Once experienced there is little doubt of the benefits of Restorative Yoga. There are many Restorative postures, but often my students’ favourite is Supported Reclined Bound Angle Posture (in Sanskrit, Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana).
In this posture we lie back onto a bolster which is gently raised up at an angle. We bring our knees up and then release them out to each side so that the soles of the feet come together. The legs are well supported so that they can fully relax and release. It’s a posture which can feel very open in the front of the body, and perhaps even feel vulnerable.
There are a number of variations of the posture. Here’s how to set up one of my favourites.
You will need:
- 2 yoga blocks
- 1 bolster
- Up to 7 blankets
- Lay out the two blocks, one on the side and one flat, so that when you place a bolster over them, there is a slight incline. One short end of the bolster touches the floor. The lower block supports the middle of the bolster, the higher block supports the upper short end of the bolster.
- Sit close to, but not touching, the end of the bolster that connects to the floor – you will be facing away, about three or four inches in front of the bolster.
- Slide your knees up together and then release the knees out to each side.
- Next you will need to support your feet and legs. Firstly, take an open blanket and roll it into a long tube. Wrap the middle of this blanket tube over your ankles and then tuck the ends under each thigh, near the hips.
- Fold or roll another blanket to support each thigh and knee, making sure they are of an even height and that they support the legs very well. Always support the legs in this pose. Unsupported, you may enjoy the immediate sensation of stretch and opening, but very quickly this can become unsustainable and the ligaments, muscles and tendons of the inner groin and thigh may become over-stretched.
- With Restorative Yoga, the idea is that we can spend time being in the pose – in Supported Reclined Bound Angle, we could spend up to 30 minutes or more in the posture if it is very well set up.
- As you ease back to lie on the bolster, it may help to gently lengthen your tail bone forwards, so that your lower back feels comfortable, not compressed. The lumbar spine here should feel neutral and supported. If your bolster feels like it is pressing uncomfortably into your lower back, consider sitting on a folded blanket, and/or sitting a couple of inches further away from the bolster.
- Make sure your arms are also well supported by folded blankets, again, like the legs, at an even height. There should not be much of a drop off from the shoulders. If the elbow joint is unsupported, the arms will hang and their weight will pull them out of the shoulder joint. Again, one might enjoy this sensation for a minute or so, but any longer and the shoulders may well start to become agitated and even tense up as a result – counter-productive to what restorative Yoga is trying to achieve. Supporting the arms allows them to release and relax gently from the shoulders.
- The key to a well set up restorative Yoga posture are that the undulations and slopes of the body are gentle and easy.
- Depending on your particular body, neck and shoulders, consider a folded blanket under the head and neck, so that it too feels neutral and supported.
- Finally, I recommend covering oneself with a blanket so we can remain warm, cosy, less vulnerable from the openness of the posture. We want to create perfect conditions for the deepest relaxation we can soften into. Also consider an eye bag, which can help reduce tension around your eyes and encourage a more internal focus for your mind.
Now you are set up, your practice is to melt, soften and relax, and be aware of this process. To be conscious of your relaxation is a beautiful experience. To luxuriate in it even.
Your breath can also be anchor here. Allow yourself to soften further on each exhalation. Allow each inhalation to arise as it will, and to consciously melt further on your exhalation. Bask in the loveliness of your open posture, knowing you are fully supported. You do not have to “do” anything – the practice is to simply abide, rest and enjoy. Stay for as long as you wish, for as long as it feels right.
When you are complete, make an easy transition out of the posture by mindfully bringing one leg up at time, slide them straight, and roll and pour your body to one side. Rest a moment on your side before easing up to sitting. Take another moment to feel the benefits gained from your practice, the feeling of being more at ease and rested, on all levels – physically, energetically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Benefits from Supported Reclined Bound Angle Posture
- Stimulates abdominal organs e.g. ovaries & prostate gland, bladder, & kidneys
- Nourishes the digestive and reproductive systems
- Stimulates heart and improves general circulation. May reduce high blood pressure
- Stretches the inner thighs, groins, and knees
- Helps relieve the symptoms of stress, mild depression, menstruation and menopause. Blood is directed to the pelvis, bathing the reproductive organs and glands, and helping to balance hormone function.
- Possibly alleviates the pain of prostatitis (inflamation of the prostate gland)
- Pregnancy: After first trimester, raise the angle of the bolster by about 30 degrees. You can also try crossing the legs instead of bringing the feet together.
- Groin or knee injury: Perform this pose with blanket supports under the thighs.
- If you feel any strain in the inner thighs and groins, support each of your thighs with a block or folded blanket slightly above the maximum stretch of the groins. Make sure each support, whether a block or blanket, is the same height.
- Caution also if you experience sacro-iliac issues – ensure that the hips/legs are very well supported.