One of the best parts of yoga is how we can adjust it to our individual bodies and needs. In the mood for an athletic workout? We can work through a vigorous vinyasa. But restorative yoga poses are especially helpful for the soothing calm that can come with simple stretches. We need rest and recovery for our muscles, lowering our heart rate, and allowing our nervous system to unwind. At Clean, we like to pair a soothing practice followed by some Eliminate for a sound sleep.
After a tough day, to help a headache, or to help assist us with preparing for a stressful morning meeting, it’s meditative and calming to work through a few quick yoga poses. As important as the movements are, the time we’re taking for ourselves to ground and breathe is equally important. These poses will leave you feeling as refreshed and relaxed as a nice afternoon nap.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga is a relaxation technique that heals the body from the inside out. It promotes deep relaxation that benefits not only our digestive and nervous systems, but all systems within the body.
By completing a restorative yoga sequence, you are directly targeting your body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates your body’s ability to sleep, digest foods, and heal. Whether you need help with stress relief, releasing tension in your muscles, or simply want to take a moment to center yourself, restorative yoga will help you become more in tune with your body and mind.
Setting the Mood for Restorative Yoga
When practicing restorative yoga, creating the right environment is just as important as getting into the right headspace. Customizing your surroundings, from a comfortable yoga mat to calming music, will help enhance your experience and support maximum relaxation. Some suggestions include:
- Lighting: Soft lighting can help tone down your nervous system, making you feel calm and balanced, and ultimately aiding concentration during your yoga session. While natural light is ideal, you can also try fairy lights or even colored lighting.
- Music: Turn on your favorite soothing soundtrack, or even browse meditation playlists on Spotify.
- Scents: Try an essential oil diffuser, light a candle, or burn your favorite incense.
- Turn off electronics: Put away your phone, laptop, or any other distracting devices that might interfere with your yoga practice in order to get the most out of your session.
Now that you’ve set the stage for your restorative yoga session, here are our top 7 poses for deep relaxation:
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
There’s no better way to start a soothing flow than in child pose. With knees apart and forehead resting on the mat, lay in repose for five breaths. Keep this pose in your back pocket for any time during this practice or another session when you feel an urge to pause or rest. Asanas (poses or postures) like this one can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.
2. Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
A slightly more active variation of child’s pose, this playful pose is a fun, loose way to start your practice. From child’s pose, scoot your hips back and up while keeping your forearms on the mat. Feel a gentle opening in your chest and shoulders.
3. Easy Seated Forward Fold (Adho Mukha Sukhasana)
Sit cross-legged with your back tall. Breathe and fold over your legs, reaching long for the mat in front. This pose and other seated folds are especially helpful in case of a migraine. When suffering from a headache, avoid standing forward folds: Yoga Journal recommends skipping asanas where the head is fully below the chest during a migraine.
4. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Lay on your back. With a wall for assistance and balance, extend your legs over your head with your sit bones up against the wall. Keep arms in a T or cactus shape at your sides. This position is especially helpful to increase circulation back through the body for those of us who spend most of our time on our feet.
5. Supported Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
With knees bent and soles of the feet on the ground, place a block under your pelvis to lift hips in the air. This should feel comfortable, with the yoga block on the lowest height for maximum relaxation. For a more active variation, spend a few breaths lifting your sacrum without the block’s assistance. To come out of the pose, slowly lower hips and gently knock knees to each side of the mat.
6. Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
This one can sometimes feel anything but happy, but it’s worth the effort to get it right! Start lying on your back and raise and bend your knees, almost like you are squatting on the ceiling. Grab the outside of each foot, being sure to keep your elbows in between your legs for a gentle hip opener, and try to keep your tailbone in touch with the ground.
7. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lie flat on the mat with eyes closed and arms at sides, palms face open. Take as much time in “corpse pose,” or final resting position, until you feel ready to leave your mat. This is the perfect close to our practice and to help us surrender to the present moment. These restorative yoga poses are great for unwinding tight winter muscles, relaxing from stress, or simply deepening the effects of our 21-Day Clean Program.
Written by Leah Prinzivalli