Yoga can be used as a form of exercise, strength training and even weight loss. But yoga can also be used to stretch the body, to improve flexibility, and to heal.
Restorative yoga has excellent benefits including improving emotional and physical wellbeing. If you choose the right poses, you will be surprised at the healing power of yoga.
Remember that restorative yoga is supposed to be comfortable, so you can use blankets, bolsters, pillows and blocks to support you.
1. Supta Bhadda Konasana
This is the reclined butterfly pose. It is a great hip opener and it improves your circulation. It can also relieve stress and ease menstruation pains.
Begin lying on your back. Bring your knees up with your feet together, flat on the ground. Your heels should be close to your hips.
From this position, let your knees fall open up and gradually lower them, bringing the bottoms of your feet together so that your outer ankles are touching the floor.
As you breathe in, slide your arms along the floor until they are over your head. Find a comfortable position for your hands. Take some deep breaths in this position.
If you want to open your chest you can lie on a yoga bolster. You can place cushions under your thighs and knees if you need extra support in those areas.
2. Supta Matsyendrasana
This is called the reclined twist. It can provide relief to your digestive system as well as easing symptoms of sciatica. This position massages your internal organs and releases tension from your spine, helping you to relax.
Begin by lying on your back. Bring your knees up to your chest and hug them. If you want to, you can gently roll side to side to massage your back.
Drop your arms down either side of you into a T shape and let your shoulders sink into the ground.
Choose a side and let your knees drop down gently to that side, with one knee stacked on top of the other. Keep your back flat to the ground and your chest open.
Take a few deep breaths in this position, then bring your knees back up to your chest. Hug your knees, then release them and let them drop down to the other side.
If you want to try an alternate version of this position that stretches your lower back, straighten the leg that is closest to the floor. Using the arm on the same side, gently apply some pressure to the bended knee.
Balasana is one of the best restorative yoga poses. It is more commonly known as child’s pose. It stretches out your back to help relieve any pain.
It also brings your brain level with your heart, which reduces your heart rate and puts you into a state of relaxation. This pose is very comforting and can ease stress and anxiety.
To begin this pose, get on your hands and knees with your knees hip width apart or wider. Drop your pelvis back down towards your heels and push your arms along the floor out in front of you.
Get a good stretch in your arms and upper back, and bring your forehead to the floor. You can keep your arms stretched outwards, or you can bring them back towards you and rest your forehead on your hands.
You can shift the position to make sure that your hips feel comfortable. Widen your knees if you want to get a deeper stretch in your hips.
Your feet should be together under your pelvis with the bottom of them facing upwards. If you need more support, you can place a pillow or a bolster between your thighs. You can also turn your head to one side if you need to relax your neck.
One of the great things about child’s pose is that you can spend a long time in this position. Take the time you need to rest and breathe.
4. Ananda Balasana
Ananda Balasana is also called the happy baby pose. It is relaxing and joyful, but is also very good for your joints. If you are suffering from trapped wind, this pose will give you a lot of relief.
Start by lying on your back. Bring your knees up to your chest, and then spread them out so that they are in line with your armpits. Reach your hands towards your feet and hold onto the toes, the bottom of your feet, or your ankles.
Make sure that your feet are positioned over your knees. Let your shoulders sink into the floor and press your lower back into the mat. Keep your head straight and take some deep breaths.
If you want to, you can gently roll from side to side in small movements to massage your lower back. You can also release one leg at a time and stretch it up into the air.
5. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This is the supported bridge pose and it requires a block, bolster or pillow. Start by lying on your back with your knees hip width apart. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground, with your heels close to your pelvis.
Take a supporting block or bolster and place it under your lower back. You are aiming to place the support directly under your sacrum which is a large bone at the bottom of your spine. This will keep your hips in an elevated position.
Place your arms gently by your sides and take some deep breaths. Focus on expanding your abdomen as you breathe. This pose is great for relieving lower back pain and opening up the diaphragm.
It also allows your heart to rest, lowering your heart rate to put you into a state of relaxation.
6. Viparita Karani
This is a simple yoga pose which involves propping your legs up against a wall to support them in an inverted position. You can also use a pillow or a folded blanket under your lower back if you need more support.
This pose can help to regulate your respiratory system, improves your circulation, and relieves the spine and the nervous system. Once you get into this position you can stay there for 5 to 10 minutes.
If you are using a lower back support, place this up against the wall before you begin. Sit sideways on the support, or on the floor in front of the wall, with your right side against the wall.
Swing your legs up onto the wall and lower your back and shoulders down to the floor. Your legs should be up against the wall, supported but relaxed.
The lower back support should be directly underneath your sacrum. Let your shoulders sink into the mat and keep your neck relaxed.
7. Parsva Balasana
This pose is called thread the needle. There is a more advanced version of the pose which involves supporting your entire body weight with your hands, but this is a simple restorative version.
It is great for providing relief to your digestive system and also easing any pain you might have in your shoulders.
Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Slide your left arm forward along the floor so that it is straight out in front of you.
Thread your right arm under your left arm so that your right shoulder and ear are on the mat, and your left ear is facing upwards towards the sky. Your torso will be twisted and you will feel a nice stretch in your shoulders and abdomen.
8. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
This is called the sleeping pigeon pose. It stretches the hips and stimulates the internal organs. You can do it supported or unsupported depending on your ability and flexibility.
Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders and wrists aligned and your hips and knees aligned. Slide your right knee along the floor towards your right wrist, getting your shin as close to parallel with the front of the mat as possible.
Don’t force it – the position should not be uncomfortable – you will be able to improve your flexibility over time.
Once your right knee is in position, you can extend your left leg straight behind you. If you need some extra support, place a bolster or a cushion underneath your right hip to keep your hips level.
Take a few deep, long breaths in this position and sink into it. You can then return to your hands and knees and repeat the position on the opposite side.
These restorative yoga poses are excellent for healing your body and improving your general wellbeing. You can use them as part of a flow, or you can attempt them individually.
Most of these poses can be done in bed, so they can be incorporated into your night time routine to help you sleep.