IYENGAR YOGA FOR FATIGUE RELIEF
The four B’s
Bolsters, Blankets, Blocks, and Belts help open the body to deep relaxation.
Too tired. For many it’s the default response to every request—even the fun ones. Some of the walking weary are simply too overworked or overstressed to get adequate rest, while others may feel drained by a physical ailment, a psychological condition, or the side effects of medication.
Whatever the cause, all can benefit from the respite that a restorative yoga practice provides.
Why not a vigorous practice?
When someone is deeply fatigued, a dynamic practice, like a double espresso, can be depleting, despite its initial invigorating jolt. Restorative yoga, on the other hand, soothes the senses, so they stop urging the mind and nervous system to react and instead turn their attention inward—on the breath or embedded tension, for example. These asanas also lower anxiety levels and calm the fight-or-flight response—the stress-induced outpouring of adrenalin and other hormones that taxes the systems of the body.
Furthermore, deep, long-standing fatigue can turn the simple, unconscious effort of standing upright into an exhausting task, and when the shoulders stoop and the spine sags, the chest and diaphragm get compressed, the breath becomes shallow, and the abdomen tightens. Under these circumstances, who has the strength or energy to hold their body with integrity in a yoga asana?
That’s why blankets, bolsters, blocks, and belts are essential props in a restorative practice. With their help, passive supported backbends allow the chest to expand without physical effort and open the body and mind to the stimulating effects of the pose without draining already-low energy reserves.
The first asana of this sequence, supported purvottanasana (upward plank pose), broadens and lifts the chest and frontal diaphragm away from the lower body. This posture encourages the inhalation to expand outward and upward toward the top chest, bringing lightness, while the abdomen can flow downward and soften on the exhalation.
Similarly, supported forward bends quiet the mind and body and provide a reprieve from overstimulation by turning the attention of the brain and senses of perception inward. At the same time, because the bolsters and blankets support the organs in the frontal body, the back of the body and kidneys relax and spread, further relieving tension.
Finally, inversions provide support for all of the body’s systems, especially the immune and endocrine systems, and thus help address various kinds of hormonal issues—like adrenal fatigue. Inversions give the heart a rest from its effort to pump blood to the brain and let gravity help refresh the legs and lower body from heaviness and vascular stagnation.