Aligned and Awake Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 8

Calm Body and Mind

50 min - Practice


We take it down a notch in this restorative practice. Nathan offers minimal cueing throughout to provide spaciousness and an invitation for the body and mind to settle in silence.
What You'll Need: Mat, Square Bolster, Blanket (2), Strap


Read Full Transcript

Welcome to our sixth and final practice of season two. We're going to take a little different tack in this particular practice. We've been doing a lot of challenging work together and so we're going to take it down level and bring more of a restorative practice this time. In this practice there's going to be some length of time that we spend in the poses where I might not have any more instructions or cueing for you and the reason for that is I want your mind to be able to settle down to calm calm down both body and mind. So don't worry if you don't hear anything from me for a minute or so. I'll cue you out of the pose but we just want that silence so that the mind can really settle down and we can gain the benefits of these restorative practices. It's nice to have a few extra props for this so our body can be very supported. I'm currently sitting on two blankets so I have a nice easy lift in the spine. We want the body to have to do a little bit less of the work in these kind of practices. Let's get started with our centering practice. Start by stretching down through your sitting bones and raising the trunk up and let's make this a light lift in the body. Nothing hard or aggressive or with tension. Opening the chest and collar bones. Roll the shoulders back so that the chest opens nicely. I'll bring the palms together and the length of the thumbs to the sternum. A little gentle pressure of the thumbs against the sternum and we lightly press up to help the shoulders and trapezius muscles relax. Neurologically the softening of those trapezius muscles is very good for calming the mind. So check in that the shoulders are long soft and rolling a little bit to the back. Let's close the eyes. Let the breath flow naturally and the attention to settle down from the mind towards the center of the chest. It's interesting there if you're used to doing a lot of thinking in your life. Sometimes in the beginning before we've really rested the body the mind wants to call the attention back up says hey I miss you. The challenge is to focus that attention into the open space of the chest. That quiet stillness. And from that center again I say namaste and welcome to practice. Please open your eyes and relax your hands. Our first pose believe it or not is going to be shavasana. Really helping to calm down the mind and body. So we'll take one blanket for the head and neck. We'll take the other blanket out of the way for a while. So lengthen the spine. Adjust the blanket for the head and neck. Take a moment to lengthen the buttocks away from the lower back. We'll do a light tuck and squeeze the shoulder blades underneath the chest. Just very light so the chest feels open and expanded. And then one leg at a time we'll stretch out to almost full length. Press the heels into the floor and gently start elongating the body towards the head side. We scrape the heels out long. Once the legs hit the floor slowly, slowly, slowly. Taking the energy out of the legs and making any final adjustments you need to make. Now close the eyes. As much as the body needs its strength, its pliability, its flexibility, especially in today's world, we need relaxation. We need to soothe the nerves of the body. And the idea is we want to be able to play both sides of the nervous system. We want to be able to move, to be active, to be energized, and we want to be able to have a strong relaxation response so that we can fall asleep, so that we can relax, so that we can calm and still the mind. They're both sides of one coin. And so you could say we're strengthening the relaxation.

So with the legs and arms relaxed, relax the throat. Relax the jaw. Let the cheeks feel like they go hollow. Soften the temples just behind the eyes. Let the eyes themselves become soft and almost like they're shrinking back away from the eyelids. Let's rest in the softness for a few breaths. And then staying in this soft state, we can gently flutter the eyes open, and one by one we'll bend the knees. We'll be working on a few pelvic tilts. So we exhale lightly and flatten the low back down into the mat. Leave it there for a few breaths. Using your feet to generate that pelvic tilt, we want to let the abdomen be very, very soft and passive. Relax the low back muscles so the spine can really let down into the floor. And then relax any effort from the muscles to allow the pelvis to fall back to its natural position. And then again push with the feet to gently flatten down the curve of the low back. And then releasing again and pressing the feet to flatten out the curve of the low back. And you can begin to trace with your sensitivity a little further and further and further up each time. We're not coming up into a bridge but just feeling that you can let down all the way up to the rib cage. For some of us there's a tendency, and you can keep doing your pelvic tilts, but there's a tendency to push forward right at the middle of the back, just habitually. So that's an area we want to really let soften down, specifically the T12 area. And we'll do one more, pressing with the feet and gently rocking the low back flat. And then releasing. The next step, we'll take the left ankle just across the right knee. Stretch your arms out a bit to the sides, and we're gonna rock the pelvis and the legs over to the right down to the floor. Then with our hip muscles, push open the left hip. So I'm gently moving my knee away from my trunk for a little hip stretch. To complete this pose, you can turn your head over to the left side so we get a full spinal twist. And then back to center, relax the foot and knee, and work your way back to the middle. Right ankle on left, breath in, breath out, and turning over to the side. Gently pushing the right knee away from the body, eyes still soft, facial features passive. And take a breath in, breath out, come back to center. Once again, left ankle on right knee. This time, right knee comes into the chest. This will take us a little deeper into the hip stretch as we roll off to the right side. And again, pressing the left knee away from the torso. This again, remember, just in a restorative fashion, it's a light press. We're not looking to win any trophies for stretching or anything like that. Nice and soft, just to mobilize the hip and elongate the lower back. And then a soft release. It's nice to just take the foot out of the crossover first, and then bring the legs back to center. And second side, we'll cross over, left knee up into chest or in tabletop, and we'll send the body all the way over. A little press of the leg away from the trunk.

