Awaken to You: 30-Day Yoga Challenge Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 14

Day 11: Restorative Flow

30 min - Practice


In Day 11, we slow it down (you've earned it!) with a grounding restorative flow of held stretches and supported postures. This practice will feel like the taste of your favorite dessert.
What You'll Need: Mat, Square Bolster

About This Video


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Greetings, Mitras. We can call each other Mitras friends now because this is day 11. We've been together for a while now. So today's practice, welcome to day 11, by the way. And today's practice is like a dessert for you.

You have earned it. And if you have a bolster or a big blanket that you can fold, that would be fantastic because it's going to be a really grounded practice today, a restorative flow. So we'll start on our backs. And you can bring your bolster or your blanket, I'm just going to call it a bolster for the rest of the practice. Whatever you're using is fine.

You want to bring it to the base of your pelvis and just recline back. All right. So tuck the tailbone under and let's set up the legs nice and wide. We'll start in Shavasana with the length of the bolster supporting from the waist right at the top of the sacrum, all the way up behind the head. Reach your arms out nice and wide, close your eyes and take a very deep breath in through your nose.

And as you inhale, really receive your breath and draw it all the way down to the base of your heart, the base of your lungs. And as you exhale, just visualize following the breath up and out through the crown, through the nose, exiting out of the body, through the palms of your hands. And let's enjoy five deep breaths here, just like that. As you breathe, really give yourself permission to drop down and downshift your rhythm. And wherever you're coming from, whether this be the beginning of the day or afternoon or evening, whatever rhythm that you're arriving from, let yourself drop in to this rhythm.

Sometimes that's really easy to do and sometimes it's really challenging and just notice where you're at today and see if you can start to match the length of your inhale to the length of your exhale. We've got two more breaths here. Let your jaw soften, let your hair, your scalp soften. Take one more full breath and exhale completely. Let's bend the knees and plant your feet flat on the mat and still reclining on your bolster, just windshield wiper your knees from left to right, from right to left.

Let this movement massage the low back, the hips and the sacrum. And as you shift from side to side, you might start to feel your hips almost kind of army crawling down the mat. So it might feel like your bolster is sliding up a bit towards your waist. That's absolutely fine. Just let your body shift down a little bit.

Once you feel even, center yourself so that the knees are pointing up to the sky, press into the feet, lift your hips a bit, tuck your tailbone under and just re-drape the lumbar spine and sacrum down on the floor and now bring the soles of the feet together and open up the knees like a diamond. Just reach the arms over our head, full breath in. As you exhale, circulate the arms wide and down, almost like you're making a yoga snow angel and then reach it wide and up again. As you reach up, turn the palms to face one another. As you exhale and reach down, turn the palms to face your thighs.

Twice more like that, inhale, turn the palms to face each other as you reach over your head, exhale, turn the palms to face down. Once more, just a little movement through the shoulders here. Exhale the movement reflecting the rhythm of the breath and then go ahead and draw the knees back up towards the sky, plant your feet, take the heels of your hands against the right where your thigh bones meet your hips and press down, giving yourself a gentle so as stretch. So as you press the heels of the hands into the tops of the thigh bones, your shoulders might lift up towards your ears a little bit and just lengthen at the waist here. Take a deep inhale, exhale, continue to press through the heels of the hands.

It's a really subtle stretch, the muscles inside the spine and then slowly soften the arms and release. Let your knees rock over to the right side, pour yourself off the right side of your bolster and then press yourself up and we'll take the right side of your hip and just scoot it up next to your bolster and set up your legs like a pinwheel coming into a restorative twist. And if this were a classic restorative practice, we'd hold each posture for at least five minutes or so and we're kind of cruising through it a bit so it's more of a restorative flow. So center your chest over the bolster and start to walk your hands out on either side of your bolster and if you can turn your head the opposite way, then you have a really nice twist all the way from your sacrum up through your cervical spine. If that's too much on your neck, then just turn your head to look the same direction as your knees, whatever works for you.

So you can drop down, widen the elbows and sink in. If this feels too low, you can always put a block or another blanket under your bolster and build it up. Sometimes I like to just put my arms underneath and then turn my head. So let's hang out here for about five breaths. As you breathe, notice where you feel this.

Is it in your middle spine? Is it in your low back? Is it more of a full body experience? And try to relax here just with each exhale, take some layers of holding off and restorative practices are often super underestimated as far as their ability in increasing our baseline level of flexibility. And so it's really nice to interact with this style of practice often because it affects our nervous system in a completely different way than a standing practice does.

