Breaking down my defences – with a bolster (and some Bollinger!)

I did my first restorative yoga class this evening. It’s a new offering at my studio that has focused up to now largely on more dynamic flowing practices plus hot yoga. I’m keen to explore new ways of practicing and my hamstring is hopeful that I’ll lighten up on the surya namaskars, so this is a well-timed innovation for me.

The class was lovely. The teacher was assured and calm. My hamstring and I felt well looked after, especially as we talked before class (me and the teacher I mean — I’m not quite conversational with my hammy despite our intimate relationship!) about any particular care I should take, like rolling up a extra blanket for support under my leg when I needed it.

bolstersWe used a huge number of props — 1 strap, 1 bolster, 2 bricks, 3 blankets, 4 blocks. Plus cosy socks for a long savasana! I found setting up all the props each time seriously distracting and I couldn’t maintain any mental focus through the class. I guess that’ll improve over time, assuming there’s not too much variation in what we do in each time. And provided I remain happy to swap my early morning vinyasa class for an evening restorative session.

The class wasn’t as challenging as I’d expected. Sure my mind wandered, but I’m used to that in my sitting meditation practice and have long since stopped berating myself for that. It was interesting to find new distractions though, compared to my regular sitting practice at home. During that at least the posture feels familiar. Now every asana provided my brain endless entertainment feeling a host of sensations from tense muscles to the coolness of the floor on the back of my hands. And the music. I found myself endlessly drawn into the music. I’ve been thinking a lot about sounds recently, so perhaps this was inevitable: “Tasmai shri gurave namah” didn’t invoke any sense of devotion, it just distracted my thinking mind into trying to remember the full mantra. A bit like finding lorem ipsum so distracting even though it’s intended to be the very opposite, just a neutral background that you can ignore. No such luck with my brain.

I knew my body would find it hard to relax. But I was surprised by the amount of tension I could feel that related to my hamstring injury. I could feel my body bracing defensively to protect it from any possible over-stretch. I was usually just starting to settle in when it was time to change pose. Perhaps I’m the only person to find a restorative yoga class too fast-moving! The passivity of opening into a pose (“receiving a pose” as the teacher put it) is impossible to rush and I don’t really know what technique to employ to help. It’s not like ujjayi breathe to increase length in a pose in a dynamic class. Letting go is a totally different ball-game. Patience is probably the simple (not easy) solution here.

BollingerIn the spirit of cultivating diverse practices, when I got home I worked on relaxation in a rather different way. Yes, now that I’m through my course of antibiotics I was finally able to toast my birthday with some real bubbly!

Have a nice weekend, all, whatever you’re doing!

2 thoughts on “Breaking down my defences – with a bolster (and some Bollinger!)

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  1. I find it nice to incorporate one or two restorative poses into my practice when I’m feeling particularly tired or just craving that release. It provides an opportunity to embrace surrender and can be very sweet.
    (A thought about hot yoga and your hamstring injury: practising in a very hot room can create an unsafe amount of stretch in muscles and lead to injury, so I have read…)


    1. I need way more practice in surrendering before it becomes sweet to me!
      Yes, I agree about potential for muscle strain in hot yoga — thank you for thinking of my hamstring! I don’t practice in the hot studio for that reason. Tried it once and it left me a bit cold (ha ha!) — it was a nice workout, but felt a little empty to me. And more health warnings in recent news I see..


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