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!
I sometimes reference the princess and the pea when I get into the final relaxation posture of a yoga class — and it’s no joke! Getting this posture perfect helps me soak up all its benefits. When my body is supported and at ease, blissful relaxation follows.
I love savasana. Practicing it. Teaching it. Evangelising about it.
And after more than two decades practicing yoga and loving corpse pose, I’ve discovered a new way to lie flat on my back. Pressing the soles of my feet against a wall has brought a new twist to this old practice—and given me a newfound appreciation for the possibilities of the pose.
Much of what we think of as ‘resting’ is pretty active. Watching Netflix, reading a book, listening to a podcast, scrolling through Instagram, paying attention to current affairs—all tasks that require our brains to be engaged and alert. It’s rare that we allow ourselves to simply be, letting the mind drift and the body be entirely idle. Even catching some zzzs isn’t the same as conscious, deliberate rest. Our brains work like crazy as we dream and our cells shift into maintenance mode while we sleep—not to mention that we wind up in all kinds of not-so-comfortable positions when we subconsciously shift in bed.
This coming Saturday I’m teaching a special extra-long yoga class at Younion Yoga to mark the Winter Solstice. It’s the third year I’ve led this seasonally-driven session and I particularly love using yoga to embrace darkness on this longest night of the year. The inspiration for the practice fits perfectly with my teaching style: deliberately slow, purposely restful, mindfully self-centred, well-supported—and with a bonus literary touch.
I’m co-hosting a Restorative Yoga workshop next weekend (21 May) with my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Constanza. As part of my preparation, I’ve been re-reading Your Body, Your Yoga (yin yoga teacher Bernie Clark’s latest book) in which he talks a lot about physical differences in yoga students and how important it is to practice for your own body.
I love Bernie’s philosophy because he’s clear about the why behind doing yoga: “to use the pose to get into the body.”1
And he’s a huge advocate of using props to support the pose – as am I. Props can make all the difference in a pose and I encourage their use extensively in my yin yoga classes. They’re even more necessary in restorative yoga!
Restorative yoga is a practice of being, rather than doing. Opening and softening, rather than stretching. Deliberating resting, rather than sleeping. It’s all about comfort and it’s much easier to be comfortable when we’re supported and the body is at ease.
I know that there are many yogis who feel like props are cheating. For me, it’s just plain stupid not to use all of the tools available to make your yoga practice (or your life) the best it can be. It’s like eschewing technological advances in because they make life too easy and too comfortable.
Just like technology creates the opportunity for better living, props create the opportunity for better yoga!
Yangsters hate props – are you a yangster? The use of a prop is unconsciously equated to cheating. The inner dialogues goes something like this, “I can do this pose! I don’t need no stinking prop!” But yinsters know something that yangsters haven’t quite grasped yet – the intention of their yoga practice is not to look any particular way; it is not to get into a pose: the intention is to feel a particular way; to use the pose to get into the body. Yinsters don’t care if a little extra help is needed to get sensation into the targeted area: if props can help – let’s use props!