Yoga you can do when you can’t do anything else

Horse hugs are always healing.

All photos by Larry Stanley Photography.

So… that happened. My entire family got COVID. I’m very grateful to report that we have recovered without complications, but there were a lot of days where not much was possible. Rest has been essential.

It’s frustrating to not be able to do what you usually do — but never has rest felt more important than when we were sick with this unpredictable [ahem] thing, when we didn’t know if it would take a turn for the worse. We had to ease back into “normal.” Rest. Normal. More rest. And eventually, thankfully, I was able to add in some yoga.

Rediscovering the Path to Health

Everything that happens in my life further convinces me that yoga is the path to health, to balance, to normal. I want to share what worked best for me while I was sick and during the early days of recovery. Let’s not call it COVID yoga, though, OK? How about, yoga you can do when you can’t do anything else? I’d also call it yoga for tough times: long working from home days, a pandemic, or a strange, stressful holiday season.

You don’t even have to get up off the floor for any of it.

These poses focus mainly on the hips, since mine felt so tight from inactivity and laying down so much. I also focused on my breath as I held these poses, working to create a smooth, steady flow during bouts of respiratory distress. There are no rules for how long to hold the poses — let your body decide. If it feels good to stay, stay.

Below, I present my favorite 10 poses, but you’re welcome to do them in whatever order you like. Not up to the full sequence? Pick and choose a few poses per day. Because whatever you can do today? It’s enough.

Child’s Pose

Start with the mother of all restful poses. Some days, this was the only one I practiced. It will release your hips, lower back, and shoulders, especially with the arms reaching forward. (You can also take the arms back by your sides.)

Side Stretch

Slowly sit up for a side stretch. Sit on your heels and reach the right hand to the floor. Take your left arm overhead, keeping it above your ear. Repeat on the other side.

Star Pose

Bring your feet out in front of you, bringing the soles together. Make a diamond shape with your legs. (I like to put a block under my feet.) Round your back and come forward with your upper body, but don’t force it. Surrender to this shape, and let it soothe your nervous system.

Wide-Legged Forward Fold

Have blocks handy or stack some big pillows in front of you for a wide-legged forward fold, so that your head is supported. Reach your arms forward and your seat back. Don’t brace through the arms, but rather keep reaching forward with soft elbows.

Wind-Relieving Pose

Lay down on your back and hug your knees in for wind-relieving pose. As the name suggests, this one is good for digestion or tummy troubles. It’s also a great lower back release. Rock gently back and forth as you hold your knees, or make small circles in both directions. This is one of those poses that you should do daily.

Figure 4 Pose

Cross your left ankle above your right knee for figure 4 pose (aka dead pigeon). Keep the crossed foot flexed and interlace your hands behind the right thigh. Keep moving the left knee away from you. Be gentle and don’t pull — take it slowly. Repeat on the other side.

Happy Baby Pose

Reach for the sides of your feet in happy baby pose; you can also hold behind your knees if you can’t reach your feet. Roll around like a happy baby!

Reclining Hand to Foot Pose

Lasso your foot with a strap for reclining hand to foot pose. Gently pull your foot towards your face; the other leg can be bent or straight. You can make small circles with your foot or move it slowly from side to side.

Then, take the foot out to the side, keeping the other hand on the front of your hip. Breathe deeply. Switch the strap to your other foot and repeat on the other side.

Supine Spinal Twist

Hug both knees into your chest, and let them fall to the right for a supine spinal twist. Try to keep your knees together, scoot your butt back if needed to line your hips up with your spine. Twist to the other side.

Heart Bench (Savasana)

Finish with heart bench, or savasana. I typically have the blocks higher for this restorative pose, but I softened it when I wasn’t feeling well by lowering them. One block is between your shoulder blades and the other one (which is a little higher) supports your head. Adjust as much as you need to make it comfortable, remember it should feel good.

And like my tee shirt says…breathe deeply. Always. Kick it into high gear for the rest of 2020. Yoga will help us through this!

Love, Healing, and Namaste.

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