Poses of Repose

by Tracey Rich

Your body needs rest. And we need as much encouragement and as many opportunities as possible to nurture our nervous and immune systems. Concentrated periods of deep sleep or deep ease can bring the necessary rebalance our body-mind ecosystem needs to function optimally. There is no better time than in this moment with life's currently abundant stressors to learn to listen to the rhythms calling out to us and to use a few simple tools to relax and reboot. When nature calls you must listen. Rest is central to your well being.

In asana, savasana is considered one of the most important poses in your practice--if not the most important pose. Learning to take yourself into a deeper state of relaxation is invaluable. This asana can also be cultivated on its own, entirely separately from a sequence of asanas. A good savasana is worth its weight in gold.

As well, moving into other conscious, supported supine positions that encourage periods of repose are wonderful ways to get supercharged benefits delighting the parasympathetic system which helps support the immune system. An asana as simple as taking your legs up the wall for three to fifteen minutes can reignite your energy while calming you at very deep level.

The next time you have the impulse to reach for an afternoon, caffeinated adrenaline boost...don't. Instead, do your whole being, your immune and nervous system, and your night's sleep a favor. Take a load off and give yourself a leg up with a few moments of rest and reset in a pose of repose.

The following are steps for: Legs up the Wall

Place your mat on the floor where you have an empty space on a wall; the narrow end of your mat facing the wall.

Also place one or two blankets folded into a rectangular shape at the base of your mat closest to the wall. The uneven or open edges of the blanket should be facing the far end of your mat, and the rounded, closed ends of the blanket will be facing the wall. This will allow the firmer part of the folded blanket to be supporting your hips, and the open layers of the blanket to be more comfortably situated under your lower back and ribs.

You can also trifold your blanket for a firmer and more elevated support under your sacral area. This variation will take up the larger gap between your lower body and the floor that is created from a tucked pelvis resulting from tight hamstrings; the same situation that produces a rounded lower back in a sitting position. You may need to readjust your blanket a couple of times until you find the most optimal and comfortable blanket support for you in this pose.  

Lying on your side at one of the outer edges of your mat with your heels and buttocks touching the wall or close to the wall, roll onto your back. This approach should center you on your mat with your knees tucked into your chest.

Begin this practice with several deep ujjayi breaths, then slowly raise your legs up the wall and continue to focus on your breath throughout the time of your repose.

Rest your hands several inches away from your sides with the palms facing up as you would in savasana and let the placement of your head retain the natural curve in the back of your neck. If your chin tends to tilt upward during a savasana, then here too, add some support the back of your head just under the curve of your skull using a wash rag, a thin blanket, or a roll or two of the mat you are resting on.

Options: In addition to resting with your legs up the wall, you can alternate between placing your legs into the cobbler position (Baddhakonasana) or the straddle split position (Upphavistakonasana).

Straight legs up the wall can be relieved by softening your knee caps and slightly bending your knees as often as you like.  

Your arm positioning can also shift by crossing you arms at your chest, or resting your palms on your abdomen, or taking your arms over your head with the backs of your hands resting on the floor. In this third arm variation, pay attention to your shoulder joints, making sure you do not feel any compression in the joints, nor leave your arms in position so long that there is tingling of the nerves.  

Rest with your legs up the wall for as long as you feel relaxed throughout your entire body.

When you are ready to release the pose, lower your knees to your chest. Roll your head from side to side, then roll your entire body to one side transitioning in this position for as long as you like. Keeping your chin towards your chest continue to spiral up to a seated position. Sit with your eyes closed, breathing deeply until you feel ready to open your eyes.