Foothills Restorative Yoga Pose Using Salamander Bolsters

  A deeply grounding restorative practice setup

By Gwendolyn Ren


Two of the things I appreciate about social media is the way it can lead to deepened relationships and shared ideas. One day, when checking my instagram feed, I saw I was tagged in the wonderful photo of a restorative pose you see above. I saw it was from a customer who recently purchased a lot of Salamander buckwheat filled bolsters and many of them were in the photo. Not being a restorative yoga expert I was intrigued by the placements and interested in knowing more about what I was looking at. This lead me to learn of the wonderful work of Gwendolyn Ren, her poetic relationship to practice and her brilliant and practical advice. Plus I had a chance to experience this deeply grounding practice for myself, which is a treat you will enjoy given the time and the inclination.

When I went to Gwen's post I encountered these words.

Stillness is not always synonymous with non-movement. The ways in which your body changes shape, makes room and takes room, ever evolving, morphing, adapting. The ways the mind flickers, illuminates. Your stillness a synonym for autonomy - your depth of discovery untethered, limitless in its quiet expanse. Your stillness not stillness.

I love the way Gwen describes the stillness of restorative practice and I reposted this with her permission and asked her to fill me in more so I could share details of the practice in this blog. Below you will find my interview with Gwen edited for length and clarity. Also attached below is a printable "recipe" for setting up Foothills in your own home or studio.

Gwendolyn Ren

YLS:   What is your background, training, experience with restorative practices?

Gwen:  To say that Restorative Yoga changed my life barely does it justice.   I was almost through my first 200 hour yoga training in 2014 when I took my first restorative class, almost on accident.  At the time I worked 60+ hours a week in the event industry, as a designer, planner and decorator.  I still joke to this day that when I stood up, I felt like I had gone to therapy, church and gotten a massage in that 75 minutes and never looked back.  Inspired and encouraged by my teacher, and now collaborator, Hope Hood, of Abide Yoga in Cleveland, I began teaching Restorative in 2015 and my passion and advocacy for rest grows every day.

Through study I have clarified purpose and intent, but it is through living it that I feel I understand the practices of Restorative Yoga from this deep, cellular level.   It is through love, grief, uncertainty and change that rest and I have found each other, have carried each other.  Largely self-taught, it is through my own practice and unrelenting inquisition that I introduce deliberate rest back into our community as an accessible, creative, fluid practice - something reminiscent of its Iyengar lineage but also something new and intuitive at the same time. 

YLS:  The Foothills set up, where did it come from?  What would you say the key elements are?

Gwen: The inspiration struck for this pose a day or two after all my new props arrived – I’d just ordered 12 salamanders because I loved my personal one so much.  Inspired by the classic “Mountainbrook” I replaced the traditional blankets with salamanders and added on from there.   Maybe instead of a mountainbrook we might think of ourselves as earth - rolling foothills.  I imagine vast countryside and soft, green ground.  The pose offers an opening to the chest, sternum, collarbones, and throat and draws awareness to the breath into the lungs, the expansion of the ribcage.  That said, even more prevalent than the openings is the sense of grounding.  Isn’t that the best thing about a salamander?  Its weight.  How it contours.   The juxtaposition of the two is something really special to me.

YLS:   I am intrigued by the three Salamanders on the feet.  Can you tell me what each one is for?

It offers two below: one under the ankles and the other just touching the bottom of the heels, so an actual grounding point for proprioception, an awareness of our body in space.  A foothold.   The third lays on top of the ankles – it’s just the right amount of weight to help settle the feet into the ones below.  Together, they’re satisfying and pacifying.

YLS:    I love the Salamanders on the upper thigh and lower abdomen, two places I work regularly since I tend to hold tension there.  What do the Salamanders in those spots do in this set up?

