Whether you practice it or not, we are all likely familiar with yoga poses. If you’re new to the game, you may want to consider restorative yoga.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
On the surface, the term “restorative yoga” can sound a bit vague. It definitely offers different gains than, say, running, or lifting, or even just regular yoga. But what it lacks in cardio and muscle building, it makes up for tenfold.
It’s true; traditional yoga is about grounding your mind and your body and trying to merge the two to some degree. But restorative yoga directs its focus deeper inward. Restorative yoga is about using your body in a way that grounds your mind.
Think of it more as a form of meditation rather than just physical exercise. A restorative yoga practice is especially good for calming the stress response and frantic heart rate.
In restorative yoga, you assume less rigorous poses but hold them for a much longer period. This restful yoga allows you to sink deeper into a state of calm and better achieve peace and relaxation. It is less about challenging yourself and more about calming your nerves and healing your mind.
Who Needs Restorative Yoga?
Who needs restorative yoga in their lives? Well, anyone could benefit from the practice. If you are a living, breathing human being with a life and struggles, restorative yoga is for you.
It’s for you, in your apartment. You, who travel from network to network; always searching for the right place to plug in your laptop and get some work done. It’s for the man with a busy day-to-day life, who needs to find a way to ground himself and destress after a meeting that ran two hours long.
It doesn’t matter if you do yoga or not; if you think your life could benefit from mental stability and peace, then you should give restorative yoga a try. This isn't only for stressful times; it’s just a good form of self-care.
What Will You Need?
Luckily your list of requirements needed for restorative yoga is a short one.
Here are a few items that you might find useful for extra support to have on hand before you begin:
Blankets or Pillows: Because restorative yoga is designed to reduce strain on the body, it consists primarily of yoga poses that have been modified with the addition of props to make them less strenuous and more relaxing.
Rolled or stacked blankets serve as a bolster, allowing you to support your weight and hold poses longer without causing discomfort. There are also many poses that can be done without props if you are on the go or just looking to keep things simple.
Small Towels or a Weighted Eye Mask: Your eyes can provide a lot of unwanted stimuli, making it harder to slip into a meditative mind space. Placing an eye mask or a small cloth over your eyes can help you to achieve relaxation and become less prone to external distraction.
If you are practicing at home, try to find a quiet space (at least temporarily) where you can get away from distractions. (dogs, children, phone notifications, etc.).
Comfortable, Flexible Attire: As with any yoga, the only real dress code restriction is flexibility. With restorative yoga, you won't be doing many rigorous or challenging poses, but nothing makes it harder to focus than uncomfortable clothing. You should wear something that can breathe and stretch at least as well as you do.
Yoga Mat: Some kind of padding is essential. Your comfort is directly proportional to your endurance when it comes to holding a pose. If your knees, spine, or hips are digging into the floor while you are trying to relax and calm your mind, you will be fighting a losing battle.
Time To Begin: Inhale, Exhale
What comes next is up to you, at least in terms of poses and backdrop. If you decide to attend a class, your yoga teacher will get you started on some simple poses to get you eased into things.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the time or ability to see a certified yoga instructor at a gym or studio. There are plenty of videos online that can walk you through the basics.
If you still don't quite know where to start, here are some good restorative yoga poses to try out:
Child's Pose (Bālāsana)
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Reclined Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
What You Stand To Gain
Physical activity is always beneficial, as is meditation and relaxation, but we like to hear specifics. If you are going to devote time and energy to any task, even a soothing one, you should know why you are doing it. After all, your time is valuable, and you need to know that it is well spent.
Here are a few of the things that restorative yoga will bring into your life:
Like any type of yoga, restorative yoga bolsters your physical well-being in a multitude of ways. Poses can be held anywhere from five to 20 minutes, so you can expect your muscles to increase flexibility and your range of movement. Training the endurance of your muscles will also aid in weight loss and general pain relief (including chronic pain).
The meditative aspects hone your concentration and relieve stress, both mental and physical. Restorative yoga is about being able to let go and release physical and mental tension. Practicing this process will make it easier for you to fall asleep quicker and sleep more soundly.
Most importantly, all those deep breathing exercises and mentally stable habits you’ve formed will come with you, even after you roll up your mat. That means you can expect to have better control in those times of stress and anxiety that pop up all too frequently in life.
Restorative yoga might be able to change the game for you in your day to day by:
Easing stress, anxiety, or depression
Reducing musculoskeletal pain everywhere from the hamstrings to the glutes and more
Helping you work through mental or emotional trauma
Improving sleep and relaxation
Balancing high blood pressure
We all have struggles. These troubles can range from upper or lower back pain, or financial instability, even mental or emotional trauma. Healing what ails us is always a battle on two fronts. You have to maintain control over and treat both the mental and the physical needs if you want to be the best version of yourself you can be.
Restorative yoga is an excellent tool to help you ground yourself and ease the many burdens you face. A relaxing yoga practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system: also known as "rest and digest." This promotes mental healing.
In a fast-paced and ever-changing world, the simple act of dedicating time to release our stress can be a challenge in and of itself. For many, it’s far easier to distract oneself than it is to face down a problem head-on. So we pile on more work, adding more stressors and making sure we don't have time to be alone with our thoughts.
The benefit of restorative yoga is that we can begin to heal in a passive but constructive way by learning how to relinquish our iron grip on our minds and bodies. It is non-confrontational, yet the act of achieving internal stability makes us more equipped to handle our hectic lives.
If you find yourself running from one situation to the next without ever making time to stop and assess, consider taking a moment to reconnect with yourself. Restorative yoga can make that process easy and stress-free.