Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gearing Up for Restorative Yoga: It’s About the Props

Restorative yoga can help you unload stress and relax both your body and mind on a whole new level. In order to achieve the deepest state of relaxation, though, you’ll need to practice your poses with as little effort or strain as possible. The right props can safely support your body in a variety of postures and help you find the proper alignment.

If you’re relatively new to yoga, or have stuck with the more traditional styles, the use of props may be a little intimidating at first. Just understand how the right props can support your postures and start with the basics, including:

Blocks. Yoga blocks are among the most useful of props and can be positioned behind your hands, heels, or hips to stay in proper form. Blocks also help you hold poses longer and with less effort.

Blankets or Rugs. A good yoga blanket or rug can be used in a variety of ways. Layered on a yoga mat, for example, a blanket can provide even more cushion for seated poses. Blankets can also be folded for additional elevation or support.

Straps. Ideal for beginners, yoga straps can help you hold poses longer, with better form and far less strain.

Bolsters. Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, yoga bolsters---much like a folded blanket---can make your yoga poses easier and much more comfortable.

Eyebags. Okay, so it may not be the most essential prop in your yoga practice, but a peachskin eyebag can go a long way in relieving tension and unwinding after a long day.

But while props are essential in restorative yoga, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find the support you need. Be creative. Remember, props are simply a means of becoming more comfortable, relaxed, and balanced in your practice. Look around the house and experiment with everyday items like towels, pillows, books, and seat cushions.

Whichever props you buy or find, you’ll appreciate the deep sense of relaxation that only restorative yoga can deliver.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gearing Up for Restorative Yoga: Your Yoga Mat

If you’ve been practicing hatha or any of the more traditional styles of yoga at your local studio, you likely have a pretty reliable sticky yoga mat. And though restorative yoga poses don’t require much traction, you will want enough cushion to provide support and balance. Explore a few different options, and experiment a little, to find just the right level of comfort.

A basic 1/8” yoga mat will probably be just fine for most relaxation poses, especially when layered under a good quality yoga blanket or rug. For a little more cushion, consider upgrading to a 1/4” thick mat. Extra thick yoga mats have become very popular and much easier to find.

Depending on your level of commitment, need for comfort, and how often you practice, you might also think about investing in a futon-style cotton yoga mat. Cotton mats are often up to two inches thick and can be conveniently rolled or folded for different postures. And they’re great for expectant moms.

Whether you’re taking a restorative yoga class at a studio or practicing at home, the right mat can make a big difference. But don’t be afraid to start with what you have on hand. You’ll eventually find what works best for you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gearing Up for Restorative Yoga

Having one of those days? You know, your in-laws are driving you crazy, you’ve got to finish that project before the deadline, and your car just started making a strange whirring sound. It’s more than anybody can handle. You just need some relief.

If you’ve ever practiced restorative yoga, then you already know how effective deep relaxation poses can be in combating stress. And while it’s all about letting go of tension, restorative yoga can also be a potential antidote for chronic back and other pain. In fact, studies have shown that meditation and relaxation techniques, with proper support and medical guidance, can positively impact menopausal and pregnant women, as well as patients with certain forms of cancer.

As restorative postures are designed for support, comfort, and balance, many rely heavily on the use of yoga props. Blocks, pillows, rugs, blankets, eyebags and the right mat can all contribute to a deeper sense of relaxation. Over the next few posts, we'll take a look at which props can best enhance your practice.