Yoga Nidra Inspired By The Ocean

Welcome beautiful human! I’m excited to share this yoga nidra inspired by the ocean with you. This yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is inspired by my short time living by the sea in Santa Barbara, California. I used to love taking the pups over to the beach for a romp in the surf and when the tide was just right I would find all kinds of little gems — sea glass, perfect little shells, and polished stones. We often saw dolphins and seals (or sea lions?) playing in the surf. I often wondered if they were just as enchanted by us as we were by them. It was a beautiful place to call home.

If yoga nidra is new to you, check out some of my other yoga nidra resources:

yoga nidra inspired by the ocean

We’ll practice yoga nidra in shavasana. If you’re not comfortable in shavasana, find a comfortable seat or lie on your side. For shavasana, slide a bolster or folded blanket underneath your knees and another blanket or pillow underneath the back of your head. The body temperature tends to drop during yoga nidra, so a blanket over the top of your body is usually really nice too. Let’s drop into this ocean-inspired yoga nidra.

Preliminary Relaxation For This Yoga Nidra Inspired by the Ocean

Take the next couple of minutes to get really comfortable. Adjust your props, your clothing and remove any distractions from your space. Once we’re in the practice of yoga nidra, you will want to remain still for the duration. 

Settle in. Take care of any last-minute wiggles and invite in a sense of stillness and calm. Close down your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Without changing your breath, simply witness it. Witness the rise and fall of your breath at your belly. Witnessing this sacred, natural rhythm. Unhurried. Unrestricted. Stay with the rise and fall of your breath.

Witness its ebb and flow. Your inhale releases into your exhale and your exhale surrenders into your inhale. PAUSE

Yoga Nidra Sankalpa

In yoga nidra we work with a sankalpa. A sankalpa is a positive “I am” statement that is true at the core of who you are. It is your essence simplified into a short positive “I am” statement. Bring into your mind’s eye your sankalpa. Once it has formed, repeat it quietly and internally to yourself three times. PAUSE

Remain aware of my voice and be still throughout the remainder of practice. The practice of yoga nidra begins now.

Rotation of Consciousness

Remain aware of my voice and do not sleep. I will guide you through a rotation of consciousness all you have to do is follow along and move your awareness from point to point within your body.

  • Move your awareness to your mouth
  • Become aware of your tongue
  • Lower jaw
  • Lower row of teeth
  • Upper row of teeth
  • Gums
  • Upper lip
  • Lower lip
  • Space between your lips
  • Both cheeks
  • Right ear
  • Left ear
  • Forehead
  • Both temples
  • Top of the head
  • Back of the head
  • Tip of the nose
  • Right nostril
  • Left nostril
  • Right eyelid
  • Left eyelid
  • Right eye
  • Left eye
  • Right eyebrow
  • Left eyebrow
  • Space between the eyebrows
  • Now go to the right hand
  • The right hand thumb
  • Second finger
  • Third finger
  • Fourth finger
  • Little finger
  • Palm of the hand
  • Back of the hand
  • wrist
  • forearm
  • elbow
  • Upper arm
  • shoulder
  • Right armpit
  • ribs
  • waist
  • hip
  • Right thigh
  • knee
  • calf
  • ankle
  • Heel 
  • Sole of the foot
  • Top of the foot
  • Right big toe
  • Second toe
  • Third toe
  • Fourth toe
  • Little toe
  • Now Go to the left hand
  • The left hand thumb
  • Second finger
  • Third finger
  • Fourth finger
  • Little finger
  • Palm of the hand
  • Back of the hand
  • wrist
  • forearm
  • elbow
  • Upper arm
  • shoulder
  • Left armpit
  • ribs
  • waist
  • hip 
  • Left thigh
  • knee
  • calf
  • ankle
  • heel
  • Sole of the foot
  • Top of the foot
  • Left big toe
  • second toe
  • Third toe
  • Fourth toe
  • Little toe
  • Groin
  • Right buttock
  • Left buttock
  • Lower back
  • Mid-back
  • Upper back
  • Right shoulder blade
  • Left shoulder blade
  • Back of the neck
  • Back of the head
  • Right inner ear
  • Left inner ear
  • Roof of the mouth
  • Throat
  • Right collar bone
  • Left collar bone
  • Right chest
  • Left chest
  • Middle chest
  • Upper abdomen
  • Navel
  • Lower abdomen
  • Groin
  • Whole spine
  • The whole head
  • Right arm
  • Left arm
  • Both arms together
  • The whole right leg
  • The whole left leg
  • Both legs together
  • Whole front body
  • Whole back body
  • Be aware of the whole body. PAUSE

