Troubled by the Times? Four Relaxing Poses to Soothe Your Heart and Soul

By: 
Kathryn Boland, RCYT, R-DMT

No matter where you lie on the political spectrum, current socio-cultural forces can leave you feeling unsettled and unsure of what to expect. Though the world around us has been changing with rapid acceleration for decades, never has that effect felt more pronounced than in the past year or so. We’ve seen an incredible amount of division, confusion, fear, and anger.   

Looking from an Ayurvedic Dosha perspective, There’s a very Vata/Pitta (change, movement, ambition) energy to it all. Yoga can help us to ground ourselves in what is real and unchanging. We can find greater balance through counteracting excessive Vata/Pitta with Kapha (grounded, content).

From here we can be more prepared to go forth and bridge the divides between ourselves and others. The following sequence is specially tailored to create that balanced yoga feeling, a grounded-yet-energized effect. More settled within ourselves, we can make this world at large just a bit more harmonious and united.

Child's Pose (Balasana) (variation)     Embryo Pose

One could call this pose “true” Child’s Pose, how babies truly often rest. It can be very restful and grounding, yet also start a flow of active energy through the body—a balanced yoga feeling that asana practice overall can provide.

1.Take Child’s Pose (Balasana), but close your knees to touch and drape your arms by your sides (palms facing up).

2. Place a blanket or block under your head if your head doesn’t easily rest on the mat, or if you experience discomfort in your neck and/or forehead. If you feel a strain in your thighs and/or heels, place a blanket or folded mat in between your heels and the backs of your thighs.

3. For at least five to ten breaths, establish a full yet easeful rhythm of breath, one that you can continue throughout the practice. Enjoy feeling fully supported in this pose as well.      Virasana Pose         

Virasana  (Hero's Pose) on a block or blanket

This pose has a firm base in the lower body (ideally speaking), with length and space for deep breath in the upper body. From that place, asana practice that is stable, yet energized and expressive, is possible.

1. From Child's Pose, sit up on your heels (with knees together). Feel your shoulder heads melt away from your ears, your collarbones widen, and your chin slightly lifted.

2. If you’re experiencing any pain or strain in your heels and/or thighs, or you feel yourself slumping (with your frontal hip points dipping backward), put a block (the widest and lowest way) in between your heels.

3. Release tension in your head through rolling your neck from one side to the other (avoid going backward, as it can be dangerous for the neck vertebrae so early on in practice). Release tension in your wrist joints by rolling them in full, slow, fluid circles.

4. Come back to stillness and remain here, in this pose, for at least a few more breaths. Take a moment to appreciate the strength and stability in your lower body and the fluidly expressive capabilities in your upper body.

Anjaneysana (Low Lunge)          Low Lunge

This pose has an essence of peaceful warrior spirit, a strong fearlessness, yet a breadth of possible subtlety that allows for ongoing exploration. That aligns with the yogic states of Sthira (steadiness) and Sukham (ease). A balance of the two conditions can lead to healing, empowerment, and the best that yoga practice can offer. 

1. From Hero’s Pose, transition into Tabletop Pose (planting your hands and shifting forward to have shoulders over wrists, hips over knees).

1. Step your right foot in between your thumbs.

2. Feel your front heel and your back knee squeeze toward each other, without actually moving, to engage your inner thighs. Place a blanket under your back knee if you have any discomfort there.

3. Take care not to collapse the front of your left hip joint toward the floor. Draw the head of your left thighbone toward the back of your thigh.

4. With strong core support and a flat back, raise your torso to vertical. Spin your pinky edges forward, your palms into each other, while your arms hug a bit straighter. Keeping a steady gaze forward, breath with strength and stability in this pose, for five to ten breaths. Then take the other side.

Baddha Konasana (“Tailor’s” Pose)         Badha Konasana

This pose offers gentle inner thigh and hip stretching, while also allowing the upper body to find spinal length and ease. In this pose, you can feel grounded and stable yet also strong and expressive—a combination of qualities that can leave you better prepared for any challenge that may come your way.   

1. From Low Lunge transition to sitting (perhaps by stepping your front foot back to be in Tabletop, sitting on your heels, and shifting to one side to swing your legs in front).

2. Place the bottoms of your feet together and extend your knees out to the sides. If the resulting inner thigh stretch is too much for you today, or if your knees are uncomfortable, place blocks or blankets under your lower thighs (just above your knees).

3. Place your hands in a mudra (hand position) of choice. Try palms face down if you need grounding and relaxation, and palms up if you could use energizing.

4. Take a few breaths as you ground your pelvis to lengthen the torso upwards. Notice, and try to release, any tension, particularly in your face, neck, or shoulders. Here, you have sthira and sukham, a dynamic balance of stability and fluidity, of strength and softness.

 

If you are practicing these poses as a full practice (perfectly fine), make sure to take a final rest. One might argue that it’s the most important part of the practice because it is where we absorb and integrate the effects of the practice before it. You can lower your torso to the floor, with your feet still together and knees resting out to the sides, to relax in Supta Baddha Konasana (though it is advisable to support the thighs with props as described if you’re staying in the posture for a sustained rest period as in the restorative version pictured to the right).

Or lengthen your legs (sliding props down, to keep them just above your knees, or removing them altogether) and let your arms rest six inches away on each side in traditional Savasana (Corpse Pose). Breathe fluidly here, letting your mind, body, and spirit fully experience ease for a few minutes in your busy day. You will arise more connected and content, stronger and assured, ready to take on any challenge or uncertainty that may come your way.
 

Want to study yoga for relaxation? Breathe, Heal, Relax and Renew: An Introduction to Teaching Restorative Yoga brought to you by YogaUOnline and Judith Hanson Lasater.

Reduce stress and try relaxing yoga poses-sounds good right? Try this one from YogaUOnline and special contributor, Charlotte Bell-Restorative Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): Relax and Replenish.

Kathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans - all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!