Restorative yoga originated in 1970s America from the teachings of B.K.S Iyengar. It was made popular by one of Iyengar’s instructors, Judith Lasater. Restorative yoga is also referred to as “Rest and Digest” or “an active relaxation.” It features a slow pace, with poses being held for longer periods of time than with traditional yoga positions.
The main focus is on deep breathing, long holds, stillness, and slow transitions. A restorative yoga session normally only involves a few yoga postures, and the poses are generally held for five minutes or more.
Traditional yoga practice is well known for its multiple benefits for improved mental and physical well-being.
Restorative yoga holds many of the same benefits but may better suit a variety of fitness levels due to its gentle nature and an improved sense of calm due to the slower pace.
This style of yoga tends to use a range of props to aid poses such as blocks, cushions, pillows, and blankets, which allow positions to be held for longer and provide increased comfort and protection of the bones, joints, and muscles during poses.
These support props allow participants to fully relax into the yoga poses and get the most out of every position.
The Benefits of Restorative Yoga Include:
- Improved mental health – reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression due to enhanced mindfulness, self-awareness, and sense of serenity during sessions. Restorative yoga improves mood, helps people to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment while becoming more aware of their bodies and surroundings.
- Improved physical health – improved balance, strength, cardiovascular and respiratory health, and reduced musculoskeletal pain. This makes it useful for those that suffer from certain conditions or chronic pain.
- Relaxation – restorative yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) which allows the body to recover and heal from stress. With modern lifestyles being very busy and stressful, this type of yoga can help people take a much-needed relaxation break.
- Improved sleep – increased relaxation brings with it better sleep. Restorative yoga is known to boost melatonin production and reduce hyperarousal which can be highly beneficial for those who have trouble sleeping.
If you’re just starting out with restorative yoga and want to try a few simple poses to get you into the swing of things, it may be quite difficult to choose from the variety of positions out there.
Below we’ve collated three of the best restorative yoga positions for beginners, so you can enjoy a short restorative yoga session and start making your way towards true relaxation and improved well-being.
Child’s Pose is excellent for targeting your lower body, spine, and shoulder muscles. It’s a highly relaxing position and great for relieving tension in the body.
- Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees apart. Move your big toes together until they are touching, and sit back towards your heels.
- Placing a couple of folded blankets or a cushion between your thighs will support your torso.
- Exhale slowly and move forward. Keep your torso between your thighs. Gently lean your head down toward the floor.
- Raise your arms out in front of you, above your head, with your hands on the floor.
- You can put a cushion or blankets on the floor to support your head if required.
- Hold this pose for around 5 minutes, breathing in and out deeply.
- Lift your torso up into a seated position to finish the pose.
This pose targets your legs, feet, hamstrings, back, and neck. It’s great for relieving pain or stress in these areas.
- Put your yoga mat on the floor against the wall. Putting a folded blanket or cushion in the middle of the yoga mat will help to support your head and neck.
- Sit with your right side against the wall. Lie down on the yoga mat, on your back with your head on the folded blanket or cushion, and swing your legs up against the wall.
- Try to get yourself as close up against the wall as possible, so your legs are facing straight up against the wall. You can use extra blankets or cushions to support your lower back if needed.
- Move your arms to your sides or place them on your torso. Inhale and exhale. As you exhale, relax your hips, back, and neck into the floor. Hold this position for around 10 minutes, breathing deeply and keeping your body relaxed.
The Corpse Pose is known for its ability to instill a deep sense of calm and relaxation. This is a great position for whole-body relaxation and enhanced mindfulness.
- Begin by putting one folded blanket at the top end of your mat, and a couple of folded blankets, a cushion, or a bolster at the bottom end of your mat.
- Sit in the middle of the mat, between the top and bottom end. Keep your back straight and bend your knees.
- Extend your legs out so that your knees are resting on the bolster, cushion, or folded blankets at the bottom end of the mat.
- Lower yourself slowly until your head is resting on the blanket at the top end of the yoga mat and you are lying on your back.
- Place your arms in a natural position at your sides with palms facing up. You will have a gap between your arms and body.
- Hold this position for around 10 minutes, inhaling and exhaling gently throughout.
Once you’ve mastered these three relaxing restorative yoga poses, you can start to practice a wider variety of positions. As you can see, restorative yoga poses are quite simplistic and focus mainly on deeply relaxing the body, bringing calmness, and promoting an improved sense of balance and well-being.
Restorative yoga will do wonders for your mental and physical health, and you should notice a marked reduction in your stress levels if you practice these exercises regularly.