one minute.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthanasana — Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose
Slowly roll down to your back, feeling each vertebra as it comes in contact with the mat. Bend your knees and plant both feet flat at hip-width. Inhale your right knee towards your chest and grab ahold of the big toe using the peace fingers of your right hand. If this isn’t possible today, use a yoga strap around the arch of the foot. Lengthen the right foot towards the ceiling, keeping the left leg and hip grounded. With each inhale, reach the right heel long, and with each exhale, draw the leg a little closer towards you. Follow this movement with the breath for thirty seconds on each side.
Supta Baddha Konasana — Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Lying on your back, draw the soles of your feet together and let the knees go heavy to the sides. If this is too much on the hip flexors, place blocks under the thighs. Bring one hand to your belly and the other to your heart and connect back to the rhythm of your breath. Notice the natural curve of the spine and the expansion across the chest. Rest here in stillness for one minute.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana — Bridge Pose
From Reclined Bound Angle Pose, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the mat at hip-width. You should just be able to touch your heels with your fingertips. Keep your arms by your sides and root the palms down. Inhale to lift your hips towards the ceiling by pressing through the hands and feet. Place a block under your sacrum at whatever height feels the most beneficial for you today. You have the option to keep the legs as they are, bring the soles of the feet together and the knees wide, or lengthen the legs straight on the mat. Regardless of the variation you choose, soften the entire body down and focus on your breathing. Stay here for one minute before slowly lifting the hips, releasing the block, and gently lowering down.
Supta Kapotasana – Reclining Pigeon Pose
From Supported Bridge Pose, come back to a reclined position with knees bent and feet grounded. Inhale to cross your right ankle above your left knee, keeping the right foot flexed. Stay here, or reach up and clasp your hands around the left thigh to hug the leg towards you. Hold for about a minute on each side, rocking back and forth if the movement feels appropriate.
Final Resting Posture
Extend your limbs all straight and let your entire body melt into the mat, using props to deepen the experience as it feels appropriate. A bolster under the knees or blanket under the head can be highly beneficial in this posture. Notice your thoughts as they come and go without getting attached. Rest here as long as it takes to fully absorb the benefits of your practice.