Did you know that stress can weaken our immune systems, making it easier for us to get sick?
Every year, I seem to get sick, along with many other people, right after the holidays. I boost my immune system all throughout the fall and into the winter and always end up getting sick in January. We are stressed for so many reasons this time of year whether it is for financial reasons, having to interact with family we don't usually see, meeting end of year deadlines at work before the holidays, or perhaps it's the gift giving/receiving process that brings us stress.
Whether your stress is holiday related, chronic, or caused by something else, restorative yoga can be a great practice to help reduce and counter some of the stress in your life. It may not eliminate the stress in your life, but it can be a great tool to help you through it.
Restorative yoga is a form of yoga where many props are used to help our bodies rest in a shape for about 10 minutes or longer. The focus is to fully allow the body to relax, rest, and restore. Below are two approachable restorative poses that you can use in your day to day life to help relieve a bit of stress.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall)
This pose is great for many things (gently stretching the hamstrings, aiding digestion, reversing the effects of gravity, etc), but most importantly it is a great tool to help us cultivate deep rest.
If you feel overwhelmed and anxious, like your mind won't stop racing or you have a never ending to-do list, try resting your legs up the wall for even just a few minutes at the end of your day and taking a few deep breaths.
Finding it difficult to stay still in this shape? Thats okay! You can add small movements in like pointing your toes toward the ceiling then flexing your ankles to help with those restless feelings and to help bring your attention back to your body (even better, try syncing these movements with your breath).
Don't have space on the wall? Put a chair at the end of your mat and place your hips at the front of the chair. Now rest your legs up the chair, bending your knees so that your calves rest along the seat of the chair.
Balasana (Child's Pose)
Child's Pose is a favorite of many people, but for me it is the absolute best with full support in a restorative practice (see picture).
This pose can be wonderful for rest and calming the brain, while also opening the low back, hips and thighs, and gently compressing the stomach and chest, which can aid digestion (did you know the gut is commonly negatively impacted by stress?)
How to set this pose up:
Place a bolster or a stack of blankets (or both for more support) along your yoga mat. Take one blanket and fold it in half, then roll from one end of the blanket until the roll is just the right size to support your ankles when placed beneath them. Place the roll about 6 inches from the base of your bolster. Now fold a second blanket in half twice. Bring your ankles to rest on your rolled blanket and your knees to rest on either side of your bolster (always move your props to meet your body and not the other way around). Now, take your folded blanket and lay it along the back of your calves. Slowly lower your hips down onto your folded blanket, and then lower your chest onto your bolster. Add more blankets, folds or rolls as needed until you are comfortably supported and feel that you can stay resting here in stillness for quite some time. Your arms can rest along your bolster and you can either rest your forehead on your bolster or turn your head to rest one cheek on your bolster (remembering to switch sides about half way through).
Try these poses in a quiet, peaceful area in your home to see if they turn out to be a helpful practice for you and don't hesitate to reach out if you are having a difficult time getting into these shapes, want to know if they are safe for your specific body, or if your interested in learning more restorative, restful poses.