Stephanie Cunningham of “Changing the Face of Yoga” podcast recently interviewed Katie on how she integrates restorative yoga in her mental health practice to aid in managing symptoms of traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and self-injury. Listen here.
I just completed Level 1 training of Judith Hanson Lasater’s Relax and Renew: Learning to Teach Restorative Yoga so it’s fitting to review the book. This is the book for all things restorative yoga. She provides information on the benefits of this type of yoga and a thorough explanation on all of the props used as well as how to make props out of regular household items. Several chapters have specifically designed sequences for such things as basic relaxation, insomnia, travel, pregnancy, and back pain. Each chapter has beautiful photographs of each pose, a description of how to get in and out of the pose, how long to stay in, as well as benefits and cautions. This book is accessible for the novice, experienced yogi, or teacher.
Relax and Renew is not designed to be read from cover to cover, but more of a “take what you need” approach. If you are interested in restorative yoga, this is where you start!
Read this book if:
- You are interested in learning more about restorative yoga
- Have a desire to teach restorative yoga
Lasater, J. H., & Schatz, M. P. (2011). Relax and renew: restful yoga for stressful times. Berkeley: Rodmell.
I recently completed Lasater Yoga’s 21-day Savasana Intensive. Seems strange that Savasana(relaxation) and intensive can go in the same sentence huh? Well THEY DO! Savasana can be one of if not the most difficult poses in yoga. “Why? You just lie on the floor?” Well yes. That’s where the real work happens. Not the outer body work that we are used to doing in a flow class. It’s more about the inner work. Savasana(or Relaxation Pose) is a place to land and notice. Things will present themselves during this stillness; feelings, thoughts, sensations, the dreaded “judgement” word, etc. In savasana, we can learn to sit through all of it without doing anything. We are so used to “doing” that we forget about “being.” Judith Hanson Lasater said during one of the audio recordings, “savasana prepares us for death.” Whoa. Sit with that for a minute.
Judith and her daughter, Lizzie lead the practitioner through 21-days of rest. Each day has either an audio recording about the art of savasana, or a video tutorial on setting up. A couple of days included guided meditation and breathwork to begin savasana. The expectation is to listen or watch then practice savasana for 20-minutes. You saw that I said “practice savasana” right? This time on your mat shows up differently each day and can be challenging in different ways. It is most certainly a practice.
I started this program in January and committed to practicing each day that I was at my office. I am fortunate to have a very peaceful “Breathe” room that is perfect for just this. I can confirm that I followed my plan. Looking back, I wish I had practiced everyday to really see the effects. The good news is that once you pay for the program, you have access to it forever. I will practice everyday next go-around.
I learned throughout the practice how sacred rest really is. I learned that I can take a break in the middle of the day for rest. I learned that a “real” savasana is at least 10-minutes. I learned new ways to set up savasana. I learned breathing techniques to lead in to savasana. I learned why savasana is so important. I learned that I need rest.
Do this program if:
- You would like to take your understanding of savasana deeper
- You are a yoga teacher(you get 20 CE hours upon completion!)
- You are a practitioner of yoga
- You need rest
Join Katie Rodgers, LCSW & RYT-200 at Noda Yoga(3201 North Davidson Street, above Cabo Fish Taco) every other Sunday at 5pm for a 75-minute Restorative Yoga Class. No prior experience is needed and this type of yoga can accommodate all body types.
Restorative Yoga is best described as “active relaxation.” This type of yoga is the most effective in calming and relaxing the body which in turn, relaxes and settles the mind. So often our bodies operate from the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for keeping us alert as well as preparing for incoming stressors. This is that “fight, flight, or freeze” mode the we have all experienced. Our bodies can handle being in this mode, however it is not equipped to be here ALL the time. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our rest, rejuvenation, and relaxation. It is beneficial to tap into this system more than we do.
In restorative yoga, poses are held longer with the support of props. All poses are on the ground and the body is fully supported in order to sink into the pose. Because the body is fully supported, messages are sent to the brain to release tension and relax. The longer the poses are held, the more tension is released, and then the mind and body can relax.
Oftentimes in restorative yoga, people will start to learn more about their body, such as where they hold tension or where pain is originating from. As a result of this practice, tension is released in those areas in our day to day lives.
The practice is meditative in nature complemented with rhythmic breath work to calm the fluctuations of the mind.
Restorative yoga can bring up emotions that have been neglected or are lingering in the body. This type of yoga teaches us to acknowledge these emotions without doing anything as they will be released. This is an important lesson that will follow off the mat.
Restorative yoga compliments a busy, stressful lifestyle and is generally accessible for all levels and types of bodies.
Tips on how to be creative with props in a hotel room to utilize restorative yoga poses.
Relaxation Pose is the more important shape in restorative yoga. If you have time for one yoga pose during your day, do this one. Relaxation pose lowers blood pressure and heart rate, enhances immunity, helps with insomnia, reduces fatigue, releases any muscular tension and can help manage chronic pain. This pose will neutralize energy in the body and you will not feel any stretching in the body as the goal is a complete release.
Always advise your doctor before beginning any type of yoga practice. Avoid this pose if you are more than 3 months pregnant or feel any pain or discomfort. This pose can be replaced with side-lying pose if you are unable to do this pose.
To set up this pose, you will want to have a bolster, a few blankets, eye pillow, and possibly sand bags for added weight. Place your bolster horizontal on your mat approximately where your knees will be. Use one blanket as a neck roll for more support. Have another blanket handy to cover your entire body as your body temperature will drop while lying flat. Lean back slowly to where the bolster is supporting the backs of your knees. If your feet don’t touch the floor, place a blanket, pillow, or other support underneath them. Place the neck roll under your neck to where your chin is slightly lower than your forehead. If you feel any pinching in your lower back, place a folded blanket vertical under your lower back. Place another blanket on top of your entire body. Your arms can be out to the side palms facing up or down, whichever is more comfortable for you. If you would like to add some weight to this pose, you can place a sandbag across your pelvis which will encourage your lower back to release. Sandbags can be placed on each shoulder or propped on a block with the edge pressed gently on your forehead. Lastly, place your eye pillow over your eyes to reduce stimulation.
You may began a rhythmic breath pattern or settle into your natural inhales and exhales. A cleansing breath(inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth) may be a nice way to began the pose as it will signal to the body to relax. You can stay in the position as long as it is comfortable. Average time will be between 10-20 minutes as you need enough time to experience the wonderful relaxation that this pose brings.
When you are ready to come out of relaxation pose, remove your eye pillow and sandbags. Bring some slight movement to your fingers and toes. Roll over to your left or right side and spend several moments in a side-lying position to notice the effects of the rest. When you are ready, use your top hand pressed into the ground to slowly and deliberately press yourself into a seated position.
Watch Katie demonstrate how to set up this pose: