What You Need to Know About Restorative Yoga

Written by AYC Instructor Paige Gilchrist

Okay, so we’ve got a little irony right off the bat. Striving to get the best results in restorative yoga? As in powering up your dreaming or asking your bubble bath to multi-task? Restorative yoga is, after all, the art of undoing. But let’s be honest, that’s not so easy in a full-throttle culture that encourages us to make the most of all things. Here are some simple suggestions to calm the impulse to accomplish, and instead just be. You might find this will lead you quietly toward the peace and restoration your body really needs.

Talk About Yourself

Arrive a little early and share with your teacher anything you’re dealing with physically or energetically. If you’ve recently had a medical procedure, that’s especially important to communicate. Simply mentioning the chronic ache in your low back, or the fact that you overdid it the day before at the gym, can also be helpful. We teachers are grateful when you take the time to let us know! We can then spend a couple of minutes together before class to customize pose modifications and prop configurations, if necessary, to make you feel supported and safe.

Prop Up

Speaking of props, restorative yoga poses typically involve a lot of them. Props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks, straps, sandbags and eye pillows are all available at the Studio for you to use as you see fit. They’re meant to support you fully as you sink into comfortable shapes for long, luxurious amounts of time. They allow your physical body, and then all of your other layers, to release tension habits and holding patterns. Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of props you may accumulate, or the blanket folding, bolster stacking or other ways to assemble and rearrange your props as class moves along. You can think of it as part of a self-care ritual and know that the more restorative yoga you practice, the more familiar the props will become. You’ll start to determine a better feel for how they can best support you.

Get Comfy

Be really and truly comfortable. In other styles of yoga, there may be a benefit to sticking with something that feels challenging or even uncomfortable. However, this is not the case with restorative yoga. The whole idea is to allow your nervous system, which probably spends much of its time on high alert, to shift into deep relaxation mode. It can’t do that if you’re enduring a sensation that’s too strong. Tuck a bolster under the place that’s feeling overstretched. Cover your body with a blanket. Don’t worry about fidgeting, adjusting and re-adjusting the props. Don’t worry about adding or subtracting layers of clothing or coming out of a pose entirely. Take your time and experiment with props to settle into each pose so it feels nurturing and restful.

Ask Away

Look to your instructor if a pose setup is unclear. You may want to modify a pose but feel unsure about how to approach it. Maybe you need an extra prop. Don’t hesitate to let your teacher know so that they can assist you during your practice. Our main job, especially in restorative yoga, is to support you, so don’t be shy about inviting us to do that.

Let Go

This is the most overused cliché in the yoga world, but this “letting go” business you hear about so often has its roots in restorative yoga. As we gradually drop the need to constantly be busy, it offers the opportunity to enjoy sinking into rest, support and deep relaxation. Our breathing, blood pressure and heart rate slow, releasing stress and tension. We then start to replenish, repair and heal on every level.  Restorative classes take practice and gentle intention. They’re often a lot easier with group support and the guidance of a teacher, which is why this type of yoga can be so magical.

Try a restorative class. Your body will thank you for it.

See our class schedule for upcoming restorative yoga classes.

Sign up for AYC’s holiday class challenge! Take 10 restorative yoga classes in December and receive a free eye pillow! The word “restorative” must be in the name of the class for it to count.

What is Kaiut Yoga?

By AYC Instructor Tucker Shelton

The yoga of the ancients was designed to work with bodies that lived and grew very differently from how our modern bodies live and grow. Dwelling in caves, squatting constantly, the ancients did not spend any time in chairs. In today’s Western society we have a culture that revolves around chair sitting. We are taught to sit to learn in school. We sit to work. We sit to eat, to drive, to relax — in fact, you’re probably sitting right now to read this.

The truth is that your bones have grown while you were sitting. Your joints were molded by the way you sat, and now the majority of alignment issues, chronic pain, injury, and disease can be related back to sitting. This is the cornerstone upon which the Kaiut Yoga Method stands.

The Kaiut yoga method is a floor-based practice that utilizes gravity to unwind chronic restrictions in the joints. This practice is most easily comparable to Yin yoga in the sense that it involves long-held shapes and works with the joints. However, there are vast differences between these two styles of yoga.

In Kaiut yoga, we hold poses and utilize finely directed micro-engagements to release adhesions in the connective tissue, which both strengthens and opens the joints.

The results of Kaiut yoga are undeniable:

  • Chronic pain relief
  • Alleviation of inflammatory disease symptoms
  • Joint mobilization
  • Better sleep
  • Improved circulation

That’s just to name a few.

Kaiut yoga is designed for biomechanical optimization. It is a practice for all bodies, no exceptions. Tight athletes, hyper-flexible dancers, octogenarians with joint replacements, persons with chronic illness, traumatic injury survivors, and truly anyone with aches and stiffness from daily life will find juicy nourishment in this classroom.

This burgeoning modality is ready to take the world by storm, and Tucker Shelton is the only Kaiut yoga instructor in Asheville — and one of just two in North Carolina! Join Tucker’s Kaiut yoga class and experience the next evolution of yoga!

Look for Tucker’s Kaiut class on the AYC class schedule under the title “Therapeutic Yin” on Wednesdays 12:30-1:45 pm.

You can also get a deliciously deep dive into Kaiut by registering for Tucker’s Joint and Fascial Tissue Therapeutics Workshop on Thursday, September 13, 5:45-7:45 pm.

How Yoga Can Improve Your Active Lifestyle

5 ways that practicing yoga can benefit athletes

Athletes and people who lead an active lifestyle are no strangers to muscle tension and soreness — especially if that lifestyle includes kayaking, climbing, biking, or running. While these recreational activities will keep you fit in their own right, supplementing your current hobbies with yoga can yield a wide range of benefits. By practicing yoga, you’re not only reducing your risk of injury by keeping your muscles and joints limber, you can also improve your performance as a runner, paddler, biker, or even weight lifter.

To help you reap the rewards of yoga, we’ve developed a number of yoga workshops at Asheville Yoga Center specifically for those with active interests. A couple of examples include our three-hour Yoga for Paddlers workshop hosted by renowned kayaker Anna Levesque, who instructs on proper alignment and poses to target the muscles used (and underused) in paddle sports. Another is a four-week Yoga for Runners series, where AYC instructor Sierra Hollister uses yoga to restore symmetry and increase flexibility to help runners improve their performance.

We won’t go into a long-winded explanation of ALL the benefits of yoga (spoiler: there are a lot), but here are four of our favorite ways that yoga can help people who love to live an active life.

Increased Flexibility

If you’re an avid runner or athlete, it’s no secret that you can reduce your risk of injury through stretching. But by adding Yin yoga to your weekly routine, you’ll bring mobility and increased flexibility to all of your muscles. Yin yoga involves holding passive floor poses for extended periods of time to reap the maximum benefits of the position. Poses can be held for up to 5 minutes, sometimes longer, and the poses focus on the connective tissues of the body. This provides balance to the muscles underused in your active lifestyle, and supports the health of the muscles you’re activating during your running or paddling.

Improved Recovery Time

In yoga, much emphasis is placed on the breath: as you move through each position, you take long, deep breaths to send oxygen-rich blood flowing to all corners of your body. These breathing techniques can help maintain muscle elasticity and improve the recovery time of your sore or injured muscles. The stretches you receive through yoga practice also expedite recovery time: as you gently stretch your muscles during your yoga practice, you allow them to relax and reduce inflammation where it’s present.

Muscle Gains

Virtually any style of yoga will offer increased strength when practiced regularly, but by adding POWER to your yoga you can really tone your body from head to toes. “Power” yoga is largely inspired by Ashtanga yoga, a style that incorporates synchronized breathing with each movement to produce flowing patterns of motion and energy. Power flows are often considered the “athletic” style of yoga, as the rigorous vinyasa flow stokes an inner fire to burn calories and build strength. By incorporating a weekly power flow yoga class, you’ll more than likely find that your performance in running, kayaking, climbing, or other active hobby improves significantly. Not to mention the value of building up the muscles you don’t use as often.

