Relaxation Takes Practice Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 2

Tranquil Restorative Practice

60 min - Practice
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Leeann begins by introducing us to restorative yoga and what we can expect to find in her guided restorative practices. She then leads us through a juicy and easy restorative practice, inviting us to slow down, pause, and observe. You will feel tranquil and at peace.
What You'll Need: Mat (2), Wall, Square Bolster, Blanket (2)


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(waves crashing) Namaste everyone. Thank you for sharing this practice with me today. I'm really happy to bring this to you. It's called Introduction to Restorative Yoga. If you're new to the practice, I'd like to give you a couple of pointers.

The first one is that these are not sensation-seeking poses. That means that we want enough props underneath us so that we can feel that we're in the shape of the pose, but we're not having to deal with a lot of sensation while we're in them, so I may show you how to get into the pose, but you may determine that you need a little bit more support underneath you so that you can maintain a sensation level that you can be with. The second one is that we're also not in a hurry in any way. We come in and out of the pose very slowly. We even pause after a pose after we roll out of it and we stay there for a little while before we get into the next one.

The next one is that there's really nothing to do and nowhere to go once we get in the pose. They're an opportunity to just explore the shape, explore the little sensation you may be experiencing, and also to explore your breath and how you're feeling while you're feeling whatever it is that you may be feeling. So, let's get started. You don't need a whole lot of props for this one. I have put one long blanket over my mat just to keep it nice and cozy.

We have two blankets and also a bolster. We'll be using an eye bag later, which I'll bring over to the mat when we get there. Here's how you fold the two blankets. You're going to unfold them. This is folded into fourths.

You'll open them up and you'll just fold each end into the center and since these are supporting your body, you wanna smooth them out so there's not very many wrinkles in them. We're gonna take the first one and place it so that the short folded clean edge is facing toward the wall and then we're gonna take the other one and fold it exactly the same. Both of the ends go into the middle and then we're gonna take the long folded edge and place it at the top. I call this the T pattern. So, this is going to be for your head and this is gonna be up against your lower back or your back ribs depending on where it's most comfortable for you.

The bolster's gonna be placed underneath the knees and thighs, so I'm gonna place that bolster just about two thirds down my mat. Now I'm ready to get into the pose. The first thing we're doing is just a reclining rest position with support and we're gonna focus on belly, ribs, and chest breathing to start the practice. We'll be here for about 10, 11 minutes or so. We'll slide the legs over on top of the bolster, making sure that the heel bones come down to the ground.

I'm gonna place my hands right on the back edge of the bottom blanket, lower myself, slide my hand to the top of the buttock flesh and move the buttock flesh toward my feet so I feel my lower back make good contact. I'm just gonna move this bolster a little closer to me and then stretch the legs out until I feel that the heels have really settled well and then I'm gonna slide my shoulder blades down my back a little bit, wiggle around till I feel, okay, this is comfortable, adjust my skull, so that my chin is not pushed up too high. There's a softness in my throat and then release the arms just as you wish, but let's turn the palms up. They can be really close to your body or far out away from the body. Whatever feels comfortable for you.

Go ahead and close the eyes. First, just become aware that you are breathing, that there's an inhale that's coming in and an exhale that's going out. Let's just be with that pattern for a little bit. Set aside everything that's come before this. You can attend to it at another time.

The breath is what we're focusing on. Bring your awareness now down to the lower belly and let your hands just gently float and rest on top of the belly. Fan your elbows out enough so that it feels comfortable and begin to set your interest around the belly and where you can feel the hands touching it and initiate your breath around the belly, just softly. You don't have to have a big pregnant belly on the inhalation. Instead, allow the breath to spread the belly and settle it.

Every inhalation, you feel the rise and the spreading of the belly. You feel the lift and the separation of the hands and every exhalation, you feel the drop, the fall and the hands coming a little closer toward one another. There's no specific pace that's needed. No certain depth or length. Just a genuine interest of initiating the breath around the belly.

