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Supta Baddhakonasana: Rest and Digest
Most of us know that it’s not advisable to eat a meal within two hours of an asana practice. But as with all of yoga practice, there are no hard and fast rules. There are a few poses that may actually be beneficial after eating.
Supta Baddhakonasana is one of only a small handful of yoga poses that are appropriate to practice after eating. By expanding the abdomen, it facilitates the flow of energy and food matter into the lower quadrants of the abdomen, where the small and large intestines live. In my experience, the spaciousness this pose creates helps stimulate movement to assist the let-go process.
Supta Baddhakonasana relieves the contracted or heavy sensation we often feel after over-eating, and can relieve menstrual cramps. Because this pose is very relaxing, it helps move us into the “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) side of our autonomic nervous system, which stimulates digestion.
Using just three blankets or a bolster, blanket and two blocks, you can make Supta Baddhakonasana quite comfortable. Try both options to see which feels better to you.
Option 1: Three blankets
To practice with just blankets, round up three firm blankets and a yoga mat. Quilts, wool, Mexican or cotton blankets are best. Fold one of your blankets into a bolster shape—long enough to support your back from the lumbar to the head and approximately eight to ten inches wide. Set this blanket on your mat lengthwise.
Fold your second blanket so that it is about two inches thick. Place it crosswise toward the end of your first blanket closest to the “head” of your mat.
Start with your third blanket folded so that it is about 36 to 40 inches wide. If you are using standard wool or Mexican yoga blankets, your blanket will be folded in quarters. Set it in front of you so that the wide side is closest to you (in computer vernacular, you’ll be looking at a “landscape” rather than “portrait” shape). Roll the blanket up so that you are making a long “snake,” 36 to 40 inches wide.
Sit in front of blanket #1 so that your rear is barely grazing the front end of it. Place the soles of your feet together in Baddha Konasana. Draw your heels in toward your groins so that they are four to 10 inches away, and let your knees fall out to the sides. Place the center of your “snake” on top of your feet and tuck its ends under your ankles and thighs so that it lifts and supports your legs. If the bend is too much for your knees, scoot your heels out a few inches, away from your groins. You can also try propping the knees a bit higher with thinly folded blankets, in addition to your snake.
Now lie back on blanket #1 and adjust blanket #2 so that it is under your head and neck, with its front end touching the tops of your shoulders. Let your arms rest at about a 45-degree angle to your body with your palms turned upward.
Option 2: Bolster, two blocks and blanket
If you have a bolster and block, you can use these in place of blankets #1 and 2. Place your block crosswise, either flat or on its side, near the “head” end of your mat. Place one end of your bolster on top of it so that the bolster sits at a slant with the head side of the bolster elevated. Sit in front of the end of the bolster that is on the floor with your buttocks barely touching the bolster.
Fold your blanket so that it is about 36 to 40 inches wide. If you are using standard wool or Mexican yoga blankets, your blanket will be folded in quarters. Set it in front of you so that the wide side is closest to you (in computer vernacular, you’ll be looking at a “landscape” rather than “portrait” shape). Roll the blanket up so that you are making a long “snake,” 36 to 40 inches wide.
Place the soles of your feet together in Baddhakonasana. Draw your heels in toward your groins any amount, making sure your knees feel comfortable. Let your knees fall out to the sides. Place the center of your “snake” on top of your feet and tuck its ends under your ankles and thighs so that it lifts and supports your legs. If the bend is too much for your knees, scoot your heels out a few inches, away from your groins. You can also try propping the knees a bit higher with thinly folded blankets, in addition to your snake. Lie back on your bolster so that your whole torso is supported and your head is resting on the high end.
Let your body settle completely into your blankets or bolster. Now inhale deeply into your abdomen, allowing it to expand fully in all directions. Imagine that your breath is massaging your abdominal organs. Exhale completely, so that you are releasing all the breath each time. Continue to breathe deeply for a minute or two, and then let your body relax into natural breathing. You can stay in Supta Baddhakonasa for five to twenty minutes. The longer you stay, the more your body will settle into it, and the more deeply and completely your body will rest.
You can practice Supta Baddhakonasana any time, not just when you are experiencing abdominal discomfort. It’s restorative for your body and mind no matter what your circumstances. Try practicing it every day for a week or a month. This subtle but powerful pose can help you decompress from daily stress.
Study with Judith Hanson Lasater at YogaUOnline - Rest and Silence: Practicing from Stillness, Spaciousness, and Ease.
Also study Judith Hanson Lasater's: Breathe, Heal, Relax and Renew - An Introduction to Teaching Restorative Yoga.
Charlotte Bell began practicing yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. She was certified by B.K.S. Iyengar in 1989 following a trip to Pune. In 1986, she began practicing Insight Meditation with her mentors Pujari and Abhilasha Keays. Her asana classes blend mindfulness with physical movement. Charlotte writes a column for Catalyst Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. She is the author of two books: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. She also edits Hugger Mugger Yoga Products¹ blog and is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, she plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and the folk sextet Red Rock Rondo whose 2010 PBS music special won two Emmys.