As well as being incredibly energizing and inspiring a real zest for life, yoga can be the ultimate relaxation-inducing practice. This makes it a perfect complement to a more intense, cardio workout, with a greater focus on stretching and flexibility than on calorie burn. Relaxation yoga can help release anxiety and help you cope better with future stresses, as well as clear and focus the mind, and promote restful sleep.
Don’t underestimate the value of relaxation; after all, tension can cause your muscles to feel tight and your body to feel less mobile. Relaxation is found in the body and the mind and is an important factor in a holistic fitness approach where the focus in on wellbeing rather than achieving simply physical feats and results.
While yoga in general stimulates the muscles and the nervous system to relax there are specific poses which can really work at the end of a workout or to help you switch off from a busy day and get into a healthier mindset and even get ready for a workout. This restorative style of yoga can work wonders for your sense of inner balance.
Relaxing your digestive zone
Chances are that you spend the majority of the day upright, perhaps sitting at a desk or even just walking around, so that your internal systems are working in the same way. By tuning your body upside down, you can bring the blood flow down into your digestive organs and also relieve tension and aches in your legs.
Lie down on your side with your legs touching and running down the length of a wall. Move each leg up the wall as you turn onto your back. Make sure your pelvis is soft yet pulled into your yoga mat and that your legs are close together – you can use use a yoga belt to help with this and allow you to relax into the pose. Let the arms fall out to the side, palms facing up and go deeper into a relaxed state with an eye pillow. If you feel a tightness then move slightly away from the wall or move your legs a little further apart. You can also bend your knees over a chair so that only your thighs are straight up and there is less pressure on your hamstrings. Take deep breaths and feel your muscles sink but not sag into the pose.
Relaxing your pelvic zone
Your pelvic region is really at your core and it is often here that you can feel a tightness, whether through stress or physical strains such as from sitting for long periods in the same position. By softening and stretching this area, you will feel relaxation radiate throughout your whole body.
Lie on your back and slowly bring the soles of your feet together as you bend your knees. Bring the heels of your feet up so that they are close to the groin area, letting the knees drop down at each side, really opening up that pelvic zone. If you want more support, add blocks, bolsters or blankets under each knee so the stretch is less intense. As you focus on deep breaths, tuck your tailbone in as you press down to the floor, making sure you don’t let your lower back arch and your stomach raise. You can even use a thick blanket to keep this area grounded more easily.
Don’t jolt the knees or try to push into a further stretch and let the arms lie softly out to the side in a V with palms facing up. Once you feel you have sunk into the pose add an eye pillow and focus on each breath, bringing the mind to awareness without trying to control the thoughts as they ebb and flow.
Next month we’ll look at how to use your breathing to get more out of yoga stretches. Meanwhile, come and enjoy the restorative power of yoga.