Sometimes yoga needs to be strong, dynamic, challenging. Headstands and handstands, deep back bends and fast flowing vinyasa. But sometimes, even much of the time, yoga needs to be soft, introspective and simple.
I wrote before about looking after our feet. We spend a lot of time on them, and also too much time off them in an unhealthy slump over our desks, laptops, steering wheels and so on. We race around now just in the outer world, but our own inner worlds, not taking enough time to stop, breathe, release. Sometimes we just need to give our feet, indeed the rest of our bodies and our minds a break. Take the pressure off.
And thats why I love restorative yoga. I don't always do a full session (perhaps I should!) but it feels great to throw a few into the mix during a class I'm teaching, my own practice or occasionally just somewhere in the middle of my day!
Viparita Karani asana are a blessing. Otherwise known as legs-up-the-wall pose, this is a lovely way to introduce some inversion in to your day. I like to let my legs fall wide open for at least half of the time I am in this posture, to introduce a stretch for the inner legs and groin.
I find this very grounding and spending some time in this asana lets any stress or strong emotion melt away quietly and privately. You may also find staying here a while allows "stuff" you might be holding back to float to the surface. When the mind has a chance to be still our emotions can speak a little louder, without having to compete with our day-to-day chaos. So whatever comes, let it come; whatever goes, let it go. Its good to allow our souls to be heard.
You may want to have a couple of slim blocks, a folded blanket or cushion near by for this one, make sure you get as comfy as possible - you might want to stay here a while!
Then, here it is, step by step:
Find an open wall space and sit with your knees bent, feet on the floor and the left side of your body against the wall.
Then, lie yourself gently down on your right side, roll on to your back and carefully swing your legs up the wall. Your head and back should be on the floor, your legs up 90 degrees on the wall.
Have a wriggle around if you need to, getting your sit bones against, or just a little away from the wall.
Scan the body - how comfortable do you feel? Decide if you would like a block, folded blanket or cushion under your hips, back or head. Get these in position carefully, don't twist or jerk the body.
Rest your hands on your tummy or at your sides. Close your eyes (use an eye pillow if you have one), allow your head to feel heavy. Let your legs slide open down the wall if you like.
Take a deep breath in, hold for a second then sigh out through the mouth. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose. Melt in the the ground.
Stay here for at least 5 minutes - I like to stay here for a long time, the longer the better! Try for 10-15 mins. Watch out for tingling in the feet or a sore back - this is an indicator to ease yourself back out.
To come out
Hug your knees down to your chest, roll over to one side and stay here for a few breaths.
Then ease yourself up to sit.
A few precautions:
If you a pregnant*, have high blood pressure, eye problems such as glaucoma, or have back pain or injuries you may wish to check with your teacher or a doctor before practicing this asana.
*I suggest using a prop under the hips during pregnancy to take pressure off the lower back and avoid restricting blood flow through the vena cava.
Some people like to avoid inversions during menstration, this is a personal choice so feel free to carry on inverting during your flow if it suits you, or avoid this one if you would rather not :)