Breath as Prana

Now bring your awareness to your breath. Experience your breath as it is. Follow its natural tide without altering it. Experience the pranic tide of your breath as if your whole body is breathing. Vibrant, white light flowing in and out with each cycle of breath. Waves of sparkling light washing over you with each inhale and falling away with each exhale. Each inhale peaking like a wave of prana cresting and then giving way to the exhale. Experience the peaks and valleys of your breath like the waves of an ocean. PAUSE.

Now count each breath. Count down from 54 to 0. Inhale 54. Exhale 53. Inhale 52. Exhale 51. If you lose count simply begin again. PAUSE

Opposites

Now bring your awareness to an experience of pleasure. Welcome the feeling of pleasure into your being. Hold your awareness on the experience of pleasure.

Now bring your awareness to an experience of pain. Meet the feeling of pain with equanimity. Experience it fully. Hold your awareness on the experience of pain.

Now bring your awareness to your body. Feel your body, mind and soul contracting. Becoming smaller and smaller. 

All at once, the body expands. The mind expands. And the soul expands. Body, mind, and soul expanding into the infinite, boundless.

Now bring your awareness to the experience of holding tightly. Experience the gripping in your body and mind. 

Now bring your awareness to the experience of letting go. Experience the release in your body and mind.

Archetypal Images

I will now describe images to you. Experience them without attachment and allow them to wash over you.

Your bare feet on the earth

You see a meandering path

Tall tufts of grass line the trail

Follow the path toward the sound of the ocean

You glimpse the ocean’s glimmering waves

The sea is calm

Your path gently gives way to a wide stretch of golden sand

You see the vast expanse of sea stretches out before you

The sun dances off the crest of each wave

Your breath in sync with the rhythmic pulse of the ocean

Miles of shimmery sand in each direction

Seabirds dart and dive

Puffs of clouds drift overhead

Dolphins play just beyond the waves

You walk over to the edge of the water

With each step little crabs scurry away

You stop and roll up your jeans

The water flows over your toes

Tiny shells, little gems, and sparkly stones turned and tossed by the gentle sea

A perfect shell washes up to your feet

You reach down and pick it up admiring its perfection

You peacefully slide it into your pocket and walk along the beach toward distant cliffs

A large piece of driftwood provides a spot to sit and rest

You turn your gaze toward the horizon and you take in your surroundings

A sense of ease washes over you

You reach into your pocket and pull out the shell

You turn it over in your hands, one, two, three times

You see a tiny inscription — it’s your sankalpa

Now, repeat your sankalpa internally to yourself. Speak it into the deepest layers of your being with meaning and intention. PAUSE

Gently bring your awareness back to your physical body lying on the earth. Experience your breath as the waves of an ocean. Sensation coming back. Arms. Legs. Torso. Head. Without opening your eyes, find a bit of movement. Little movements to start and finally a full body stretch. The practice of yoga nidra is complete. When you’re ready, roll over onto your side and pause there for a breath or two before coming up to a seat.

I hope you enjoyed this yoga nidra inspired by the ocean and beaches of sunny California. If you would like to learn more about yoga nidra, join me for a yoga teacher training or retreat. Both are great ways to learn more about this immensely healing practice.

Many blessings to you.

Love,
Autumn

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Other Resources for Yoga Nidra

Restorative Yoga for Grief

It’s time we talk about grief and sadness and loss. This year, 2020, has been full of both large and small losses for many of us… from losing the life we knew and loved to losing friendships/community/connection to the loss of our small businesses/income to the loss of loved ones. Just in our family, we have lost a grandfather, two uncles, an aunt, and our sweet pup Jedi is doing his best to fight off a very aggressive form of cancer. It’s heavy, and we’re doing the best we can, the best we know how. If you are grieving right now, know that I see you and I hold you in my heart. I invite you to join me for a restorative yoga for grief practice.