And again, relaxing the right foot. We'll take it out of it interlock first, and come back to center. Let's turn to the side, and we'll work our way up into hands and knees for a few cat and cow. We won't need our blanket for a while. And then the hands and knees. A breath in, exhale, and a light press up with the spine. We'll stay in the up position for just a minute, and here, can you consciously relax the muscles of your back? It's as though when you relax those muscles of the back, the spine just simply has more room to soften into. So rather than a muscular press from the legs or the arms, it's as though you're relaxing up. And then the opposite, we'll drop the spine down. This side, we release the front muscles. And again, rolling up, relax the abdomen. We use a little bit of arm strength to take it up, consciously feeling the back, relaxing those elongated spine muscles. And let's send it down one more. And then we'll pause on the heels for just a second. We'll be taking a downward-facing dog, and this will take a little exploration for you to find out how much height you need for a little bit of head support. Supporting the forehead and the crown of the head has a neurological relaxation response associated with it. So I'm going to start with a block, and we'll see how I do for the head support in my dog pose. You could use a few folded blankets on top of a block or whatever you're going to need. So let's see how I do. It worked out pretty well for me. It might be a little tall, so I could shorten up my dog pose just a little bit so my neck is very long, and I feel well supported in the pose. I will take some silence here as we settle in, make any adjustments you need during your pose, and quiet time. And then we'll softly come down to the knees. And what will happen over time as you stay in the pose, you'll feel that there's more distance to be had, more depth to be had, so I'll make a little adjustment. Take a little bit more depth, bringing more of the crown of the head down. And then we'll come up out of the pose. And just take a quick pause. We can take the blanket out of the way for just a moment. The next pose will be a prasarita paratanasana and the same idea. I'm going to leave the blanket here just in case I need it. I'll be coming up, wide legs, and working for a forward fold. I'll start here with the crown of the head down and see what my distance is. Some of you may not need any support here at all, like either a blanket or block, if you can come all the way to the ground. So take sometimes a little trial and error to see what your distance will be so that you can have a long neck. That feels just right for me. Long neck, long torso. So the essential feeling is that the body is releasing down away from the thighs. Here you want to make sure that the shoulder bones are lifted up away from the floor, shoulder blades up the back, soft abdomen. Let's take a few minutes and silence together. And as the body is staying for a little bit longer in these poses, we definitely get to feel a little bit more of that release. We might be able to take it a bit further, perhaps the head all the way to the ground or at least taking away some of the supports. A few more moments. In this pose, releasing the base of the neck, excuse me, the base of the skull, top of the neck, is a wonderful way to further help relax the nervous system.

And then we'll slowly walk our arms out. Pause in the halfway pose. From here we'll heel-toe the feet together, leave the head hanging down, we'll turn on to our mat, and this is an opportunity for you to choose which headstand you'd like to do. We've practiced ones against the wall and I highly, highly recommend it. It's a wonderful, relaxing way to do a headstand, especially in a restorative type of environment. If you'd like to do on the mat with me, it might be nice to take a little bit of a blanket so that we have a nice cushion for the head and we'll do it together. Headstand. So I walk in, place the head, nice long neck, and bring the body up. And so we spent some time doing head down poses to prepare the circulatory system for the deeper lift of headstand. Here we work by pressing the forearms down and lifting the shoulder blades up. So we move that C7 bone, the base of the neck, forward and up. That movement of the C7 bone helps support and lift and open the body into the full pose. It's been just a few more breaths here. Eventually you can extend your headstand for two, three, five minutes or more, and then gently coming down. One leg at a time or you can bend the knees and release your way down. We can take a child's pose to recover. Let's press the body back up. We've got a blanket right here that we can turn into a pillow and we'll come to lying down on the back. If you have a strap nearby, this will be very helpful for the poses we're about to get into. Oh, and a block actually to support the leg. We'll take the block out to the right side first. We'll be there in just a second to use that. First, we'll take the strap around the bottom of the foot, right foot, and extend the leg up. In this pose, we're looking to make a little length in the abdomen, so a few things happen at once. One, I'm going to pull with my arms to help draw the leg straight down into its socket. Let's do that. And then two, I use a little muscle energy from the quad to push the thigh bone that way so that we feel a lengthening and softening of the abdomen. Let's try those two things together. I pull down and press to create a little lengthening in the abdomen. The abdomen has to be soft to receive that gift. We'll hold here for a few breaths.

