RESTORATIVE YOGA FROM COSTA RICA

A yoga retreat is one of the best ways to explore new parts of the world while generating revenue as a yoga teacher. A major plus is that your students enhance their well being while practicing yoga on vacation! It’s a win-win-win all the way around! And since your students will likely be sore and tired from their daily adventures, a restorative yoga class can be the perfect way to bring them back to balance each evening.This sequence is designed to do just that.

As many of you know, I just returned from a yoga retreat in Costa Rica myself. Only instead of teaching it, I had the pleasure of simply being a student again.

Yet, my eyes and ears are always on the lookout to enhance every experience. By the end of day two, I heard many others vocalize their feelings about being tired and sore from hours walking through the jungle. Even I was feeling ungrounded in this new location, apart from my daily routine and comforts of home.

So I asked the retreat leader if an evening restorative class was on the agenda.

Sure enough, this sequence hit the spot mid-week. As the sun was setting, the sounds of the jungle came to life. The soft candles around the shala gave us just enough light to transition between postures. And even a torrential downpour seemed to cleanse away all physical and mental stress of the trip.

Whether you plan on traveling to Costa Rica anytime soon, or want to lead a yoga retreat yourself, use this restorative sequence to renew and refresh your energy levels immediately. You can also take this class with me here

Photo Credit: Cris

PUERTO VIEJO, COSTA RICA

Before we dive into this juicy restorative yoga sequence from one of our evening classes in Costa Rica, let me share a bit about this part of the country. Here, vibrant greens of the dense rain forest meets the intoxicating teal of the warm, Caribbean sea. The people are friendly. The fresh fruit, amazing! And the wildlife is extremely diverse!

I’ll share more about my suggestions for leading a yoga retreat in Costa Rica shortly. For now, though, here are some fun highlights from my trip (photos left to right):

  • There are incredible beaches all along this coast for swimming and surfing. Just be prepared for a short walk through the jungle to get to them!
  • Baby sloths travel with their mother anywhere from 2-4 years, until they leave for their usually solitary adulthood. For those babies who unfortunately lost their mom, the Jaguar Rescue Center raises (and releases) these animals successfully back into the wild when ready. Just check out their website if you want to brighten your day with amazing pictures of rain forest animals!
  • Manzanillo is yet another beach town south of Puerto Viejo. I loved this colored welcome to the village (and the bright spectrum of the country in general).

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS SEQUENCE

Make sure to have the following items by your side before starting this restorative yoga sequence:

  • A blanket
  • A bolster
  • Two blocks
  • An eye pillow (optional. I use the Happy Lux travel mask, as it can be a lifesaver on the plane and double as a yoga prop when traveling)
  • Acacia Pep Talk Essential Oil (optional)

I want to note here that there were two teachers leading this retreat. While Tina Clay guided us through this restorative yoga sequence, Christina Rairdan came around and gave some gentle, hands-on adjustments. The essential oil used was a delightful blend that energized and calmed me at the same time (which is why I highly recommend you consider using Acacia Pep Talk in your own restorative classes, too).

(1) BENT-KNEE SAVASANA

Purpose: The goal of starting on the floor is to ground your physical and mental energy. Connecting to the earth with as much of your body as possible here is a great way to do this.

Length: 3-5 minutes

Additional Notes: I recommend starting with bent knees here. This encourages students to let go of any stress they may be carrying from the day. And, it can make conscious breathing more accessible (since any potential strain on the low back gets eliminated)

(2) GENTLE MOVING SEQUENCE

Purpose: Even though you want to drop right into the stillness of a restorative sequence, many times some gentle movement can help remove any excess energy lingering in the body. These gentle movements remove such fidgeting. Plus, these asana can remove any blocks or release tension that has accumulated while exploring.

2A: Knee to chest  >  2B: Extend the formerly-bent knee to the sky  >  2C: Reclined Figure 4  > 2D: Reclined Twist

Length: 1-2 minutes for each posture

Additional Notes:

  • With the knee in to the chest, you can hold still or make circles with the hip joint.
  • As one leg reaches to the ceiling, give the option to point and flex the feet. This can feel great on the calves after a long day of walking.
  • Place a block under the stabilizing leg when in reclined figure 4. This can provide a deeper version of the stretch without having to use any energy of the arms to hold the leg up in space.
  • That very same block can be used to support the knees when entering into the twist.
  • And, any leg position of the twist can be taken here.

Photos Not shown:

On the first side of this sequence, you will have the right leg in to the chest. Before moving to the second side, you have the option to take a half-happy baby with the right leg. As you do this, let the left leg drop to the side in supta baddha konasana.

