In Autumn (at the change of seasons) we are all prone to catching colds. Sniffles, mild throat sore and coughs are typical for this time of the year.
What can we do to improve our chances to stay healthy/healthier?
The answer is to include poses in our practice which are restorative and have a number of health benefits such as: open the chest,which helps with breathing, calming the mind, boosting the immune system by allowing the body to rest in a constructive way.
Staying grounded, mentally well is just as important as physical well-being.
In restorative yoga we allow the body to rest /lay over props. The para sympathetic nervous system will relax (i.e. the opposite to fight or flight).
The simple pose above I am laying over a yoga block (it is positioned in the middle of the back). You can use a rolled up blanket or towel to lift the chest.
Depending on the flexibility of your upper back you might need some elevation under the head (see picture above). The throat will open a bit but do not overextend it.
General notes for the poses in this sequence:
- Stay warm, wear socks, jumper and cover up with a blanket or towel,
- If you wish cover your eyes (either with an eye pad or face wash folded up),
- Modify your set up until you are comfortable. Start with staying in the pose for one minute and slowly, over a period of time increase the time to 2 minutes or more.
- Relax the face, let go of the lower jaw,
- Slow down your breath, start with counting to 4 to inhale and 4 to exhale. Then extend your exhalation, say to the count of 6. Experienced yogis might include a pause after the inhalation and after the exhalation.
Setu bandha (bridge pose)
Lay over your bolster or folded blankets or folded towels. Go into the pose with legs bent and straighten them one by one – only if it feels comfortable. Let your shoulders rest on the floor, lengthen the back of the neck and slightly tuck your chin in.
Use yoga blocks, books or folded blanket to rest your feet on. Have your feet a bit higher than the rest of the body.
The aim of the pose is to open the chest. The other benefits are: opens the abdominal area and front of the hips. It is also an inversion.
Do not turn your head and do now swallow in this pose!
Supta Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)
In this pose the abdominal area opens (note it is different from stretching).
Use a bolster or folded up blanket to lay over.
Put some elevation under your head, both under the bolster and on top of the bolster.
You can use a strap to hold your feet together. If you use a strap make a big loop, pull it on and have it below the waste. This will help you to lengthen the lower back
Start by sitting up tall, have a small gap between your buttocks and the bolster.
Bend your elbows and lower your torso onto the bolster.
Gentle push your heels together, this will allow for the hips and groins to soften.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall or resting the calves on a chair)
The legs up the wall pose is my students’ favourite pose, regardless of the season. The legs and the heart are resting. If you are having difficulty straightening the legs move away from the wall and position your legs at an angle. If you have a bolster you can place that against the wall (so the bolster is standing) and rest your feet on the top of the bolster.
Slightly roll the shoulders back. Notice how it helps to open the chest.
If legs up the wall is not comfortable for your try the following modification – with resting the calves on a chair:
Calves resting on a chair
You might need elevation under your head, the throat to be soft and lengthen the back of the neck.
Use enough elevation on the chair that your ankles are supported.
Aim to keep the thighs vertical. On the photo i use a belt which allows me totally relax in the pose.
Please note all of these poses will help with you sleep better. I do this pose most nights before going to bed. It is relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time.