about restorative yogaBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

At the present time, there is just a touch of fall coolness in the air in the Northeastern United States. As summer subtly wanes into early fall, the humidity level is dropping and the trees are beginning to reveal a hint of the brilliant fall foliage to come. I have always loved the fall. It is one of my favorite times of the year in the Northeast. The colors of the leaves when they are at their peak are simply breathtaking, and the swirling energy of the season is always invigorating and filled with promise.

Every year, the fall season sparkles with the crisp energy of hope and enthusiasm. This often translates into a new school year, training program or continuing education course of study for many of us. As the long, warm days of summer begin to shorten, many Yoga students and Yoga teachers find themselves rushing to fit into their busy schedules a variety of wonderful summer activities before the days shorten and the temperatures drop to a point where some of these activities, such as swimming or surfing, are no longer possible. At least not without a very thick wetsuit!

The combination of seeking to fully enjoy the final weeks of summer, in addition to added academic and professional goals and responsibilities, often generates an underlying feeling of anxiety. Unfortunately, the busyness of a full schedule can increase anxiety levels to a point where you may find it difficult to sleep. If this is the case for you, practicing some soothing, restorative Yoga poses will help your body and mind to calm down, which will allow you to rest in a place of quietude. Resting in a place of peace and quietude will support you to sleep more deeply and restoratively.

* Viparita Karani or Legs Up the Wall Pose

Viparita Karani is also known as Legs Up the Wall Pose. This is a simple and accessible Yoga inversion that helps to calm frayed nerves, quiet your mind and replenish your vital life force energy. Viparita Karani is usually practiced toward the end of a Yoga class or session. It is generally one of the finishing postures in a sequence of Yoga poses that is practiced just prior to Shavasana.

Some of the benefits of practicing Viparita Karani for five to fifteen minutes are: improving blood flow throughout the entire body, restoring tired legs and feet, alleviating headaches, easing tension in the lower back, calming anxiety, relieving insomnia, and stretching out the front of the torso, the back of the neck and the hamstring muscles. To practice Legs Up in the Wall Pose in a restorative fashion, you will need a folded blanket, an eye pillow or small towel and a weighted sandbag for your feet. You may also wish to place an additional blanket over your torso for a fuller sense of being nurtured and to stay warm, of course.

When you are ready to practice Legs Up the Wall Pose, place your Yoga mat perpendicular to a free wall in your home or Yoga studio. Place any props you are using on one side of your Yoga mat. Lie down on your side on the Yoga mat with your buttocks touching the wall. With an inhale; gently roll yourself onto your back as you raise your legs up the wall. Extend your legs fully and keep your feet slightly flexed.

If you are using a folded blanket, place it underneath your hips for added support. Place the other blanket snugly over your torso and rest the sandbag on your feet.

When you have all of the Yoga props positioned properly, place the eye pillow over your eyes and extend your arms out to your sides at chest height with your palms facing up in a gesture of release and openness. Sink into the floor or earth beneath you and breathe fully and deeply. Hold this posture for five to fifteen minutes, and then remove the props, roll to your right side and gently push your self up to Easy Seat. Pause for a few breaths to feel the blanket of peace and quietude enveloping you that your practice of this restorative Yoga pose has generated before moving into Shavasana.

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