Gwen: Any elevated points: the knees, the chest, I was inclined to keep as an opening.  But openings can be vulnerable, you know?   It made me want to balance it with grounding points.  The low belly and the thighs are some of my favorites, too.   They are areas we don’t even realize we hold tension but by creating a qualifying sensation we can begin to release.   I really recommend a folded blanket under the seat.  It creates a little bit of lift and takes some pressure off the tailbone, offering a softer opening and more support to the low back.

 YLS:    I never would have thought to use a Salamander as an eye pillow, but when I look at the photo it makes perfect sense.  Is there anything you can tell me about that?
Gwen: Since the original picture was taken  I’ve played with turning the salamander so that one end rests on the ground, it crests the top of the head, and the tail sits on the third eye, between the eyebrows. The width of the salamander mostly covers the eyes and it feels incredibly stabilizing.  
I am also a big fan of the ace bandage as an eye wrap, it doesn’t move around or shift and the light pressure is great for headaches or migraines.

YLS:   To get a benefit from this set up how long should one stay in the pose?

Gwen: I would recommend exploring this pose anywhere from five to fifteen minutes depending on how you feel and what you begin with (stiffness, anxiety, etc).   You might experience something emotionally foreign when first staying with an opening pose for this length of time, be willing to stay with it - but you should not be experiencing physical pain or discomfort.  If you are, sit up and readjust.   The same support does not always serve us all.

YLS:   I know some people have trouble being still.  In your love letter you suggest focus on the ways the body is changing and shifting as well as the flickering of the mind.  That is great but what about folks who get caught in thinking in such a way that they don't come in contact with subtle reality.  Or people who become fidgety as soon as the stop moving?  Any advice for these people?

I think that refuting, or refusing what comes up is a surefire way to get caught in its cycle.   The best antidotes for me are really breath and patience.   If you’re practicing at home, without a facilitator, set a timer for yourself – it keeps you from wondering and makes you really realize how expansive five, ten, fifteen minutes can feel.   Sometimes it takes a really long time to settle in, in those cases just trust that it might be around the bend, maybe in a breath, two breaths, twenty breaths, we always have the capacity for that shift and it might happen at any moment.    If you’re counting breaths, do it in cycles, maybe just to ten.  If you reach it, just start again.  Notice for anything that might be occurring.  Don’t be in a hurry to find that magical place, but trust that it’s there in you somewhere, and you’re just creating space for it to appear.  Even if you don’t make it all the way into blissful nothing this time around you aren’t doing anything wrong.  Trust in the practice.

Truth in Blogging


    Before preparing this blog I wanted to experience the pose as laid out.  Ironically, I do not have 10 salamanders at home.  I only keep one inflatable and 3 buckwheat filled Salamanders, so I supplemented with 6 Tadpoles a couple of extra blankets rolled up and a couple of cotton yoga mat rugs rolled up.  Also I love the feeling of something on my breastbone and added a Tadpole there and forgot the  Salamander under the ankles.

Not as lovely or as easy to set up as when one has 10 matching Salamanders but the experience was still divine.

     Also the prep I did for this was basically working all day and when I hit the mat I really did not know if I could settle in since I was so revved up.  What I found was that doing the setup, testing and shifting things to get it right was enough transition from my busy day.

Then, when I lay down, I quickly felt a lot of sadness.  Taking the time to give to myself like this is unusual and it brought up a lot of difficult feelings.  Fortunately, the grounding of my heels against the Salamander and the binding of my ankles with weight from above held me in place and helped me to stay with it. As I did, the comforting touch of the bolsters on my belly and hips, breastbone and especially between the eyes, were very soothing.  Then I noticed as tension started leaving my body and my back, arms and legs all softened.  My sadness shifted to a relaxed happiness and playful interest in what would come next for me.  Little by little I lost contact with my body and found myself in dreamlike scenarios and then I lost contact with those.  20 minutes after I lay down, my furnace roared to life, startling me into wakefulness.  I was disoriented for a moment thinking I was in a different room and wondering what the sound was, but soon I remembered where I was and what I was up to and I felt deeply rested and abundantly ready to get back to work, thankful that my vocation allows me to spend time in this sort of exploration.

