Restore and Renew

There is nothing like giving the gift of a restorative yoga class to yourself. My favorite class happens to be with the lovely, Jeanne Korn on Wednesday nights at LIberation Yoga. She teaches right after me so if you wanna get a nice flow in then float in to your evenings, take in a yogic double feature with the both of us. What a way to spend three hours on a Wednesday!!
Anyway, what is wonderful about gentle, restorative yoga is that you get all of the benefits you would get by practicing other forms of yoga but you don't have to physically work so hard. Much time and emphasis is placed on unwinding, unfolding and letting go, allowing the body to naturally take its time to recharge its energy source and strength. In a class you might find yourself working with many props, blankets, pillows, bolsters, blocks.
You don't have to go to a class to reward yourself with gentle yoga postures.
After a long day, you can come home and just use some things around the house to get you on your way.

Some postures to ponder:
1. Forward Fold:
If you have the flexibility, simply fold forward at the hips and let the upper body hang loose. Keep a soft bend in the knees to protect the low back and/or tight hamstrings. Keep the feet about hip width a part. Take deep breaths. Hold for 1-3 minutes if you can.
If you aren't that flexible, you can still have the benefits of the pose. Pull out the ironing board or use your dining room table. Place a blanket on top. Stand facing the end of the board (the longer one, not the angled part) or the table. Place the edge of the thighs/hip/belly, depending on how tall you are, up towards the edge. Fold over the table or board. Take deep breaths. Hold for one to three minutes, resting one cheek then turning towards the other cheek.
You can also do a fold using the edge of a chair or table, placing the hands at the edge, stepping back with the feet and folding to your flexibility.

2. Front body/hip flexor stretch-Bridge.
Lying on your back, knees bent, soles of the feet to the floor, place a block under the sacrum (the space between your low back and tail bone). Don't have a block? Place a thick book (phone book or Shakespeare's Lexicon work really well. Encyclopedias are swell too but who has those
anymore?) Any height will do, as long as you can breathe and it feels good.
Stretch the arms over the head. Maybe lengthen the legs straight if you have the flexibility. Stay there for a bunch of breaths, minutes if you can.

3. Seated twist.
Sit on the floor, knees bent and pointing to the right, legs folded to the left. Take a bolster, a couple of your bed pillows or several blankets and stack them in line with your hip. The shortest edge of the stack should rest close to your hip. The longest side aligns with your torso. Take both palms either side of the stack. Twist over the stack and rest your left cheek. Stay there for a few minutes before coming up and swinging your legs and bolster/pillows over to the other side. Rest the right cheek on the bolster.

4. Child's pose.
Take that same stack of pillows. Sit on your heels. Open the knees wide and place the stack between the knees. Place the heart and belly on top of the stack. Rest one cheek then the other or just place the forehead on the bolster. Take deep breaths and hold for a few minutes.

5. Leg's up the wall.
Find a space on the wall with room for you to take your right hip against the wall, seated on the floor. Then slide the legs up the wall. Rest your back on the floor or prop the hips on the blanket stack you made in your last poses. Close eyes.
Take deep breaths. On each inhale, focus on drawing back in, the energy you expelled during the day. All of the positive, reinforcing words, images, ideas that you need to recharge, find them and store them in the breath. On each exhale, let go of discussions, frustrations, problems, worries of the day, before transitioning into your evening and bedtime.

Just as it is important to find energy from the food we eat, water we drink, relationships we have, gardens we grow, it is important to cleanse and replenish the mind and the subtle body, that energy that we create just below and above the surface that is within and surrounds us. That subtleness effects what we do and those around us. It is the energy that links us together. Taking the time to tune into that subtleness and tune out from the various distractions ever present in life, will allow us to exist at a higher level of awareness, consciousness and mindfulness.

Taking care of ourselves allows us the ability to efficiently take care of everything and everyone else we take responsibility for.

Nourishing the soul, body and mind with some of the simple postures above, making them a practice, habit or ritual, will insure that we are taking the steps we need to work at peak condition.
Balancing restorative yoga with your other meditative or spiritual practices in addition to your exercise, yoga, fitness and nutritional regime is the prescription for success, strength and peace of mind.

That's all for now. Be good to yourself. Drink a lot of water and call your mother.

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