Restorative Yoga: Self Care for the Winter

© Joe Longo Photography

© Joe Longo Photography

The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year. This is also the Ayurvedic season called Vata, a season characterized by cold, dry, light, clear, and moving energy.  Has winter-time ever felt filled with insomnia, dry skin, arthritis, constipation, anxiousness or depression. That is often considered a symptom of too much Vata accumulated in the body and mind. 

During this time of darkness moving towards light, there are many practices to help to keep you grounded and vibrant during the cold months ahead.  Finding the motivation to get your body and soul moving on your yoga mat can be a great challenge.  But in this season of reflection and slowing down, does not mean hibernation from your practice. 

Restorative yoga is the invitation to move towards the light and come into presence combatting symptoms of fatigue, anxiousness, and the cold. The sadhana of restorative yoga is a blissful opportunity to feel completely at peace. Here the intent is to allow the body to open and the mind to get quiet. This is the opportunity to invite rest, and result is pure bliss. Restorative yoga is a fully supported practice that uses props to encourage the body relax into each pose. For example, you might place a rolled blanket under each knee in reclining bound angle pose or use a bolster to help open the heart. Passive release of tight muscles is the physical goal of each restorative yoga pose.

The goal of a restorative practice is to release muscle tension. As your muscles relax, you’ll begin to breathe more deeply. You’ll also ease into a calmer state of mind. In restorative yoga, poses are often held for several minutes or more, making each pose a kind of mini meditation.

Here are three poses to try at home: 

Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Supta Baddha Konasana

Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together, knees pointing outward, and slide heels as close to the groin as is comfortable. Place your arms at 45-degree angles to your torso with the palms facing up, or place one hand on your low belly and one on your chest to help focus on the breath.

With each exhale, let your knees float toward the ground, creating a stretch across the inner thighs and groin. If the stretch is too deep, place additional blankets or cushions under your knees for support. To come out of the pose, gently roll to your right side with knees drawn to your heart, and gradually prop yourself up to sitting.

Legs-up-the-Wall Pose
Viparita Karani

To perform this passive inversion, start seated on the floor with your right shoulder, hip, and thigh against a wall. Keep a bolster within reach, and exhale as you lower your back while swinging your legs up onto the wall. Press the soles of your feet into the wall, lift your hips, and slide the bolster underneath your hips. Extend arms out to the sides or in cactus (upper arms perpendicular to torso, elbows bent at 90 degrees, palms facing up). Place a small roll (like a rolled-up towel) under your neck if extra support is needed. Rest passively.

When ready, press soles of your feet against the wall and lift your hips to slide the bolster out from under you. Gently lower your pelvis to the floor, roll to the right side, and use your hand to press yourself back up to sitting.

If you would like to welcome a deeper experience of Restorative yoga, Three Queens Yoga offers weekly restorative yoga every Tuesday  7:30-8:45pm and monthly Sunday workshops.