With the New Year upon us, many people have set intentions to jump-start their yoga routines. The root of these intentions can vary widely, but a common thread is to lean down (shed the holiday calories), increase energy, and reduce stress (another common by-product of holiday festivities).
The immediate notion behind fulfilling these resolution themes is to shift into a steady schedule of vigorous practices like vinyasa yoga. The sequencing in vigorous practices creates a vehicle to jolt the metabolism into high gear and help shed pounds. What is sometimes neglected is the opportunity to fully delve into the practice of tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system and balancing out the stimulating warmth with a substantial dose of internal cooling.
Consider (as teachers and as participants) integrating a generous amount of yin/restorative style poses and sequences near the end of each practice. Get the props out and dedicate several moments to explore layers of release and grounding. These cooling phases of the practice can dramatically help shift us into deeper states of healing.
One the key benefits, especially for those seeking to improve body weight composition, is the rebalancing of the adrenal glands. As the body surrenders in extended cooling poses, we can also mimic this release mentally and emotionally. The purging of chronic stress and anxiety helps turn off the adrenal glands and the production of stress-related cortisol hormones. Cortisol production is accompanied by the production of insulin. If we exist in chronic states of stress, the production of insulin signals the body to uptake food energy as fat into fat cells. Therefore, by training the body and nervous system to purge stress, we readily improve our capacity to manage healthy body weight.
Time can readily fly by in a vinyasa practice, and often we find ourselves with only a few final minutes to pop in a quick savasana. Consider reserving a solid amount of time to weave in several earthy poses as well as a complete savasana. Some recommended propped-up poses to ground and finish off our vinyasa flows:
*Reclining Bound Angle Pose (lying with bolster supporting the spine and head OR having cushions supporting under both knees)
*Shoulder Stand Pose (lying with the hips supported by a bolster)
*Child’s Pose (lying with a bolster under the head, torso, and pelvis)
*Single Leg Pigeon Pose (reclining prone with a cushion supporting the forward hip)
*Wide Leg Forward Bend Pose (bending forward with bolster or block to support the weight of the head and neck)
*Legs Up the Wall Pose (elevate the pelvis with a firm cushion as the legs ascend up the wall)
*Savasana / Corpse Pose (place a bolster under the knees to lessen the pull of the hip flexors on the pelvis)
The overall concept of ‘yoga’ and ‘union’ becomes more apparent as we balance out the stimulating warmth of vinyasa with the earthy calmness and cooling of yin-style postures. Bring in a bolster, cushion, or other props to settle into places of deep surrender. Give the nervous system permission to savor true states of parasympathetic vibration. As we absorb the benefits of the vinyasa practice, these cooling phases become a bridge to carrying our practice into the rest of day. Prana becomes grounded, external stressors become less relevant, and the benefits of our practice become enhanced into our daily wellness routines.
Kreg Weiss is the co-founder of My Yoga Online and a certified hatha yoga teacher. Embracing his training as a kinesiologist, Kreg explores yoga with a purposeful, integrity-driven quality to allow for an experience of connection and reflection while the body finds holistic expansion and renewal. Learn more about Kreg at his site: KregWeiss.ca