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BellaOnline's Yoga Editor


Relax with Restorative Yoga

Guest Author - Terri Johansen

Our lives are filled with rushing here and there, constant movement, constant thought. Slowing down seems unnatural and our bodies and minds become exhausted. Finding balance between these two life stages can be done through restorative yoga. Props are an important part of restorative yoga as they encourage the body to release your muscles and let the props support you. Once your muscles begin to relax your mind will get the message and begin to become quiet.

Restorative yoga uses many props in order to get the body into a comfortable position needed for the relaxation process. Don’t worry, you don’t need to run out and buy a bunch of props. Lots of things within your home will work just fine.

Here are several things you should remember during a restorative yoga session:

•If it hurts, don’t do it. It could be something as simple as you need an adjustment of the props. It could be that your body is not accepting of the pose. In any case if you experience discomfort call on your yoga instructor. If adjustments can’t’ be made for your comfort then she can usually come up with a different restorative position that suits you.

•Restorative poses are held for longer periods of time than a regular yoga class. This gives the body time to release and relax into the props. Once we are in a restorative position we do not want to rush out of it. You can expect poses to be held from five-fifteen minutes. Don’t worry they are extremely comforting and no work at all. Let me caution you again, if it is uncomfortable do not lay there for 15 minutes. Help is always available and it is your responsibility to ask for it.

•Your teacher may prowl around the room checking to see if anyone needs something, such as an extra blanket, but she will be careful not to disturb your relaxation.

•It takes a few extra minutes to move from one restorative pose to another because of the adjustments of the props. You may notice that you will do fewer poses but your practice will feel full.

•Most of the time the teacher will provide the props needed. If you have your own yoga blanket be sure to bring it with you.

•Breathe naturally and evenly. Take pleasure in your breath, don’t force it.

Here is a list of props you may use and alternatives that you may have in your home:

•Blankets. You may use one or more blankets in a pose. They are often folded into different positions depending on the pose. In place of blankets you may try thick bath towels rolled or folded.

•Yoga blocks. You can substitute a sturdy pile of books or one very thick book if using more than one book it is probably a good idea to tie them together.

•Pillow. You can use the pillows off of your sofa or your bed. You can also use folded towels and blankets.

•Bolsters. Try using blankets, thick bath towels, sofa cushions.

•Yoga strap. You can use the belt of your bathrobe and I have also used neck ties.

•Eyebag. Use a facecloth folded to fit your face.

•Chairs, tables, and walls are all available in your own home.

Here are a couple of restorative poses you can try on your own.

Mountain Brook Pose is a simple supported backbend and one of my favorites. This pose is good for correcting posture. It opens the chest and allows for deeper breaths.
You will need: bolster, 2 folded blankets, and a long roll blanket.

•Stack your 2 folded blankets together and lay them beneath your upper back, directly below your armpit.
•Bring your arms into a T. Take your rolled blanket and place it beneath your neck. Your head should only be dropped back slightly. If there is too much of a drop, take the blanket and roll it loser until it feels a comfortable width.
•Use your bolster under your knees. Let your legs fall open loosely.
•Relax your face, soften your eyes, and let your jaw be loose.
•Start with holding for 5 minutes and build up to a maximum of 15 minutes.
You will probably need some kind of timer.
•To come out of the pose, draw your arms in to your side, bend your knees, and slowly roll to one side. Push yourself up gently from your side.

Legs up Wall Pose. I have found this pose to be my student’s favorite restorative pose. It is an inversion and it will revive your legs and be gentle on your back. This pose has a lot of individualization with it. It will be up to you to adjust the height and comfort of the recommended props. You will need a bolster and one or more single-folded blankets. This is a nice pose to use at the end of class in place of Corpse Pose. Place a blanket over you for warmth or use your eyebag. Some people are perfectly comfortable doing this pose without any props.

•Move your mat up against the wall, with the shorter edge against the wall.
•This is the tricky part, getting your butt close enough to the wall so that when you lift your legs they will be against the wall without a large gap at your hips. So here is how I do it: sit up touching the wall with the side of your body and bend your knees in against you. Now role your body in the opposite direction, keep your hips against the wall and lift the legs.
•Place the bolster under your hips with your legs still up against the wall.
•Use your folded blankets lengthwise under your upper back, shoulders and head. Place your arms any where they feel comfortable.
•If you are having trouble getting into or adjusting the pose, quietly ask for your teacher’s help.
•Start with holding for 5 minutes and build up to a maximum of 15 minutes.
•To get up begin to lower your legs, pull the bolster out from under you, and bend your knees. Push yourself up gently from your side.

There are many restorative poses to choose from and in my personal practice I usually choose 3 poses and stay for 10-15 minutes each. Start out with these 2 poses and see how you enjoy it. Allow yourself time to become familiar with the poses, sometimes the silence and deep relaxation can be a little disconcerting.

Always check with a medical professional before doing these exercises or any new exercises or workout routines. Live well, practice yoga.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Terri Johansen. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Terri Johansen. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown for details.


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