restorative yoga

Prop It Like It's Hot: The Bolster

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Support your practice with the help of a bolster

Photos by Craig Knox

Yoga props are meant to support your practice, whether you are looking to deepen, restore or both! As we continue with our Prop It Like It's Hot series, we're highlighting the bolster, also known as the (usually) largest, firmest cushion in the prop closet. The long, rounded-rectangular design of a bolster is perfect for maximum coverage when you're looking to really melt into long holds or get support from something bigger than a block. Here's a look at some of our favourite ways to incorporate this big beautiful helper! 

The bolster is perfect when you want that little bit of extra height for any seated posture.

The bolster is perfect when you want that little bit of extra height for any seated posture.


Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclined Butterfly

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Nice long holds are such a treat in this amazing front body opener. In Supta Baddha Konasana, try different configurations of your props like placing the bolster vertically up your spine or feel extra supported with cushions/blankets/blocks under the knees. A strap around your waist and ankles is heavenly as well but we'll save that for another post - we're sure this posture will show up in a future Prop It Like It's Hot feature!


Supta Virasana - Reclined Hero Pose

Supta Virasana or Reclined Hero Pose can look daunting and feel unattainable if the prop-er props aren't considered. Variations include placing the bolster under your tailbone or a bit higher into the lower back. You may find stacking a blanket or block in the mix might give you more space to soften as well. Supporting your head is always a nice addition!


Supta Matsyendrasana Variation - Supported Torso Twist

This twist is pure torso heaven! Tuck the bolster right snug to your hip crease on the side body, laying forward and sending your gaze in the opposite direction of your knees. The result is a gentle twist that reaches into your cervical spine. Allow your jaw to soften and breathe into the sides of your neck. You can play around with arm variations to find your sweet spot!  


Supported Stacked Legs

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It can be so nice to just explore on your bolster, finding the exact alignment your body needs. Stacking your legs above your hips is grounding and nourishing for not only the legs but the lower back, up the spine and into the back of the head. The gentle incline created is the perfect prep posture for Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) or Plow (Halasana). 


And finally, Savasana...!

Keep striving for maximum comfort and support throughout your entire practice, especially when it's time to fully unwind. A bolster may be the perfect addition to your well-earned rest. 

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Stay tuned for future instalments of Prop It Like It's Hot! Have a suggestion or favourite you'd like to see featured? Reach out! Namaste. 

Restorative Yoga: Reset for 2018

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For many people, the final month before the conclusion of the year can be one of the busiest, most stressful of the year. Despite the joyful advertisements, the influx of holiday movies, and the cheery music in the mall, December and January comes with its share of challenges. It’s a non-stop push from the very beginning right up to New Years’ Eve, where we’re constantly on the go.

It’s a non-stop push from the very beginning right up to New Years’ Eve, where we’re constantly on the go.

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If we’re not shopping to find the perfect gifts, or organizing quality time with our loved ones, we may be working shifts where multiple colleagues are on vacation, or enduring the challenge that is the retail business during those dreaded sale weeks. At the conclusion of all of this, we come into the New Year, perhaps dreading the credit card bill that will come reflecting the previous months indulgences, and gift giving. Add to this mix that we’re basically doing all this during the weeks where we get the least daylight, it’s no wonder that our bodies would be craving a reset of some sort after all is said and done.


Often, media bombards the New Year with advertisements encouraging people to hit the gym hard to make up for the previous years indulgences. We are by no means opposed to people taking on a healthier, active lifestyle as part of their New Years resolution, but we do think that it’s important to examine the other end of the spectrum as well.

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When we’re coming out of the chaos of the previous year, while we think this is the prime time to make up for lost time by engaging in intense exercise practices, we also think it’s time to try and unwind from that stressful period and release that tension through gentler activities. 

Another is restorative yoga. Restorative yoga works on the basis that our body will benefit from passive, but gentle supported stretches that are held for an extended period of time. This allows the body time to reset by allowing for a soft tissue stretch that is gentle, but aligned using props, or even the wall for support. Below are 5 restorative yoga poses that are sure to benefit anyone looking for a way to relax, but also reap the benefits of a good stretch. Hold each posture for 5 to 7 minutes each.