Reduced Tension

Yoga offers an opportunity to quiet the mind and listen to the body as you gently move through stretches and poses. By engaging with your muscles in a new way — whether it’s through sun salutations or gentle restorative yin yoga — you’ll be able to feel the corners of your body that have been holding tension. The more you practice, the more in-tune with your body you’ll become, and the easier it will be to notice where you hold tension and how to reverse the chronic fatigue and soreness you experience from running, paddling, climbing, etc.

Improved Endurance

Yoga teaches you to better utilize your breath, which in turn allows your body to more effectively use oxygen. This alone is a key component to improved endurance, because the body uses oxygen to produce energy during exercise. By focusing on the breath during active or restorative yoga practice, you are conditioning your lungs and respiratory systems for aerobic sports such as running or paddling. In addition to this, yoga breathing creates space in the body, allowing more space for oxygen-rich blood to flow.

So what are you waiting for? Even if you only have 20 minutes a day to dedicate to your yoga practice, make it happen. If you’re new to yoga and need instruction, Asheville Yoga Center offers a variety of beginner-friendly yoga classes every day.

20 Minutes of Turning Inward

Meditation accounts for four of the eight limbs of yoga, and is an important aspect of any yogi’s practice. To meditate is to bring yourself into a state of thoughtful awareness, one that allows you to look inward and focus on yourself. Meditating can begin by focusing on your breath, allowing you to be present in the moment.

The benefits of yoga and meditating are numerous, and can help you see the world in a more positive light. It can be a challenge at first to meditate, and some may find it intimidating. Whether you meditate often or you’re new to meditation, this 20-minute audio will help guide you through your practice.

Find a comfortable, quiet place before you begin to turn your attention inward. By adding this 20-minute break to your day, you can help reduce your stress and become more present in your day-to-day life.

20 Minute Mediation:

By Richard Fabio

About Richard Fabio:

Richard Fabio is certified with Yoga Alliance through the Asheville Yoga Center Teacher Training program. During the training Richard really impressed Stephanie Keach (the program director and head mama bear of the yoga center) with his natural talent. He is fully committed to yoga as a way of being, taking yoga well beyond the mat. His early yogic path began with sitting meditation. While his mind approached stillness, he struggled with chronic lower back and neck pain. Richard remembers barely reaching his hands past his knees in a forward fold. He quickly realized the importance of a strong physical practice for the process of healing. Richard is now a firm believer in the importance of proper biomechanics to restore the body to wellness. In Richard’s classes, students benefit from fun dynamic postures combined with insights from his meditation practice. Richard would like to honor and thank his many teachers and the beautiful lessons that have shaped his path, especially his dear friend and guru Gary Weber.

Richard’s upcoming classes at Asheville Yoga Center:

 

How Ayurveda Compliments Your Yoga Practice

By Stephanie Keach

Hatha Yoga does an amazing job at strengthening, stretching and detoxifying the body, while helping to replenish and rejuvenate all the internal glands and organs. Yet for some, it may not be enough for full wellbeing.

Yoga has a sister, her name is Ayurveda (both born in India).  If Yoga’s original purpose was to get your body prepared for spiritual practice, then Ayurveda takes over from there with an expanded and balancing view of wellbeing. Ayurveda is the Healthcare system of India.

Ayurveda is an approach to healthcare from Ancient India based on dividing bodily substances into 5 classical elements:
Earth • Water • Fire • Air • Ether

Ayurveda’s main purpose is to prevent illness and promote longevity by seeking balance. According to Ayurveda, the key to vibrant health is understanding how the elements operate within you, your environment and every aspect of your life. Adjustments in lifestyle and daily routines can be made to balance and harmonize the elemental tendencies in each individual. Like Yoga, Ayurveda deals with what supports and doesn’t support us. Ayurveda goes beyond Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) to balance tendencies in order to heal the sick and maintain wellbeing in the healthy.

