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Culture: Yoga - Calm it!





Balanced stones on a pebble beach (3646967)
Balanced stones on a pebble beach (3646967)

I teach many different styles of yoga but this last couple of weeks, without much exception, all my clients have needed ‘restoration’. It can be defined in the OED as ‘“to return something to its original condition’ and synonyms include ‘repair’ and ‘rehabilitation’, interestingly enough the opposite is ‘neglect’. We started our lives on this earth relatively stress free and hopefully physically free of most major ailments, but as the years progress and we pay less and less attention to our physical bodies and virtually nothing to the connection between our minds, our bodies and our breath, we find ourselves in need of restoration. Add In this unusually warm weather which distorts our equilibrium by dehydrating us and zapping our energy and I think we would all benefit from some restorative (often known as Yin) yoga.

The world is full of opposites and Yin and Yang are two terms used in ancient times (originally from the Chinese Taoist system) to distinguish between many things but particularly forms of energy. In this instance Yang is hot, dynamic and powerful (think boot camp, gym workout or Vinyasa yoga) whereas Yin is cooling, slow and gentle.

To me it makes complete sense that I would need to balance both forces, therefore, as I am permanently hot at present, I need to practice things that are going to cool me down both mentally and physically!

So what is Yin (restorative) yoga?

Yin yoga was developed to penetrate deep into connective tissue expanding flexibility while encouraging the body to release blockages and increase energy flow. Focusing on static movement, breathing and mindfulness to create a profoundly deep and ‘interesting’ experience. The primary differences between Yin yoga and many other forms of yoga or exercise in general is that you are encouraged to NOT use your muscles and passive poses are held for several minutes (min 3, max 8).

I like to think of connective tissue as cling film surrounding all of my muscles, joints, organs, tendons, ligaments etc, and if the plastic wrap is pulled too tight it will be uncomfortable for me to move, but if I loosen up the plastic wrap a bit my body will be more open and full of space to move freely and the blood and lymph can move more freely around all the muscles, organs, joints etc.

Benefits

Have you ever been in the shower and a flood of new ideas or memories come to you? Typically this happens to many of us when we are removed from distractions and our mind has the opportunity to relax. This is similar to Yin yoga, without the distraction of constant movement and muscle engagement, your connective tissue has the opportunity to release and you are able to go much deeper into a pose.

Static stretching is excellent to increase range of motion. Therefore if you are tight due to repetitive movement from other sport activities or your day job keeps you in the same position eight hours a day or your body has aged (because yes it will do that) – Yin yoga will help stretch it out.

Yin yoga is also great for reducing stress in the body and mind. Holding poses without distraction for several minutes teaches us to relax. We begin to release tension that is deeply engrained in our muscles. There will come a time when we opening talk about emotional experiences causing stress, tension and physical dis-ease within the body.

As Yin yoga typically focuses on the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis and lower spine, anyone who sits all day, has low back pain or tight hips, this practice will be of huge benefit.

Here are some gentle and safe restorative yoga poses you can try at home this weekend.

Puppy dog pose

Stretches and opens shoulders, sends blood/lymph to the head, neck and shoulders, lengthens the spine.

Placing a folded blanket under your knees if they are sensitive, kneel and put your bent arms on the floor. Have the palms facing up and your shoulders, elbows and wrists all the same distance apart. Your knees start directly beneath your hips. Gently move your armpits towards the floor as you extend and lengthen your spine, drawing your bottom up and back. Check that your hands don’t move in or your elbows move out – breath deeply and hold for min 3 mins, max 8. (You can pop a cushion under your forehead if it helps.)

Reclining bound angle pose

Opens the hips and chest/shoulders, sends blood/lymph to pelvic region. Use either a bolster or some rolled up towels/sleeping bags and placing some cushions underneath the far end, make your sloping bolster recliner. Lie back and place the soles of your feet together and allow the knees to flop apart. Your bottom should be on the floor and your spine and head resting on the inclined bolster. Allow your arms to open by beside you with your palms turned up. (note you can raise the arms above the height of your shoulders to get a much deeper stretch for the front of the chest and top of the arms) – breath deeply and hold for min 3 mins, max 8.

Legs up the wall pose

Reduces swelling in ankles and feet, stretches the hamstrings, rests the heart, calms the central nervous system.

Sit sideways against the wall, lie down and swing your legs around so they stretch up the wall. You can ask someone to place a bolster or some cushions under your bottom to raise your lower body off the ground. Your arms can rest down beside you with palms facing up or alternatively you can raise your arms above the height of your shoulders to get a deep opening

sensation in the front of the chest – breath deeply and hold for min 3 mins, max 8.

For more recipes, health articles, free yoga videos and recommended books please visit carolebaker.co.uk

Please be advised the health suggestions contained in this article is only the personal opinion of Carole Baker, it does not constitute medical advice. Please always consult your GP before taking any alternative or complementary remedies, particularly if you are currently on prescription medication. Please ensure you always see a professionally qualified and insured complementary therapist or teacher.