We asked Emily Hyland of Pizza Loves Emily to lead a yoga class designed for service industry folks to utilize as a tool for decompressing after a busy shift. Here are the highlights from the series she taught for everyone to use at home. The poses are meant to be accessible for people of all levels of skill and flexibility. These poses are restorative in nature; this means they are passive, long-held poses, designed to help you relax, calm your nervous system, and realign your body. This series of shapes is meant to be comfortable and accessible - if you put yourself in a position that does not feel right for your body, skip it!
Restorative Fish Pose
Place one block on the medium height, lengthwise down the back of your mat. Place another block on the tall height, a few inches behind that. Sit down with the blocks behind you. Start to recline so that the first block hits the center of your back, in between the base of your shoulder blades. Lay your head on the tall block behind that. If need be, use your hands to cradle the back of your head and readjust. For the positioning of your legs, do what feels good; straight legs bound by a belt, bent knees with soles of the feet touching, or simply bent knees with feet on the ground - whatever feels comfortable. If the block height feels too high, or you have back issues, bring the blocks down a level or skip this pose entirely. To exit the pose, carefully roll yourself up to sit, using your hands on the ground to help prop yourself up.
Lie flat on the ground. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground, hips-width apart. Push down into your feet to lift your hips. While hips are lifted, slide the block - at the low or medium height - underneath your sacrum - this is the space between the top of your butt and low back and should feel fairly comfortable. Let the weight of your body relax onto the block. When exiting this pose, move slowly to lift your hips. Once you have removed the blocks, take your time lowering your whole back body to the ground and enjoy the full feeling of space that has been created.
Loop a strap around your thighs right above the knees. Lie on the ground Draw your knees in towards your chest so you can reach the belt - tighten it to keep your upper legs together. Then place your feet on the floor. As your knees and upper legs stay bound together from the strap, move your feet roughly as wide as your yoga mat. Make sure the outer edges of your feet are roughly parallel to the outer edges of your mat. Let your arms rest in any position that is comfortable. To exit the pose, walk your legs together, draw your knees into your chest to loosen the strap, and then place your feet back on the ground strap-free in the same position. From there, gently sway your legs from side to side for release.
Lie on your back with your feet on the ground. Draw your knees in towards your chest and then let them gently fall to the right while your upper back stays on the ground. If your legs do not easily fall to the ground, place a blanket or bolster under your legs to bring the ground to you! Either keep your gaze up towards to ceiling or gently turn your head to the left. For the other side, simply come back through center and switch.
Sit on the floor or on the edge of a folded blanket. Place the soles of your feet together so your legs form a diamond shape. If your knees need support, slide a blanket or block underneath the outer edge of each leg for support. Breathe in and sit tall. As you exhale, fold yourself down over your legs. If your head does not easily fall into the basket of your feet, stack blocks until your forehead has a place to rest or snuggle onto a bolster.
Legs Up the Wall
Sit with one side of your body super close to the wall. Then, roll onto your back and let your legs go up the wall. As you do this, aim to keep your sitting bones as close to the wall as possible. It may feel nice to let your legs straddle open, or it may feel nice to support your legs in a straight up position with a strap (as seen in the picture). However this pose is comfortable, use it as an opportunity to release from the work of being on your feet all night and enjoy reversing the effects of gravity on those legs that keep you up and about all day.
Never underestimate the importance of a simple rest. Lie down on the floor, consciously aiming for your body to be symmetrical. Support anything that needs support, for example, place: A blanket under your head A bolster under your upper legs A warm blanket over your front body Let yourself relish in the chance to notice without participating, feel your breath move in and out intrinsically, and honor yourself as a human being doing her best.