So, I strongly encourage everyone who loves the health benefits of Yoga, to try out her sister, Ayurveda.  Wellbeing is not merely an absence of diseases but is defined as a state of joy in the soul, mind, and senses.

Come spend a weekend with Dr. Scott Blossom, Ayurvedic Counselor, Yoga Instructor and Chinese Medical Professional. Plus, Stephanie Keach was his first Yoga teacher, way back when, so the love runs deep here people!

Yoga and Ayurveda
With Dr. Scott Blossom
March 18–20, 2016

Why Asheville NC?

Asheville was #1 in Yoga Journal’s “10 Towns with Top-Notch Yoga” and was listed as the #1 “Coziest Cities in America” by Elle DECORE magazine. Asheville area is world renowned as a bustling tourist destination, named one of twelve must-see travel destinations in the world by Frommer’s travel guides.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects the Great Smoky National Park with the Shenandoah National Park and runs right through Asheville, is a great launching point for hiking and biking, or for those looking for a scenic picnic at an overlook.

Mountain adventures await your visit to the Asheville area, whether you’re planning a culinary travel experience with a tour of restaurants and microbreweries, or if you’re checking out the area’s top-rated outdoor sports activities. There’s so much to see and do in Asheville, that the only problem is narrowing the options!

Learn more of what Asheville has to offer at www.exploreasheville.com

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

5 Tips for Aging Gracefully with Yoga

By Stephanie Keach

1. Pelvic Floor

Usually we think anti-sagging, anti-wrinkling, anti-balding when we see “Aging Gracefully”, but honestly those things don’t make us graceful. How about not having to wear a big, bulky diaper? Yup, GBK (Go Beyond Kegels) I say. My students will tell you I am not shy to drop anatomy terms like vagina, testicles, and anus in a yoga class. I’m a frequent flyer with pelvic floor anatomy because lets face it: Use it or Lose it. So squeeze often down there. Squeeze different things down there. Trying to isolate genitals from anus for instance – this might take a lifetime but the practice itself can enrich so many aspects. Elimination and sexuality, yes, those are the more obvious benefits. But how about becoming more grounded and certain? How about healing lower back issues? Oh yeah people, get your squeeze on!

2. Toes

Now, these fantastic appendages may not get sexier with age, but we can keep them limber and strong. Consider how many hours a day, each week, each year of your life your sweet little feet have carried you and spend some time daily literally massaging your toes. Touch them and Love them- they are going to (hopefully) carry you through ’til the End! Trying to grab / pick up things with your toes is a common activity in my “shoes-off” household, helping our feet stay healthy and limber.

3. Neck

Another common saying out of my mouth is “Your neck will not age well. Period. I am sorry for this news.” Yoga doesn’t prevent aging anywhere, and our vulnerable necks take a beating for sure: life, sports, computer screens, headstands… The best we can do for our necks is awareness and gentleness. Whenever you can remember, Check your Neck! meaning watch alignment and posture (driving and looking at screens are really bad ones!) Add in frequent neck stretches and neck rolls and that’s great. Get neck massages and you are on your way to Neck Nirvana!

4. Nutrition

I can’t think of a more loaded topic in the yoga world, yet regardless of diet: We Are What We Eat. Mindfully pausing before purchasing, preparing and ingesting can help us make better choices for our overall health and well being. But regardless of the ever controversial Vegan vs. Paleo, ask yourself these things:
How do I feel while I am eating this?
How do I feel after I eat this?
How are my bowel movements?
How is my mood after I eat?
How are my energy levels throughout the day?
How are my hair, skin, nails?
How is my menstrual cycle?
All these things listed above are very affected by what you eat. It takes deep self-reflection to determine the least violence towards the planet but also yourself! Moderation and flexibility is really the kindest food mantra we got in the yoga world. (Oh hey, it’s a pretty good Yoga body AND Yoga mind mantra too!) As most long-term Yogis agree, I believe listening to what your body TRULY needs is one of the most important forms of non-violence.