Counter pose:

Lie in a bent-knee savasana or windshield wiper the legs before moving on to work with the left side of the body.

(3) SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA

Purpose: In a restorative yoga sequence, you can use the bolster behind the spine to elevate the heart while the hips effortlessly open in this reclined bound angle pose. Since you have two blocks at hand, I suggest placing them behind the knees/thighs so that you can entirely let go of any effort here.

Length: 5 minutes

Additional Notes:

  • Place another block behind the bolster to further raise the heart.
  • The blanket can become a neck roll for even more luxurious cushioning.
  • Pause in Savasana, without any support behind the back, before moving to the seated positions up next.

(4) BADDHA KONASANA

Purpose: Okay, at this point, you might be thinking, “another hip opener?” Well, the hips are known to store emotional and physical stress. When students hold these postures for longer periods of time, especially in a supported fashion, adhesions in the connective tissue can release. Plus, any mental tension can dissolve as well.

Length: 5 minutes

Additional Notes:

  • Sit on your blanket or bolster to elevate the hips
  • The blocks can be placed under the knees (if they don’t touch the ground easily)
  • Or, use the blocks to create a shelf on which the forehead can rest. Remember, you want as little energy expended during each pose in a restorative yoga practice. Supporting the head and neck really helps with this!

(5) PASCHIMOTTANASANA

Purpose: A seated forward fold is an easy transition from the bound angle pose done moments ago. And, you’ll then lengthen the entire back line of the body–which includes the posterior side of the hip region. Did I also mention your students will likely be sore from walking around while on an adventuresome retreat? This calf and hamstring lengthener can be especially nice to remove soreness from such activities.

Length: 5 minutes

Additional Notes:

  • Use any props handy to support the torso, neck, and head again.
  • Roll the blanket, and place it behind the knees, if hammies are tight.

(6) SUPPORTED SIDE STRETCH

Purpose: This posture is a great way to lengthen both sides of the body. And, having the top arm overhead can open up the sides of the ribs, making it easier to breathe deeply. Think deeper breathing leads to more prana moving through all areas of the body.

Length: 5 minutes each side

Additional Notes:

  • Place the bolster parallel to the short edge of the mat. It will lie just above the hip bone and below the shoulder joint.
  • Use a block, or a blanket, to support the head.
  • Allow the top arm to drape effortlessly in any position that is comfortable. The easiest starts with the arm resting on the side of the body. To make the pose more intense, extend the arm overhead. Placing a block underneath the hand can make this more comfortable in doing so.

Counter pose:

Before moving to the second side, simply roll on to your back. The bolster will nestle in the space of the low back, creating a gentle backbend. If this is too intense for the back, simply rest in savasana before moving to the second side. In either case, I suggest cactus arms to open the heart/chest.

(7) SUPPORTED BRIDGE

Purpose: Move the bolster from behind the low back and now place it under the back of the pelvis for a supported bridge pose. This can be a mild heart opener in an overall relaxing, restorative yoga sequence.

Length: 5 minutes

Additional Notes:

  • You can make the backbend more intense by using the block on a higher position, if that is desired.
  • Make the pose easier by using only a rolled blanket behind the rim of the pelvis.
  • Use an eye pillow here if you want to start moving into a deeper state of relaxation.

(8) SAVASANA

Purpose: It’s time to absorb the changes of the practice. It’s time to reset the nervous system and memorize this new pattern of being. Relaxed. Renewed. Refreshed. Effortless. Taking the extra time on your back here integrates all of these emotions and sensations at the cellular level.

Length: 5 minutes

Additional Notes:

  • To stick with the restorative yoga concept, place the bolster, or a rolled blanket, behind the knees. This will keep the lower back free of tension.
  • Use any calming pranayama, or quotes to end a yoga class here, for an added dose of clarity.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

A yoga retreat abroad can be just what you need to gain a fresh perspective on your life. Yet you don’t need to travel to Costa Rica to do just that. You can use this restorative yoga sequence any time to restore physical, mental, and emotional balance to your entire being! And the best part is, when you (and your students) have this heightened level of energy that results, you have more to give in all areas of your life.

Take Action Now:

  • Download this restorative sequence! Plus, in this guide you’ll get a heart-opening sequence from the retreat as well!
  • Get on your mat and give yourself some love. Then share your light (and this sequence) with your students!
2020-08-21T20:00:26+00:00

About the Author

Hi there! I'm Kym Coco, an ocean-loving yogi who is passionate about writing, travel, and great food (among a long list of other things). I feel absolutely alive on my mat, and I created Swagtail as a way to channel that prana into powerful, practical tools that can be used by other fabulous teachers in the yoga community!

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