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Child's Pose

Child's pose in any form is a great way to gently stretch into tight glutes, tight shoulders, and a tight lower back. We like this version, with the arms resting gently at either side, forehead to the ground. If the range in your hips isn't there to bring your bottom towards your feet, place a bolster, or firm pillow under the chest to elevate the upper body. 

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Reclining Hero Pose

For a gentle way to stretch into tight hip flexors, reclining hero pose, especially with a bolster or pillows under the length of the spine to decrease the depth of the posture, is an excellent way to tackle both the iliopsoas complex and the quadriceps muscles simultaneously. 

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Reclining Bound Angle 

Reclining bound angle pose, or reclined butterfly pose is an excellent way to gently stretch into tight adductor muscles of the groin. If your knees do not reach the ground when parted, foam blocks under the thighs just above the knees allows for this posture to maintain a passive nature, while still achieving a stretch. 

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Frog Pose

Another method of stretching into tight adductors is through frog pose which allows gravity to gently push the pelvis between the thighs. If the chest does not reach the ground comfortably, a bolster under the chest, aligned with the length of the torso allows this pose to be more passive.

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Happy Baby Pose

Finally, to get a simultaneous stretch into the adductor muscles of the thighs, as well as the hamstrings, which can be adjusted based on how much you straighten your knees, Happy Baby Pose is an excellent stretch to re-align the pelvis. Modify by grasping the outside edge of the feet if your hips are naturally more open. Peace fingers around the big toes is a modified version for those of us with tighter hips. 

If you're interested in taking a guided Restore and Renew class, please check our class schedule for available times. Below is a link to our information page on Restore and Renew:

3 Reasons Why You Need a Restorative Yoga Practice

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Adapted from Mind Body Green

 

Restorative yoga has a wonderful way of allowing our entire physical body to relax.  This practice is an “active relaxation” class where we purposely support the body in yoga postures with props so we can stimulate and relax the body towards balance. Muscle and joint tension melts away, the endocrine (governor of hormones) system will be restored and any residual stress in the nervous system washes away.  We are left with better digestion, energy levels and a good overall sense of well being.

 


Maybe you strive to go to super power core and sweaty, hot Vinyasa three times per week, and run every day after work, but how often do you stop to truly relax and connect to your self?
Here are three reasons why I think keeping a gentle yoga class as part of your weekly practice is so super important.

 

1. You'll relax. 

 

There is a certain relaxation that comes at the end of a sweaty, power yoga class. But what if you could feel that blissful state of relaxation and release for an entire hour-long class?! That’s what gentle yoga feels like to me. Rarely will you be asked to hold a downward dog at all, and definitely not for more than a breath or two at a time.
Gentle classes are typically slow-moving, connecting each deep, lengthened breath with the next as you move deeper into each stretch or twist, making space and then slowly melting in to it.

 

2. You'll connect to the divine. 

 

Whether you have a solid spiritual practice or are looking to delve deeper into your spirituality, gentle yoga is the perfect place for a moving meditation. Practice bringing your attention to the Divine and allowing yourself to be cracked open with every gentle back bend. Listen to what comes up with every hip opener. Be present for what speaks to you.

 

3. It will help with intention-setting. 

 

I was honored to lead a gentle yoga class on the evening of MLK Day here in Austin. I spoke about ahimsa, or non-violence, from David’s Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda. I read a favorite quote of mine from the mouth of the Doctor himself:
 


 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

I asked the class to set an intention to focus on ahimsa during their practice that evening. I asked them to imagine, with every inhale, filling up with a bright light, or an energy, that represented non-violence and loving kindess. With every exhale I encouraged the class to release everything else that wasn’t serving them right then in that moment, to allow for focus and attention on ahimsa.

The classroom reverberated with energy and love and at the end of the practice, I felt so uplifted! Many students reacted the same, and went floating out of class for the evening, truly on a yoga high. Imagine the possibility of even the smallest intention, set to your moving meditation and dedicating every breath of your practice to bringing that intention in to being. It is so powerful!

 

 


Yogalifer Emily McNicoll shares her personal insight on this nurturing practice:


"My passion around restorative yoga lies not only in helping people heal their body and mind but to provide a sacred experience in which they can shine a light on the shadowy sides of the self and ultimately feel more comfortable in their own skin."


 

Our upcoming "Rest & Restore" workshop, hosted by Emily, is full to the brim!  If you would like to stay in the loop for the next workshop please email us at info@yogalifestudios.ca