Breathing is an important aspect of yoga. Over the years, breathing techniques have been incorporated into…
Restorative Yoga is a style of yoga that promotes deep relaxation. It’s primarily practiced as a means to de-stress or as a complementary therapy for injury recovery. A Restorative Yoga sequence is only made up of a few poses that are to be held for five minutes or longer in order to allow the body to completely melt into the asana.
The poses are based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar, who encouraged the use of props to help you hold up your own body while supporting it in the most comfortable position possible and holding the asana “for as long as you can.”
Like most modern postural yoga practices, Restorative Yoga branched out from Hatha Yoga. The intention of this gentle yoga class is to create both an internal and external environment that is calm, peaceful, and relaxing.
To create this type of setting, you may start by playing gentle meditative music during your practice, and using as many props, cushions, blankets, and blocks as you need to support your body and hold it comfortably in place for 5 to 10 minutes per pose.
BKS Iyengar and Holding the Pose as Long as You Can
One of the biggest influencers who brought modern Postural Yoga to the western world was BKS Iyengar. Together with Sri K. Patthabi Jois, he was a student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, the “father of modern yoga”.
Iyengar differed from Jois in that he put an emphasis on the use of props to make yoga less daunting for westerners. He also focused on practicing long holds in each asana. Jois, on the other hand, popularized a dynamic Vinyasa style of yoga called Ashtanga.
Iyengar encouraged his students to hold some poses “as long as you can” in order to develop flexibility, strength, and focus.
Restorative Yoga branched out from Iyengar Yoga due to the fact that props were used to make the poses as comfortable and relaxing as possible. Iyengar believed that the body needs support in some poses in order to avoid strain or pain and to promote recovery from injury and illness.
The purpose of Restorative Yoga is to allow you to drop into a deep state of rest, rejuvenation and relaxation. Blocks, bolsters, straps, and other yoga props are used in order to help you experience the deepest release possible. There’s no need for you to stretch or achieve any ideal preconceived shape.
The idea is to help you let go of the stressful state that we spend the majority of our modern day lives in. When our sympathetic system is in constant overdrive due to stress, a plethora of other health issues can arise.
Heart conditions, obesity, asthma, migraines, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and premature aging are all health problems that can either be caused or magnified by stress.
Restorative Yoga helps you create a balance within yourself and within your parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes your body’s natural rest and digest response.
Sample 1 Hour Restorative Yoga Sequence
Here is a sample Restorative Yoga class sequence that you can try for relieving stress. Hold each pose for 10 minutes. Set a timer on your phone or a clock so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of time. All you have to do is get comfortable in each pose, let go of any worries you may have, and allow yourself to enter into a state of complete relaxation.
Balasana aka Child’s Pose
This pose will gently open up your hips and help you get into a relaxed and meditative state. Use a wide-knee variation to allow your torso to sink closer to the ground. Feel free to place a bolster underneath your body to lie down on and let your arms drape the sides of your body.
Badha Konasana aka Butterfly Pose
This pose will open up your hips and release the muscles in your lower back. Place supports underneath your knees if they don’t rest on the ground and place your heels as far away from your groin as needed in order to form a diamond shape with your legs, which will help make the shape more comfortable as well. Place a bolster underneath your torso to lay your whole weight on, and, if needed, put a block on top of the bolster so that you may comfortably rest your forehead on it.
Prasarita Padottanasana aka Wide Legged Forward Fold
This asana stretches your legs, groin, and hamstrings, while at the same time lengthening your spine. Just like the previous poses, use a bolster and as many cushions as you need in order to completely fold forward and relax into the position for 10 minutes.
Legs Up the Wall
This yoga pose only exists in the Restorative Yoga style. It uses the wall itself as a prop to hold your legs up and allow for improved circulation and relaxation in your legs and hips. Place a pillow or a bolster underneath your hips if it helps you stay in the pose longer without feeling any pressure on your lower back.
Supported Twists (5 minutes per side)
These twists help to decompress the spine, back muscles, and glutes. The support you receive from the bolster or pillow will allow your neck to remain aligned. In yoga, regular supine twists may not be recommended for those with lower back or knee issues. This pose can, however, be made more accessible by using bolsters and pillows to hold and support your body where it’s needed.
Even though all the poses in Restorative Yoga are meant to promote the deepest relaxation, it’s still important to end with Savasana, the final resting pose. Feel free to cover yourself with a blanket, place a weighted pillow on your hips, or even place an eye mask over your eyes. If you place a cushion under your head, ensure that your shoulders are also on it so that your neck doesn’t compress and block the flow of air as you breathe.
A restorative Yoga sequence may have fewer asanas involved than other yoga styles, but the deep relaxation that this type of yoga practice gives has so many health benefits. In this fast-paced, modern world full of stress and anxiety, it’s good to take the time to practice a style of yoga that does not add to the stress and strain that your body is faced with on a daily basis.