So, chances are that if you look up the word yoga in whatever search engine you generally use and go to the “images” section you will most definitely run into various individuals captured while carrying out different postures and whilst being completely barefoot. Somehow yoga has been and, for most of us, is still associated with uncovered free flowing feet; and I mean it makes so much sense, being a practice that is strongly linked to concepts such as achieving unity, connection, detachment, and learning about simplicity. Recently though, we have seen the appearance of yoga shoes. NIKE has come up with their Studio Wrap 4, Adidas with their Crazy Move Studio Shoes, and a few other brands have also followed this new trend.

But, do we seriously need shoes for our yoga practice?

I believe that everyone is to make this decision on their own, but before you do here are a few things you may want to consider. Being barefoot while doing yoga makes a lot of sense when you see how your feet are literally the foundation of your practice. If you think about it all standing, or balance yoga poses are built from your feet upwards: your stability, your balance, and your body’s alignment all begin and have their base at your feet. For example, take the Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose: both of your feet work together as one of them pushes you towards the pose while the other one receives the energy of your push while wiggling back and forth as it finds the perfect equilibrium to keep your entire body quietly in this posture. While your foot tries to find its balance, all of its nerves are trying to communicate your mind and body where is it that the perfect comfort can exactly be found; once your foot finds this comfortable equilibrium it becomes easier for your whole body and mind to relax into this position. The moment you add a shoe, which is basically an extra layer in between you and the surface, it immediately becomes an extra step that your foot and body have to figure out in order to be able to become pleasantly rooted into a position.

Having your feet uncovered aids you to feel grounded and connected to the earth, it allows you to soak up the Earth’s energy; you can also feel and see your feet better as you move from pose to pose, which soothes the flow and progression of your movements and, most importantly, you bring awareness to the “active roots” of your body.

Although these shoes were made mainly to solve the problems of hygiene and slippage during the modern yogis’ practice, there are other alternatives to dealing with these problems: such as attending a studio that takes cleanliness seriously (disinfecting the floor after every imparted yoga lesson) or simply buying a mat with a roughed-up surface made out of proper materials.

Definition and Background

Unlike most of the other forms of yoga now widely offered in the West, restorative yoga focuses more on relaxation and healing. While it is considered a style in its own right, it can also be considered an umbrella term for other styles that focus on healing. People who attend restorative yoga do so to achieve emotional, mental, and physical relaxation.

To be able to do this, one is required to use props so that he or she can hold poses for a little longer. The props also make it possible to maintain balance while doing the poses. This type of yoga can be directly targeted on the entire body or only on specific areas.

Restorative yoga is a style that developed from the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. He was the man who helped develop Iyengar yoga and is widely respected in the field of yoga. Since Iyengar is the basis of healing yoga, it became the basis of restorative yoga. However, it was Judith Lasater, Iyengar’s students who developed restorative yoga as an independent style and made it popular.

The Poses

The most defining factor about restorative yoga is the length of a time each pose is held. At times, this can be as long as 10 – 15 minutes. Most of the poses that are done in restorative yoga are quite similar to the poses in other yoga styles, only that they use props and they are much slower. Before beginning the poses, one is required to start with warm exercises and other simple poses like gentle Vinyasa and sun salutations. Other poses include:

The child’s pose – This is done by placing a pillow under the body and then tucking the heels under the hips; just like a child would do while sleeping.

Legs against the wall – Here, one can place a bolster either under the back, hips, or legs while their feet are placed leaning against the wall.

Reclining bound angle – Here, the props are placed under the legs, head, and arms.

Savasana – This is a simple relaxation pose. One is required to place a pillow under their head and a bolster under their legs or feet.

Required Items

As mentioned earlier, props are a key part of restorative yoga. They are the aid that one uses to give support to the body while stretching or relaxing. The other items one may require include blocks, straps, pillows, chairs, blankets, and bolsters. To ensure that the relaxation is effective, one should ensure that the props obtained are the right size for specific poses. Getting a prop that is either larger or smaller can lead to either discomfort or injury. This can also affect the level of concentration one has during yoga.

Due to the nature of poses involved in restorative yoga, there are chances that one may feel shapeless or motionless. This may not be emotionally healthy and putting on an eye pillow or placing the feet on the wall can help. A combination of various poses can be employed depending on the type or restorative healing one is looking for.

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga has become extremely popular, and with good reason. When added with walking, yoga can be an excellent way for moms-to-be to stay in shape during pregnancy. Keeping off the excess weight is just one small benefit of prenatal yoga. It also keeps the body limber, muscles tone, and improves both balance and circulation. These benefits are all achieved with little impact on the joints, which is an added bonus to the already aching body.
Breathing is a crucial aspect of prenatal yoga. It not only allows for deeper and more beneficial stretches but also helps moms-to-be practice deep and releasing breathes that will be extremely helpful during labor.

Learning to breathe is one of the first things learned in prenatal yoga because of how beneficial it is in the present moment of stretching out the growing body and how crucial it will be during labor in the future. This breathing technique is known as ujjayi. To use ujjayi breathing, you take in the air very slowly through the nose to fill up the lungs and expand the belly, then you exhale through the nose until the lungs are completely void of air.

This can be done during the exhale through the mouth during particularly painful or difficult moments to fully release the body. The bodies reaction to pain is normally to tense up, which can do more harm than good during both yoga and labor. By staying calm and taking deep, releasing breathes the body can relax further and lessen pain instead of intensifying it. Pain should always be acknowledged but should not be given into. Instead, pain should be breathed through and embraced.

Prenatal yoga during the first trimester is very different from prenatal yoga during the third trimester. However, ujjayi breathing remains consistent during all three trimesters. The belly is still fairly small during the first trimester which allows for a variety of poses and mild twists. First-trimester yoga focuses on keeping up endurance and stretching the body.

Second-trimester yoga incorporates a little more stressful. With the appearance of a small belly, some poses and twists are temporarily discarded from practice. The second trimester poses focus on stretching the side body and gaining leg muscle to help carry around the extra pounds that are to come. Most women feel very energized during the second trimester which makes it the perfect time to amp up yoga practices and get those legs strong to carry around the several pounds there are still to gain.

The third trimester is often called the “home stretch” of pregnancy. Which is a very accurate name when it comes to yoga because this is the trimester that stretching consumes yoga practice. The body has grown substantially over the past several months and some key areas such as the lower back and hips are taking a lot of pressure from that extra weight. Stretching the hips and back can help ease the pain caused by the extra weight and the almost full term sized baby. It also can allow for a smoother delivery.

Prenatal yoga is crucial in combating the aches and pains of pregnancy. Even if yoga was not done before pregnancy, it should at least be incorporated every few days into the daily routine to stretch out the body. Growing a human is hard on the mind and body which makes yoga a wonderful addition to prenatal care.