A couch-driven getaway

Bolsters and blocks from teaching ‘Stonehenge’ pose

One of my favourite restorative yoga positions also happens to be one of the easiest to set up. It’s also one of the few restorative poses that’s easier to do at home—and no, it’s not just laying on the couch.

Restorative yoga is, by nature, prop-intensive. We want to provide enough support for our bodies to fully relax and a lot of the shapes call for multiple bolsters, blocks, blankets, straps, and whatnot, stuff most of us don’t have in inventory.

But the pile of bolsters and blocks pictured (not to mention all the blankets we used!) created by doing ‘Instant Mallorca’ (aka ‘Stonehenge’) pose at a yoga studio is totally avoidable at home—using couch cushions!

A pose by any other name

I learnt the pose as ‘Instant Maui’ under the guidance of Judith Hansen Lasater (the grande doyenne of restorative yoga) but, because it’s pretty complicated to get to Hawaii from Europe, I teach it as ‘Instant Mallorca’ now. Different continent, same vacation vibes.

One half of the necessary standing stones

I label it ‘Stonehenge’ when using blocks and bolster because, well, it looks the standing stones.

Maybe I’ll christen the general idea of the position ‘Sojourn on-the-spot.’ I’m not sure it’s quite as snappy, though.

The couch cushion version (a footstool works perfectly, too) tends to be more stable than than the bolsters/blocks one. And certainly more accessible as ‘Stonehenge’ requires two bolsters of the same size and four blocks.

Firmer bolsters work better (my Shanti Sundays buckwheat one sags a bit) and the bolsters/blocks incarnation is usually a bit lower than the couch cushion one, so you may need to add some padding with blankets to get your knees at the desired right angle (or a little more than 90°).

How to ‘Sojourn on-the-spot’

  1. Gather your props:
    • two sturdy couch cushions wider/longer than your lower legs
      or a footstool a little lower than your knees
      or two firm bolsters and four yoga blocks
    • a few blankets (for padding on top of a yoga mat, to cushion your head, to keep you warm, and to go on top of the bolsters if you’re using them)
    • an eye pillow or light scarf
    • a yoga strap or long scarf (optional)
  2. Sit in front of two stacked couch cushions (or a footstool or a Stonehenge-like structure of two bolsters held up by two blocks each, with the blocks at their tallest height) and cover the surface with a blanket if desired
  3. Roll your back to the mat as you swing your legs onto the flat surface of the cushions (or the footstool or your standing stone creation) and slide your buttocks closer
    • your knees are bent close to 90° or slightly greater
    • if it feels like your legs won’t relax, wrap a strap or scarf around your thighs to keep them together and help the muscles let go
  4. Place a folded blanket under your head to support the curve of your spine and ensure your chin is a bit lower than your forehead 
  5. Cover your legs and torso with a blanket (or, even better, two!) if you feel even the slightest bit chilly
  6. Lengthen your arms out to the side, drawing your shoulders down, and allow them to relax
  7. Cover your eyes gently and let them soften or close
  8. Hold for up to 25 minutes
  9. To come out:
    • Bend your knees towards your chest and roll to one side
    • Pause in fetal pose for a few breaths
    • Use your arms to gently bring you back to sitting
    • Let the blood to redistribute through your body before standing up or preparing for another pose

Want a guided tour of this amazing position? There’s a video of me teaching ‘Instant Maui’ on my YouTube channel 🙂

Why its good (okay, great)

Sojourn on-the-spot feels like a vacation. It transports you somewhere relaxed and carefree nearly instantly.

Beyond the intrinsic happiness, the pose reduces swelling and fatigue in the legs and feet and gives tense hamstrings a break. It’s also wonderful for relieving tension in your lower back and might help to lower blood pressure. If that wasn’t enough, it also enhances circulatory system health and brings blood and lymphatic fluid towards the abdomen—perfect for after a big meal or a stressful day.

And have I mentioned that it feels great? Almost as good as a tropical holiday, without any of the stress of travel!

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