Let's enjoy two more breaths here. Relax the belly, relax the hips. One more breath. From here, just slowly start to climb your way up out of the twist, take your time, walking your hands in towards your hips, and then let's take the bolster and just flip it back for a moment, ground down through your right palm and opening up through the left quadricep and hip flexor. Sweep your left arm along the horizon and then lift your hips up and just open through the left channel, front channel of the body.

As you exhale, come on back down and gently spiral into a bit of a twist to the opposite direction. Let's do that again. Plant through the right palm, inhale, lift your hips. Start your arm along the horizon and exhale all the way back down, simple twist, a little rotation in the spine. Once more, plant through the right palm, press your hips forward, lift up through the left line and exhale, come on back down.

Simply take your knees over to the opposite side, bring your bolster back to the center of the mat and let's bring the left hip right up to the edge of the bolster and we'll turn our spine towards the floor. Try to center your navel, your ribs, your chest over your bolster and then however you like to give yourself some support here. So you can turn your head to the left and then take your right cheek to the mat. I'm going to actually turn my head the other way just so you can continue to hear me so I don't bury the mic in the bolster. So sink down whatever way feels comfortable to you and widen the elbows, snuggle in a bit, close your eyes and relax.

We've got five good breaths here. Notice how your breath can fill into your back body and let's take this opportunity of holding postures and moving a bit slower to really refine how we're breathing. So typical of many yoga practices, we work with a breath called ujjayi pranayama, ujjayi means victorious and the sound and feeling of ujjayi breath is like the sound of the ocean. So you breathe in and out of the nose and it has a little bit of a Darth Vader sound to it and you just slightly, slightly constrict the back of the throat so when we breathe we have that resonance, that velvety sound to the breath. Let's try to stay with that for a couple more rounds.

One more round and start to climb your way up out of this twist. Take your time, plant your palms, lift through the chest and let's flip our bolster to the other side of the mat, ground down through your left hand, sweep your right arm along the horizon and just lift your hips, going for a nice open, almost a back bend through the right side of the body and come back down and enjoy a simple twist the opposite direction. Bring the left hand back to the center of the mat, inhale, lift your hips, reach through your fingertips, exhale, sink it on down, twisting into the right hip. And once more, plant your left hand, inhale to reach and exhale, slowly come on down, have a seat, spin around, we'll sit on top of our bolster now so you can bring it right to the back of the mat and then center yourself and open up the legs wide, we'll revisit our wide leg forward fold, we call this Upavishta Konasana or straddle sit and so we want to flex the feet and take the toes and knees straight up towards the sky and just walk your hands forward a bit. We elevate the hips up on a bolster blanket, it just allows our pelvis to tilt forward towards that anterior tilt and really open up through the hamstrings and the inner thighs and come down as low as it feels good to you, come down any amount and that always kind of spurs the joke or the question, well, what is any amount?

And the answer is it's any amount so you can come down as low as you want or not at all. If you're feeling a stretch up here, hang out, sit tall, be the king or the queen up high, right? So whatever works for you, I'm going to go down a little bit lower. You can stack your hands, drop your forehead onto your hands, whatever feels good. And this is a really nice place again to listen and hear your ujjayi breath and oftentimes students ask me, well, why, what's the purpose of this breath?

Why should we breathe like this? And so when you, it's not a voluntary breath, it definitely takes effort and focus to slightly narrow the back of the throat and increase the velocity of the breath. It's almost like when you put your thumb over a garden hose and it increases the velocity of the water coming out, it pressurizes your breath. So it actually increases your VO2 max, your lung capacity to breathe in this way. It warms the air that you're breathing in, which helps warm your body.

It helps your nervous system relax and down regulate, right? It oxygenates your blood, calms your mind, oxygenates your brain, helps you sleep better, gives you a sound to focus on. So it helps you become present. Other than that, it has zero benefit, just kidding. So there's a lot of reasons why we breathe ujjayi.

Let's come up out of that forward fold and then take your hands to the inner knees and draw the soles of the feet together. Open up your knees for baddha konasana. You can stay up on your bolster if you like, helps the tilts of the pelvis as you shift forward or you can slide off your bolster. So I'm going to stay up on top and we'll experience baddha konasana in a couple of different ways with the bolster. So as you walk your hands forward and relax into it, let your shoulders relax.

And typically we really press the knees and activate the spine when we're inside a baddha konasana. But today let's just let it be completely relaxed so you can turn your palms face set, relax your head. Sometimes I even like to take my own fingertips to my neck and give myself a little love here on my neck. So just take a moment or two breathing ujjayi therapeutically and you'll keep hearing me mention these practices to come back to the sound of the breath, to come back to the thread of your breath because it's the connecting line. It's the superhighway for you to be present, to really be in your body, right, to be present over the distractions of your mind, your thoughts.

