Over the years I've discovered that changing up my physical routine is really helpful and healthy. Oddly enough, the older I get, the more I love to challenge my body in different ways. I used to just walk and do a strong vinyasa yoga practice. Now I do a lot of other things. I love to swim, trail run, hike, bike, take a spin class, you name it!
On days where I challenge myself with aerobics or some non-yoga physical activity, ending the day with a restorative yoga practice is the perfect counterbalance physically and energetically. I may do a short active sequence to stretch out what I strengthened earlier in the day, but then I drop into supported, restorative poses to foster deep relaxation.
My absolute favorite restorative pose is Supported Child's Pose. Why? Because it's a very accessible forward bend (barring any knee and hip issues) and I can fully let go into it. Last week I almost fell asleep while in this pose! Some restorative poses require a bit of effort, but not this one. In Supported Child's Pose, I can release all muscular tension.
Since the knees are bent in this shape, it's not demanding on the hamstring muscles or lower back. In fact, it perfectly targets a gentle stretch of the lower back and kidney region. One of the many benefits of forward bends –particularly one held for a while – is that they gently soothe the back body and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The adrenal glands sit right next to the kidneys – I can literally feel that area of my physical body and nervous system relax when I'm in this pose. It's incredibly soothing to basically be in the fetal position, taking us right back to the womb.
Try Supported Child's Pose the next time you feel tired or stressed. Use a fat, round or square high bolster (the beautiful artisan-crafted bolsters in the image above are from chattra's round bolster collection) or a hearty stack of blankets and pull your support between your legs. Take the knees really wide or hug them close in to the bolster. Turn your head to one side and let go with arms relaxed on either side. After a few minutes turn your head in the opposite direction. Enjoy the deep relaxation that follows, you deserve it!
About Nikki Estrada
Nikki Estrada has been in the yoga scene for more than twenty years. She leads workshops, teacher training and immersions nationwide. Nikki began her formal training in India, focusing on Ashtanga, a very physically challenging style of yoga. She is currently a senior yoga teacher and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nikki's Vinyasa-based classes are a synthesis of her years of yogic and Ayurveda study and personal experience, with an emphasis on spirituality, intelligent alignment, meditation, and living life more joyfully. Her videos can be found on www.yogainternational.com. More information about Nikki can be found at www.nikkiestradayoga.com She resides in northern California with her husband and two daughters.