Thanks and Kudos to Gwendolyn Ren for Sharing this delightful practice.  For more information about Gwen please go to www.gwendolynren.comFoothills Recipe Link

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Mysore Yoga Inversion Strap Beginner Instructions For Hanging on a Door or Wall

Mysore Yoga Strap Door Use Instructions

Beginning Details of using the Mysore Yoga Door and Ceiling Inversion Strap

Instructions for a Basic Inversion for Relief of Back Pain and more

MysoreInversionStrapPelvicSwingDoorMounted MysoreYogaStrapPelvicSwingDoorMounted

Mysore Yoga Strap - Adjustable Triglide 

Correct Height for basic hang is just below the fingertips, around mid- MysoreInversionSacralPelvicSwingDoorMounted
Mysore Yoga Strap Mounted on a Door using our new door fittings. Basic inversion pose tractions the spine, massages the lumbar vertebrae, increases blood flow to the head and improves digestion.

The instructions below presuppose that you have safely rigged your Mysore Inversion Strap on your door or wall. Always consult an expert on first installation to make sure your door or wall is sturdy enough for such use.

Adjusting the Strap

MysoreYogaStrapAdjustableTriglide CorrectHeightforDoorMountedMysoreStrap
Mysore Yoga Strap - Adjustable Triglide Correct Height for basic hang is just below the fingertips, around mid-thigh.

Find the silver tri-glides on the side of each strap. adjust them so the center of the padded area hangs at mid thigh when you are standing fully erect and on your feet.

Getting into the Strap

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First Stand between the door or wall and the strap. Then lean back into the strap. Be sure to leave your feet by the door and let the strap begin to bear your weight.

Now Comes the Cool Part

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First Foot Always on the hinge side of the door. Second Foot Second Hand

Here is where you start to leave the ground. But before you do you should double check you are on the outside of the door, not the inside.
      You never want to be on the side where the door opens toward you, always on the side where the door would open away. When on the outside of the door the door jambs also hold the door in place with the hinges and door knob. If you were on the inside of the door only the door knob would be keeping the door in place.
     Ok, now you are ready to start. Bring your hand on the door knob side to the molding or wall next to the door with that arm extended. Then raise your opposite foot, the one on the hinge side of the door, to the door near the jamb about midway up. Next bring your foot on the knob side to the door above the knob. Once it is firmly in place you can release your second hand to the strap.


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Once both feet are on the door it is a simple matter of walking them up the sides of the door to fully invert. Notice how both legs are outside the center section of the strap where the body is. Never bring both legs into the center, unless you are prepared to drop out of the strap, since that is most likely what would happen. You may find when you are in this position that the strap has ridden uncomfortably up your back so it is squeezing you mid-torso and not at your hips and sacrum. To adjust this wirggle down a bit. Taking some weight off the strap by pressing gently into your hands on the floor can make this easier to do. Once the strap is where you want it you can return to full inversion. You can stay in full inversion for up to 20 minutes to ease back pain and traction the spine.


You may never feel like getting out of the strap once you are up there but at some point you will have to. If you are like me you may be so blissed out that it is hard to walk the feet midway back down the door and then reach the doorknob side foot down to the floor, reversing the process you got in with. Fortunately, you don't have to. There is an easier way out. Details are below.

First bring your hands up to the strap. This requires some effort and the first time you do it you may want to be sure someone else is around to help you in case you are not up to it. OK with the hands firmly grasping the strap you pull down on the strap while twisting your body side ways to the door and lower the left and right legs. Here I am swinging my left leg down first and then following with the right. You can also walk both feet down the side of the door jamb.
     Once you get comfortable with this dismount, doing it in reverse is a great way to start a session on the strap. It is actually a little easier to get up on the strap by turning sideways and walking the feet up the jamb, then twisting and putting the legs to the side, than the beginner method. However, the first method shown for getting up is often easier for beginners to do because it is less complicated and you are always facing the door.

