|Bedroom at Arles by Roy Lichtenstein|
Brad and I will be taking a nine-day staycation this year between Christmas and New Years Day. Because of the pandemic, he and I have been working at home since March, so staying home for nine days is even less of a “vacation” than it usually would be and many of the local activities we would normally enjoy on a staycation are either unavailable or unsafe. But Brad’s boss told him he wanted Brad to do something during that week that would allow him to return to work in the new year feeling “refreshed.” I imagine that many of you might be in a similar situation, needing some way to rest and recharge while also staying safe at home. That reminded me of some ideas I posted a few years about how to take a yoga staycation. And I realized this would be a good time to share them again. You can use them to create a yoga staycation in your own home or you can take them with you if you do leave town to help enhance the vacation-ness of your vacation.
1. Explore Savasana
Although it’s one of the original yoga poses, Savasana tends to get short shrift in modern yoga classes. But this powerful pose allows you to achieve both deep physical and mental relaxation in an anatomically neutral, symmetrical position. What makes this pose so different than just lying down is that Savasana triggers the relaxation response (see here) because you bring your attention to your body and your mind while you lie on the floor instead of just daydreaming or spacing out. And it qualifies as a yoga pose, because to practice Savasana properly, you:
- Align your body
- Remain still
- Use a mental focus
- Maintain your awareness as you come out of the pose
If you don’t practice Savasana regularly at home, try it. If you do practice it but only as an afterthought, try practicing it for a longer time and make sure you practice it as a “pose” rather than just lying down. You can even experiment with having one long Savasana be your entire practice. For information on the pose, see:
For a sequence to practice to prepare for Savasana, see: Featured Sequence: Preparing for Savasana.
For inspiration about why and how to practice Savasana, see:
Roger Cole on Savasana: The Mind Coming into Equilibrium and Drawing Inside and Quieting
Tias Little on Savasana: The Practice of Savasana, Part 1 and Part 2
Richard Rosen on Savasana: The Value of Not Doing
2. Practice Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga is a form of yoga that was specially designed to provide deep rest and relaxation. In restorative yoga, you use props to support yourself in the shape of a classic yoga pose, including forward bends, backbends, side stretches, twists, and inversions. For example, in Child’s Pose, rather than folding forward all the way on to the floor, you use a bolster or stack of folded blankets to support your entire front body. So restorative yoga is perfect for yoga staycation! See Restorative Yoga: An Introduction for more information. You can add these poses to an active practice (at the end or even the beginning) or practice an entire restorative sequence. For a simple, three-pose practice see Mini Restorative Practice.
Although we don’t have all the restorative poses on our site, we do have information on these:
Featured Pose: Child’s Pose for information on the restorative version of Child’s pose.
Featured Pose: Reclined Twist for information on the restorative version of Reclined Twist.
Featured Pose: Supported Backbend
Reclined Cobbler’s Pose
Bridge Pose for information on the restorative version of Bridge pose.
3. Practice Supported Inversions
Supported inverted poses are particularly effective for reducing stress and quieting your mind because these yoga poses use gravity to trigger the relaxation response through the mechanisms that control your blood pressure. You don’t need a mental focus (although you can use one). As long as you are warm, quiet, and comfortable in the pose, all you have to do is let the pose work its magic. See Why You Should Love Your Baroreceptors. For your yoga staycation, you can add more or more of these poses to your regular practice or even do a practice focused exclusively on them, such as Featured Sequence: Easy Supported Inverted Practice.
Caution: Not everyone can do supported inverted poses safely. See Friday Q&A: Caution for Inversions for information.
For an overview of supported inverted poses in general (and to see photos of all of them), see All About Supported Inversions. For information on individual poses, see:
- Featured Pose: Legs Up the Wall Pose
- Featured Pose: Standing Forward Bend
- Featured Pose: Wide-Legged Forward Bend
- Featured Pose: Chair Shoulderstand
- Featured Pose: Half Plow Pose
- Featured Pose: Bridge Pose for information on version 4 (with a bolster)
- Featured Pose: Easy Inverted Pose
4. Make Any Practice More Gentle
|Crocodile Pose (Makrasana)|
Why not treat yourself to a gentle practice now and then? Or maybe even a whole week of gentle practices? If you have a strong home practice, it will be interesting to see what affects a gentle practice has on you. And if you don’t yet have a home practice, a gentle practice is the perfect way to start. Here are some tips for making any existing practice (including the ones on our site—search under “Featured Sequence”) into a gentle practice.
- For dynamic poses, do fewer repetitions, for example, do 3 rounds of dynamic Warrior 2 instead of 6.
- For static poses, use shorter holds, for example, hold Warrior 3 pose for 3 breaths instead of 6.
- For restorative poses, extend your time in the poses.
- Leave out the most vigorous pose or poses from the sequence, either just skipping them or replacing them with gentle or restorative poses.
- Between active poses, rest in Relaxation pose or another resting pose.
Some good resting poses are:
- Relaxation Pose (Savasana): Especially good between supine poses (on your back).
- Crocodile Pose (Makrasana): Especially good between prone poses (on your belly), such as Locust and Cobra. (See above for photo.)
- Easy Sitting Pose (Sukasana): Especially good between seated poses, such as twists.
- Moutain Pose (Tadasana): Especially good between standing poses.
- Child’s Pose (Balasana): Especially good after inverted poses and prone poses.
5. Focus on Breath Practices
Yoga breath practices (pranayama) allow you to self regulate. For your staycation, if you want a quieting or soothing experience, you can add calming breath practices to your routine. And when you want just a moderate amount of calming or stimulating, you add use practices. Not all forms of pranayama are relaxing, so see read this Pranayama: A Powerful Key to Your Nervous System to understand how pranayama works and how to choose the right practices for you.
By the way, you don’t have to do these practices sitting up! For your staycation, try them in any restorative pose (Reclined Cobbler’s pose and Child’s pose are good choices) or any gentle inverted pose, such as Legs Up the Wall pose, Easy Inverted Pose, or Bridge pose with straight legs. I personally have found the combination of Legs Up the Wall pose with extending the exhalation to be extremely relaxing.
If you have never practiced simple breath awareness, that’s the best place to start. See A Balm for the Soul: Practicing Simple Breath Awareness.
For balancing breath practices, see Breath Practices for Balance.
6. Guided Relaxation and Meditation
Modern guided relaxation practices allow you to achieve both physical relaxation and reduce stress levels by guiding you through a deep physical relaxation experience and providing mental imagery to harness you to the present. These include basic body scans and visualization practices, as well as formal practices such as yoga nidra. If you’d like try a short one for your staycation, Baxter has a couple on our site at Audio Tracks. And there are ton of others out there, if you’re looking for a longer experience.
And how about treating yourself to a guided meditation? Jill Satterfield has several wonderful guided meditations of different lengths on her youtube station.