Closed mouth, breathing through the nostrils. Go ahead and listen to the breath that you're on and follow with two more normal paced breaths of the breath. Then, let your interest move up to the ribs, front ribs, and go ahead and slide your hands there as well and just adjust the placement of your arms so that it feels good in your shoulders and your neck and still initiate your breath around the belly. See if you can gently coax the breath up around the ribs a little bit more so the breath is rising on an inhale, falling on an exhale, spreading the area on the inhale and settling the area on the exhale. Can you keep all the other parts of the body as relaxed and quiet as possible so that your awareness can shine a light on these areas?

Just as a gentle reminder, it's not important for the breath to push up into this area. Right, you're just aware that there's a possibility that it can go and grow in this direction. You may naturally lengthen the breath 'cause it feels comfortable, but you don't need to push it. Go ahead and listen to the breath that you're taking right now and follow it with three more paced breaths. When you finish that third one, let your interest move up into the chest area until you're ready to place your hands there as well.

Just lightly, again, adjust the arms so that it feels comfortable. You don't have to rest all of the hands on the chest, just fingertips will do and then go back to the belly, initiate the breath there. See what's possible with the least amount of effort, but the most amount of interest to guide the breath from the belly in the direction of the ribs and toward the chest. Maintain a sensitivity to the quality of the breath, keeping yourself smooth and steady throughout. Listen to the breath that you're taking right now and follow it with three more breaths.

When you complete the third breath, let your strong hand slide down to the belly. Keep your lighter hand at the chest and feel the distance between both hands, as if there is a bridge there and start the breath, initiating around the belly. Let it move in the direction of the open space, crossing that bridge, moving in the direction toward the chest. As you exhale, relax the belly first, then the ribs, and then the chest and then go back to about two or three normal paced breaths. Then, you'll start the process again, initiating a little longer breath at the belly, crossing the bridge, up to the chest, and as you exhale, relaxing the belly, the ribs, and the chest.

Follow with three normal paced breaths. Go for about another minute and a half of this kind of breathing. It's a slower longer inhale, a deeper longer exhale followed by three normal paced breaths. If you get distracted, just follow your distraction back to feeling and breathing. Notice the set that you're on, complete it, and take one more.

When you return to normal paced breaths, release the arms out away from the body and pause and just notice what you feel like. Go ahead and roll your palms so that they come flat to the floor. You feel the hard surface beneath you. Bend your right knee and set that foot flat on the bolster. Push to the bolster and slide your hips to the right just a little bit.

Then, bend the left leg. Take the right arm in toward your chest and roll slowly to the left so you're in a little fetal position and there's nothing to do. Just be still. Very gently open the eyes. Lean your chest in toward the floor.

Use your right palm to push. Let your head be the last thing that comes up and just come in to any comfortable seated position for a few moments and we'll pause there. So, we're headed to the next pose, which is side lying pose and you need just one blanket. You have the option to put another blanket on top of a bolster to make the height a little more, but I think for purposes of an introduction, we'll just use one blanket for the head and skip the other one, so I'm gonna move this blanket to this side. We'll use it later on and we're gonna take the bolster and maybe just slide it down a little bit to the middle of the mat, just so you have some room for your upper body and then this blanket, we're gonna unfold it and fold it in half completely and then one more time the short way.

For a future reference, this is called meditation pad fold and we're going to bring it so that the clean edge, the folded edge, not the fringe, the clean edge is facing toward you and I'm gonna take my hips and right now, I'm on the right hip and I'm gonna bring it about three inches or so away from the middle of the long side. I'm gonna slowly just elongate my waist, come down on top of the bolster and stretch the legs. We can start like this with the legs bent. Maybe we'll wanna stretch 'em out later on and then take the right arm. It's gonna slide alongside the bolster.

I grab that blanket and I put it right between my head and my shoulder so it creates this little cushion and feels good. This left arm can either rest here on the bolster, but if you do want a little bit more of that side stretch, we stretch that arm all the way up and overhead and I just let it rest right behind my head. If you want more, you can stretch the arm out. Let the weight of the head be heavy. I'm gonna turn so that more of my cheek and my ear is resting on that support and it feels comfortable.

Close the eyes and we're gonna be here two minutes. Because that side waist is exposed now, you may feel more movement of the breath in that second area around the ribs. That's an opportunity to explore the stretch, little bit of that sensation and also the movement of the area that comes with each inhale and exhale. Let the weight of your body sink into the ground. Know that there's nothing more to do, nowhere to go.