Groin muscles at the right leg, nice and soft, root of the thigh here, soft. And then taking the leg out to the side, we'll give the strap to the right hand only, left arm out for support. We'll take the right leg out to the side and rest it right on that block. And so you decide how much height you need on your block or support. You're welcome to build it up with blankets or whatever is right for you, but such that you can let the leg mostly into the support so you're not working to hold the pose. We're going to use the same two actions where I pull the length of my arm into its socket to help support the leg into its home. Then I use a little firming of the quadricep to create length in the right side torso. Abdomen soft, it's part of what's giving us our relaxation response. Your thigh muscles soft. You should be able to let those muscles go if you've got enough height under your leg, under the support. Then take a breath in. As you exhale, we use the arm and leg power to bring the leg up. And we'll take away the strap and shift the support to the other side. Two legs down. That gets us nice and square. And then second side. So we'll hold on to the strap. Let's do our two actions. I pull with my arms a little to help anchor the legs straight down in its socket and the little muscle energy from the left thigh to push the thigh bone a little bit that way, especially the root of the leg that way. Nice soft hip hinge muscles. We've practiced that before in this season. Abdomen soft. Let there be a little reaching energy through your right leg all the way from the abdomen out through the toes. You feel some length happening there.

We'll transfer the strap to the left hand and taking the leg out to the side. Bright arm out for a little supportive balance and the leg to support. One of the nice things about holding on to these poses for a little length of time is it really helps the body discover itself to see where unneeded tension is and especially with the supports that we use. Tension that we might not have ever known was there. I should mention with the lateral movement of the leg that we're doing right now, it's very helpful if you externally spiral the leg. That means you're turning the quadriceps side of the leg down toward the floor, hamstring side of the leg up toward the ceiling. That gives the proper movement of the joint, the hip joint. Let's hold our position for just a little discover what we find down there. And then we'll use the arm and leg power to come back up and we can take the strap away and put it off to the side. Our next pose will bring the legs up in a little bit of a cross-leg fashion. I'm going to cross the left under the right, grab hold of it with my right hand and then unfurl that leg to the floor. The second leg will rest on the ground just for now. So we're opening up the hip flexors on the left side, getting that length in the abdomen. And if this isn't too intense for you to start, we can add right foot on top of left. Relaxing in the front of your left hip in the abdomen and especially at the very lowest abdomen. Soft face. Okay, a gentle release of the top leg. We'll let the left leg out, bring the legs up a little, right leg under left, left hand grabs hold of that right foot and I unfurl the leg down into the ground. And I'm tucking that right foot close to the left buttock and then I'm in my pose. We'll let the left foot down for now. And I'm really giving my awareness and attention to the right side hip and low abdomen.

And again, if the stretch isn't too intense for you, you can lift the left foot and put the mildest of pressures into the right leg. Allow the pressure of the left leg to elongate the front of the body this direction toward the knee. And then we'll unwind it, release the foot. Then our final pose in the supine series here that we're doing, we're gonna cross the legs, snuggle those feet as close as you can to the buttocks and then we'll take the arms up and over. If you like, you can catch the elbows. This helps to put a little extra space in the chest. Here again we have openness in the hip joints, softness in the abdomen. Let all of the features around the face be calm and quiet. And then we'll bring the arms back down to the sides, bring the legs up and out of the pose and we'll turn softly to the side and come up to sitting. So our next pose is one of my favorite poses in restorative series and that is Supta Barakunasana. We're going to take a bolster and if you don't have a bolster then two folded blankets will work very nicely. If you have even a little pillow that you'd like to use at the end, and I'm going to show you that right here, a little pillow for your head because it's nice to have the head elevated. And so we'll come right up near the bolster to start. Take a couple inches away with your hips, about the width of your own palm, and we'll start by bringing the feet together and the knees out to the sides. The first step is to put your hands on the bolster or blanket and then lift and lengthen your lower back just a little bit. Tuck your bottom and then slowly lengthen the back down onto the bolster. You can adjust your blanket to be under the head and neck and then you can reach across to the opposite shoulder blade and tug it down a little towards your hip. We'll do the other side as well. We'll reach across and gently tug that shoulder blade down toward the hip so that we feel the neck is quite long. You might do it once or twice to get that beautiful tuck of the shoulders. Let's relax into this pose for a few breaths. Let your eyes close and double check of course that there's no discomfort or pain in these poses. If you'd like to support blocks underneath your knees or folded blankets, if there's any strain in the groin, please please do that so you can really relax into the pose and you're not fighting any sensations of discomfort. The idea is that the pose itself should draw you into a shahasana feeling.

