Restoratives – different sequence for a different you

Restoratives always seem to get a bad rap. Many believe that they’re boring, easy, only for beginners, or for those who are injured, and some believe they’re not really poses at all.  When I was taking my first teacher training program, we had a wonderful teacher instructing the module on restoratives. We were all looking forward to a day of lying around on our backs and taking it easy. Boy, was I fooled!

 

supported uttanasana with blocks

 

One of the first things he had us do was a variation of uttanasana (standing forward bend). We had our hands on blocks, with our fingers in the shape of a claw on top of the block, and the crown of our heads down on another block (or two, or with blankets, depending on one’s flexibility). We held this for what seemed like ten minutes. We were instructed to extend the sit bones up to the ceiling, rotate the thighs inward, resist the shins forward while pressing the tops of the thighs back, lengthen the spine, and draw the scapulae up and into the back. This was not boring, this was not easy, this was not for beginners, and this was definitely a pose! Of course, like many poses you hold for awhile, it started to become lighter, a little easier, and as my hamstrings stretched and my breathing took over, I was able to find a place of ease. And then it became almost meditative. This was just the beginning of what can be called a restorative sequence.

He went on to explain to us that many people, especially city-dwellers, find it hard to just come into a classroom, lie down, and begin to relax in a pose like supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle pose, or reclining cobbler’s pose). Many people find it easier to get out some of their energy and stress first, before delving in to the more supportive and restorative poses. For instance, you could start out a restorative sequence with some surya namaskar asanas (sun salutations), or a short sequence of inversions, or maybe some standing poses. All that frenetic energy needs to come out first, for some, before they’re able to handle the supported poses, otherwise they might actually feel more agitated than relieved by them. What I liked most about hearing this from our teacher was that it gave me permission to do what I need on any given day, that suits my body and my mood. Obviously a restorative sequence needs to somehow eventually lead to restorative poses. But even that can be what you make of it. The uttanasana variation we did was considered restorative because it was supported and was held for a longer time than we might hold in a regular class. I often do sirsasana (headstand) during my restorative sequence because it allows me to go inward and I can do it against the wall. My point is that these practices are for you – it’s a time you can check in with yourself, see what you might need that day, and recharge the batteries and the nervous system with some refreshing supported poses.

In my current teacher training program we are required to practice a restorative sequence once a week. In the beginning I sort of hemmed and hawed about it because, as a driven, energetic person I wasn’t sure I would always feel like taking time out to slow down and reflect. But now that I’ve been doing it consistently for several months, I often look forward to it. The surprising thing has been that sometimes I have to force myself to do it because I don’t think I need a restorative practice that day, but afterwards I realize just how much I really did need it.

Here is the restorative sequence I’m currently practicing. Try it out and see if you surprise yourself too.

  1. Urdhva Prasarita Padasana -upward extended leg pose, done with legs up the wall
  2. Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana – two legged inverted staff pose over crossed bolsters
  3. Adho Mukha Svanasana – downward facing dog, with head on a block, feet at the wall
  4. Sirsasana
  5. Supta Baddha Konasana – reclining bound angle pose, over bolster with belt around ankles and hips
  6. Salamba Sarvangasana – shoulderstand, done in a chair
  7. Ardha Halasana – half plough pose, done with legs in chair with bolster under thighs
  8. Bharadvajasana – seated twist, done in a chair
  9. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – bridge pose, done over a bench or on bolsters
  10. Viparita Karani – legs up the wall pose
  11. Savasana – corpse pose, can be done with blankets or bolster

 

 

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About beckyoga

Interested in yoga, design, dance, music, and dogs.
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9 Responses to Restoratives – different sequence for a different you

  1. Great sequence and great post. Viparita karani is heaven, once I have finished rolling off the bolster a few times trying to get my butt pressed up against the wall that is….

  2. beckyoga says:

    Hi coldcupsoftea! thanks for the comment. We have been working on viparita karani in training, because teaching it can be just as clumsy as doing it! My new trick, which I learned from a senior teacher, is to somersault or roll in to the pose. Sounds a bit scary at first, but it actually is the best way I know to get into this pose and actually get the buttocks right up against the wall every time. If you start with the crown of the head on the floor, chin tucked in, back of the head and neck up against the bolster then gently hop the legs over and bring the buttocks to the wall, you can drop the buttocks down as you straighten the legs and you’re in the perfect spot. Hope that description gives you a good sense of how I do it. Maybe give it a try.

  3. Pingback: Finally did the Bakasana! « The Fit, The Fat & The Fugly

  4. It’s tough to find a good Restoratives class. It really is an art to teach this kind of sequence! Viparita Karani is my favorite. 🙂 I’ve never tried the variation on Uttanasana that you’ve shown — excited to give it a whirl!

  5. IYogi says:

    Somersault is a great way to get into Viparita Karani but you have to be very careful about teaching it this way. Beginners, those who have fear complex, tight hamstrings, and people with stiff necks can get into real trouble and risk injury when entering from the somersault. I have been teaching for 10 years, and learned to only teach the somersault version after students are adept at headstand, shoulderstand, and have tried Viparita Karani several times to understand the shape of the pose. This way I can ‘see’ who is ready for the next step. Students who cannot reach feet to the floor in Halasana are not good candidates for this option. They won’t be able to keep their feet on the floor while they put the shoulders on the bolster, and will lose control on entry. I have seen students roll sideways and wrench their neck when this happens. So…exercise great caution. Have your senior teachers observe you teach this.

    An alternative easy and safe way to get beginning students into Viparita Karani is to have them take Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Legs up the wall), then bend their knees and press their feet into the wall to lift their buttocks up. Meanwhile, you slide the bolster in under their hips. It works pretty good, not much fuss, and a quick way to get the group settled into the bliss of the pose.

    • beckyoga says:

      Thank you for the comment! I completely agree with you and we have actually been practice-teaching the version you described, beginning in Urdhva Prasarita Padasana and shifting blankets/bolsters underneath the buttocks, in my teacher training. The somersault entry does feel like a no-no for folks with neck issues or seriously tight hamstrings. Thank you for pointing this out! Hope to hear from you again in the future.

  6. 2augustbabies says:

    Thank you for this descriptive sequence! I am in a teacher training program currently and am learning to chose poses to lead into another pose. Your sequence sounds interesting and gave me a different idea how to approach poses. Thank you for sharing and I will try your sequence!

  7. Thanks for sharing this sequence and found the follow up comments on getting into Viparita Karani very informative.

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