5. Rest

Oh stress. Our dear, uninvited guest doesn’t always get the hint that his welcome is over! So alas, our rhythm of deep rest and healing gets disturbed, and this disturbance can wreak havoc in all parts of our lives. This isn’t news, almost half the population is experiencing insomnia for either short term or long term reasons. Yoga gives us amazing tools for rest: Restorative yoga, Deep breathing, Meditation, and my all time favorite, Shavasana. Taking mini-naps has been a life-saver since I began having babies 20 years ago! To survive my pregnancies, when insomnia first visited, I began to get really good at Quick Shavasanas. Meaning, I would get into bed, put pillows around my head to cover my ears and eyes (my husband uses earplugs and an eye-mask), then lie on my back, comfortably like corpse pose in a yoga class, with a blanket, then I would super efficiently scan my body to deeply sink into the mattress, then my mind, and poof! I was out. I would either have a timer, or would naturally “awaken” after 20 minutes, refreshed and restored! Superbly miraculous and way more important to “master” than handstand, in my opinion.

I think it would be awesome if we edited our colloquial saying to “Aging Healthfully.” Now that is something to achieve! We are all aging, every single second. Yoga will not prevent it, and it may not even slow it down. But we can start right now with new practices to help the process feel more comfortable. Upcoming workshops like Yoga and Ayurveda will educate us in Nutritional healing with Yoga. Our 300 hour Therapeutics Training gives you every tool Yoga has to utilize our tools for healthier aging. Workshops like Senior Yoga with Libby Hinsley, Restorative Yoga with Sara Levine, Yoga and Meditation with Michael Johnson are only going to expand on my Top 5 suggestions above. I will leave you with one other great Tip:

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
― George Bernard Shaw

 

Yoga for Stress

Do you feel great? Alive and vital? If not, consider the role that stress might be playing in your life.
Stress can greatly diminish our energy. Stress quite literally robs us of our vitality. We live in an
increasingly stressful world and the potential for the experience of stress comes at us from many
places: work, relationships, current events, life events, social media and information overload can all
create the sensation of stress in our bodies and minds.

Thankfully, yoga and the tools of yoga offer us a way forward to a healthier and happier way of
being. There are three simple steps that you can take right now, utilizing what you’ve already
learned from your practice.

#1 – Shift your attitude. Studies have found that those people who believe that stress will kill them,
do in fact die from stress related and stress induced illnesses. Rather than allowing yourself to hold
such a powerfully negative view, shift into seeing the power of the positive. When you feel yourself
experiencing stress, rather than freak out- affirm that this is what it feels like when your healthy body
responds to challenge. This one simple shift could save your life.

#2 – Move! Get out there and move! Move your body in yoga- any yoga practice or run or walk or
skate or swim or- you get the idea. Our stress response is created through our sympathetic nervous
system. This system reacts to a true life threat in the same way as the experience of traffic making
us late for work. There is no distinguishing the levels of threat- just the same reaction. Our bodies
prepare us for stress by enabling us to run or fight. One of the ways that we can release some of
that response is by moving our bodies.

#3 – Breathe. Allow yourself to not only notice your breath but also begin to work with it. Simple
pranayama (breathing techniques) are incredibly effective in shifting and handling the energy of
stress. Next time you feel stressed- shift your breath- begin to breathe long and deep. Do a practice
of equal inhale/exhale. Allow yourself to inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for the same count. A few
minutes of this will shift your entire perspective and you will begin to feel better right away.

 

Yogi Tips for Spring Cleansing

Spring is the ideal season for cleansing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is related to the wood element, which tends the liver and gall bladder. These organs focus on the cleansing process: secretion and detoxification. As things get moving in nature, our bodies need to get moving too in order to avoid winter stagnation that manifests in digestive disrupts, respiratory congestion or headaches. Supporting detoxification, drainage and circulation with food choices and movement can help kick off our spring cleanse.

Food for Cleanse

Any cleansing is good cleansing. At the minimum, avoiding stimulants like coffee, sugar, alcohol, and other simple carbs help to reduce cortisol production and lessen the body’s response and “crash” pattern. This sugar roller coaster can leave one feeling heavy or fatigued. The goal of a spring cleanse is to lighten that load.

