Restorative Yoga - 101

Updated: Jan 29

There are many different styles, and even brands of yoga available these days. Often, when someone new comes to my class, they ask what kind of yoga is being offered. I am also frequently asked what my yoga style is. Personally, I engage in many forms of, but my favorite is Restorative Yoga.


What is Restorative Yoga ?

Restorative Yoga is a gentle approach that quite literally helps the body to restore, or shift to a feeling of wellness and balance, through gentle and supportive stretches. It focuses on stretching and breathing, rather than acrobatic fitness and athleticism. The practice supports the central nervous system in that it directly impacts the Autonomic Nervous System. The Sympathetic system is our defense response (fight or flight) and when engaged for long periods causes stress. Restorative yoga poses can ease many forms of stress by shifting us into the ParaSympathetic Nervous System (rest & digest).


Who should practice RY?

Restorative Yoga is literally for every-body. It is a great place for those with physical challenges, or are new to yoga and may be a bit intimidated by fitness based yoga. Children of all ages can relate and benefit from this mindful time out as well. Anyone who has experienced any form of stress can appreciate a restorative practice.


Why is it important to practice Restorative Yoga?

Restorative Yoga seeks to bring the body back into balance through gentle physical stretches, supported poses, guided focus on breath, and encouragement to direct thoughts in a positive direction, using gratitude and intention cues.


When to do Restorative Yoga?

Anytime is a good time to do Restorative Yoga, but more specific would be when you are experiencing:

  • High levels of stress

  • Trauma

  • Basic life fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Recovery

  • In conjunction with your regular fitness routine/practice

What Restorative Yoga is not...

It is not fitness based

It does not raise your heart rate

It is not aerobic

It is not trying to increase flexibility

It is not trying improve a pose

It is not trying push an edge


Exercise - Restorative Yoga Poses


Restorative poses are ideally offered with bolsters, blankets, and other props to help the body feel fully supported and relax more deeply. However supports are not always available. Try any of these below poses with or without props for support. Remember what is most important is that your body is comfortable in the pose.


Child Pose - Balasana

A restorative pose that balances circulation while gently stretching the spine, hips, thighs and ankles. It is called child pose because it mimics the position of our body while we are in utero as infants still growing inside our mothers with one continuous gentle curve in the spine.


Legs Up the Wall - Viparita Karani

This is one of my favorite poses. It gently stretches the lower back and hamstrings and relieves tension in the spine. It helps to reduce swelling in the feet and ankles and releases the pelvic muscles. Practice this calming pose for up to 15 minutes. Add a breathing exercise for added benefit.


Supine Bound Angle - Supta Baddha Konasa

This is a variation of a seated pose, that can be maintained for longer while reclined. It stretches the knees, inner thighs, and groins as well as stimulates the heart and improves circulation. Practice this pose to relieve anxiety and fatigue, and to soothe menstrual discomfort and sciatica.


Crocodile Pose - Markarasana

This pose gives deep relaxation to the internal organs, spine and shoulders. Become aware of the sensation of your front body making the connection with the earth. Feel all the meeting points and the gravitational pull here. Allow yourself to sink into it. Practice this pose with breathing exercises for additional benefit.


Knees to Chest - Apanasana

This pose releases the low back and stimulates the internal organs. Hold the top of the knees or behind the knees if you have difficulty. Try this practice one leg at a time. See if you can add a gentle rock side to side to massage the low back. This is a great pose for releasing overall body stress and fatigue.



Corpse Pose - Shavasana

This is the final pose in yoga class. External distractions and sensory input are minimal to help the body fully relax and absorb the benefits of the practice. Even by itself, this a great way to a calm mind, reduced stress and fatigue, and lower blood pressure. Shavasana can relieve headache pain, and help improve sleep.



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