Restorative yoga is such a beautiful practice when you’re grieving. It’s an opportunity to feel held and cared for whether you’re practicing alone or in a group. It gives you time to heal, rest, and restore and it gives you time to bear witness to and acknowledge your emotions and thoughts without judgment and time to receive the teachings of your higher self, guides, and ancestors. Carve out this time to hold yourself in your heart space.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”

Jamie Anderson

Here is the thing, grief can’t be quantified by the type of loss. The only way your grief can be measured is by how it is felt by you. So don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve or if your grief is excessive or “not enough”. We grieve because we loved. Your grief is part of this human experience and it will help build resilience as it is expressed and resolved.

Restorative Yoga for Grief: The Practice

Today I really want to share a few yoga practices that I use when I feel the weight of grief descending. I hope that you will find the following restorative yoga for grief practice helpful. The following practice will take between 20 and 50 minutes if you follow the suggested times.

Below the infographic, you will find descriptions on how to set up your props and modifications if you don’t have props. You can use all kinds of things that you likely have around the house like blankets, couch cushions, pillows, and books. If you keep scrolling you’ll find some info about the effects of grief, a handful of tips to help you on your healing journey, and a few resources.

restorative yoga for grief

Five Restorative Yoga Poses for Grief

These five yoga poses can help you through the grieving process. I will explain how to do each pose in detail and offer modifications if you don’t have all of the props. If you have questions about the poses, please feel free to reach out.

Supported Child’s Pose

Props: 1 Bolster (stack of blankets or pillows will do), 1 blanket, optional sandbag or folded blanket

supported child's pose
Salamba Balasana

Child’s Pose gently grounds are energy and can help heal our first chakra, Muladhara. Muladhara Chakra, our Root Chakra, is our center of security, support and safety. After a loss, we may lose our sense of security, safety, and support, which is why I like to start a restorative practice for grief with Child’s Pose. When you’re practicing Child’s Pose think of breathing into the backside of your heart, the back of your lungs and your back body. Allow each cycle of breath to soften the armor surrounding your heart.

Set-Up

Place your bolster lengthwise in front of you and place your folded blanket over the top of your bolster. Bring your knees just wider than your bolster and slide the short edge of your bolster between your knees. Bring your hips back toward your heels and lower your torso down to your bolster. Rest your forearms down on either side of your bolster and bring one ear down. Halfway through your pose, bring the opposite ear down.

Hold this pose for 3-8 minutes.

Supported Reclined Bound Angle Pose

Props: 1-3 Bolsters, 1-8 Blankets, 2 blocks

supported reclined bound angle pose
Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana

This is my favorite restorative yoga pose. It helps open the front body from the groin all the way up to the throat. I, however, like this pose for how it can balance and heal the second and fourth chakras. The second chakra, Svadisthana, is our center of creativity, sensuality and sexuality. The heart chakra is our fourth chakra. In Sanskrit, its name is Anahata and it is our center of love and compassion. Anahata chakra can become blocked by grief. Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana helps heal the second and fourth heart chakras by creating space that allows for the flow of prana.

Set-Up

Most people don’t have access to a million props, so I’ll walk you through setting this pose up with a minimal amount of props. First, place your blocks toward the back of your mat. The one farthest away from you should be placed on its middle setting and the one closest to you should be placed on the lowest setting. You can have a couple of inches between the two blocks or they can be touching. (No blocks? You could use a couple of pillows or a stack of books instead) Then place your bolster (or pillow, cushion, a stack of blankets) on top of the blocks, so you’re essentially building a ramp. With another blanket, make a long roll that’s at least 3 feet long.

Take a seat in front of your bolster with your sacrum nice and close to the short edge of the bolster. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and wrap the blanket around your feet. It will go over the top of your feet and then wrap underneath your ankles/shins (it can also potentially support your thighs) Then release your knees out to the sides, like the pages of a book. Slowly lower your torso down onto your bolster, rest the back of your head down and release your arms by your sides. Turn the palms to face upward. This will help facilitate the release of your chest and heart space.

If your chin is jutting upward try to lengthen your cervical spine or support the back of your head and neck with another folded blanket. If you feel like you need support for your hips, slide blankets, bolsters or cushions underneath your knees and thighs.

Hold this pose for 5-10 minutes. If at any point it starts to bother your hips, lengthen your legs long.

