Following the fantastic St. Patricks Day festivities, chances are there are a few tired heads around the place in the aftermath of a great weekend! If you’re one of them, and looking for something to ease the symptoms of a fun-filled Paddy's weekend, look no further than these five yoga poses.
Childs Pose (Balasana)
Childs Pose, or Balasana in Sanskrit, is a lovely pose to rest in, as it calms the busy mind, relieving stress and tension while also gently stretching the hips, thighs, legs and the back of the body. It can be modified for all bodies and abilities, and offers the opportunity to breathe into and open across the back of the torso.
Sitting on your knees and feet, lean forward and rest the forehead either on the mat or on a block/cushion if your head does not comfortably touch the floor.
Lengthen the arms along the side of the body, and let go. Let the shoulders completely round. If the stretch on your knees is too deep and your hips don’t comfortably rest on your heels, place a cushion in between the buttocks and the heels.
With space restricted in the chest and belly, direct each inhalation into the back of the torso, expanding upwards and outwards. Release a little more deeply into the pose with each exhalation.
NB: Avoid this pose if you have knee or ankle problems, high blood pressure or are pregnant.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
This pose can prove a little challenging for some, but with the right modifications and support, it is possible to rest and relax right into it. Pigeon helps to release tightness in the glutes and gently stretches the thighs while releasing the hips.
From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right knee up to rest behind your right wrist. Make sure the left leg is straight behind you. Flex your right foot, and encourage your left hip forward and your right hip back to ‘square’ the hips. Gently walk the hands out in front of you.
Pause here for a couple of breaths to let the body release into the pose a little. Then, maybe creep the hands forward a little more to rest on your forearms. Pause again for a couple of breaths. At any time, feel free to stay where you are or test the waters and go back to the step before if it gets too much.
This pose can be a deep hip opener for some. If you want to take it a little further, stack one fist on the other and rest your forehead on your fists or extend the arms long and rest your forehead on the mat. Hold whatever position you are in for as long as you like.
Breath into any tension or tightness you may be holding on to, and let go on the exhalation. If both hips don’t rest evenly on the mat, add a folded blanket or a block underneath the hip that’s lifting for added support. Repeat on the other side. Take caution in this pose if you have knee, ankle or lower back issues.
Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose is best practiced for about ten-to-fifteen minutes as it relieves tired leg muscles, quiets the mind and calms the nervous system. It brings the benefits of an inversion such as headstand or handstand, for example, with minimum effort.
To get into the pose, place your mat close to a wall, sit on the mat with your right hip and shoulder against the wall, and then swing your legs up against the wall leaning into your forearms and laying your back on the mat. Bring your sit bones as close to the wall as is comfortable, and let the backs of your legs rest against it.
A folded blanket or block beneath the sacrum (just below the lower back) helps to increase the inversion slightly. And just lay there... in complete bliss! Allow your body to relax completely.
NB: It should be noted that this pose is best avoided during menstruation and for anybody experiencing serious neck, back or eye problems such as glaucoma.
Abdominal Twist Pose (Jathara Parivartanasana)
This variation is practiced with bent knees rather than straight legs. A gentle abdominal twist can work wonders on releasing tension held in the belly and lower back. The more you practice this gentle pose, the more you will find your body releases into it.
Lying on your spine, knees bent, press into the soles of the feet to lift the hips off the mat and shift them over to the right. From here, let your knees fall gently to the left. If the neck is comfortable here and you would like to extend the twist, look over your right shoulder.
Feel the breath expand the belly, ribs, and collar bones as well as the back of the body as you inhale, and with each exhalation visualise letting go a little further.
Just go with the flow, and see what happens. Stay on each side for a couple of minutes. Closing the eyes and focussing on the breath also helps to calm the busy mind.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This ‘lying down’ version of this seated hip-opener can help to calm the mind while also increasing flexibility as it gently stretches the groin and inner thigh muscles. Lying on your spine, bend the knees and bring the feet close to the ‘sit-bones’. Place the soles of the feet together, and let your knees fall out to the sides.
Press into the sides of the feet to raise the hips off the mat, lengthen the tailbone and place the buttocks back down. Then, shift about on the buttocks from left to right to find the position most comfortable.
Bending your arms, press your upper arms into the mat to lift your shoulder blades off the mat, draw them together to open across the chest, and rest the upper back down again. Extend your arms along the floor at shoulder level and close your eyes. Bring your focus inwards. Let the breath flow and the body feel heavy.
NB: If you are pregnant or experience high blood pressure, elevate the head, neck, and shoulders by resting on a cushion in this pose. It is not recommended for women who have recently given birth.
So there you have it! Some yoga poses to aid in recovery from the madness! Restorative practices are just as important as physical exercise, so make sure to strike that balance!
Notes to remember - with the body laying still for longer periods in these poses, your temperature will drop - so be sure to have a cosy blanket nearby to make the practice even more snuggly!
Props are generally used in restorative yoga to support the body and facilitate its opening up and releasing a little further.
Not everyone has a yoga bolster, bricks, blocks or belts to hand but you can use items like rolled up towels, folded blankets, cushions and belts from your dressing gown/house coat.
Be inventive but be comfortable. And enjoy!