The practice of yoga has roots in the ancient world, encompassing elements like breathing, meditation, and physical postures. In modern iterations, yoga has shifted focus to group exercise, stretching, and rejuvenating practices, with some spiritual and mindfulness practices mixed in.
But with so many types of yoga, which one is best for your goals and priorities? While some may seek to energize or strengthen their bodies, others want to relax and unwind. If you’re looking for a more low-key yoga flow that still offers benefits, restorative yoga may be for you.
Whether you’re new to yoga or looking to mix up your routine with some new techniques and poses, we think restorative yoga is worth a try! Let’s learn about the basics of this approach and offer some tips to get started at home.
What is restorative yoga?
Many forms of yoga can be considered restorative in that they bring the body and mind into a state of alignment and balance. However, restorative yoga refers to specific principles that focus on relaxation, restoration, and promoting the body’s healing and detox processes. Because of this, restorative yoga can be an excellent addition to your self-care routine and may even help with your sleep quality.
Although the history of yoga ranges back many thousands of years, restorative yoga is relatively new. It was developed in the 1970s by Judith Lasater, a student of B.K.S. Iyengar. Originally, the techniques were designed to help patients recover from injury or illness. Since then, many variations have branched out from this original method and combined with other yogic practices.
At the root of restorative yoga is simplicity, passive poses, deep breathing, and tension release. Combined with other mindfulness practices and general lifestyle improvements, restorative yoga can benefit the body and mind in countless ways. Best of all, you don’t need to be an acrobat or an athlete to perform these poses and incorporate a simple practice into your daily routine. Restorative yoga is for everyone, and there’s always a way to modify movements for greater accessibility and enjoyment.
How is restorative yoga different from other types of yoga?
Restorative yoga is also called “gentle yoga” in order to distinguish between itself and other practices that may be more strenuous. Restorative poses are designed to require minimal physical effort and often include props like yoga blocks to assist with stability while promoting flexibility.
While more rigorous yoga routines involve complex poses that flow from one to the next, restorative yoga is all about taking it slow. Compare this to Vinyasa or Bikram yoga, which are meant to increase internal temperature and work up a sweat, and the differences are clear.
Poses in restorative yoga are typically held for several minutes at a time, with an emphasis on slow, relaxed breathing and tension-relieving techniques. Between the long holds, supported poses, and mindful breathing methods, restorative yoga is a low-impact, relaxed practice that forms a strong foundation for physical and mental health.
What are the benefits of restorative yoga?
A restorative yoga practice is simple, low-key, and highly adoptable. This makes it appealing to people of all ages and ability levels. In fact, it’s often used as an entry-level yoga style for those easing into physical activity for the first time after injury or sedentary living.
But what are the actual benefits of restorative yoga that you can expect from practicing this style? Let’s learn about what restorative yoga does for the mind, body, and overall well-being.
If you’ve ever set foot on a yoga mat, you’ll know that the environment is naturally calming and conducive to relaxation. However, depending on the style of yoga you practice, there may be challenging, athletic poses that elevate your heart rate and feel more like a workout.
A restorative yoga practice, on the other hand, shifts your body into the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces “fight or flight” sensations.
With the calming words of the yoga teacher and slow, intentional movements, practitioners ease into a realm of deep relaxation in just a few minutes.
Along with the relaxation of a calming yoga practice comes a natural reduction in stress and tension. Just a few minutes of restorative yoga can help slow your breathing, reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol, and melt away the stress of the day.
Stress isn’t just mental — the body also holds onto tension and trauma in areas such as the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Incorporating restorative yoga into your daily routine gives you a healthy, sustainable way to combat stress while helping the body heal with gentle movement.
Range of motion and flexibility
Without adequate flexibility and full range of motion in your muscles and joints, everything is more difficult. The best yoga practices will warm up the joints, gently stretch the muscles throughout the body, and support connective tissue with minimal risk of injury.
Restorative yoga isn’t about pushing your body to the limits with challenging poses and routines. Instead, it’s meant to support the body’s natural healing capabilities and restore range of motion in regions that may be tense, stiff, or uncomfortable.
Even the most dedicated athletes take time for muscle recovery, as this is when muscles repair, grow, and improve. If you’re a fitness enthusiast or a casual weightlifter, restorative yoga may assist the recovery process and give you an edge when returning to the action.
Other forms of yoga can also aid in recovery by stretching muscles and promoting blood flow. However, restorative yoga has the unique benefit of low-risk, low-impact movements that are perfect for a cool-down, day off, or wind-down routine.