Supported Twist

Props: 1 Bolster

restorative twist yoga for grief

I find this restorative twist to be really soothing to my own nervous system. I’ve even been known to fall asleep in this pose. In general, twists help to balance and heal our third chakra, Manipura, and they cultivate samana vayu. Manipura Chakra is our center of will, determination and drive. If you’ve ever had the wind taken from your sails, do some twists (corework is also deeply healing for the third chakra– but that’s for another day). Samana Vayu is the air that integrates. Working with samana vayu can help us integrate, assimilate and adapt to new circumstances.

Set-Up

You only need a bolster for this pose. You could also use a stack of blankets or cushions again. To come into the pose, place your bolster lengthwise in front of you. Sit with your right hip close to the bolster and then bring your right thigh close to the short edge of your bolster. I like to stagger the legs, but you could also allow them to be in a more stacked position. Turn your torso toward your bolster. Lengthen your spine long and then lower your torso down. Your forearms should rest on either side of the bolster. Bring either ear down. You can always switch the direction of your gaze at any time. When you’re ready move slowly as you switch sides.

Hold the pose for 4-8 minutes on each side.

Elevated Legs Up the Wall Pose

Props: 1 bolster, optional sandbag and eye pillow

legs-up-the-wall-pose-restorative-yoga-grief
Viparita Karani

Legs Up the Wall helps balance all of our chakras because the spine is nice and long in this pose. It’s also a gentle inversion, which helps bring blood to the head and heart. I like this pose because I feel both grounded and elevated after coming out of it.

Set-Up

This is one of my favorite grounding poses. Bring your bolster right up next to the wall lengthwise. You could easily skip the bolster or use a folded blanket or two. To come into the pose, sit on your bolster with your left hip, then mindfully lower your torso down to the ground. Roll down onto your back and extend your legs up the wall. You can place an eye pillow over your eyes to help turn your focus inward. It’s kinda tricky to do yourself, but placing a sandbag on the soles of your feet is deeply relaxing and comforting.

Hold this pose for 2-5 minutes.

Side-lying Shavasana

Props: 1-2 bolsters, 1-2 blankets, 1 block (as a modification)

restorative yoga grief shavasana
Shavasana

I love a traditional shavasana, but this side-lying version is just so magically calming and soothing. It really gives that sense of being held and comforted. It’s a great pose for when you’re feeling out of sorts. I highly recommend it.

Set-Up

Place a folded blanket or pillow at the top of your mat. At the bottom of your mat, you can place another blanket. This will make the pose comfier for your feet and ankles, but it’s not necessary. Then lay down on your right or left side, rest your head on your pillow or folded blanket. You can place your bolster or folded blanket between your knees (like in the illustration) or keep your bottom leg straight, bend your top leg, bring the leg forward and rest your knee and shin on your bolster (my fave). If you have another bolster I like to support the top arm with it. If you don’t have a bolster you can rest your forearm on a yoga block, a pillow, or stack of blankets. Feel free to get creative.

Make sure you’re super comfy in this pose. I consider shavasana to be one of the most important yoga poses in an entire practice, whether that yoga practice is restorative or active. Take your time setting up, settle in, and then let go of the need to adjust, fidget, or monitor your surroundings.

Hold this pose for 5-15 minutes.

Restorative Yoga for Grief: Practice Letting Go in a Million Little Ways

The beautiful thing about restorative yoga is we get to practice letting go in a million little ways. By softening the muscles of our face, letting go of tension in the belly, surrendering into the support of our props, etc. Little by little, we find peace. I will be recording this practice and uploading it to my YouTube channel soon. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else hold the container, keep track of the time, etc. And I am more than happy to do that for you.

The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Grief

I would like to speak a little to the physiological and psychological effects of grief, so if that interests you, feel free to keep reading, if it doesn’t, go ahead and stop here.

You might wonder why I’m including science in a post on restorative yoga for grief, but the way I see it, we’ve been blessed with these human bodies that allow us to experience the world so fully. Shouldn’t we know how it works? Shouldn’t we be able to recognize the signs our body and mind give us, so we can heal and not be bound by pain and dis-ease? I also understand that there is a time for learning and a time for healing (although not mutually exclusive I know in my heart that it is easier to focus on one or the other). Take what you need and leave what you don’t.

