What Is Restorative Yoga?

Here’s what you should know about restorative yoga and what it can do for you…

Restorative yoga has become a very popular type of yoga in recent years – and with good reason! In today’s fast-paced and stressful modern world, we all need to take some time out to relax and de-stress, and this is what’s so great about restorative yoga.

This form of yoga focuses on relaxing, releasing, and letting go – both physically and mentally. It creates a safe space for you to rest and find your inner peace, without having to think about whether you’re doing a certain pose right, how to breathe, or even holding yourself upright! This is the “let-it-all-go” type of yoga, where relaxing is literally the only thing you need to do.

While you can do restorative yoga without props, most restorative yoga classes utilize props like yoga blocks, bolsters, pillows, and blankets to support various parts of your body in each pose and allow you to fully relax and be comfortable. Many common seated and reclined yoga poses can be adapted to restorative versions (see examples below).

If you are used to more energetic Vinyasa-type yoga classes, restorative yoga may seem a little strange or even boring at first, but as you begin to practice it regularly, you’ll be amazed at the benefits it can bring to your life. Whether you’re feeling depressed, anxious, stressed out, or just low-energy, restorative yoga can help!

Here’s a bit more about this type of yoga and what to expect when taking a restorative yoga class, according to VeryWellFit.com:

In restorative yoga, props are used extensively to support your body so you can hold poses for longer periods of time. Postures are usually adapted from supine or seated yoga poses with the addition of blocks, bolsters, and blankets to eliminate unnecessary straining.

For instance, a seated forward bend (paschimottanasana) can become restorative by placing a bolster or several folded blankets on top of your legs. This fully supports your forward bend by allowing your entire torso to rest on your props.

Legs up the wall (viparita karani) is a classic restorative pose that you might already know. In this case, the wall acts as a prop to support your legs. Other positions you may be familiar with, such as the reclined goddess pose and supported bridge pose, can also be adapted into restorative poses.

What to Expect in Class

Prepare yourself for deep relaxation when you attend a restorative class. Expect the teacher to arrange for the necessary props to be available for you. The lights may be dimmed and soft music played.

If it is chilly, keep your socks and sweatshirt on since you will not be warming up the body the way you would be in a regular class. In some poses, the teacher may even cocoon you in blankets for extra warmth and coziness.

After you are set up in a pose with all your props, you will hold the pose for an extended period, often up to 10 or 20 minutes. In these passive poses, the focus is on ease and release. You may even fall asleep. This can be a sign that the nervous system is recalibrating to a “rest and digest” state vs. “fight or flight.”

You will continue to focus on your breath throughout. The teacher may talk you through meditation or play music, depending on their style. You may only do four or five poses over the course of an entire class.

At the end of the session, your body feels open and refreshed. You may even be a little sore the next day from the deep stretching.

Once you learn the basic set-ups for a few postures, it’s easy to do restorative yoga at home. You will need to assemble a few props, but many poses can be done with just a few blankets, which you probably already have.

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