I love this season -- autumn reminds me of fresh notebooks, brand new pencils, falling red and golden leaves, and a sense of new possibilities. And, the planetary action in the past few weeks has deepened the message of new starts and clarity of purpose. It's time to connect to your long term highest path and take action. We feel this in both our personal lives and in the larger world around us. We are drawn to take a stand because the pressure is intense.
On the other hand, because of the intensity, we need to integrate self care in a more nourishing way than ever before. Even if you consciously take good care of yourself you might be finding the usual regime is simply not enough. I know I'm having to be way more diligent and daily than ever before.
Recently I spent a week studying restorative yoga, the yoga of deep rest. I have taken a few restorative classes over the years, and of course we rest in savasana at the end of every yoga class, but it is quite different to rest for 2 or 3 minutes at the end of a class and to fully support your body to be able rest for 20 minutes or longer in each pose. It's amazing how even a comfortable position becomes annoying in longer holds if any part of your body is touching something hard, or if light is in your eyes, or noises, or ... We are all a 'Princess and the Pea' waiting to happen!
So restorative yoga is like a science of swaddling yourself to be able to fully rest the nervous system without any distractions.
The four principles we cultivate in restorative yoga are:
Unlike all the vigorous, sweaty power yoga that is popular, in restorative yoga we use many props such as blankets, eye pillows, towels and bolsters to create an absolutely supported, cozy, warm, position for the body to lay or recline or even invert gently or forward fold slightly. Judith Hanson Lasater, one of the original Iyengar teachers (blessings to BKS Iyengar who passed from our physical world recently), says that sleep and rest are two completely different things, and the body needs both.
I was astonished by how much my body and spirit began to love the restorative poses we lazed around in all day at the workshop. I'm not normally a 'napper' but this is different. It's a deep meditative state attained in about 20 minutes.
Here is a basic savasana (resting) pose you can do easily by yourself.
a. Find a quiet place in your home and let your household know you don't want to be disturbed. This may be a big step for many!
b. Assemble your props: A large bolster or pillow, a very soft pillow or small soft blanket, an eye pillow or washcloth, and a soft and cozy blanket.
c. Set an alarm set for 20 minutes that will ring gently.
2. Lay down on your yoga mat (or a thick blanket on the floor). If necessary, it can even be your bed.
3. Place the pillow under your head so the edge comes just under your shoulders. Draw some thickness of the pillow a little more under your head so your chin is slightly tucked toward your chest yet the neck supported and elongated. You can do this by folding a small blanket or towel under your head if needed.
4. Place the bolster or large pillow under your knees.
5. Wrap the blanket around you.
6. Place the folder washcloth or eyepad on your eyes lightly.
As you lay there, draw your gaze inside of yourself, feeling simply how you feel in that moment without trying to change anything. It can help to count how long your inhale is and then match the exhale to the same length. If your mind wanders come back to the breath, and even to the counting if that helps. It will normally take at least 10 to 15 minutes to begin to calm down enough to reach a very deep resting state where the magic happens. You will know when you reach it. It feels heavy, deep, and very peaceful. It is almost like sleeping but it isn't. You maintain some consciousness as if you're under the ocean.
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Even if you are in this ultimate state only for a few minutes you will receive the healing effects. In the beginning you might fall asleep, or you might not attain the full deep peaceful sense. In fact your mind may race with anxiety not knowing what to do with the permission to really rest. If that happens, be patient with yourself. Modern life often asks us to be revved up all of the time, striving and accomplishing. We are habituated to stress and a constant high adrenal, fight/flight vibration.
By resting deeply we can create a foundation that will allow us to take the vibrant focused action we are called to ... yet from a grounded and well rested core.
with Love & Gratitude,
Marjorie Orr has an M.A. (Hons) in English Literature and Philosophy from Glasgow University, and was a current affairs journalist, award-winning BBC TV documentary producer and then a psychotherapist. She has a worldwide following for her astrology... read more