Happy Hanging!!!

For more information about the Mysore Yoga Strap Door and Wall version and to purchase go to
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My Gift to You This Holiday Season

The Path of the Studio Owner is my brand new FREE e-book In it readers will hear from 18 studio-owning women, Yoga Life Style customers all, who share the secrets of their craft. If you or someone you know is thinking about opening or currently running a studio, I think there will be plenty in this e-book of interest to you or them.

Click the image above for more information and receive your FREE copy.

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Sri Dharma Mittra's 908 Yoga pose photos

In Honor of Sri Dharma,  I decided to emulate the Black and White on the black background, wearing only a small swimsuit.

In doing this I also realized the dedication and effort he put in on making his well known poster, the 908 Posture Master Chart of the Asanas. He did this in the days when everything took days or weeks to develop and only then did you see if you needed to reshoot. Even seeing my shots immediately I can't come close to the perfection of Dharma's poses. I am sure there are very few who can.

The odd part here is that back in the days when I was at the studio, practitioners at all levels felt comfortable in Dharma's classes. There were strivers and advanced students to be sure. But there were slackers and inflexible folks too, who were just drawn to his message of love and acceptance and encouragement to go deep within.

 Though the postures are the calling card, the teachings are the real deal. Jai Dharma!

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Authentic Indian Malas

Our malas are made from native neem, rudraksha seeds, tulsi and red and yellow sandalwood. These are the traditional bead materials used in India. They wear beautifully when used for mantra repetition and look lovely when worn as decorations.

These Mala Beads come to us from Brindavan, India, where they have been hand crafted from local materials, and serve as an intrinsic part of the culture. Walking on the streets of Brindavan, you will see strings of Malas in hands, used to count repetitions of one-hundred-and-eight mantras, worn around the neck to remind the wearer of his or her inherent holy nature, and hung on statues of deities and on the corners of framed pictures of gurus and saints. Each string of Malas contains 108 beads, a number which holds manifold numerological and mythological significance within the Hindu tradition. For Hindus it is the number most connected to human life.

Rosewood, also known as Red Sandalwood, is considered by Indian culture to be deeply connected with the divine feminine, or Goddess energy. Wearing Rosewood Malas is said to enhance skin health, and improve circulation, and in so doing, bring out the beauty of the Goddess. It is also believed to strengthen the aura and to deflect negative energy.

Yellow Sandalwood is traditionally used in sacred ceremonies and to purify holy places. The word sandalwood in sanskrit is chandana and because of the high regard sandalwood is held in, all things excellent are referred to as chandana in sanskrit. The scent of sandalwood is used in meditation to clarify the mind and sharpen intelligence. At the same time it is calming and uplifting for mood fortifying courage, purpose, strength and happiness. Some of our beads are specially grooved to increase their surface area and release their pleasant aroma. We also have a less expensive Yellow Sandalwood. It has smooth beads, no knots between the beads and no tassel. This simplified mala has two threads which can be used to attach the "head bead" or pendant of your choice or can be snipped off if you prefer the necklace unadorned.

The Rosewood beads are about 5 mm in diameter. The length of the necklace is about 15.5 inches and contains 108 genuine Indian Rosewood (Red Sandalwood) beads. The grooved Yellow Sandalwood beads are about 7mm in diameter. The necklace is about 16 inches long and contains 108 genuine Indian Sandalwood beads. The smooth Yellow Sandalwood beads are about 6 mm in diameter. The necklace is about 12 inches long and contains 108 genuine Indian Sandalwood beads.

Our imported Malas from India are now on sale at 40% off and free shipping on retail orders of $50 (does not apply to multi piece discounts).

Click image above for more info and to purchase or click here.


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