If you feel like stretching the legs out, go ahead and do that. You can just stack one foot on top of the other, one hip on top of the other. They can be softly bent. If you wanna explore that stronger side stretch, let the top arm reach well above the head. Then, you can take the bottom arm, bend it, hold onto the wrist, just loosely, lightly.

Keep allowing that head to release toward the floor. If your legs are in the straight position, go ahead and bend them again, just like when we started. If your top arm is up overhead, go ahead and stretch it up and release it on the top hip. Then, lean your chest slowly toward the floor. Use your left palm up against the support.

Push and come up slowly. Mm. Come sit. Pause. Close the eyes.

Be in your center. So, let's prepare for the opposite side. So, we'll just swivel ourself over to the opposite side, bringing that left hip in the middle a few inches away from the long edge of the bolster. Elongate the sideways. Slowly begin to slide yourself down, keeping the knees bent, pulling that blanket just between your head and your shoulder.

That left arm can come alongside the long edge of the bolster, the head resting down. You may find that you need additional support for your head than you did on the other side and it feels like that for me right now, so I'm gonna make the bolster a little higher this time. Each side's a little different. Then, slowly take that right arm, stretch it all the way up and then just rest it behind my head. Now, let the elbow and the rest of the arm just drop on top of the head.

It's okay, there's a perfect little ledge there for that arm and just as a reminder, remember to roll all the way fully to the cheek side so that you're not toward the nose. You're a little more toward the ear. Once I've got myself settled, then just let the weight of that body release. It's so interesting how we don't always realize that we're still holding even when we get ourself sort of in the shape, so I take a moment, bring in a breath, and then give my weight to it. Especially allowing that bottom hip to release completely and everything is passive and quiet and still.

If you decide you want to lengthen the legs out, go ahead and do that now. You can lengthen one leg out or both legs, stacking the hips and the ankles. A soft knee bend is okay. Just like before, if you wanna lengthen that top arm, stretch it overhead. You can use that bottom hand to hang onto the wrist if you like.

Now, listen to the breath that you're on right now and go ahead and take two more. If you're holding onto that top arm, you'll let it go. Wherever that top arm is, you'll release it up toward the ceiling. Let that hand rest at the hip. Bend the knees.

Doesn't matter whether you release the arm first or bend the knees first, either one, but you'll pause here a moment and then you can lean your chest in toward the floor. Roll a little bit to the left. Use your palm to slowly push and come up. Come into any comfortable seated position. Close the eyes and pause.

Then, gently open your eyes. So, we're headed to matsyasana now and we'll be using a bolster and a yoga mat, which I'll get in just a moment. So, I've got my mat and we're ready to go for matsyasana. I'm gonna take the blanket. We're gonna move it out of the way 'cause we're not gonna use it, but we are gonna use the bolster.

I'm just gonna slide it forward a little bit. The mat, as you can see, is just rolled into a pretty tight tube. The base of it, one base of it, is gonna go toward the lower back and the other should go beyond your skull, so you wanna make sure that you use two mats if you're quite tall. I would say 5' 10" and over. So, we'll take the mat, bring it parallel to our blanket, and then I'm just gonna scoot myself in front of it and then bring my legs right over the bolster and I'm sliding the bolster in, so that it comes underneath my knees and thighs, both my heel bones to the floor.

Bring my hands behind me, slide the buttocks forward a little bit and then slowly begin to lower down on that mat. (sighs) It's good (laughs). So, bring your hands to the top of the buttock flesh. Slide it toward your feet and just kind of nest yourself in there. You may need to adjust just so it feels right.

You want the mat to come right between your shoulder blades, so don't feel as though you're sliding over to one side. Adjust until you get right in the middle and then we'll reach the arms out as far as you want. They can come slightly away from you or all the way out into a T position. You can bend the elbows if you want. Whatever feels good.

We'll be here for three minutes. I found that most everybody enjoys this variation of a backbend. It really doesn't put very much load on any of the spinal segments, but it provides the soft, kind of passive opening from the belly through the ribs and up into the chest and throat. Remember the three part breathing that we did in the beginning and invite yourself to access that breath now. Without force, now that the body has a little elevation to it at the spine, you might find that it's a little different getting the breath to grow in the direction of the chest.

