Restful Yoga

Would you like a webinar on Yoga for Rest(ful Sleep), a toolkit of  practices for invoking your most spacious being? Leave a comment below and I’ll let you know when it’s scheduled and I’ll draw the name of one person to receive the webinar as my gift.

negative space

negative space

My students inspire me and show me where to go. Right after Christmas, one of the newer additions to our class asked specifically about bedtime routines. I occasionally draw out a 20 minute practice of poses we’ve covered during a series of classes to facilitate home practice, which is my passion. Plus I love to draw. She’d been practicing a series of standing poses I’d provided early on for strengthening and alignment in the hours before bed. “Should I be doing something different?”

Of course her question contained its answer, as they often (always?) do. The general answer is that it depends: how does it feel to you? Does it help you wind down? Does it lead to restful sleep? Does it make you feel alive? She was asking because it was too activating for her to do these poses before bedtime ~ as it would be for me, as well. But I know people who love a rockin yoga practice before bed and feel like it wrings them out. Choose your explanation theory – doshas, type A vs B, Meridian theory, toxins… they come to the same thing: we all have different wiring from infinitely and infinitesimally different experiences , so we are the real experts about how things affect us.  Her answer was yes, you should do what gives you the result you want. So we discussed that.

And yesterday I taught a more restorative yoga class than usual, really a mini-workshop for the new year. What she had asked for was a new 20 minute guide, one built for rest. My life was asking me for this, too, so creating the class was a gift for both of us. For me and for many I meet, the most difficult but supportive quality I can provide is rest. So Jaime’s request echoed one from my own being. She asked for knowledge I both had and needed and in doing so was a great care taker for herself and a blessing to me.

The class was a mini-course in triggering the parasympathetic nervous system (the “relaxation response”) and included Moon Salutations, Bumble Bee breath, supported standing forward bends, spinal rocking, supine pigeon and more traditional restorative poses to close out, such as supine cobblers pose, prone supported twist and supported child’s pose. Class stretched for two hours, though we could easily have gone three or even four, and the light bulb moments were plentiful and warming.

One of the reasons I teach in cross-disciplinary locations (such as Oriental Medical Arts in Albuquerque) and no longer teach at gyms and studios very often is an emphasis that I perceive (which perhaps says more about me) on streamlining, dividing and focusing on effort at the expense of rest. Yoga is a practice of learning how to contain and thrive among opposing forces – abhyasa and vairagya (effort and release), up and down, in and out, expand and contract, etc. I love the ability to take a class out and discuss the judicious use and non-use of the vigorous techniques we usually train with. I love the ability of my students to ask for what they want and need. And I love this exploration of opposing forces that is yoga practice.

8 thoughts on “Restful Yoga

  1. That sounds like MY kind of class!! LOVE it!

    I do teach in gyms and work really hard to stop the power/exercise aspect and remind people of the slower deeper practices. At first those that wanted more physicality left, but now I have a huge following who love breath work, meditation and stillness.

    This was a lovely post!

    • Thanks Flying Yogini 🙂 I’ve recently considered teaching in those locales again, and it was teaching in (of all places!) a winery that opened me back up to it. The people I was reaching with my winery classes had largely never done yoga before, or they were “yoga refugees:” people who’d been turned off by perceived criticism or force. The experience was inspiring for me and transformative for many of them. We did, of course, observe the “yoga before wine” rule! Lol. I bet you reach people in ways that surprise and delight them!

    • What do you do for restful yoga practice? I find the step back portion of Moon Salutations challenging because the hips aren’t as mobile and elevated. I guess it’s a core issue, but it always feel like a space issue for me. Do you enjoy Sun Salutations?

  2. Pingback: Class Times :) | Yoga IS Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now.

  3. Pingback: Balance, space and bullshit | Yoga IS Love, Truth, Beauty: Here, Now.

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