Yoga does, inevitably, involve a lot of stretching. You don’t, however, always need to find the stretch. If you are constantly striving for a feeling of lengthening muscles, you may end up overdoing it, losing the simple pleasure of being in the pose, or even adding tension.
Stop trying so hard all the time.
It seems to me that we spend our whole lives trying. Your yoga practice is a time to connect with your body, to calm your mind and to let yourself be. The next time you come to your mat, try thinking about your practice in terms of letting go of tension.
Undoing, instead of doing.
A fantastic way to achieve this is with a restorative yoga practice. Settle into a supported pose and stay there for five or ten minutes, observing the body, watching the breath, and giving yourself a chance to release tension in a really effortless way.
One of my students has kindly agreed to be photographed in some of my favourite restorative poses so that I can talk you through them, giving you a chance to try them at home (and an excuse to buy a yoga bolster). I use these poses in my Restorative Yin workshops, which I teach a few times a year with my yoga teacher friend Eunice.
The pose pictured below is one Eunice and I have named Flump. It’s lovely for tight backs, especially the lower back. I’ve set up the pose using a bolster, a block and two blankets, but if you aren’t kitted out with yoga props, you could use cushions and a stack of folded blankets.
How to do Flump
- Place a folded blanket or two over the bottom half of a yoga bolster. Put one or two blocks, or a block and a blanket, or some cushions, in front of your bolster.
- Lie on your front over the bolster, so that the whole of your torso is supported. The blanket is under your hips and belly so that the lower back is lifted a bit, reducing the lumbar curve.
- Bend arms and legs and bring your elbows and knees out to the sides a bit, to help spread the weight – that way it’s not all concentrated on your chest.
- The block and folded blanket go under your forehead. There’s no need to squash your nose! Experiment with how much support you need here, as you want your neck to feel comfortable.
- The idea is to allow the whole of your back to round and soften. Feel the back broadening, shoulders sliding towards the floor. The position might feel a bit hard on your chest to start with. Do faff around with your blankets to make yourself more comfortable, but also allow yourself a minute to settle over your bolster. As you relax into the position, it will become more comfortable.
I have fallen asleep like this many times. The main risk is dribbling.