When life is racing, and there never seems enough time, the odds are your mind is over active, which can make it hard to switch off and relax. Restorative yoga can provide that off-switch we need, making it easier to rest and recuperate.
If you have problems sleeping, then a more restorative yoga session might be more helpful than an energetic one - we tend to think think we can only tire the body with strong exercise - but realigning and rebalancing the body through letting go of tension in restorative yoga can be exhausting! (Think of how tired we can feel after a really good massage.)
The use of props such a bolsters, pillows and blankets are used to offer maximum comfort and also enables us to hold poses for far longer, giving the benefits of deep, passive stretching.
Familiar poses like child’s legs-up-the-wall, and bridge are held for up to five minutes or more. As well being given a deep stretch, the body is given time to release and let go of tension. By keeping the mind focussed on the process of letting go you might also become slowly more aware of where you are tightest and start to relax into these areas more deeply.
Other adantages are that you can practise when you are low in energy or tired, have an injury or health condition that stops you doing active yoga, or if you are feeling unwell. It is also ideal late in the day before going to bed, or as a complement to an active yoga session earlier in the day.
If you’d like to try at home, set aside a warm, quiet spot with soft or candle light, and perhaps some relaxing music. A bolster is best, or you can substitute two firm pillows, or four yoga blocks covered with a blanket. Try a small range of poses for example:
- gentle backbend over blocks or a bolster
- a sitting forward bend with support for the body and gentle pressure on the forehead
- a twist
- inversion with feet on a chair, or up the wall
- end by lying flat in savasana (not forgetting a pillow, and rolled up blanket under the knees)
It’s more challenging than you think to do restorative yoga. And just because your body is resting doesn’t mean your mind will automatically grow silent! Be patient and give it time.
You’ll find four images of different restorative poses to start with on the Yoga Journal website
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