Friday 7th April – restorative?

What’s the phrase…”one man’s meat is another man’s poison“. I think that sort of sums up the traditional classes this week!

The yoga classes I go to are Iyengar yoga. It’s a form of yoga that focuses a lot on performing asana correctly. Although I’m not an Iyengar teacher, the style influences what I teach and how I teach. Incidentally, I go to classes at Yogawest and also classes with Bob Phillips, or Yoga Bob as he’s also known. Bob was my first Iyengar teacher nearly 20 years ago. I keep going back because he is an excellent teacher.

Now, there are a lot of asanas, so to keep everyone interested and challenged classes normally follow something called the Pune Cycle. This is as follows:

  • Week 1 – Standing poses
  • Week 2 – Forward bends
  • Week 3 – Back bends
  • Week 4 – Restorative

I planned the lesson this week to be a restorative lesson. No vigorous standing poses. No intensive forward bends. No challenging back bends. No, instead the focus was on relaxation and working on flexibility in the hips and working towards Padmasana, which is a fundamental aim of yoga. It’s a pose which allows you to sit and meditate without too much physical effort.

It does, however, take quite a lot of work to get there. Hips, knees and ankles all need to be flexible and mobile to achieve Padmasana. So that’s what we focussed on today. Starting with Supta Baddha Konasana to start developing flexibility, particularly rotational flexibility in the hips. Then we went through Baddha Konasana, Anjaneyasana, Eka Pada Rajakapitonasana and Siddhasana all with the aim of Padmasana.

At times, it has to be said, the effort required doesn’t feel altogether restorative. But it does feel very good when, at the end, as we did, you can sit in Sukhasana for Nadi Shodhana before relaxing in a well deserved, and restorative, Savasana.

The Vinyasa Flow classes don’t follow the Pune Cycle. Or at least, not so much. Although classes can and do include gentle vinyasa sequences and less demanding poses, the class as a whole is about getting the body warm and using that warmth to develop flexibility.

However, we did focus on the hips this week, with Padmasana in mind. There’s more than one way to peel an orange, after all.

First of all we warmed up with some gentle vinyasa:

  • Setu Bhanda – inhale to lift the hips, exhale to lower
  • Jathara Parivrtti – exhale to take the knees to the side, inhale to come back to centre
  • Khumerasana to Adho Mukha Virasana – inhale to extend, exhale and take heels to bum and forehead to the mat.

Having practiced moving with the breath we then did a few rounds of Surya Namaskar, before doing a vinyasa designed to develop flexibility in the hamstrings:

Tadasana -> Utkatasana -> Malasana -> Uttanasana – sometimes varying the order.

After that we worked on developing hip flexibility coming in and out of Adho Mukha Svanasana to Anjaneyasana and Eka Pada Rajakapitonasana, holding each of the stretches for a few breaths.

To end, some pranayama in a seated pose, which could be Padmasana, and then Savasana.