Grief in the Body

The wave of sadness that accompanies loss can make just getting through the day challenging. When I write about grief in the body my heart breaks just a little more knowing that so many of us are suffering. Grief, much like fear, elicits our body’s stress response and causes an increase in stress hormones that have a whole array of effects on the body. Under normal circumstances, the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system work in concert to allow us to move between “rest and digest” and “fight or flight” with ease. However, elevated stress hormones in addition to the sheer weight of grief can lead to a multitude of problems and persistent stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system.

Grief and Cardiovascular Health

This may seem obvious, but grief affects the heart and is associated with heart and cardiovascular issues like irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and Broken Heart Syndrome. 

Grief and the Digestive System

The functioning of our digestive system is also impacted by grief. As stress hormones shunt the blood away from the digestive organs, some of the bereaved experience diarrhea, constipation, IBS, bloating and flatulence, nausea/queasiness, lack of appetite, binge eating or emotional eating, and reflux or heartburn. It is also common to lose or gain weight while grieving.

Grief and Sleep

Grief affects our sleep too. When my sleep starts to degrade the whole cookie crumbles and I struggle to keep myself together. When I sleep too much I’m a sluggish, achy mess. Anyone else experience the same? Grief affects our sleep in a myriad of ways from insomnia to oversleeping. Sleep is supposed to be a sacred time for restoration and healing. Without proper rest fatigue sets in, our ability to focus and concentrate declines, and our motor coordination is impaired. If you or someone you know is grieving ask/offer help so the bereaved has ample time to rest. Restorative yoga and yoga nidra can both be helpful during the grieving process and beyond.

Grief and the Immune System

Even our immune system is affected by grief and the onslaught of stress hormones. Have you ever gone on a vacation after a period of being super stressed only to get sick? That’s because those pesky stress hormones have been suppressing your immune system. The same thing can happen when we’re grieving. One study found that after loss of a loved one people are more likely to experience a physical health issue and another study found that “bereaved people demonstrate higher levels of systemic inflammation, maladaptive immune cell gene expression, and lower antibody response to vaccination compared with non-bereaved controls.” 

Grief and the Musculoskeletal System

And finally, grief can manifest as physical pain and fatigue. Some experience body aches, headaches and stiffness, while others experience muscle weakness, limb heaviness, and decreased coordination. 

Mental Health and Grief

Grief is caused by a painful or traumatic event that impacts our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It can be experienced as acute grief, which is experienced 6-12 months after loss and persistent grief which is experienced beyond 12 months.

Remember that everyone experiences grief differently, you may recognize some of these experiences in your own grieving process and you may not. Some people experience depression, anxiety, or nervousness. Grief might manifest as apathy over their own wellbeing– an inability to make healthy meals, to exercise, to keep their living space clean, etc. Sometimes the bereaved develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and they turn to alcohol, drugs, food and unhealthy relationships.

They may experience overwhelm and anxiety if they are having to navigate planning a funeral or execute a will. Others may experience brain fog and have trouble planning and organizing. They may have a hard time thinking and will think more slowly or be confused more frequently. And sometimes the mind gets caught in a cycle of rumination and becomes preoccupied with images, memories, and thoughts about the past and the loss.

Emotional Health and Grief

Any type of loss, in particular the loss of a loved one or pet, is devastating. The waves of sadness that accompany loss are more than just unpleasant, they can feel inescapable and overwhelming. And they can leave us feeling empty and depleted. There is no need to rush the grieving process. Again, it is an important part of being human. Give yourself the time and space to experience it. Allow it to move through you and take this time to take care of yourself and your needs. Get comfortable asking for help.

I think that while we’re talking about emotional health and grief it is a good opportunity to mention the 5 stages of grief according to grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her books On Death and Dying and On Grief and Grieving. The five stages of grief are:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I won’t talk too much about the five stages of grief, simply because there are so many resources already available on the internet. I will say that not everyone experiences the five stages and not everyone experiences the five stages in the order listed. As I’ve said multiple times already, everyone experiences grief differently. 

Grief and Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) grief and sadness are associated with the lungs. The lungs, on both a metaphorical level and physical level, bring in the new and let go of the old. Intense stress or grief can be experienced as shortness of breath, faintness, tightness in the chest or throat, and shakiness in our voice. 

