Can I build you a castle? My venture into restorative yoga

One of my favorite classes to teach, actually, my absolute favorite, is restorative yoga. I came upon teaching this style by chance and have never looked back! I was scheduled to teach a “light yoga” class here at Anamaya and remembered some of the training I had had in restorative yoga. At the same time, my love for building forts surfaced and I decided it would be great to take all of the pillows, bolsters, cushions, blankets, blocks and other “supplies” out onto the yoga deck and see what we could do!

What resulted was a super relaxing and healing class. The 90 minute class generally consists of about 8 poses held for 5-7 minutes each after a gentle warm up, then a long, luxurious 20 minute savasana. I use a lot of hands on “adjustments” which are basically making sure your form is safe and then a nice little massage, this tends to be most students favorite part of the class!

The purpose of restorative yoga is to bring some stillness and relaxation to both body and mind. By staying in each pose for an extended period of time the body has a chance to really release any tension being stored and let go of stress. By being fully supported in each position one feels safe and comfortable and the mind can come into a state of calm and quiet giving the body an opportunity to heal and regenerate. In many cases, a restorative practice is the only time one has to fully relax and enjoy some peace and quiet, many of the breathing techniques and visualizations we work with can be used every day to relieve stress and increase relaxation.

Some of my favorite poses to include are; fully supported child’s pose (balasana), supported forward fold (paschimottanasana), superior pose (jyestikasana) and reclining bound angle pose (supta baddha konasana). Most of these positions are easy to come into on your own and don’t require much assistance to get into. I always make sure though, that each student uses enough support so they can fully relax into the pose without straining any part of their body. The head is supported, arms are resting down on the floor or a cushion and nothing is left hanging or uncomfortable. This can be difficult for many students as it can be hard to fully let go, to surrender and allow yourself to be supported completely.
Some poses though, can be a little harder to get into on your own. Once such pose is reclining hero pose (supta virasana). With this position I come around and make sure the student is fully supported so they can completely relax into the posture. This often means building a “castle” of cushions and soft blocks from the floor up starting between the feet and behind the body and coming all the way up so the body can fully relax back onto the castle at a depth that works for their body in that moment. It takes a little time to get into position, but once there it is heavenly!

Typically the restorative classes take place in the late afternoon with the sun going down during the class. The experience of moving from light to dark and often sun to storm during the session usually proves to be quite magical! One of the first classes I taught saw a fierce lightning storm come in part way through the class. We could literally feel the energy in the air, it was absolutely awe inspiring and something I will always remember. Another great moment was when two rainbows appeared right in front of us as we held a nice long pigeon pose. If you have yet to visit Anamaya to practice yoga and enjoy the beautiful area, I am telling you, there is no better place to practice! The yoga deck here looks out on lush jungle and an expansive ocean view. It is not uncommon to see monkeys, rare birds and even whales during practice.

Restorative yoga is a deeply relaxing and restful practice. Most students leave the yoga deck feeling calm, serene, relaxed and cozy. I enjoy sharing this experience with as many people as possible, and hope that some of the relaxation techniques are taken home to become part of people’s busy lives.

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