Restorative Yoga Poses for Chronic Illness Warriors

Living with chronic illness can mean that some days we don’t have enough energy to even get out of bed, let alone attempt to exercise. But lying in bed all day can leave us feeling stiff and restless in both mind and body. Thankfully our yoga practice is always here for us, ready to take any shape or form we need it to. Restorative yoga is a gentle, healing yoga practice that can help reduce the pain, fatigue and anxiety associated with chronic illness.

Today’s restorative practice utilizes props, but setting these up does require some energy, so you are certainly welcome to practice these asanas without props. You could even practice these asanas in bed if you wish.

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VIPARITA KARANI – LEGS UP THE WALL POSE

This inversion supports the immune system, calms the mind, alleviates headaches, and refreshes tired legs.

To practice this pose, bring your right hip as close as you can get it to the wall, and then gently roll yourself over to the side, onto your back, swinging your legs up the wall. Scoot your rear end as close as you can get it to the wall. Hands can be at your sides or resting on your belly.

If your hamstrings feel tight, you can modify this pose by adding a folded blanket or bolster underneath the hips or by bending the knees.

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes.

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BALASANA – CHILD’S POSE (SUPPORTED)

This grounding supported forward bend soothes anxiety, stretches the spine, and nourishes mind, body and spirit.

To practice this pose, take the knees wide, creating extra space for the belly to expand fully with breath. Hips reach back toward the heels. Stretching the arms out in front of you, allow the forehead to rest on the mat (or bolster).

There are many ways to modify this pose with props. In the photo, I have a blanket under the knees for extra cushion, a cervical pillow underneath the sit bones, and a bolster elevated with a yoga block. These props are not required, but they do create a deeper sense of support and comfort.

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes.

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SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA – RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE

This gentle hip and heart opener creates space in the body where many of us tend to harbor tension.

To practice this pose, while seated bring the feet together as you would for bound angle pose, allowing the knees to fall open to the side. Slowly lower yourself down onto your back, keeping the feet together. Arms extend alongside the body, palms facing up.

You can modify this pose with pillows under the knees to lessen the stretch of the inner thighs. The same bolster and block set-up you just used for balasana can also be used for this pose to create a gentle stretch in the upper chest.

Hold this pose for ten deep breaths or up to five minutes.

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SAVASANA – CORPSE POSE/FINAL RELAXATION POSE

Savasana is arguably the most important asana because it allows the body time to pause, integrate and restore.

To practice this pose, lie on your back with feet hip distance apart, relaxed and open. Hands can be alongside your body, palms facing up, or resting on the low belly.

Modifying with a bolster under the knees will relieve any tightness you may experience in the low back. A cervical pillow under the neck may also be used and is highly recommended, especially if you spend long hours in front of a computer. Using an eye pillow promotes deeper relaxation.

Hold this pose for five to ten minutes. While in savasana, systematically scan your body from head to toe, telling each muscle to relax and let go of any residual tension. Feeling your body get heavier with each breath, sinking into the support of the earth.

 

Take rest, my friends. May this practice bring you peace and comfort. Namaste.