In TCM each organ is considered either yin or yang and it is paired with a complementary organ. In this case, the lungs are considered yin and they are paired with the large intestines which are considered yang. When the lung qi (chi) is low, one is susceptible to colds, flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. When lung qi is strong, one’s sense of smell is sharp, they breathe easily, they think clearly, communicate well, they’re open-minded, and they are able to relax and let go. If someone is having a difficult time letting go of the past or letting go of a loved one and their experience is characterized by intense sadness and grief it may indicate that their lung qi is low. Practices like yoga, qigong and tai chi along with acupuncture and traditional herbs can help elevate lung qi.

Healthy Ways to Cope With Grief

  • Establish Healthy Routines
    • Do your best to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.
    • Eat regularly.
    • Set a gentle schedule for yourself that includes time to just be.
  • Exercise
    • Move your body every day. It doesn’t need to be anything big. Walk the dog. Walk with loved ones. Do yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.
  • Diet
    • Eat healthy meals. Ask friends and family for help. Keep it simple.
  • Community
    • Reach out to friends and family for support. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Spend time with a trusted friend– preferably someone who is a good listener.
  • Talk to a Professional
    • Talk to a grief counselor.
  • Give yourself time.
    • Give yourself time to experience it all. Meet yourself with love and compassion. Be present with the way you’re feeling. Share the same love you would share with a child with yourself.
  • Acupuncture and massage may help relieve tension and achiness.
  • Focus on gratitude and treasure happy memories as they arise.

Resources for Grief

Reduce Chronic Lower Back Pain With Yoga; Part 3 Restore

Hello yogis! Here is part three to the four part series on reducing lower back pain. During part three we will be focusing on restorative postures for the lower back. These posture will focus on relieving tension throughout the body: lower back, shoulders, neck and hips.

Restorative postures, in general, are held longer than the more active postures. You may want to stay in the following postures for anywhere from 3-7 minutes. Remember to start slow and gradually add time. If during the postures you feel any tension building please change the posture; sometimes just changing the posture a quarter of an inch or adding an extra prop can make the posture more comfortable and more restorative. In restorative yoga postures there should be no muscular effort.

Restorative yoga postures for lower back pain are a great way to start and end your yoga practice… and when your back is feeling cranky, maybe it’s your only yoga practice. Know that that is okay. Sometimes when I practice yoga at home I will only do a couple of yoga postures all supported by blankets, blocks, bolsters because that is exactly what my body needs. As you develop your home yoga practice remember to listen to your body and honor your body’s limitations.

Let’s get started with our restorative yoga practice.

1. Supported Child’s Pose

supported-childs-pose-lower-back-pain

Allow the weight of your torso to be heavy as it rests on the bolster or pillows.

Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back and hips. Calms the mind and induces the relaxation response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Instructions: From hands and knees take your hips wider than hip width and draw your toes to touch. Bring your bolster lengthwise in front of you and snug the short edge of your bolster right between your knees. If you don’t have access to a bolster you can use a stack of folded blankets or firm pillows. Hinge forward from your hips and drape your body over the bolster and allow your forearms and hands to rest down on your mat. Begin with your right ear down and hold for 2-3 minutes then switch your left ear down and hold for an additional 2-3 minutes. To exit the pose begin to bring your awareness back to your breath and use an inhale breath to lift up out of the pose using the strength of your arms.

2. Deer Pose Twist (Supported Prone Twist)

deer_pose_twist

This prone supported twist is a nice way to slowly release muscles of the back.

Benefits: The Deer Pose Twist gently stretches lower back and hips. This gentle twist also stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System which regulates our Relaxation Response.

Instructions: To set up for the Deer Pose Twist you will want a bolster (a couple of firm pillows or a firmly folded blanket will also work perfectly) and you will place your bolster on the floor in front of you lengthwise. Starting on the right side, sit next to the short edge of the bolster with your right hip and right thigh snugged up to the short edge of the bolster and your leg bent a bit more than 90 degrees at the knee. Your top leg (left) will also have about a 90 degree angle at the knee. Snug your left knee into the sole of your right foot and allow your inner shin/calf to rest on the floor (legs look like a swastika). Turn your upper body to face your bolster and take one hand to either side of the bolster, framing the bolster and squaring your shoulders. Inhale lengthen your spine long and as you exhale gently lower your torso down onto the bolster. Left or right ear can come down to the bolster, whichever feels best on your neck. Hold the posture up to five minutes. To exit the pose use an inhale breath to lift your torso up gently and slowly and then switch sides and hold for an equal length of time.

