It’s incredibly difficult to get the stress of corporate America out of your body. I will never forget the weeks after I quit my job. Word had spread quickly – the industry I worked in is one where everyone knows everyone, much like many industries. People from your past show up day after day, and this industry I had worked in for 10 years – that’s a lot of people.
A few days after I quit, a previous employee of our company called and said, it’s going to take 6 months from the stress of that place to get out of your body. Just be prepared, it’ll feel like you are going through a detox.
And boy was he right.
And, he had no idea. Two weeks after my last day in the office, two weeks after my husband and I bravely started our design business, we experienced the biggest tragedy my little family has ever gone through. And that kind of a tragedy doesn’t just disappear. It sits in your bones. It runs in your blood. It messes up everything in your life. Everything. It’s a horrible, huge, dark cloud, that you can’t get to go away. And you try, and you try, and it’s still there. Showing up when you least expect it, with emergency room visits, and tears of rage, and tears of sorrow, and weeks without sleep. Month, after month, after month.
The main thing that comes close to helping, the main thing even remotely capable of healing this type of pain, is to restore. To sleep. To relax. To go to another place, in rest, for a short while.
Restorative yoga is my bag. It’s pretty much the only type of yoga I practice these days. My at-home personal daily practice started out with vinyasa-style, fast, moving, challenging and flowing yoga, for years. These past several months, I go into my room, grab my bolsters, and lay. And try to relax my mind.
This is not just for those going through trauma, or loss, or hardship, although most people, if you get down to it, are dealing with some sort of pain. The world is fucking hard.
Restorative yoga is also good for this insane crazy fast life we’ve chosen for ourselves. It’s good for the social media madness, the random articles constantly popping up in your feed, the email marketing lists, the corporate work crisis, the wanting, needing, wanting, needing, and wanting, and needing, that we all seek.
It’s good for the caregivers. Most of us are caregivers. For our children, for our parents, for our friends. Many of us give and give and give. It’s time to receive.
And finally, it’s good for dealing with this person who the American people did not vote to be president. It’s good for the crises happening every day due his and his team’s ignorance. Restorative yoga will be greatly needed in the years to come.
Escape that shit. Escape it all.
Oh, and, I have soooo many new mama friends. Like, so, so many. For what seems like two decades now, all of my friends have been having babies. And they continue, and continue, and continue. Good on you. These poses are so, so yummy for new mommies. From what I hear, at least.
Here’s how to set up your restorative yoga practice at home:
Find a nice space. It can be a closet. Find a space big enough for you to lay down in, and where you can shut off most of the lights. Make it nice. Light some candles. Bring in a vase of flowers. If you plan to use it often (and I suggest you do), put up some things that you love: cards, quotes, photos, etc. You can keep them in this space permanently, or switch them out from time to time.
Buy two yoga bolsters. Or, if you want to start out slow like I did, get two of your bedroom pillows. Wrap a bath towel around each one really, really snug. Wrap it the long way around the pillow, so that the pillow stays long, bulks up, and gets puffy.
Buy two 10-pound sandbags. Or, get all of your bags of rice and dried beans from the pantry, and use them to weigh you down. Any weight helps. But 10-20 pounds is very nice.
Get a few yoga blocks. Or, your thicker, heavier, sturdier books work really well.
And buy a mat. You don’t really need one for restorative yoga, you could use a towel. But mats are nice. I have several, and have been through several over the years, and still, my favorite is Lululemon. I am not a sponsor of them, or a sponsor of many brands for that matter, so I don’t get anything out of this. Manduka would be my next choice, but I still prefer my Lulu mat. Be picky about your mat – try them out if possible (most studios have rental mats for free or for a small donation which is a good option for trying out lots of brands – just make sure you clean the mat before and after you use it).
And now, some restorative yoga ideas (pics of these are on my instagram account):
- REST: Lay on the bolster, with your tailbone on the ground, arms out to the side. Legs can be in butterfly position, or straight, or bent with feet to the earth. Find a position that you enjoy, and stay there. If the pillows or bolster are not long enough, grab some more to put behind your head. If you are in butterfly pose, put the blocks or books under your legs so you don’t strain your inner thighs. You want to be fully relaxed. You can also put towels or pillows under your arms, or under the opt of your torso if you want to raise up. The more support, the better. Take your bags of beans or sand and lay them on your body. I prefer to lay them on my belly, or my thighs. It also feels nice to lay them on your arms, but that can get trickier unless you have some help.
- CHILD’S: Stack your two bolsters or pillows, and sit facing them, with your knees spread wide. Get as close to them as possible. Keep snuggling closer, and closer, until the pillows are between your knees, close to your pubic bone. Lay your torso on the pillows. If the height is too low for your torso, add a few more pillows. Turn your cheek to the left or right (switch half way through) or lay your forehead on the pillows. If your knees are on a hard surface, put towels or blankets under them. Take the bags of sand or beans and place them on your back. Again, this gets tricky. But it is soooo worth it.
- LEGS: If lack of sleep is still getting to you, scoot your hips to face about 4″ from a wall. Then swing your legs up the wall, and lay your back on your mat. Then, find that friend, and have them put the sandbags on your feet. OMG, juicy, right? You can do this on your own, but again, it’s tricky, and this one could be painful if you drop said sandbag on your belly. So go slow.
- UPSIDE: Here’s the thing about pain, and grief, and stress: you often want to curl up into a ball and hide. But doing the opposite, opening your heart to the world, going upside down, it feels incredible. And scary, too. So go slow with this one. Bring two chairs together, with the seats facing each other. They can be any kind of chair with a hard surface. Place your mat on top of both chair seats, folded. Then top with a few towels or blankets. Then, lay your back on the chair seats, and hang your head upside down. Let your arms hang by your side or they can grab the backs of the chairs. If you want your head to rest in this pose, grab your bolsters, pillows, or blocks, and put them under your head. Then, relax. Open your heart.
Here’s the most important part: Close your eyes. Focus on your breath. Focus on this moment. DO NOT MOVE. Stay there for five minutes. Set a timer, or count your breaths, or ask a friend to gently bring you back. Do not cheat yourself here. If you are able, stay longer.
And a note: it takes a minute to set up these poses. Be patient. It is worth it. Get it right, get comfortable, and just be.
I hope you take the time to try some of these out. Restorative yoga does not get the same hype as the vinyasa and flow styles of yoga, but to me, it’s more important. It’s as important as your daily mediation practice, or the glasses of water you drink, or the veggies you steam, or the walks you take with your loved ones. It’s crucial to living a healthy, balanced life.
It’s been several weeks since I posted a recipe, and I’ve been trying out several, but I wanted to make sure this one was excellent. And I think it is – this burger is based loosely on the non-vegan veggie burgers at a cafe here in Fort Worth. Theirs is super greasy, and not vegan even if you hold the cheese, and I feel totally gross after eating it. But their idea was right.