A pile of props can make dropping into deep relaxation easy, but we may at times find ourselves teaching or practicing in places without many props available. Or we may discover that our prop storehouse has been raided (the vinyasa class in Studio A, say, borrowed all the restorative props from Studio B). Or maybe it’s the perfect day to move our restorative class outdoors, but we don’t want to lug a ton of props with us.
And some of us may simply want to challenge our idea of what we deem necessary for restoration, allowing ourselves to see if it’s possible to relax without a bevy of bolsters, blankets, blocks, and straps. After all, letting go of our attachment to what we think we need can assist us in our journey toward a deeper surrender.
For the restorative sequence below, the only prop you’ll need is one blanket.
Depending on how long you take to transition between poses, this practice takes about an hour (spending five minutes in each pose). The transitions are deliberately simple: You move from your back to your sides, to your belly, then back onto your back, adjusting the single blanket as you need to.
Theming the Practice
Teachers and students who enjoy a thematic focal point might try the following motifs with the practice that follows:
• Surrender and detachment
• The cycle of nature (since we roll over, then roll over again)
• Svadhisthana chakra (because of the various positions of the hips)
• Manipura chakra (because of the very gentle stretching around and deep inside the waist)
• Coming back home to ourselves (since we return to savasana three times, with small variations)
To begin, fold your blanket lengthwise from its relatively square yoga-studio fold, to create a long rectangle.
1. Savasana With a Blanket Over Your Belly
Lie on your back in savasana and drape your blanket over your belly. Place your arms a comfortable distance away from your body, and let your legs drop open with your feet a foot or so apart. The gentle weight of the blanket may make it easier for you to tune into the rise of your belly with each inhale and the fall with each exhale.
2. Fallen Tree Pose
Move the blanket to your right side, placing it lengthwise next to your right hip. Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot on or near your left thigh to come into a reclining version of tree. Allow your arms to remain as they were in savasana.
The blanket will ideally support your right thigh and right shin. However, if you feel strain in your right hip or inner thigh, or your thigh is too far away from the blanket, fold the blanket again and place the doubled blanket under your right thigh near your hip.
Don’t repeat this pose on the second side just yet—you’ll come back to it later.
3. Supine Twist
From tree, raise your right knee to the sky and then extend your right leg along the floor (keeping the blanket next to your right hip). Bring your arms to shoulder height, palms facing up. Bend both knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart. Press your feet down to lift your hips up, shift your hips to the left, and then lower back down; drop both knees to the right and rest your outer right thigh on the blanket. Make the twist comfortable, stacking your knees or not (according to your preference).
You can also place the blanket between your shins to keep ankles and knees from pressing into each other.
Don’t switch sides just yet.
4. Downward Facing Fallen Tree Pose
With the blanket next to you on your right, roll onto your belly, straightening your right leg and bending your left knee so that your left shin is supported by the blanket and your left foot is pointing toward your right thigh.
Encourage your belly, your entire chest, and your right thigh to release into the ground. Stack your hands under your forehead as a pillow.
If your hip bones are pressing into the ground uncomfortably, unfold the blanket to its original squarer shape and place it under you to provide padding for the bottom of your rib cage and your pelvis. (You will keep this blanket arrangement for the pose that follows.)
Don’t switch sides just yet.
5. Downward Facing Savasana, Aka Crocodile
Unfold your blanket so that it’s in its original squarer configuration. Lower your belly onto it, and straighten both legs. Stack your hands under your forehead as a pillow.
6. Savasana With a Blanket Across Your Thighs
Roll onto your back, removing the blanket from under you. Refold the blanket into its rectangular shape and place it over your thighs, where it can lightly encourage the tops of your thighs to drop. This is your second pass at savasana—has it gotten easier? Notice any differences between this savasana and the first one of your restorative practice.
Now, repeat poses 2, 3, 4, and 5 on the second side.
7. Savasana With a Rolled-Up Blanket Under Your Knees
Lie on your back again. Roll up your blanket into a cylinder and place it under your knees as you arrange yourself for your third (and perhaps deepest?) savasana.
If you were able to relax in this pared-down practice, you might ponder what else you could surrender. What do you usually consider essential for a restorative practice? Music? Silence? A perfectly calm and ordered life? Yoga challenges us to reconsider our assumptions about what we think we need, and to give up what we can, from the tension that is not serving us to our prerequisites for deep relaxation.
Authors note: Want another minimalist restorative practice that prioritizes simple transitions? If you have two blankets (or one bolster) and a block, try this sequence.