Self care is such an empowering skill & restorative yoga a great tool to have in your belt. I have totally fallen in love with restorative yoga over the past year after having my baby girl. It’s been a way to connect to my practice each day, even on the days where I didn’t have anything to give to a more physically demanding practice. The style of restorative yoga would fill me back up when I felt a bit like I had nothing left. Some days the most helpful style of practice is restorative & restful.
Restorative yoga teaches the body how to relax. We are so busy. We can become so wound up that it can become very hard to unwind. When we do get a opportunity to relax, like when we’re going to sleep at night, perhaps our mind starts racing. Having some kind of restorative practice is a wonderful way to regularly plug into that calm and expansive space we find in our yoga practice. When we regularly make time to find that space it’s much easier to access it at other times in our day.
During restorative style practices the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated. This part of our nervous system does all wonder of helpful things for our body, like clear up stress hormones (which are depleting & ageing), aids healthy digestion, improves sleep quality, increases immune function, the list goes on..
Practices like these help us feel connected & supported by something bigger than ourselves. These practices open us up & expand our mind. We feel calm, grounded, supported & open. We don’t have to wait for a massage or holiday to relax. Everything we need is right here & we have access to it every day.
A Short Restorative Yoga Sequence for You
• Hold each posture for 2-5 minutes. You’ll end up with a 15- 30 minute sequence.
• If something feels uncomfortable see if you can move your props around to better support the body.
• This sequence has been designed to take the spine through every direction of movement & a restorative inversion. If one of the postures doesn’t work for you see if you can replace the posture with another pose of the same nature eg. Another forward fold.
• Restorative postures aren’t about achieving the biggest stretch you’ve ever experienced. Pull back from your edge & find a comfortable position where the body can melt into the posture. Let gravity & the shape do the work for you.
Props needed for this sequence
• Bolster or blankets folded into the shape of a bolster, as pictured
• Two yoga blocks, rolled up towels or two even piles of books
• Yoga strap or a belt/dressing gown tie
• Wall space or cupboard doors
• Possibly an extra blanket to practice on top of if the floor is hard or cold
Reclined Butterfly Pose
• Bring your hips right up against the bottom of the bolster or pile of blankets & slowly lower yourself back so the spine is in the centre of the bolster.
• Bring the soles of the feet together & allow the knees to fall open to the sides.
• Support the legs from the outside with x2 blocks or rolled up towels- lift the knees around 3cm higher than they naturally open out to.
• Bring the arms out to the sides high or low, as pictured.
• To come out use the hands to bring the knees back together & then extend the legs out straight for a few breaths before rolling over onto your right side to come up.
Side opener/twist sequence
• Bring your right hip up to the bottom of the bolster & then lay your torso sideways along the centre of the bolster with the right arm extended above your head as a pillow.
• Bring the right thigh up inline with the hip & the left knee into the arch of the right foot with the shin parallel to the bottom of the mat.
• Extend the left arm over the head.
• Breath into the left side ribs & side body.
• Rest here for 2-5minutes
• Keep the legs as they are in Part 1, bring the hands either side of the bolster & inhale to arch the back slightly & open the chest.
• As you exhale relax the torso down onto the bolster with the head turned to the left (the same way your knees are pointing).
• Rest here for a few breaths & then move into Part 3 or stay here for 2-5 minutes.
• Press the hands into the floor, inhale to lift back up into a gentle back arch.
• As you exhale again lower the torso down onto the bolster, this time turning your head to the right (opposite direction to the legs) to continuing the twist into the neck. If this feels uncomfortable keep the head turning to the left, as in Part 2.
• Rest here for 2-5 minutes
To come out
• Press the hands down into the floor as you inhale to lift up and repeat on the other side.
Restorative Bridge Pose
This one takes a little bit of moving around to get the props into the right place but it is so worth it.
• Sit about half way along your bolster & position two blocks or a pile of books at the end of your mat.
• Loop a strap around your lower legs and rest the lower calf muscles on top of the blocks. Tighten the strap enough so that the feet don’t flop out to the sides. This help to keep space through the back of the pelvis
• Lower the back down along the bolster & start to wiggle yourself backwards until the back of the head & shoulders are fully resting on the floor but the rest of the body remains on the bolster and the chest is lifted. The shoulder blades will be drawn down the back away from the ears by the bolster.
• Rest here for 2-5 minutes.
• To come out bend the knees and bring the feet to the floor. Wiggle out of your strap here if you can. Use the feet to push yourself back further off the bolster so the whole back is on the floor & the feet are resting on the bolster with the knees pointing to the ceiling. Stay here for a few breaths before moving on.
Legs up the wall/Wide leg variation
• Bring your bolster or folded blankets against the wall. You may want a strap for this one too so keep one close by.
• I find the easiest way to get the legs up the way is to come in sideways. Lye down on your side & bring both sit-bones onto the wall on top of your bolster. Roll onto your back & swing your legs up the wall. You should be nice & close to the wall. If the hamstrings are tight keep a bend in the knees.
• Bring the arms out beside you with the palms facing up.
• Lengthen the back of the neck by slightly tucking the chin down.
• As a variation you may like to take the legs out wide, as shown in second image.
• Rest here for 2-5 minutes.
• To come out bend the knees, stretch your right arm over your head and roll onto your right side. Use your right arm as a pillow. Stay here for several breaths before slowly making your way out of the pose.
• To finish– come into Savasana by lying flat on your back with the bolster under your knees, palms facing up. Completely relaxing the body for 2-5 minutes.