Many of us are conditioned to believe that only fast-paced, kick-butt yoga can reap benefits. From the outside, restorative practice might look like just lying around on bolsters and blankets, but the truth is that it changes us at profound and subtle levels of being that a hurried practice cannot reach. A vigorous practice does yield benefits, but restorative practice gains us access to deeper levels of being, the gateways to a quiet mind. In the process, we are healed below the surface of our being, at the underlying spring of prana that feeds us.
Restorative Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) is a backbend. It opens the front body, a counteractive position to that of depression, the main symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The head position—neck flexed and head below the heart—activates the baro reflex, a reaction that suppresses the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and moves us into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) side. In the parasympathetic side, we restore and replenish our prana.
To practice Restorative Bridge, you need some blankets and/or firm cushions. Configure them in a T-shape (see photo) with the top of the T a foot or more from the head end of your yoga mat. Roll a blanket into a roll that’s approximately six to eight inches in diameter and place it at the bottom of the T.
Sit on the stem of the T and lie back. Scoot back toward the top of the T until your shoulders come off the edge and the tops of your shoulders touch the floor. You should feel as if your ribcage is spilling off the edge of the blankets. Your head and neck should be relaxed and level. Now stretch your legs out and allow your ankles to rest on the blanket roll. Rest your arms at your sides in whatever position is comfortable. You may want to cover your eyes with an eyebag.
Settle in. Relax your breath. Allow your body to breathe naturally. Release the weight of your body into the pull of gravity. Do nothing. You can stay in Supported Bridge for as little as five minutes or as long as 30 minutes or more. When you are ready to leave the pose, roll gently onto your side and rest for a while. Then push yourself up to a sitting position. Check in with your body/mind. How do you feel?
Georgia O’Keeffe famously said, “Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small. It takes time. We haven’t time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” It is almost impossible to connect with the present when we are continually running. Slow down. Make a friend of your body. Give it time to replenish and restore itself. u
Charlotte Bell is a yoga teacher, author and musician who lives in Salt Lake City. Visit her at http://www.charlottebellyoga.com.