Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2018 issue.
The canyon-like treads on your running shoes have worn down into a rubber blob. There are a few new dings and scrapes on your mountain bike and your shins. And Saturday’s hike up Longs Peak followed by Sunday’s SUP yoga class have fused your glutes and core to your body like a cast.
Like most of the state’s active population, Colorado yogis head outside as soon as the days grow longer and the temps heat up. Ok, maybe we get outside throughout the year, but in the warm weather months every empty slot in our calendar is filled with road trips, hikes, races and yoga festivals.
Sometimes by the middle of August, however, we can start to feel a little fried.
Too much yang (think heat and activity) without a balance of yin (cool, restful energy) can throw our bodies and our nervous system out of whack. When we’re out of balance, we feel tired and mentally burned out, and possibly even set ourselves up for injury.
Adding restorative yoga to your summer routine can bring some yin balance to your yang activities. Take a cue from your dog. Watch him run around the dog park playing, chasing and jumping. Not long after, he’s down for an impressive nap.
Try the following poses with yoga props or any blankets, towels and pillows you have around the house. There’s only one rule: get comfortable. Add as many props as you need to support your body. For an even deeper rest, place a cool washcloth over your eyes.
Turn on some relaxing music and put the phone on airplane mode. Set a timer and do each pose for about five minutes.
1. Wide-Leg Forward Fold
Create some cooling energy while you get a gentle hamstring stretch. Sit on the edge of a blanket, bring your legs wide and tilt your pelvis forward. Keep your spine long as you rest your forehead on the seat of a chair. You can fold lower to the ground if you’re more flexible, but have some support under your head to soothe your neck muscles.
2. Cat Pulling Its Tail
This one might not exactly feel “restorative” — depending on how many miles you’ve logged on the trails. But it’s a good way to release tight quads and hip flexors. Lie on your side and lengthen your top leg in front of you. Bend your bottom leg and bring your heel toward your butt. Grab onto your bottom foot and pull it closer to your pelvis for a little stretch along the front line of your body.
3. Supine Crescent Moon
Increase space in your chest and ribcage for high altitude breathing. Lie on your back with your feet together and reach both arms overhead. Walk your arms and legs to the right edge of your mat. Grab onto your opposite wrist and cross your left ankle over your right. Keep both hips even on the ground. If your shoulders are uncomfortable, either put a blanket underneath them or bring your arms back down by your side.
Set a bolster or pillows against your right hip. Tuck your feet behind you and put a blanket in between your knees for joint support. Get tall in your spine, then rotate until the center of your chest is lined up with the bolster. Lie all the way down and turn your head in the same direction as your knees (look behind you only if it feels comfortable on your neck).
5. Bound Angle
Make a ramp with your bolster and two blocks, or a pillow and a few books. Sit close to the ramp, bring the soles of your feet together and open your knees into a diamond shape. Lie back with a rolled up towel under your neck. Be sure and prop your thighs with enough blankets so your legs can completely relax. Rest your arms by your sides and prop up your elbows if they don’t reach the ground.
6. Legs Up the Wall
A gentle inversion is the best therapy for swollen legs or an achy back post-workout. Lie on the floor with your hips close to a wall and reach your legs up. Adjust the distance from the wall according to your hamstring flexibility. You can also put a strap around your calves to hold your legs up with minimal muscular effort. Elevate the hips slightly on a blanket, which sends a signal to your brain to let go and relax.
Let the calm vibes sink in a little longer. Use plenty of props to hold up your body and reduce any remaining tension. Inhale smoothly and deeply, followed with even longer exhales. Soften your abdominal muscles completely. A blanket on your belly will give you an even more grounded sensation.
Photos by Gina Portolese.
Kathy Hisey Baum is a freelance writer and yoga teacher in Denver. You can follow her writing at www.wellbeingprime.com, or on Facebook at Tales of a Middle Aged Yogi: www.facebook.com/KathyBaumYoga/.