I don’t know about you, but I’ve barely had time to breathe in the past few weeks. Between holiday rehearsals and performances—Amahl and the Night Visitors and The Messiah—and the usual holiday preparations and parties I’ve barely been at home other than to sleep. Not to mention the time and energy I’ve spent shoveling the plentiful famous Utah powder that’s been falling for the past week and a half. This means I’ve had less time to prepare healthy meals consistently, and very little down time in general.
Holiday gatherings are always fun, but I always seem to gravitate to the potluck table and graze until I feel over-full. Invariably I eat things my body isn’t used to. This can cause digestive rebellion. Wonky digestion from less-than-optimal nutrition and extreme busyness add up to deep fatigue in my body.
One pose that addresses both these issues is not only a favorite of mine, but always welcomed in my yoga classes: Restorative Supta Baddhakonasana (Bound Angle Pose).
Set Up and Hunker Down
Gather your props: a Yoga Bolster, Yoga Block, Yoga Blankets, Yoga Mat and a hand towel or Neck Pillow. Place your block crosswise, either flat or on its side, near the “head” end of your mat. Place one end of your bolster on top of it so that the bolster sits at a slant with the head side of the bolster elevated. Sit in front of the end of the bolster that is on the floor with your buttocks barely touching the bolster.
Fold one blanket so that it is about 36 to 40 inches wide. If you are using Plaid Wool, Deluxe Wool or Mexican yoga blankets, your blanket will be folded in quarters. Set it in front of you so that the wide side is closest to you (in computer vernacular, you’ll be looking at a “landscape” rather than “portrait” shape). Roll the blanket up so that you are making a long “snake,” 36 to 40 inches wide.
Fold your hand towel in half and roll it up about half way. Place it at the elevated end of your bolster. You can also use a folded Yoga Blanket or a Neck Pillow for this. Note: This neck support is not shown in the photo, but it’s a really comforting support for our often-stressed necks.
Place the soles of your feet together in Baddhakonasana. Draw your heels in toward your groins any amount, making sure your knees feel comfortable. Let your knees fall out to the sides. Place the center of your “snake” on top of your feet and tuck its ends under your ankles and thighs so that it lifts and supports your legs. If the bend is too much for your knees, scoot your heels out a few inches, away from your groins. You can also try propping the knees a bit higher with thinly folded blankets or a couple Yoga Blocks, one under each thigh, in addition to your snake. Lie back on your bolster so that your whole torso is supported and your head is resting on the high end. Adjust your hand towel, blanket or Neck Pillow so that your neck is supported. If you’re using a blanket or hand towel, the rolled portion (up to 3 inches in diameter) should be under your neck with the rest supporting your head.
And Now, Just Let Go
Let your body settle completely into your blankets or bolster. Now inhale deeply into your abdomen, allowing it to expand fully in all directions. Imagine that your breath is massaging your abdominal organs. Exhale completely, so that you are releasing all the breath each time. Continue to breathe deeply for a minute or two, and then let your body relax into natural breathing. You can stay in Supta Baddhakonasa for five to 20 minutes. The longer you stay, the more your body will settle into it, and the more deeply and completely your body will rest.
You can practice Supta Baddhakonasana any time, not just during the holidays. It’s restorative for your body and mind no matter what your circumstances. Try practicing it every day for a week or a month. We could all use more rest, no matter what the season.