Creating the Calm Before the Storm: Restorative Yoga for High-Stress Times

As we watched the weather channel, running on an endless loop in our living room, I could see my husband getting more and more tense. We were waiting for the storm, and we were in for a long night. The house was prepped. We had ice and supplies. Battery operated lanterns and flashlights were distributed in key points around the house. The AC was turned down to a chilly 65 degrees, and the obligatory pre-storm gumbo was put away in the fridge. It was too late to evacuate. We made the decision to stay, and we were riding out the storm. All that was left to do was wait.

Calm seaMadness in the Waiting

There is nobody I would rather be in the trenches with than my husband. As a partnership, we shine in crisis. My Eagle Scout is an amazing man with incredible talents and capabilities, and I’m not too bad myself. But at a certain point, there just isn’t anything left to do. When we reach the point where we are powerless in a situation that is no longer in our control, the anxiety can be maddening.

We have been through storms and other crises before. This was not our first rodeo. And yet, I don’t think the calm before the storm is any easier. And I don’t think there is really any calm to be had anyway. So that night, we decided to make our own.

Creating Your Own Calm with Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is a practice where you move your body into ultra-comfortable positions and then stay there for extended holds. Imagine propping yourself onto lots of pillows and really letting go. It’s an incredible sensation, and it’s great for your body too. When we stay in the “fight or flight” high-stress mentality for too long, it takes a toll on our bodies. Restorative yoga helps to calm the nervous system and let us reset.

Whenever I am in periods of high stress, I make a point to take breaks for restorative yoga. I find my outlook becomes more positive, I can more clearly think and make good decisions, and I am more invigorated to get back to my work.

So in the midst of our wait, knowing we needed to sleep (which seemed impossible at the time), I suggested we do a short restorative yoga session to try to wind down. My husband was highly skeptical, but it’s not like we had anything else to do, so he agreed to go along and try it out. He only made it through two out of three poses before he fell soundly asleep and slept all night through the storm.

A Short and Sweet Practice for Time of Stress

Here are the three poses you can try out. Make whatever adjustments you need to be super comfortable. Feel completely supported so you can really let go. I am recommending a 20 minute practice with the time below, but feel free to adjust this to suit you. You could try one, two, or all three. You could go for shorter or longer times. It’s up to you. (And note: you could try doing your restorative practice in bed. We use a lot of pillows and blankets as props anyway, and that way, if you fall asleep, you’re already where you need to be.)

Legs up the wall pose

Legs Up the Wall Pose – Lie on your back with your hips near a wall. Walk your feet up the wall with your heels gently resting on the wall. You may want to put a pillow or folded blanket under your head and shoulders and/or hips. You may need to get closer to or farther from the wall. Your arms could be down by your sides, out to the side, or out to the side and bent at 90 degrees. Make any adjustments you need to be completely comfortable and stay here for 5 minutes.

Reclined supported bound angle poseSupported Bound Angle – You will need at least two pillows and a rolled blanket or towel. Place one pillow in a horizontal direction and another perpendicular to it in a vertical configuration. Lay down on the top pillow so that your head, neck, and back are fully supported and slightly elevated. Bend your legs and place your feet on the mat/bed. Place the center of the rolled blanket/towel in front of your ankles. Wrap each side of the rolled blanket/towel behind your ankles and pull to secure. Let your hips open to the sides. You may want to add additional pillows/blankets/blocks/supports under your knees. Place your arms loosely down by your sides with your palms facing up. You may want to add additional pillows/blankets/blocks/supports under your elbows. Make any adjustments you need to be completely comfortable and stay here for 5 minutes.

Supported relaxation poseSupported Relaxation Pose – Use the same two-pillow set up from the Supported Bound Angle Pose. Lay down on your pillows so that your head, neck, and back are fully supported and slightly elevated. Extend your legs out. You may want to use a rolled towel/blanket for extra support underneath your knees. Alternatively, you can bend your legs, with your feet on the bed/mat, gently resting your knees against each other. Your arms can be down by your sides or out to the side. Make any adjustments you need to be completely comfortable and stay here for 10 minutes.

If you would like to practice with me, check out my Vimeo page. I have this restorative practice, as well as other free restorative, yin, prenatal, vinyasa, and gentle flow sessions posted.

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