Ever been in the middle of a yoga flow and get to your favorite pose and wish you could stay there just a little longer before moving on? Could your mind—as well as your body—benefit from some downtime? Are you recovering from injury or illness and unable to participate in your regular active yoga practice? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then restorative yoga is for you.
By utilizing props such as blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps and pillows, this therapeutic form of yoga, based on the teaching of B.K.S Iyengar, allows the body to be supported in a posture that allows for greater relaxation, that soothes the nervous system, that moves the body towards a balanced state, and that releases deeply held tension.
When practicing restorative yoga, the poses (which often include gentle backbends, seated twists and forward folds) are far fewer, but are held for much longer—between five and ten minutes, depending on your comfort level. This allows for the body to go deeper into the pose, and for the relaxation factor to be maximized. And because you are holding the position for longer, you are then able to focus on where you are holding the tension, and to really use the breath to work into that area and release. Whilst you will not be participating in “active yoga” where the asanas flow one to the other, you will still be benefitting from some deep stretches that will help build physical strength.
Restorative yoga is a solid option for those feeling low on energy, or recovering from illness or injury. It is said to boost the immune system and to accelerates the body’s natural healing process. And by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, restorative yoga slows the heart rate and regulates the blood pressure, which is good for anyone suffering from stress-related conditions. The energy flow is gentle enough to soothe anxiety and depression, helping those with difficult life changes or grief.
Want to give it a try? Let’s start with child’s pose.
As you come to your mat for a traditional child’s pose position, add a stack of pillows or a bolster in front of you to allow your head and torso to rest on the padding. You can also rest your feet on a blanket if this makes the position more comfortable for you. Stay here and breathe deeply for 5 – 10 minutes.
Want to stretch out those shoulders? Lie on your stomach with a bolster or blanket rolled up under the lower ribs. Stretch out your arms, then place your right arm over the left and then gently reach the arms away from each other with palms facing up. The blanket should be big enough to take any weight off the shoulders so adjust if you need to, you should be able to totally relax here while feeling that stretch. Reach out the arms for 1 minute and then switch arms and repeat.
As somebody who deals with chronic pain, I turn to restorative yoga when my regular practice is just a little too much. I still get all the fantastic benefits—but without pushing myself or being in discomfort.
Interested in learning more about yoga? Dive into these.
- Yoga Nidra: this yoga practice is essentially one long savasana
- Five-minute yoga sequence to do before bed.
- Yoga to help relieve low back pain.
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