Keep coming back to the sound of your breath. Last breath here and then slowly come on up, lift your head, walk your hands in and come on up to seated, yeah. From here we'll shift forward, so we're off the bolster, bring it around to one side and we'll take our feet over the bolster and come into baddha konasana again, but this time with the support of the bolster underneath our knees, reach up to the sky as you inhale and then exhale, simply fold forward. So it's a little bit more of a looser baddha konasana, there's a lot of space between the hips and the feet. You can relax your head down and let your feet hold your head or stack your hands, even a block and go right here and give you a little head rest, so whatever works.

Take three good breaths right here. One more and lift your head, lift your heart, inhale, come all the way up. As you exhale, swing your legs back around the opposite direction and now we recline back once again, but this time with the bolster perpendicular to the spine and when you roll back you want to position it so that your bolster is right behind your heart center, right at your thoracic spine and let your head and neck go. Make sure your head's supported by something, if it's not touching the floor then put a folded towel or blanket underneath your head. And then let's take the feet as wide as the mat and let the knees touch, turning the feet in.

Just take a breath or two here. As you exhale, you can circulate the arms up towards the sky and then wrap your arms around yourself, literally giving yourself a bear hug, crawl the fingertips towards the shoulder blades and then inhale, open them up wide for an embrace, back to the hands towards the floor, exhale, bring it back up through the center, opposite elbow on top and take your hands, wrap your fingertips around towards the back of the shoulder blades and let's just do that on the breath a few times, inhaling to open, exhaling to wrap yourself up in a hug, super simple, inhaling to open, exhale, opposite elbow on top, wrap yourself up, a little bit of self-love, a little bit of self-care, inhale to open, exhale, wrap it on up. One of the things I ask my two kids on a regular basis is, what's one of the things you like best about yourself? What's one of your best qualities? And so maybe as you move in and out of this little bear hug, you can think of one quality that you really like about yourself and make a commitment to share that quality with your people today that you cross paths with and then open up your arms nice and wide, take a deep breath in, exhale completely and from here we'll crawl back a little bit and move the bolster down so you can reach one hand up to the sky followed by the other hand almost like you're climbing a rope and just army crawl your shoulders and hips back a bit so that you feel the bolster move down and once it's kind of below your shoulder blades then you can just lift your hips up and slide it down so that it supports your sacrum and from here you can extend the legs long and we come into this nice restorative so as hip flexor opening here with the hips elevated if there's any compression in the low back just take the bolster a touch lower and then stretch the legs out long.

