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Restorative yoga is a practice missed by many, that should be practiced by everybody. Every single person, no matter who you are or what shape you are in, will benefit from this practice.
If you suffer from anxiety, stress, feel achy, or just can’t seem to find a way to let go and relax, this sequence is 100% for you.
A lot of people flock to yoga for the hot, sweaty flows to stay in shape and get a good workout. But people seem to forget how much their body needs a soft, relaxing flow from time to time to rejuvenate and unwind.
The follow sequence is very easy to follow as it only consists of 7 simple poses:
- Cat-cow- 3 to 5 minutes
- Thread the Needle- 1 minute
- Supported Backbend with Block- 2 to 3 minutes
- Wind Relieving Pose- 2 minutes (both sides)
- Supported Shoulderstand with Block- 3 to 4 minutes
- Plow Pose- 1 minute
- Supported Savasana with Bolster- 5 minutes
But before we get into the sequence, let’s get into a few of the basics of Restorative Yoga for those of you who have never tried it before.
What is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is a type of yoga that is practiced to relax and restore the body. This type of yoga incorporates props to support and completely relax the body, although props are not mandatory. Poses are typically help longer than in other practices, anywhere from 1-5 minutes.
The difference between your regular vinyasa flow and a restorative yoga sequence is that restorative yoga poses are held longer, and the use of props is much more common to help you completely relax into each pose.
The props are used for mainly supportive measures, and you are unlikely to practice strengthening yoga poses while doing a restorative sequence.
Before I get more into it, if you are wondering if you should give restorative yoga a try, here are a few reasons why you should:
- Improves flexibility safely and gently
- Relieves aches and pains
- Calms the parasympathetic nervous system
- Promotes mindfulness and patience
- Relieves anxiety
- Improves circulation
- Can be done at any age and with any body type
Is Restorative Yoga Good for Back Pain?
Restorative yoga can be very beneficial for those that experience back pain. I actually practiced this type of yoga when I began to experience back pain from working long shifts as a nurse and it helped me tremendously.
Although those that have serious injuries definitely should consult with a doctor before practicing, many have found relief through practicing Restorative Yoga due to the way it gently stretches and relaxes the body, including the spine.
It also helps promote body awareness, helping you focus on problem areas that are tighten than others, which in turn can help you better alleviate the route cause of where your discomfort is coming from.
How Often Should You Practice Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga can be practiced everyday, but it is entirely up to you how often you decide to practice. I definitely recommend incorporating at least a couple restorative yoga sessions into your schedule every month.
Not only will you benefit physically from changing up your routine and treating your body with relaxing postures, but you will benefit mentally as well, as it causes you to slow down and calm your mind.
What You’ll Need
Popular yoga websites like Yoga International show you that you don’t need tons of props to successfully practice restorative yoga.
Although props are not mandatory, they definitely do help. These are the two we recommend having for this sequence.
If you don’t have a block or bolster, you could always opt for a firm pillow or blanket you have at home. I find bolsters much more effective though due to their firmness.
What Should You Wear While Practicing Restorative Yoga?
Wear the comfiest clothes you have! You’ll want to dress in loose fitting clothes that are extremely comfortable, a much different style than when you practice your sweaty vinyasa flows.
The goal of Restorative yoga is exactly how it sounds: to restore. Some sequence may start with a few strengthening poses, but mainly the focus is on relaxing poses that gently stretch your body and relax your mind.
So, get your tools, get in a pair of comfy clothes, and let’s begin!
Start on all fours in a neutral spine. You can choose to tuck or untuck your toes.
For Cow: On your inhale, lift your gaze, drop your belly, arch your back, and lift your tailbone.
For Cat: Drop your gaze, hollow your belly, round your spine, and tuck your tailbone.
Move through the two poses for three to five minutes, allowing your breath to guide you through the duration and pace of the poses.
2.Thread the Needle
Come back to neutral spine from your cat-cow’s. To “thread the needle”:
- On your inhale, lift your right arm up towards the ceiling and open your chest towards the right side of the rooms, allowing your gaze to follow.
- On your exhale, bring your right arm down beneath your chest and through your left arm. Allow your right ear or cheek to rest on the floor, or bring your gaze upwards.
- Walk your left hand forward until you stretch out your left arm in front of you.
- Stay here for 1 minute, then repeat on the other side.
This is a great mild backbend to do to relieve tension in the lower back and passively open up the chest.
- Start by lying on the ground with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
- Lift your lower back up just enough to place the block underneath. Depending on how you are feeling, you will want to adjust the height of the block. The taller you make the block, the deeper of a backbend you will create. If you are doing this for the first time, I suggest starting at the lowest position.
- After you have the block in place, slowly unbend your knees and allow your legs to spread out straight in front of you.
- Stay here for 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully remove the block and slowly come to the ground.
4.Wind Relieving Pose
Wind Relieving Pose is great for digestion and calming the nervous system. It also helps relieve tension in the low back and stimulates the abdominals.
- From lying position, bring your right knee into your chest. Allow you left leg to stay spread out in front of you.
- Flex both feet and grab just below your right knee to bring it into your chest more.
- Hold for 2 minutes then switch to the other side.
Promote better circulation and ease stress and anxiety with this relaxing inversion.
- Lying on your back again, bring both knees into your chest.
- Roll backwards just enough to allow yourself to place your block under your tailbone. Just like in the previous pose, adjust this to your liking. In this pose, making the block taller will help your legs straighten more into the air if you have tight hamstrings.
- After you have your block in place, bring your legs up straight into the air. You want the block to be in a position where it does not feel like a struggle to keep your legs lifted. Adjust the block until you feel you have reached a comfortable spot.
- Let your arms lay flat by your sides and keep your head and neck neutral.
- Stay here for 3 to 4 minutes.
Plow pose is one of the best poses, in my opinion, to relax your mind and relieve all the tension and tightness that builds up in your hamstrings and back throughout the day.
You can come here right from your supported shoulderstand:
- From your supported shoulderstand, roll your body backwards more so you are only being supported by your shoulders. You should no longer be resting on the block.
- Keep your legs straight, and begin to slowly lower your feet down behind your head.
- If you have really tight hamstrings and this isn’t comfortable for you, try placing your bolster on the other side of you head for your feet to rest on.
- Bring your hands together or leave the lying by your sides.
- Stay here for 1 minute.
To end this restorative yoga sequence, come into Savasana, the ultimate resting pose. For this sequence, we will be using a variation with the bolster to provide support for your knees and hamstrings.
- Come down to the ground from your Plow Pose, and lay flat on your back, with legs stretched out in front of you.
- Get your bolster and place it under your knees (you can use a pillow if you don’t have a bolster).
- Relax your entire body and breathe. Stay here for 5 minutes.
I hope you enjoyed this sequence, and it leaves you feeling relaxed, restored, and rejuvenated. Try to take the time at least a couple times a month to step back from your fast paced flows to treat yourself with this relaxing and calming sequence.
What other poses do you practice when you need to destress and release tension?
Ally is the co-founder of GroundedPanda.com with her fiance Victor. She began practicing yoga at the beginning of her career as a Registered Nurse to cope with the physical and mental stress it put on her, and fell in love with it. Her goal is to help beginners develop a fulfilling practice without the intimidation. Besides managing this website, she loves hiking with her loving fiance and cuddling with her two silly cats.