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What Is Restorative Yoga?

by
author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
Roll out a mat in peaceful surroundings for Restorative yoga. Photo Credit YiorgosDoukanaris/iStock/Getty Images

You say you want to relax — just kick back and take some quiet time. How often do you actually carve out this space for yourself?

Guarantee yourself a little 'me time" with Restorative yoga. This quiet, contemplative practice consists mostly of seated and reclined postures, often supported with yoga pillows and blankets, to create a calming, meditative environment.

Restorative yoga provides a tranquil energy in an otherwise fast-paced world. Use it to settle a busy mind or fidgety body.

Read More: Types of Yoga Breathing

What to Expect

A Restorative yoga practice isn't a defined set of poses; which ones you visit and the exact sequencing is very much up to the instructor. It's common to begin in a very quiet state, often Corpse pose, which requires you lie on your back on the floor with your arms and legs spread out. You spend several minutes here before moving on to a series of soothing, supported postures that you hold for several minutes at a time.

Sample Restorative postures include:

  • Child's Pose: From all fours, extend your arms forward and sit your butt back on your heels.
  • Seated Forward Fold: Sit on your sits bones with your legs extended in front of you. Drape forward over your legs, using a bolster under your chest for support.
  • Bound Angle Pose: Sit with your feet together and your knees out to the sides of room like butterfly wings. Fold over your legs, again using a bolster to support your chest and head and blocks to rest under your thighs. You may also do this pose lying on your back.
  • Supported Bridge Pose: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted. Lift your hips and slide a bolster or block under your sacrum for support.
  • Legs up the Wall Pose: Lie on your back close to a wall. Scoot your buttocks as near the wall as possible and extend your legs up it. A folded blanket may support your hips or head. 
Child's pose is often offered in Restorative yoga.
Child's pose is often offered in Restorative yoga. Photo Credit jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

You might move from long-held pose to long-held pose, or include some gentle flowing movements between postures, depending on the instructor. Such flowing movements could include Cow and Cat pose or easy seated twists.

Benefits

It doesn't seem like you're doing much in a Restorative practice, and that's the point. Very rarely do you have the opportunity to divest from stimulation and distraction in your day. Restorative yoga gives you an opportunity to focus on your breathing and settle your mind down from a stressful life. If you lead a physically active lifestyle, too, Restorative yoga offers balance with its calming energy.

A Restorative practice also helps to gently stretch your body and improve flexibility. Relaxing your mind can help your mood and anxiety levels. A Restorative practice may also help you sleep better, suggests Dr. Marlynn Wei of Harvard University. It may also play a role in reducing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that indicate an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Research published in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders in 2008 showed that in a small group of participants with the condition, experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure and stress levels after 10 weeks of regular Restorative practice.

Read More: Benefits of Deep Breathing

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