Tag Archives: restorative yoga

In praise of Savasana

Savasana, the name itself (meaning corpse pose in Sanskrit) is a downer, morbid, death-invoking. It usually comes at the end of class and is a kind of “do-nothing” pose that sends some practitioners heading for the door, mat rolled up and tucked under arm.

Photo:  class in corpse pose
Savasana – the reward of yoga. Jessica Apostolopoulos leads a class into repose at Thrive Yoga.

Continue reading In praise of Savasana

A compact for a new personal interface to life

Photo: hands held in yoga mudra
The mudra (thumb to pointer finger) is held in standing position.

I have struck a bargain with myself—a new compact to simplify my personal priorities.

  1. I will meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, minimum. I may cut myself some slack if I have a yoga class or have a complication, but the morning sit has to be a blood vow. Aside from exercise (yoga), this is the most important thing that I can do for myself according to the most recent scientific research.
  2. I will pause three (OK, maybe two) beats before speaking and take a more thoughtful pace when speaking as a way of being more present in the moment, listening to both my counterpart in the conversation and my own internal dialogue. The idea is to create some “space” where I can be more aware and attentive in the present moment and not be led astray by my own tendency to get lost in a stream of words, fragments, tangents and monologues. In a way, it is a continuation from meditation practice.
  3. I will slow down my yoga practice by taking restorative, yin or nidra yoga classes as often as feasible, and also continue my home restorative practice. Even my hatha or vinyasa classes should be done as slowly as possible. I need to soften my exterior armor and open up, which will come with greater vulnerability.

I make these three commitments because I’ve had time to think about some questions about the basics: How do I improve my quality of life? How do I engage the outside world? How do I sketch out my interface with the world (geek speak here, as in user interface, the mechanisms to manage software or hardware). Rather than resort to what might be typical tactics of self-improvement (become a vegetarian, learn to play a musical instrument, become a better public speaker), I want to get down to even more fundamental issues.

During my yoga teacher training at Thrive Yoga, I became aware that there is a big difference between my packaging  and my essential core (what lies underneath my thick skin, calluses, scars, knots, kinks, ticks, reflex reactions, open wounds, hardened muscles and fascia, and the stories that I tell myself). Part of the challenge of living wholeheartedly is breaking through all that external armor mounted over decades so that I open up a window into the core chamber of my being.

Daily practice anchors yoga training

Photo: yoga class in Warrior I pose
Virabhadrasana I at Thrive Yoga

One of the perks of yoga teacher training (YTT) is that you do a lot of yoga (duh!), in the case of an intensive program like Thrive Yoga‘s, everyday. We take a class first thing each morning. Right now, I’ve had 10 days in a row of classes (really 13 since I started my consecutive streak on July 5, but I get my first full day off this coming weekend). These can be grueling classes, such as the one Monday when we had a hot vinyasa class with the room’s street door open to the DC area’s humid heat wave. I ended up drenched, my sweat soaking my clothes and yoga towel, and pooling on the mat. Other times, mercy is shown by offering a yin class (long holds of mainly passive poses using props) or a change of pace predominantly focused on the legs (today). But don’t think that even these less intense classes don’t leave their mark on tissues and mind.

The morning class at Thrive has a roster of top-notch teachers (Susan Bowen, the owner herself and two high-energy instructors, contrarian Sarah Winsatt and Jivamukti-trained Kirsta Block) who put together challenging classes. Some sessions may be extensively thought-out while other times the instructor improvises as she reads the class, adjusts to the needs and skills of inexperienced students, or cues modifications for more advanced students. Continue reading Daily practice anchors yoga training

Photo: Michael moves into full wheel pose, with aid from friend and Desirée

Why an evening practice can help

Photo: Michael moves into full wheel pose, with aid from friend and Desirée
Urdhva Dhanurasana or wheel pose

I was trying to explain to Desirée Rumbaugh at the workshop this weekend why I did an evening restorative practice of twists and forward folds (and other poses), and I fell back on the old standby of needing to do a restorative practice to relax and to slow the body down for sleep. I know there are nights when I can’t get to sleep without 20-40 minutes of floor work.

It then occurred to me that this nightly routine was a way of wiping clean the imprint left on the body of bad posture, chair sitting, keyboard hunching, and muscular atrophy that the modern world imposes on the human body. Even a vinyasa class may not be enough to clear out the bad habits because I rarely hold the asanas long enough to annul the patterning in the tissues. The extended yin/restorative practice is a kind of body reset that relies more on letting go rather than exerting effort to muscle through barriers.

I’ve been doing this routine for about a year now. It undoubtedly takes much longer to reverse years of self-inflicted body deformation, which is why I had to sit in front of the TV watching World Cup soccer games in variations of forward folds for hours on end to get beyond what seemed like an arbitrary stop point, a 90-degree angle. I thought that I was bumping up against a physical limit.