You’d think it would be easy to get proper rest, but with millions struggling to achieve deep sleep each night, this clearly isn’t the case. Adopting a restorative yoga practice can help ease your body and mind into a relaxed zone that makes it easier to fall and stay asleep each night.
Pair restorative yoga with proper sleep hygiene and a relaxing evening CBD supplement, and you have the perfect recipe for a great night’s sleep. Only a few poses and some deep breathing can go a long way as part of your evening routine.*
How can you practice restorative poses at home?
Restorative yoga might seem complex on the surface, especially with the use of props like folded blankets, yoga blocks, and straps. But restorative yoga doesn’t take much to get started, making it great for home practice or a portable routine you can do anywhere.
Every yoga practice starts with a relaxed, quiet environment and comfortable clothing. Simply arrange your space so it’s free of clutter and ease into a relaxed state of mind as you roll out your yoga mat. Put on some soothing music or light a scented candle for added ambiance. You can gather simple props like pillows or blankets for comfort.
From there, take a few moments to become aware of your breath and start to ease into your routine. You can follow along with a guided restorative yoga practice online or create your own with just a few simple poses. The goal is to relax and restore — don’t rush through the poses, and don’t push yourself to the limit of flexibility or strength.
With each pose, just maintain focus on your breath, build the connection between your body and mind, and enjoy the experience of calming relaxation. Imagine every deep breath filling up the problem areas, and with every exhale, a gentle release of tension. Remember to listen to your body and make adjustments as you see fit. Go with the flow and let go as your body gets the restorative movement it needs.
What are some restorative yoga poses to try?
Yoga beginners will be relieved to learn that restorative yoga poses are simple and easily memorized. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy to master, as there’s always a new level of flexibility to reach with each pose. With props like straps, you can up the difficulty if need be.
With that said, let’s offer three basic restorative yoga poses you can try right now. Just remember, form is key!
Also known as corpse pose, savasana is one of the most basic yoga poses in the book. Just lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides and palms facing up. Focus on deep breathing and feel the points of contact where your body meets the floor. This is a perfect opportunity to test out different breathing patterns and visualization practices like scanning and grounding.
Ideally, you’ll feel comfortable with just your body lying flat on the yoga mat, but feel free to use pillows or blankets for added support. The point of savasana is to lengthen the body, get in tune with yourself, and set the stage for the rest of your practice.
Seated forward bend
Gurus call it paschimottanasana, but you can keep it self-explanatory with a seated forward bend. Sit flat on your mat with your legs extended in front of you, and slowly bend from the hips as you reach for the toes. You want to have a gentle bend in your knees if needed, and a straight back with your abdomen resting on your thighs. You can alternate forward bends with upward reaches to further lengthen the spine and allow for a deeper stretch.
Remember to maintain a pattern of deep belly breaths as you relax into the stretch. Try to time the exhalation with your bend forward, releasing air from the lungs as you fold. If you need extra comfort from a pillow or blanket, position them under you so they don’t interfere with your movement.
Also known as balasana, child’s pose is a staple in many yoga routines. In restorative yoga, it gets more attention than usual, allowing you to release tension while engaging the body with alternative grounding points.
Start in a tabletop position with your wrists aligned directly beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Lean back to sit your hips near your heels and spread your knees to make room for a comfortable seat. From there, lower your head and chest to the floor as you reach forward with your hands, lengthening your arms and shoulders.
Once in child’s pose, you should feel stable and grounded, with steady breathing to guide deeper stretching and relaxation. You can adjust the position of your arms and legs to offer more support and get a wider range of movement.
Is restorative yoga accessible for beginners?
With an inviting environment and simple poses, restorative yoga is one of the best practices for beginners. No matter your abilities, age, or prior experience with yoga, you can easily try any of these movements and work at your own pace.
Furthermore, you can use restorative yoga whenever you have a few moments to yourself. You don’t need to sign up for classes or commit to a rigid schedule. It’s all about finding your own flow and inching toward improvement with every session.
The poses we covered here are just some simple examples, and there are many more techniques to test out in this style of yoga. Try a supported bridge pose, legs up-the-wall, or more advanced movements to increase your abilities over time.
The bottom line
Restorative yoga is a calming, rejuvenating practice with no pressure or expectations. Make it comfortable with pillows, blankets, blocks, or whatever other props you have on hand. Most importantly, you can make your experience your own without strict rules or safety concerns.
By trying restorative yoga, you may uncover a passion for yoga in general or other forms of exercise. For some, it may be the spark of inspiration to get back in shape or make other positive lifestyle adjustments like healthy eating or incorporating a daily CBD routine. However you approach restorative yoga, there’s no wrong answer — give it a try and see how it works for you.*