Restorative Flow

I have been struggling with a head cold these last few days, so yesterday I swapped my morning Ashtanga with an evening restorative flow. This one is for a practitioner who is used to a fairly dynamic routine and is looking for deep stretches in a restorative practice... I'll post a more gentle one soon, I think!!

You will need: several pillows or bolsters, a yoga strap, yoga blocks (Harry Potter also works...), a thick blanket and an eye-pillow. Put some nice essential oil on (jasmine or lavender are lovely for relaxation) and go with the flow! Remember, the breath is the most important element of this flow, so take time to establish smooth, deep breathing.

Restorative Flow: Intermediate

(From left to right: Top Row: Supta Kapotasana with pillows, baddha konasana with blocks, paschimottanasana with pillows, Krounchasana.
Middle Row: Preparing the block, Ardha Salamba Sarvangasana, Supported Halasana
Bottom Row: Bridge pose with a block, Setu Bandhasana with block, Supta Baddha Konasana with pillows and blocks.)
  • Sukhasana (easy pose) and Brahma Mudra
  • Child's pose (10 breaths)
  • Inhale to all fours and do Cat (exhale) & Cow (inhale), optionally adding bent-knee lifts
  • Exhale to puppy pose (5 breaths), or inhale to all fours and exhale to Downward-Facing Dog (5 breaths)
  • Kneeling Sun Salutations A & B variations (see the unsinkable Suburban Yogini's variation of these for a good place to start!)
  • From standing, take Utanasana for 5 breaths, then move back to Downward-facing Dog
  • Inhale and lift the right leg behind you, then exhale and bring the right knee forward and place it between the hands. Inhale, open up the chest, exhale bring the elbows and head down for Supta Kapotasana. Place a pillow under the head and remain here for 10-25 breaths. You can also use a pillow under the hips. Then push back up to downward facing dog, and do the left side.
  • From downward-facing dog, come to sit on an exhalation by bringing the right foot halfway forward, crossing the left ankle behind it, and lowering down to a cross-legged position. Take a few breaths here, and then come into:
  • Baddha Konasana (seated), 10-25 breaths. You can use a strap (around the outside of the feet up and around the lower back) to take the tension off, and also prop up your knees with blocks and pillows.
  • Paschimottanasana with support, 10-25 breaths. Straighten the legs and place a large pillow or bolster over the legs. Inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale and fold forward, resting your head and/or torso on the pillow. Keep the feet and toes slightly relaxed and allow for a deep stretch.
  • Upavista Konasana, 10-25 breaths. Bring the legs wide apart and place the pillow or bolster between them. Inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale and fold forward, resting your head and/or torso on the pillow.
  • Triang Mukaekapada Paschimottanasana. Bend the right knee behind you (ardha virasana) and bring the pillow over the left leg. Try to keep your hips in line as you fold forward over the left leg on an exhalation, and remain there for 10 breaths. Come back to sitting, bend the left knee and then grasp ahold of the left foot and lift it towards you while extending the leg for Krounchasana (Heron's pose), 5-10 breaths. [You can also use a strap around the left foot, and if you have knee issues, do this pose with the right leg straight or the knee bent towards you.] Focus on lengthening the spine and look up towards your toes. Release the left leg, and unfold the right leg, bringing the right foot inside the left thigh. Open up the right hip, inhale and centre yourself over the left leg, and exhale folding forward into Janu Sirsasana. Use a pillow under the head and torso and remain here for 10-25 breaths. Come back up to a seated position, bend the right knee towards you and place the right foot to the outside of the left leg. Then bring your right arm behind you, left arm on the right knee, and twist to the right-hand side for Ardha Matsyendrasana. Come back to centre and repeat all four poses on the other side.
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose). Exhale down onto your back with the knees bent. Bring the feet close in to the sitting bones, hip-width apart, and inhale up into Bridge pose. Place a block under your sacrum to give you some support, and stay here for 10-25 breaths. You can also try a variation: place the yoga block on the mat so that the long thin side is facing up and parallel to the mat. Lift up your hips and place the block so that it runs from your tailbone up your spine. Gently extend the legs and release your head backwards so the crown of the head is moving towards the floor. You can adjust the block up and down your spine depending on what feels best for you. Stay for 10 breaths. To come up, bend the knees, lift up the hips and remove the block. When you are done, hug the knees for at least 5 breaths.
  • Fold up a blanket and place it under your torso from the upper back to the shoulderblades. The shoulders should be resting on the blanket, the head on the mat. In addition, place a yoga block at arms length behind the head. Lift up the hips and support them with your hands, extending the legs upwards and back at a 45 degree angle for Ardha Salamba Sarvangasana, half-shoulderstand. Keep the neck long and either bend the knees or extend through the toes. Alternatively, support the lower back and head with pillows and bring your feet to rest up the wall in Viparita Karani. Stay for 25 breaths, then lower your feet down onto the block behind you for supported halasana. [You can use a chair, two blocks, or the wall to make halasana even more restive.] Stay for 10 breaths, then bend the knees and gently roll down onto your back.
  • Keeping the left leg bent, inhale and straighten the right leg for Supta Padangustasana I. You can use a strap or your hands to gently pull the leg toward you. Then, straighten the left leg and let the right leg open out to the right hand side for Supta Padangustasana II, looking back over the left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
  • Prop your head and torso up on some pillows and lay back. Bring the soles of your feet together for Supta Baddha Konasana. Support your knees with pillows or blocks, close your eyes, and stay here for 25 deep breaths.
  • Extend your legs and cover yourself with a blanket. Put on your eye pillow and a guided relaxation or good tune for Savasana. Stay for approx 10 minutes.