We must understand that any posture we attempt on the mat is happening upon us; it is not something we do or take, it is something we accept and invite. Here are few words from your teacher on the benefits of recovery and some useful practical tips on how to do it right!
As Yogis who are dedicated to the practice we are putting lots of time and effort into improving in our Yoga postures. We are often expecting to be rewarded in return to our work with progress such as: increased flexibility, the ability to hold better posture for longer periods of time or a general improvement in our sensation of strength.
Even if you are a mature Yogi who understands ‘non-attachment to the results of the practice’ or, ‘enjoying the process’ you still want to sense achievement – this is completely natural!
Observing the practice as a student and a teacher for over ten years now, I can see that as a result of this craving for progress we tend to underestimate recovery in between yoga postures and sequences. We are so attached to the need to ‘feel something’ in every pose because we tend to think that otherwise there is no change happening in our body. We expect to receive muscular or other physical sensation in every pose we take, during the whole practice. But if we authentically want to evolve in our experience on the mat, the truth of the practice is that recovery is just as important as doing the postures themselves,.
Recovery is when we don’t feel anything at all, or maybe only the subtle bouncing back sensations of the body after a pose. Nonetheless, recovery time is just as beneficial for our physiology and mental aspects of the Yoga practice.
As Yogis we must understand that any posture we attempt on the mat is happening upon us; it is not something we do or take, it is something we accept and invite. Our posture will not happen by force and it will not improve until our body will be at peace with it. In other words, in order to move forward in the performance of a Yoga posture our body and mind should arrive into a state of feeling at their comfort-zone with this particular pose. Once the body is comfortable at one stage or level of a pose, it is then trusting to move forward for the next step.
Our practice is all about getting to know ourselves better; it is just like building a relationship between our body and the practice, we are getting closer step by step.
This is where recovery is so crucial. Recovery is the time for the body to accept the posture and find ease in it, so it will be able to progress further in its practice. Once we allow the body this time to find comfort in a pose, it rewards us by being ready for the next, more advanced variation. For example, only after we are feeling completely at ease in bridge pose (simple back bend), we are ready to attempt full wheel (advanced back bend).
In fact, there will be no growth in the physical aspects of Yoga without this time that we must give for the body to heal. Without recovery, we are also more susceptible to injury. Moreover, I would say it is safer to over-do recovery than over-do a pose.
How do we recover?
In my practice and teaching, I experience two main forms of recovery: one is using a counter pose and the other is placing the body in a neutral form. For example, after taking a seated butterfly pose (Badakonasana) where the inner thighs receive a strong stretch:
You may either take a counter pose, stretching the outer thighs. For example: shoelace pose (Gomukasana):
Or, you can just observe the sensations in the target area of the posture (inner thighs) through holding a neutral pose. For example, hugging the knees to the chest.
Or, you can do both variations one after the other. A neutral posture (Knees to chest) might act as a recovery for both your starting pose (Badakonasana) and counter pose (Gomukasana)!
You don’t have to recover after each pose!
Here are few good timings during a Yoga sequence for you to thread in some recovery positions:
- Try to give time for recovery after each long hold of a posture (more than a minute hold is roughly what I’d call a long hold).
- Recover after a sequence of few postures if they were connected in a flow or if you worked through few postures with a similar target area one after another. For example, I might run through three different back bends with no recovery, or a minimal recovery time, in between them. then I will allow a longer recovery time in a counter pose such as, child’s pose or a neutral posture such as, lying down with the back flat on the mat.
- Always recover after a pick pose. A pick pose is one of the most challenging in the session, the pose you worked towards achieving throughout your sequence.
- Always recover at the end of your practice. Give yourself at least five minutes for full restoration, Shavasana pose. In this pose, the body should be at complete ease and the mind free from all thoughts. (Ideally! I know, I know…)
What is important to understand is that through recovery, we build trust in between our body and the practice. It is a process in which we can’t interfere much; we must let go of our role as the doers of the practice and just allow those recovery postures to be. The body needs time to do its own processing and learning without us constantly being involved. Trust the practice: progress and change is happening, even when you don’t physically feel it!
Letting go in this way is a true manifestation of self-love and it is so satisfying to just recover! So don’t be too hard on your body: nurture it through practice, holding space for it to grow at its own pace.