It's not important for you to get to the chest with the breath, but it is important to pay attention to how you're feeling while you're working with the breath so that you sense any inclination at all to push beyond a place that the body doesn't wanna go or grow. Can you deliberately relax the weight of the legs so that they're open to perceiving the weight that gravity is placing upon them? Go ahead and notice the breath that you're taking right now and follow it up with three more breaths. As you finish that third concentrated breath, go and let your right arm pull in toward your chest a little and bend the right leg so that that foot comes flat to the bolster and use the pushing of your right foot to roll yourself to the left into the fetal position. Let the head rest on the upper arm if you want.

You can pull those legs in as closely to your center as you want. Then, lean the chest into the floor. Push with your right hand. Come up slowly, your head being the last thing to come up. Return to a comfortable seated position.

Close the eyes and pause. Gently open your eyes. We're moving toward a pose called balasana, which is child pose and we'll only be needing the bolster, so I'm gonna move the yoga mat out of the way and I'm gonna place the bolster so that it's parallel to my mat and I'm gonna pull the bolster all the way in while I'm separating my legs, sitting my pelvis on top of the heel bones. I'm gonna keep the weight of my hips down on top of my heels as much as I can as I start to stretch my torso forward. There may be a tendency for the pelvis to lift right here and if it does, that's an opportunity to grab this other blanket.

Place it right between your hips and your heels. Lower yourself till you feel your belly touch, your ribs touch, your chest touch and you'll bring your elbows and forearms onto the floor on either side of the bolster. Tuck your chin just a little bit. Turn your head all the way to the right so that your left cheek is down on the bolster and your right nostril is up. Now, you just have to melt the weight of your body into the support.

We'll be here for another two minutes. With the bolster right up against your belly, can you feel that area spread and settle with each inhale and exhale? It can elicit a feeling of just cozy and comfort, letting go. Just observe any last little bit of tension you may have in the body. Invite it to trickle out.

Just gently tuck the chin and turn your head in the opposite direction now with your right cheek down and your left nostril up. We'll be here for about two minutes. All of the restorative poses. Whatever shape you're in, they're a time when you can just notice what comes from doing nothing. You're just breathing and feeling and that this is enough.

In the last little bit here, see if it's possible for you to let go of any last residual tension anywhere, letting it go now. Go ahead and roll your head so it's back in the center again. Slide your palms down underneath the shoulders. Push through the palms. The arms come to straight and then slide the bolster forward.

Slowly come into a seated position. Then, close the eyes and just pause. Gently open your eyes. We'll move toward the viparita karani, which is done at the wall and today, we're going to not use a bolster. We're gonna use two blankets.

So, I'm gonna move this bolster to the side, grab my two blankets, and the blankets are gonna be folded like this, in this position, this is in fourths. You'll fold it in half. We'll take one more and fold it in half again. The other one gets folded exactly the same way and we're seeing that the way that the blankets are stacked, the long folded clean edges are together. The open shaggy edges are together as well.

We'll just bring it to the side for right now. We're gonna lift our hips, so I'm gonna slide my pelvis really close to the wall. So, I take one hip to the wall, lower down on my back, scooch myself in pretty close. Then, I'm gonna take these two blankets and I want the open edges to face toward the wall and the reason is is that this is the area that's gonna support our body, so we want it closer to us. Lift my hips.

Take them right at the lower back. They're a couple of inches away from the wall. I'm gonna bring my hands alongside my head and just scoot myself a little closer till my buttocks get either really close or right up against the wall and then open my upper back a little by wiggling around. Bringing my arms wherever I want, either out to the sides or even in this classic goalpost position and we'll be here for five minutes. Close the eyes.

This may be your first introduction to a soft inversion and so the blood will be pooling from the belly into the chest and throat and the face. It may feel a little different than you've ever felt before. This is normal. If you need to come out of the pose before you hear the instruction, feel free to do that. You can also get rid of one blanket and just be on one rather than two.

