One of the wonderful things about yoga is there are so many styles to practice. Some, like power vinyasa and Asthanga are physically challenging. Others are gentler. Then there’s restorative yoga, a unique practice that is totally focused on rest and rejuvenation.
What is restorative yoga?
Restorative yoga is not a workout. Instead, it’s a blissful opportunity to feel completely at peace. There’s very little to do in a restorative yoga class. Instead, the intent is to allow the body to open and the mind to get quiet. The result is pure bliss.
Most restorative yoga classes use props to help the body relax into each pose. For example, you might place a block under each knee in reclining bound angle pose or use a bolster to help open the heart. Passive release of tight muscles is the physical goal of each restorative yoga pose.
Restorative Yoga’s Roots
The modern practice of restorative yoga has roots in the Iyengar style. Master Yogi B.K.S. Iyengar was a pioneer of using props to modify poses and make them assessable to all students. Restorative yoga is the ultimate “yoga for everybody” style.
Release and Renew
As mentioned, the goal of a restorative practice is to release muscle tension. As your muscles relax, you’ll begin to breathe more deeply. You’ll also ease into a calmer state of mind. In restorative yoga, poses are often held for several minutes or more, making each pose a kind of mini meditation.
Many poses done in regular yoga classes are modified with props in restorative yoga. Here are some examples:
Supported Bound Angle Pose – This pose can be adapted with blankets or blocks placed under each thigh. This makes it more comfortable to stay in the pose for a longer time.
Supported Pigeon – To ease strain, a blanket or block can be placed under the hip of the bent leg.
Supported Bridge Pose – In a restorative class, a block can be place under the sacrum to support the back.
Poses that are Purely Restorative
In addition to supported versions of traditional poses, there are some poses that are restorative to begin with. You’ve probably done some of these poses in other yoga classes when you are winding down at the end. For example, twists and reclining poses with bolsters are very restorative.
Another common restorative pose is “legs up the wall.” As the name suggests, the pose is done by lying on your back with your legs resting flat against the wall. The pose is a restorative inversion often offered as an alternative to shoulder stand or headstand.
Ways to Enhance a Restorative Yoga Practice
For a truly blissful touch, many yoga teachers offer relaxing essential oils to enhance a restorative yoga practice. The oil may be diffused during class or applied directly to students’ foreheads or feet during savasana. Placing an herbal eye pillow the eyes in savasana is another option to deepen relaxation.
When you need to restore and revitalize, there’s nothing like restorative yoga. The practice can help you release tension and decompress. You’ll leave feeling even more relaxed and revitalized than you do after a traditional yoga practice. If you haven’t yet, give it a try!