Feel yourself a little heavier here against the earth and just roll your head side to side feeling a little lubrication in the neck the cervical spine right where it meets the brain stem and the skull send a little bit a lot of it a good energy through your breath down literally through your spinal cord through your nerves branching out to all the various parts of your body, your cells, all the tissues, muscles, bones, blood, oxygen, everything that flows within your body being massaged by the breath. Once you feel centered go ahead and bring the soles of the feet together let the knees open like a diamond and here's yet another experience of bodhicanasana with the hips slightly elevated reach your arms over your head exhale bend the elbows slide the elbows and forearms down right alongside your legs and once again circulate palms touch reach over your head exhale bend the elbows wide like a cactus and just circulate down and maybe the backs of the hands and elbows touch the floor maybe not no worries let's do that a couple more times full circumduction of the shoulder and once more palms touching you now reach over your head exhale bend the elbows and take your hands down on top of the bolster keep your hips supported by the bolster and reach your legs straight up to the sky activate through your legs reach through the balls of the feet and let's just start to work with a tilt of the pelvis as we draw our legs towards our face and back and as you do this you can press into the bolster with your palms and start to feel the potential to fold all the way up and over into plow and before you even go for this you might want to just pause for a moment turn your head take a look at the screen and just to see where we're going because once you go up and over it's really not a good place to turn your head once you have your weight resting up on your shoulders like that that's kind of a guaranteed recipe to tweak your neck so that's where we're going keep looking up at your own feet and you can go as deep as you want and keep it kind of in a little tilt here and just feel that activation of the low belly and release of the low back or if you want to go a little deeper press into the palms fold up and over totally fine to bring your hands to your low back and support yourself otherwise you can keep your hands grounded on the bolster legs are active and let's enjoy just a moment or two in plow it's an inverted forward fold basically so keep your legs active breathe into any hot spots you might feel along your tummy or your spine and take a moment here and this can be a pretty challenging shape to come into so if it's you know feels a little bit elusive don't worry about it just let it be something that you work on here and there we'll bring it back in some of our future practices and let's roll down slow so hands come to the bolster use your core to control the roll down and then once your sacrum touches bend your knees and hug your knees in and just rock a little bit side to side right across the left hip and right hip enjoy a few breaths right here and then to come out of this just bring your feet down let your knees drop over to one side and just pour yourself off the bolster like melting chocolate ah almost no effort as you come up just kind of slowly come on up off of your side we'll keep the bolster where it is and set up your hip just right at the edge of it just barely not quite to the middle but kind of behind that and then lie down on your side the bottom knees stay bent the top legs going to extend long and you can reach your top arm over your head I like to grab my top wrist and just lengthen into a relaxed side bend here so head relaxes on your bottom arm bottom knee is bent and then press long through your top leg and through your top heel and enjoy a couple of breaths right here super subtle but sweet opening right along your side waist your quadratus lumborum otherwise known as the QL your low back take one more breath here and to come out of it bend your top knee bring it forward and open up into a relaxed twist and just kind of melt into the floor and then slowly come back where you were reaching the top arm and leg long and let's come up out of that so slowly ease yourself up and we'll go to the second side you can just lift and shift your knees off to the other side set up your hips so they're just barely on the back edge of the bolster and then come on down bottom knees bent top leg top arm long if you can grab your wrist of the top arm great if not no worries just reach long in opposition from the right fingertips all the way through the right heel if you feel any compression in your low back see if you can just slightly tilt the pelvis towards posterior or anterior depends on your structure to find some length in the spine let's enjoy one more breath here and to come out of it bring your top knee forward and sweep open into a relaxed undefined twist just the essence of a twist here almost like you're peeling open while you're lying on the beach just to feel the sunshine on your chest and your face for a moment and then slowly come on out of that stretch long through the top arm the top leg bend your elbow in your knee pour yourself back up and our last shape is to return to Shavasana so we'll scoot our bolster down a bit so that it's just underneath our knees and then come down onto your back and make yourself comfortable so stretch out separate your feet wider than hips width apart open up your arms palms facing the sky let your head roll a little bit from side to side and then find center and close your eyes and rest you can let go of your Ujjayi breathing and allow your breath rhythms to return to a natural relaxed just involuntary rhythm feel the warmth of your breath and the sunshine in your heart breathe into that really one special unique quality that is just yours that's unique to you and notice how our your practice really fertilizes your best qualities one of my teachers said that once and I loved that image of how our yoga practice fertilizes our best qualities slowly start to bring your awareness back into your body send a little bit of movement to your fingers and your toes stretch your arms over your head and reawaken exhale to draw your knees into your chest rolling off to one side and slowly come on up to seated ah yeah spring the hands together at the heart and I hope you feel fantastic have a wonderful day thank you so much for joining today and I'll see you in the next practice I look forward to it namaste


Jenny S
3 people like this.
I love when the universe shows up to heal my heart. This practice arrived on the day that my oldest child has spread her wings to move across the country and begin her great life adventure. I’m so happy for her but my heart is hurting ...thank you for this beautiful self nurturing practice today. I really needed those hugs!
Shelley Williams
Jenny Hi sweet Jenny... thanks for sharing this. I'm so glad this practice came at the right time for you. I can understand how hard this time is, my littles are 8 and 10 years old, and I already feel myself nostalgic and weepy at the just the thought of them going away to college. Sending you lots of love, and a beautiful adventure for your girl. xo
Glenford N
5 people like this.
A beautiful relaxing practice where I listened to the subtext of my breath and delighted in the stories it told me about who I am and why I'm here. Precious moments. Thank you Shelley. Namaste.
Susan J
2 people like this.
I really needed this style of class today and my regular teacher had me doing a really powerful class yesterday. Thank you.
Helen D
2 people like this.
Beautiful and relaxing- thankyou Shelley.
Shelley Williams
Glenford My favorite part of your comment "the subtext of your breath and delighting in the stories it told you about who you are and why you are here".... what an absolutely lovely revelation. How fortunate, thank you for sharing
Shelley Williams
Susan It's ironic when these restorative practices surprise us with how important they are, and the timing in which they drop into our lives. Glad it found you at the moment when you needed it. Peace
Shelley Williams
Helen I love reading this... so happy to hear from you, thank you!
Ruth E
2 people like this.
Thank you for such a nice practice 😘👃
Michelle Hewitt
Exhausted physically and emotionally, almost 60 days along my journey of sobriety I was sorely tempted to skip today's practice. What a gift it has been, bolstered my spirit and strengthened my resolve. Thanx you Shelley !!
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