Fall is my favorite season. It is a season of change where the days become longer, the leaves change, and we take time to give thanks. In yoga, fall can symbolize a time of slowing down, grounding, and letting go of things that no longer serve us. Perhaps this is something you need? Follow me through a few simple restorative yoga poses to give you a sense of ease and letting go as we head deep into the season.
Restorative yoga is a system of yoga based on the teachings of the late B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the leading yoga teachers of the western world. The poses are designed to tap into the body’s relaxation response or the parasympathetic nervous system. The practice counters the chronic stress that most nurses experience in their day to day work.
A restorative practice is slow and grounded, a perfect compliment to the fall. Each pose sees the student fully supported with the use of props such as blankets or pillows. The only effort in the practice is effort and awareness of breath. When we consciously let go, we give the body and mind an opportunity to let go, relax, restore, and heal.
Each pose is held for anywhere from 3-5 minutes or longer depending on the time you have. The longer you hold the pose, the more your body and mind will benefit. The muscles relax supported fully by the props used. The mind relaxes through breath. Take deep conscious breaths through your nose in each pose. The following is a 20-minute restorative yoga sequence for anyone needing to slow down, ground, or let go.
What you need
- A Yoga Mat or Beach Towel
- A Thick Blanket
- Two Couch Pillows
- 20-25 Minutes
Supported Back Bend
Back bending helps to reverse the rounding curvature of the shoulders that most of us experience when sitting in front of computers charting. Lay back across a thick couch pillow ensuring that your shoulder blades and shoulders come down to the floor. Bend your knees and draw them together as you take your feet apart to the edges of your mat or towel. Place a rolled blanket under your neck to support the natural curve of your cervical spine. Close your eyes and take deep breaths in and out of your nose. Keep breathing deeply in this pose for anywhere from 3-5 minutes or longer if desired. To come out, draw your knees together and roll to your right side. Gently press yourself up to seated.
Twisting releases tension between the shoulder blades, along the spine, and in the low back as well as detoxifies the body. If there is any pose I would recommend every day for nurses, it is some form of a twist. Stack two couch pillows or more depending on how much support you find you need. Sit with your knees bent off to one side and place the pillows against one hip. Place one hand on either side of the stack of pillows. Fold forward over the pillows resting your forearms on either side. Rest with your head turned either in the direction of your knees or in the opposite direction. Reconnect with your breath, breathing deeply in and out of your nose. Allow your body to be fully supported by the pillows. Let go. Send breath up and down your spine. Send breath to the low back. Stay here for 3-5 minutes or longer. With an inhale, gently press yourself back up and switch sides.
Supported Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is an excellent pose to relieve tension in the shoulders and low back. Another pose made for nurses. It also has a soothing effect on the nervous system. Fold your blanket and place it under your knees for support. Bring your big toes together, your knees as wide apart as comfortable. Draw your two pillows stacked one on top of the other between your legs and lean forward over them placing your forearms on either side or hugging the pillow. Close your eyes. Return to your breath. Stay here for five minutes turning the head about halfway through. On an inhale, slowly press yourself back up.
If you have ever taken a yoga class before, you will likely recognize this pose as it is often the last pose of any yoga class. Savasana or corpse pose is the it pose for deep relaxation and letting go. It is reserved for the end of class as a final pose for meditation. Stay here for five minutes or longer if you have the time. Scan your body head to toe for any unrelieved tension. Send breath to any tight areas. Let go of any negative thoughts, feelings, or conflicts that are of no service to you. Release. Relax. When you are ready to come back, slowly bend your knees rolling to the right side. Take a couple breaths before pressing yourself up.
Come to a comfortable seat crossing one shin bone in front of the other, placing your hands on top of your thighs, palms up toward the ceiling. Take a moment here to ease yourself back into your day. When you are ready, bring your hands to your heart center. Happy fall, Mighty Nurses! Thank you for taking the time to read and practice with me. Practice this sequence a few times a week and notice if you feel more grounded, less tense, and more able to let go. See you on the mat again soon!
Lori is an American nurse, nurse blogger, and Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.