A plant-based, whole foods diet will allow your body to focus on cleansing and not converting sugar or digesting more burly foods, like meat. More intense cleanses include juice fasts and should be conducted with the support of health practitioner.

Wild foods that grow in your yard are nature’s superfoods that aid in spring detoxification. Many can be added to salads or made into a pesto like the recipe below. Some of our other favorites include: Chickweed, Dandelion, Chickory, Plantain and Watercress.

Chickweed Pesto Recipe

4 Cloves of garlic
½ cup of olive oil (extra virgin)
3 cups fresh chickweed leaves
¼ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
1 tbsp of lemon juice
½ cup of walnuts
Sea salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend well.

Herbal support during cleansing can include these plants:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense)
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Yoga for Detox

A spring yoga practice that focuses on compressions and twists in the abdominal region will support cleansing. Cardiovascular exercise will assist detoxification, allowing for better secretion and elimination. In addition, restorative poses can help integrate your cleanse, while providing gentle support to a rigorous fast.

Here are some cleanse-supporting poses:

Bharadvajasana I (Seated twist)
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Parivritta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose)
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)

 

5 Yoga Poses Away from a Better Night’s Sleep

Whether you suffer from insomnia, or you just want to relax for a few minutes before sleep, bedtime yoga can help you have a more restful night’s sleep. Taking just a few minutes in bed before you fall asleep to do these simple yoga poses may help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and stay asleep longer.

As you climb into bed for the night, take just a few minutes before you do these simple poses, to bring your focus to your breathing. Feel the breath moving in and out of your nose, as your chest and abdomen rise and fall. By turning your attention to your breath, you give the mind a chance to relax and to let go of all the thoughts that are streaming through it all day. Continue to focus on your breath for a minute or two before moving into the first pose.

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)

When you feel ready, begin your in-bed yoga series with Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose). Straighten your left leg and bend your right knee, placing your right foot on the inside of your left leg. The right leg and knee should comfortably release into the bed. If not, support your right knee with a folded blanket or pillow underneath it. Hinging at the hips, fold forward as you reach your hands towards your left foot. Remember to breathe into the stretch and not to pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Stay here for three to five breaths, and as you are ready, inhale as you straighten back up. Straighten your right leg and bend your left leg, placing your left foot on the inside of your right leg. Repeat the same steps on this side.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Next, move from sitting to lying on your back for Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose). Once you are lying down, bend both your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Let your knees drop open. Lengthen your spine and along the bed and then rest your hands, palms face up, along either side of your body. Breathe here for 2-5 minutes. As you are ready to come out of this pose, straighten both your legs.

Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclined twist)

Next, preparing yourself for Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclined twist), bend your legs and hug them both into your chest. Extend only your right leg along the bed, while keeping the left leg bent into the chest. As you are ready, drop your left knee across your body to the right. Extend your left arm straight out, so that your spine is in a twist. Breathe here for three to five complete breaths. When you are ready, bring your left knee back across your body and bring your left leg up to meet the right as you once again hug your knees into your chest. Lengthen your left leg along the bed and repeat on the opposite side.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Next, move into Balasana (Child’s Pose). Coming onto your hands and knees, spread your knees apart wide and bring your big toes together. Release your backside towards your feet and bring your belly to rest in between your thighs, with your forehead resting on the bed. You can then either extend your arms straight out in front of you, along the bed, with your palms face down, or you can bring the arms back along the sides of the thighs with the palms facing up. Stay here for 2-5 minutes.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Finally, come to rest on your back in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Lying on your back with your arms and legs naturally falling open, you can begin a few rounds of left nostril breathing. Place your index and middle finger on your forehead, between your eyes, and use your thumb to close the right nostril. Breathe in and out of the left nostril for several breaths to bring a sense of calmness and relaxation.

Follow this simple sequence of poses whenever you climb into bed – a more restful night’s sleep is just a few moments away!