As you're settled in we'll spend a few more moments here to about another minute or so. To come out of this pose we can use the hands under the outer legs to help lift up the knees. We'll take a little turn off to the right side to come down off the bolsters and just rest on your side for a few breaths and you can tuck your knees a bit into your chest as a counter pose for that light back bend and then a slow easy push up to a sitting position. While we have this set up here we can change the blanket just a little bit to a narrowly folded blanket and having this little height really helps get more out of this pose. I'm going to start with my two legs bent just off to the side and turning one hand on either side of the bolster set up for a little bit of a twist. I'm going to start by lifting and lengthening my abdomen and then stretching down onto the bolster. I bring my forearms forward so my arms can really relax and then I'll turn my head towards the bent knee side and just relax in. We'll kind of go straight into silence. Really let the shoulders relax. Then take a gentle push up out of the pose. Easiest way to get to the other side is to turn your back to the bolster. Flip to the other side, knees are bent back, one hand on either side of the bolster, lift up and lengthen the abdomen and then elongate your way down onto the bolster. We'll relax the forearms down and turn the head towards the bent knees again. Let your body relax. Part of the loveliness of this twist is we let the spinal muscles relax away from the spine. It's as though we're spreading from the center to the sides. Can you take your attention to the spine and use your breath to relax, spreading and softening. Then we'll take a slow easy push up and out of the pose and we can put the blankets off to the side, bolster too. We'll use a head support here like a block. We'll start in wide legs and use your hands to get a nice lift up out of the abdomen and place the block forward. You find the right support for you to be able to rest the forehead down. Hands can gently surround the block.

Press up gently. Relaxation is coming on and we'll cross legs for one more forward fold. If you can't comfortably fold all the way down towards the block, you could rest forearms on top. You could even take a nice thick bolster and rest your forehead on the bolster. It's up to you. Do you want to be comfortable? We'll take a slow easy press out of the pose. We've made it once again to Shavasana. We can put the block away. I'm gonna do a little special Shavasana here with the blanket that we used a little bit ago for this supported twist and one other blanket. Just on top is a little bit of a pillow. We'll sit just in front of the long blanket and like we always do we lengthen the back down. We'll adjust the second blanket. A little tuck of the shoulder blades and extending the legs and we'll find Shavasana. Relax all the limbs, let your eyes close. Relax all the muscles around your eyes, face, ears. Let go into that stillness. Relax all the muscles around your eyes.

Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Relax all the muscles around your ears.

If your body is calling for even more time in Shavasana, please honor that. Spend as much time as you need. If you'd like to come out with me, we'll rest one hand on our tummy, one hand on the heart. One by one we'll bend up the knees. A soft turn over to your right side and we'll roll off of the blankets. Please support your head on your arm. You can tuck up the knees just a little bit. A slow, easy press up to sitting. We can use our blanket again as a little extra support. A soft, easy cross legs. Rest your hands on your thighs. You can close your eyes and drop inside one more time. It has been my gift and pleasure to be with you this season.

Thank you so much for being here with us. Namaste. I hope to see you soon.


Christel B
2 people like this.
Feeling very tired after a long day but still wanting to practice this satisfied my need at the end of the day. It really allowed for deep focus in the poses with just enough guidance. Namaste.
Jenny S
2 people like this.
Such a sweet and sensitive practice, with some unexpected poses that really did hit the spot. As always, your gentle voice puts me in a relaxed and zen state of mind, making this the complete package of restorative goodness.
Lisa M
3 people like this.
Really enjoyed ( and learned). Thank you! When is season 3? You are the main reason to continue with yoga anytime- such wonderful warm instruction.
Nathan Briner
Those are kind words. Thank you Lisa. Yes! There is going to be a season 3. We will be filming in the summer. Anything in particular you would love to see a class on?
Marlene K
1 person likes this.
Such a great instructor! Thank you šŸ™
Nathan Briner
Thank you Marlene!
Lorraine Marek
Iā€™m travelling in a car all day & this was perfect for stretching & calming me thanks
Nathan Briner
Lorraine, I hope more people see your comment above. The long car and plane rides we take plus the hours behind a desk were some of the main reasons I wanted to include a restorative session in this season. Restorative does a body good.
Kate M
1 person likes this.
Such a treat for body and mind! Thank you for a wonderful series of practice sessions this season, Nathan!
Nathan Briner
My pleasure Kate!
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