Think of this special combination of yoga poses, put together by Brooklyn-based yoga expert Gabrielle Stratton, as a restorative gift to yourself. When you've had a rough day, when you're feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world, when you need to escape news updates for a few minutes, this is the place to go for a little respite from all the noise. This is that break your mind, body, and soul need. You might even combine these poses with a little soothing meditation. (And if you missed the first three parts of the yoga series, you can find them here, here, and here.)
So silence your phone, leave it in another room if necessary, and slip on your comfiest tights and stretchiest top. Play some calming music if it'll help you relax and grab your mat. This is you time!
You'll need: A yoga mat, a blanket or towel, a bolster (or a couch pillow or firm pillow), and a block (or a stack of books).
How long to hold each pose: for about five minutes—really sink in to each one.
Note: Please do these poses carefully, slowly, and at your own risk. Be mindful of any injuries you have, and don't worry too much about each one looking perfect. Focus on how you feel (i.e. don't force any poses if you feel pain or discomfort)! If you're pregnant, please use caution.
1. Legs Up the Block
- Place a block horizontally on its side underneath the sacrum (the lowest point of the spine).
- Bring the feet up toward the ceiling. Keep a light bend in the knees.
- Slightly tuck the shoulders underneath you to lift the bridge of the neck. Let the palms lay comfortably at your sides facing up or on your belly.
"Your body pumps blood from the heart through your arteries down toward the feet and back around through the veins. This pose helps to redirect the blood flow through your body and massage the organs."
2. Digestion-Boosting Pose
- Roll up a blanket, mat, or towel so its about 3 inches in diameter (go with what feels best, if you want to roll it a little smaller or larger) and lay belly down on the roll.
- Let the roll sit underneath your rib cage on the fleshy part of the belly; avoid laying it directly under your bones.
- You can place a block under the forehead or simply let the head rest down.
- Take three really deep belly breaths, feeling the roll press away from you as you inhale and let yourself settle onto the blanket as you exhale. Allow yourself to just relax here.
- Stay in the pose for about five to six minutes. Note: Avoid if pregnant.
"This is a wonderful pose to help stimulate the digestive process, best done on an empty stomach in between meals."
3. Supported Belly Down Pose
- Lay two blankets or a bolster vertically and add a blanket as a pillow for the head, if you'd like.
- Sit your right hip about a hand's width away from the bolster. Place your hands on either side of the bolster, turn the chest toward the bolster and lower yourself down.
- Gaze toward the knees.
- The belly should be off the bolster with the rib cage on the bolster. Repeat on the opposite side.
"Holding a twist allows the muscles around the belly to relax, helping to direct the blood flow through the stomach. This is a great grounding posture, which can also help relieve lower back stress."
4. Supported Supta Baddha Konasana
- Place the bolster vertically behind you and fold a blanket at the top edge for your neck and head to rest on.
- Scoot your hips as close to the bolster as possible and lay yourself back. Arms can be wherever they feel most comfortable. (For an easier option, try lifting the bolster by placing a block or two underneath it.)
"This pose lightly opens the back and pelvis area, creating a soothing sensation. Often we hold tension and emotions in the seat of our hips, so this is a great pose to help you completely unwind and feel incredibly supported."
5. Side-Lying Savasana Modification
- Move the bolster so it sits horizontally across the mat and put a block about a hand's width above it. The block should be lying on its narrowest side horizontally, like in the first pose, so it's about even in height with the bolster. Then put a blanket over the block to add more support and comfort for the head.
- Sit with right hip close to the bolster and lay on your right side over the bolster (your armpit should be at the top of the bolster).
- Let the right shoulder rest between the block and bolster. You can have your knees stacked or however you feel most comfortable.
- Sweep the left arm over the ear letting the fingertips graze the ground. Repeat on the other side.
"Letting yourself become completely supported by the bolster, you may be able to feel the spaciousness on the right side of the rib cage as the organs shift over. This lets the expansion of the diaphragm lightly massage the organs."
Thank you so much to Gab for collaborating and sharing her expertise for the yoga series on Galbraith—and spreading all that amazing calming energy through her guided poses and meditations! If you want more, be sure to check out the other stories in the yoga series. Until next week, namaste, my friends!
More about Gabrielle Stratton:
Gabrielle began her yoga practice over 10 years ago. It was five years into her practice that she fully realized the benefits of yoga beyond the physical practice, which she says she owes to the discipline of meditation. Since becoming a certified 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT), she has been studying yoga medicine to earn her 500-hour teacher training, with an emphasis on anatomy and the integration of therapeutics in a regular vinyasa practice.
Photographs by Tom Schelling.