3. Supported Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Supported butterfly pose supported cobbler's pose

As your lower back begins to release over time you may reduce the incline of the bolster.

Benefits: Supported bound angle pose gently opens the muscles of the groin and inner thighs, reestablishes the lumbar curve and gently opens the chest and shoulders.

Instructions: You will want a bolster (or stack of firm blankets), two yoga blocks (or a couple of phone books or other thick firm books), a couple of pillows and a bath towel. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. Place your bolster or a firm stack of blankets behind you lengthwise on your mat, place your blocks in a ramp-like fashion underneath the far edge of your bolster (one on the lowest setting and one on the highest setting), place your folded bath towel on the far top edge of the bolster (it will be used to support your head and neck) and then you will take a seat with your sacrum (lower back) next to the short edge of your bolster and then lower your torso down onto the bolster with the folded towel supporting your neck and head. Bend your knees and guide the soles of your feet to touch and allow your knees to fall out to the side (butterfly pose) and place a pillow or any other prop you have available underneath your thighs or knees, so you feel supported in this posture. Let your arms rest our by your sides with your palms facing up toward the ceiling. Stay in this pose for 3-7 minutes.

4. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Variation)

low-back-pain-pigeon-pose-eka-pada-rajakapotanasana variation

This is the full expression of the posture. You can place a bolster or stack of blankets/pillows lengthwise in front of your to support your torso and/or a block, book or pillow underneath the hip of the the bent leg.

Benefits: Pigeon pose opens the hips and lower back. It specifically stretches the piriformis. When the piriformis becomes tight it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and causes shooting pain down the leg.

Instructions: Begin in either downward facing dog or table top pose and guide your right knee up toward your right wrist and your right foot will land somewhere between your left wrist and your left hip (the more parallel your shin is to the front edge of your mat the more difficult the posture will be ie. the closer your foot is to the left hip the easier the posture will be). Extend your left leg long straight back behind you. From here you can place a block, pillow or book underneath your right hip (to keep your hips level)  and place your bolster or stack of blankets lengthwise in front of you. You can stay upright OR fold over your bolsters. Find a slow steady breath. Hold the posture on each side for 2-5 minutes.

5. Corpse Pose (Supported Savasana)

Supported Savasana

Corpse pose with knees supported helps relieve tension in the lower back.

Benefits: Supported Savasana helps the entire body relax. Having the knees propped by a bolster or stack of pillows/blankets helps reduce tension in the lower back and sacrum. This is a deeply restorative posture.

Instructions: To come into supported savasana place a bolster or stack of blankets/pillows crosswise on your mat. You will place your legs over the top of the props so your knees are bent, but supported. It’s okay if your feet don’t reach the ground. If you would like you can place a pillow or folded blanket underneath your head and neck for support and/or a blanket over your body for warmth. You want to feel comfortable and supported in this posture. Stay in this posture for 5-15 minutes.

Bonus Pose: “Legs Up The Wall” Pose (Viparita Karani)

legs up the wall pose viparita karani

Viparita Karani improved circulation, reduces fatigue, and may also help with insomnia.

Benefits: Legs Up The Wall pose or Viparita Karani helps improve circulation. Helps boost the immune system by aiding the circulation of lymph and also help calm the mind by reducing anxiety and increasing the body’s relaxation response. It is an excellent posture to do before bed.

Instructions: If you have hardwood floors (or other hard floors) in your house you may want to drag your mat (or a blanket) over to the wall with the short edge of your mat against the wall. The mat or blanket will provide your body with a bit of insulation against the cool floor. To come into the posture you will take a seat on your left hip and snug both hips as close to the wall as you can, then lay down on your left side and then roll onto your back and extend both legs up the wall. Let your legs rest heavily against the wall and let your arms wither rest by your side or bring both hands to your belly. Close your eyes. Stay in this posture for 2-5 minutes.

These 6 restorative yoga postures help heal and nourish the body whether you are experiencing lower back pain or not, so why note share your yoga practice with a loved one?

 

I’m always happy to hear from my readers. Feel free to contact me if you need any extra guidance, modifications or recommendations. What you liked about these postures or what you didn’t like.

Check back soon for part 4…. my first yoga video… a guided practice that combines all three previous parts plus a little extra.

 

Love and Light,

Autumn

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
Autumn Adams
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