Reflections on a Restorative Yoga Practice
Choose one of the restorative poses you looked at with Catherine and set yourself up in it. Get a reading on your general state (nervous system state) before the pose. Spend at least 20 minutes in the pose. Take a reading of how you feel afterward. You can get technical and take your pulse if you want, or just write a few words to describe how you feel mentally, emotionally, energetically before and after. Report back.
I chose Supta Baddha Konasana (or Reclining Bound Angle Pose) as the restorative pose to explore for this exercise. I find something deeply appealing in the combination of closing the circuit at the soles of the feet, gently stretching the groin and hips, and opening the front of the body that this asana offers. I set up cushions to allow myself to recline at a 45 degree angle (which somehow feels gentler and more supported than lying prone), added pillows to support my knees and to take the work out of the groin stretch, and rolled a soft blanket for some lumbar support, finishing off with a blanket covering for warmth and an eye pillow for darkness.
The first sensation I observed as I relaxed into the pose was the low level nerve pain that always seems to be in the background. The words “broken glass” came to mind to describe the sensation of many tiny sharp sensations in the nerves. I followed this observation with a soft downward scan from the crown of the head and became aware of a slight tension in the muscles of the face, which I consciously relaxed with the thought of a half-smile. As my breathing slowed and deepened, I was aware of the possibility of allowing each exhalation to release accumulated tensions, with the breath’s motion becoming a gentle rocking like that of calm ocean waves.
I recalled Catherine’s description of the ideal state of mind during a restorative pose being one of “floating” between waking and sleeping, and as it was afternoon when the urge to nap often arises, I quickly slipped into that floating state. Several times awareness was lost as consciousness slipped into a light sleep and dream images began to arise. Interestingly, not once but twice (with some time in between), an image arose of a man acting violently, which sent a surge of energy through the nervous system.
At one point, after floating for awhile, an unformed thought arose as if from nowhere and produced an involuntary muscle twitch.
At another point, a Harley rode by, and I observed the arising of the throbbing engine sound, and then its passing away to the edge of imperceptibility.
A rhythm developed of cycling through the dissolution into light dream, images flowing up from the depths unbidden, then awareness reemerging, and observing the flow of the mindstream – thoughts, internal sensations, external sensory impressions, all arising, then passing away – until again awareness dissolved back into the dreaming state.
Toward the end of the session I seem to have recovered enough energy to remain awake, aware and still, and I had the thought that there seems to be a great deal of preparatory work necessary in order to have enough energy to maintain unbroken awareness for deep meditation – I’m guessing that this work involves the balancing and tuning, or tempering, of the nervous system – but in the meantime, at least I enjoyed what felt like a very high-quality rest.