You could also do it without the two blankets. Let's see what we can be with while we're here. The simple breath. Just the feeling and breathing. Notice where your awareness is.

Notice where your breath is and join the two. You have just a little bit longer here, but to come out slowly, we're gonna just soften the pose a little bit, beginning now. Please bend your legs and let your feet come flat to the wall and then go ahead, lift your pelvis and just take one blanket out if you haven't already. Bring it to the side. Then, notice the breath that you're taking right now and follow one more conscious breath and then go ahead when you're ready.

Bend the knees. Set the feet flat to the wall. Lift the pelvis like you did before, sliding that last blanket out from underneath you, lowering the back, either maintaining straight or bent legs, whatever's most comfortable for you, pausing here. If the legs are straight, go ahead and bend them again, bringing your right arm in toward your chest, rolling to the left, coming into the fetal position. Then, leaning your chest into the floor, using your right palm to push and come up, we'll just pause for a moment.

It's important to take time after the inversion. Just be still. Okay, gently open your eyes. Let's set up for the final pose, which is savasana and everything that we've done in this introduction class has led toward this pose, so we're gonna stay in for a good 10 to 12 minutes. You'll need both of your blankets and your bolster.

I like to use the first blanket underneath my head. You can make it thicker if you want. This will go underneath my knees and thighs and this last blanket, we're gonna roll it for just underneath, to be placed just underneath the ankles. So, from the clean long edge, go ahead and roll it up into a pretty tight tube and place it just in front of the bolster. I slide my body close to the bolster.

Here, your heels will float, so you want that blanket to be supported well and I'm gonna kind of move my buttock flesh back and out a little bit and then slowly begin to slide down. Now, some people like the blanket right underneath the back ribs as mine is right now, but for me, it's too much height for my back, so I'm just gonna wiggle this back so it's just underneath my head. Readjust my torso and my legs. Turn my palms out. Kinda get all the little squirmy last little movements out till I'm ready to commit to being still and that's now.

Let the weight of your body sink into the ground and also feel how the ground or the floor is coming up to meet the weight of your body. There's no need to try to train the breath to be anything other than it wants to be. Bring your awareness to the very top of the forehead where the scalp meets it and let that skin relax down toward the bridge of your nose. Bring your awareness to the temples and let that skin relax down toward the jaw. Bring your awareness to the skin at the eyelids, from the very top, then relax down toward the eyelashes and let the eyelashes relax toward the center.

Bring your awareness to the eyes themselves and let them fall back into the hollows of the eye sockets. Then, bring your awareness to the cheeks and let the skin of the cheeks relax down toward the jaw and chin. Bring your awareness to the outer ears and relax them toward the inner ears. Bring your awareness to the mouth. Let it stay relaxed, the lips soft.

If it feels good to let the lips part slightly, let them, but let the lower jaw relax away from the upper jaw as if you feel the inside of the mouth open. Bring your awareness to the tongue. Let it float in the middle of the mouth. Let the sides of the tongue be soft like its center and let the root of the tongue fall back into the cave of the throat. Deliberately relax.

Consciously go tension-free and feel what you feel like when you're feeling relaxed. In this last little bit, feel what you feel like when you're feeling your most relaxed, your most tranquil, your most at peace. Feel what it feels like right now and now. Without moving very much, just begin to sense the solid ground beneath you. All that space around you and smooth out your breath just a little bit like we did in the beginning, the belly, the ribs, and the chest and feel how the movement of your breath plays up against your body and also the force of gravity.

Then, slowly let some movement stir through your fingers and through your toes and through your wrists and through your ankles. Bend your elbows if you want. Just make whatever stretch feels good. Eventually, bend the knees, setting both the feet flat on the bolster. If you like, draw your legs in toward your chest.

Wrap the arms loosely around the legs and rock side to side on your lower back. Then, go ahead and tip over onto the left side. Curl yourself up in that fetal position again. Let your belly be really relaxed as if sand were just pouring out of the naval. Slowly, begin to lean your chest up against the ground.

Use your right palm to push and come up and sit in any comfortable seated position you like. Close your eyes one more time. Join your palms at your chest. Thank you for sharing this practice with me today. I look forward to seeing you again soon.



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