Oh, what a year it has been. When Covid-19 became an undeniable reality last March, it was hard to imagine we’d still be stuck at home a full year later, with hundreds of thousands of people dead, countless others with long-term health problems, millions still out of work, and thousands of small businesses shuttered. Every single one of us has suffered during this pandemic. We’ve gotten sick and lost people we loved. We’ve watched our kids struggle with remote learning and the pain of missing their friends and activities. We’ve worried about our health, our finances, our futures, and the fate of the elderly and compromised. Maybe we’ve lost our homes or couldn’t afford food. We’ve missed weddings, graduations, celebrations, vacations, face-to-face time with our social support systems, and hugs. We’ve really missed hugs! And we’ve all had to face one of our deepest, darkest fears, unable to shake the knowledge that most who have died from Covid, left this earth without their loved ones by their sides

My point here is that, regardless of how the pandemic has affected you personally, we have all been living through a collective trauma. And while we can finally see the hint of a light at the end of the tunnel, I think it’s safe to say we are all experiencing some degree of PTSD. The ramifications of this year will extend far past the point of mass vaccination and herd immunity. Whether or not we’re aware, the fear and suffering of the entire world has set up shop in our bodies…lodged itself in the tissues of our muscles, decimated our nervous systems, and broken our tender hearts. As we move towards a closer approximation of normality in the coming months, it is imperative that we take the time to tend the wounds we have acquired during this destabilizing time. Initiating, or ramping up, a Restorative Yoga Practice is a powerful way to nourish ourselves as we begin the healing process.

Restorative yoga involves spending several minutes in predominately seated and reclined poses, often supported by props. The goal is to surrender completely, connect deeply with the breath, and allow the body to release in its own time. The time and care we take to come into stillness is a radical act of self-love. It is an opportunity to discover where we are holding physical and emotional trauma, send those places the loving light of our breath, and release the trauma in a safe and supportive environment. It can be very uncomfortable, but the potential for healing is enormous. 

Restorative Poses for the Crisis Weary:

Supta Badha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose):  With our torsos supported on a bolster, blankets, or bricks, this delicious pose is a gentle heart and hip opener. We hold grief and sorrow in the upper back, chest, and lungs. This pose allows us to feel held and safe as we slowly release sorrow from our bodies, and continue to open our hearts. It helps relieve the tightness in our necks, shoulders, hips, and low backs from too much time sitting in front of computers. 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose): This pose is the antidote for sitting around and worrying. It relieves pain and tension in the low back by opening the front of the hips, and allows the psoas muscle to release. The psoas is considered the seat of our anxiety. It naturally contracts when we’re preparing to flee, play dead, or fight for our lives. As we invite breath deep into the low belly, the fear and tension we’ve been holding, perhaps unaware, will slowly begin to unravel.

Sukhasana (Sweet Pose): This is a gentle, seated hip opener that most people can comfortably explore. It helps release the hips and lower back, and stabilizes the sacrum. If the hips allow for a forward fold in this position, it provides a fantastic opportunity to breathe into the lower back ribs to support the adrenal glands.

Reclined Twists:  Twists help access and release tension deep in the back and abdominal muscles. They encourage breath to move into unexplored areas of the lungs, which increases our capacity to receive and harness prana. As we literally wring tension out of our bodies from the inside out, our spines gain flexibility and freedom.

Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Pose):  This gentle inversion is famous for settling the nervous system and nourishing the internal organs. Extra blood flows to the torso, stimulating digestion and infusing the vital organs with oxygen. Extended time in Viparita Karani will shift us out of fight or flight mode, and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxation and release.

Once the danger of the pandemic finally passes, I know we’ll all be eager to make up for lost time. When it’s safe to do so, I hope we’ll jump back into life with gratitude and a new appreciation for the simple things we may have taken for granted before it all began. We can use Restorative Yoga as a tool to help heal from this crazy year, so when the time comes to finally break free, we’ll feel relaxed, recovered, and ready to hit the ground running.