Cat Easterbrook

Top three restorative yoga postures

Practising restorative yoga is a great way to take some time out to rest and renew – especially when energy levels are low. These three restorative yoga postures can be practised individually or they make a really nice short session, incorporating a forward bend, a back bend and an inversion. Stay about 3 minutes in each pose for a 10 minute restorative sequence before bed and sleep easy.

Although it’s ideal, you don’t need a yoga bolster. Get creative and use blankets, a duvet, pillows – whatever you have to hand. If you think you might want to practice restorative (also known as ‘yin’) yoga regularly, a yoga bolster is well worth the investment. If you have a yogi friend/family member, it makes a much appreciated yoga present (mine certainly was). Enjoy!

1. Supported chest opener (aka ‘the heart soarer’)

Yin yoga chest opener

Restorative yoga – chest and shoulder opener

Physical benefits:

  • Opens the shoulders and chest – great if you spend a lot of time working on a computer.
  • Opens up the lungs and diaphragm, allowing for a deeper, fuller breath, rejuvenating the whole body.
  • Stretches the front of the body, allowing tension to be released from the stomach.
  • Increases flexibility in the upper spine.

Emotional benefits:

  • Feeling openhearted and at ease.

How to do it:

  • Sit on the bolster lengthways then lie back so that your shoulders are at the top of the bolster.
  • With your knees bent and feet on the floor, push into the floor with your feet and slide yourself further up the bolster until your shoulders come to the ground, allowing your shoulder blades to be pulled down your back as you slide.
  • Stay with your feet bent or stretch your legs out. Stretch out your arms alongside you or above your head, palms facing up.

2. Supported child’s pose (aka ‘baby’s bliss’)

Restorative yoga – supported child's pose

Restorative yoga – supported child’s pose

Physical benefits:

  • Encourages full movement of the breath through the abdomen and the back of the body, resulting in a fuller and deeper breath.
  • Gently stretches out the back of the body.
  • Releases tension from the shoulders.
  • Eases backache and period pain.
  • Soothes the nervous system, relieving anxiety.
  • Soothes the stomach with the support allowing tension to be released.

Emotional benefits:

  • Feeling supported, safe and nurtured due to its similarity to the fetal position and the full support of the chest and stomach.

How to do it:

  • From a kneeling position, open your knees slightly to allow your bolster  to nestle between your knees and your lower thighs.
  • Sit up straight and as you exhale hinge forward at the hip to place your upper body on the bolster, making sure it is fully supported.
  • Turn your head to one side and place your arms around the top of the bolster, or alongside if that is more comfortable.
  • Breathe deeply into the back of your body. Turn your head to face the other way at the halfway mark.

3. Legs up the wall (aka ‘putting your feet up’)

Restorative yoga - Inversion

Restorative yoga – Inversion

Physical benefits:

  • Increases blood flow to the vital organs and glands.
  • Allows deeper and fuller exhalations because the abdomen is working with gravity in this position. This triggers the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and results in naturally fuller inhalations, reviving the body with good oxygen flow.
  • Rests and revives tired or aching feet and legs.
  • Opens the chest and shoulders.

Emotional benefits:

  • Feeling deeply relaxed and calm.

How to do it:

  • Place a couple of thick blankets or a bolster against the wall with about a 5-10cm gap.
  • Sit sideways on to the wall so you can get your buttocks as close as possible before swinging your legs round and up the wall as you lie back.
  • Place your arms alongside or above your head with the palms facing up and your shoulders released to the ground.

Be wise:

Restorative yoga is gentle and supported but you are still putting your body into unfamiliar positions and it can have strong effects. Ideally attend a restorative yoga class or arrange a private yoga class before practising at home on your own. Seek advice from your doctor if you have an existing health condition. Above all, be gentle with your body and learn what works for you.

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