The shorter days and wild weather of winter can often lead to the decision to stay in the comfort of our home rather than meet up with friends and family. One way to keep your social life alive during this season is to incorporate more rejuvenating sequences into your regular routine. Yoga teacher Cora Wen designed the following sequence to leave you feeling energised and refreshed.
Wen travels the world teaching the fine art of restoration (or restorative yoga), but her sequence here is unique. “In restorative sequencing, the body may feel relaxed and rested, but you usually don’t want to do a lot of activity after,” explains Wen. If you want to calm and rejuvenate yourself before heading out for more activity, hold each pose for only 1 to 3 minutes, rather than what Wen describes as the typical restorative hold of 8 to 15 minutes—which might be more appropriate before bedtime.
Keep your body warm as you practise and adjust the height of the bolster with folded blankets so that your body is completely at ease. You may want to use an eye bag to cover your eyes when you’re in supine positions to support a deeper release. Follow the natural rhythm of your breath as you slowly open your body and let the gifts of the practice—a well-rested and invigorated body, mind and spirit—be yours.
Create a space. Set aside at least 20 minutes and choose a place to practise where you’ll be warm and uninterrupted. Encourage a smooth natural rhythm in your breath and feel free to close or cover your eyes.
Reflect. Take a comfortable seat and recognise the feeling of attentive calm. Remember this feeling, so you can come back to it again, throughout the day and the year.
Hold each of these poses (or each side of a pose) for 1 to 3 minutes.
From Dandasana (Staff Pose), take your right foot to your left inner thigh and your left foot behind you. Put a folded blanket under your right sitting bone to balance your pelvis if your left hip lifts up. Keep the fronts of your ankles open. Twist your torso to the right, turn your head to the left and breathe freely. Release the twist, switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Sit at one end of a bolster, bend your knees, feet hip-distance apart, and lie back. Feel your spine, shoulders and neck completely supported. Lift your arms overhead, clasp your elbows and rest your forearms on the bolster. If your shoulders feel strained, open your arms out to the sides. To release, roll to one side and come up to a seated position.
Sit in front of the bolster, with your feet just outside your hips. If you feel strain in your knees, sit up on a block. Lie back, letting your knees open naturally. Release your arms by your sides. Add folded blankets to the bolster to relieve any discomfort in your lower back. To come up, press your hands into the floor and lift up to a seated position.
Take a simple cross-legged position. Put your right ankle on your left knee and shift your left foot forward under your right knee, stacking both shins like two logs. (If this is too intense, go back to a simple cross-legged position.) To move into a deeper stretch in your outer hips and inner thighs, slowly fold forward. Let your breath move freely; then release and switch sides.
Come onto all fours with the end of the bolster beneath your breastbone. Pull your navel in toward your spine and lift up and back into Down Dog. Rest your forehead on the bolster. Feel free to remove the bolster and use a folded blanket or block instead to create length in your neck. Lift your tailbone away from your head as you lengthen the backs of your legs.
From Down Dog, move your props out of the way, step your right foot forward between your hands and pivot on your feet into a wide straddle, with your feet slightly pigeon-toed. Rest the crown of your head on the bolster. Lift your belly toward your spine and soften the backs of your legs. Relax your shoulders and arms and allow your abdominal organs to receive an internal massage from the forward fold. To release, pivot on your heels, walk your torso back over your right leg and step back to Down Dog.
Step your left foot behind and to the outside of your right foot.
Bend your right knee and lift your right heel as you twist to the left, reaching your left heel toward the floor. Extend your left fingertips toward the front left corner of your mat, lifting your palm to increase the stretch. Turn the left side of your belly up and peek under your left armpit. Release the twist and take the second side.
Sit on your heels with your knees wide and bring the bolster in toward your belly. Fold forward with a rounded spine. Rest your right cheek on the bolster, changing the direction your head is turned halfway through your hold. Let the shape of the pose gently stretch your lower back.
Lift your torso up and sit with your right hip snug up against the bolster. Bend both knees, taking your shins to the left, and resting your left ankle in the right arch. Lift your sternum as you twist your belly toward the right and lie on the support. Rest your right cheek on the bolster or continue the twist by turning your head to the right. This twist is strong. Stay for less than 3 minutes on each side to avoid the strain of overstretching.
Lie on your back with the bolster under your knees. Let your legs and feet fall to the sides naturally and relax your entire body. Soften your eyes, ears, nose, tongue and even your skin, letting the organs of perception dissolve. Listen to your breath and bring your awareness inward. Release completely into resting for 5 to 10 minutes.