What is Restorative Yoga? Benefits and Poses to Get You Started

Restorative yoga is a practice that involves healing through gentle, passive stretches. The main focus of this practice, which first emerged in the 70s, is to help the body recover from illness or injury.

It might surprise anyone new that stillness and holding a handful of postures are the main components of restorative yoga.

This yoga practice is unlike any other form. This article will answer what restorative yoga is, how it helps in healing and recovery, and some restorative yoga poses you can try at home today!

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is a yoga practice that achieves relaxation through passive poses and with the help of props such as yoga blocks, bolsters, blankets, etc.

It stresses the meditative aspects of yoga, wherein the mind and body connect. When the body is relaxed, the mind follows. During restorative yoga practice, all you have to do is be mindful of your breathing and attentive to any sensations throughout your body.

It is beginner-friendly and can be practiced by anyone, regardless of skill level.

In a Restorative yoga class, you’ll learn how to use props to help you hold poses for long periods without strenuous effort. Most classes, typically hour-long sessions, only include 4 to 5 poses per session.

How is Restorative Yoga Different From Other Styles of Yoga?

Western renditions of this ancient practice usually take a more athletic, acrobatic, and aerobic approach to yoga. Again, take Vinyasa classes as an example. Here, you are expected to rapidly shift from one pose to the next as your body heats up and your core strength and flexibility increase, excellent for muscular engagement.

Yin Yoga Practice

Yin Yoga practice is similar to restorative yoga practice, with only a few key differences: poses in yin yoga are held for less time, and props are meant to deepen the pose and improve alignment.

Both restorative and Yin yoga are excellent for stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, evoking a deep relaxation response.

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

Yoga is a universally acknowledged practice known for improving physical strength, stability and flexibility, cardiovascular and respiratory functions, and alleviating chronic pain symptoms.

The benefits of yoga aren’t only physical, though. Yoga helps in stress relief, to reduce anxiety and depression, promotes better sleep, and enhances your overall health, well-being, and quality of life.

Other benefits of restorative yoga are similar to the overarching benefits of yoga practice, such as

  • Relaxation: To calm the parasympathetic nervous system, you’ll be guided through deep breathing during a restorative yoga session.
  • Improved Sleep: A good night’s rest depends on how relaxed your mind and body are. A few minutes of restorative yoga before hitting the hay can drastically improve your sleep quality.
  • Better mood: Because yoga reduces stress, depression, and anxiety, it can go a long way in helping people with mood disorders manage their conditions.
  • Alleviate pain: Because yoga helps with muscle engagement, strength building, and better alignment, you’ll notice body pain start to fade as you make yoga a regular practice in your life.
  • Easy on the body: Because they do not involve high-intensity movements, restorative yoga practices are gentle on the joints, and consistency will make the connective tissues surrounding joints and bones stronger, taking away some of the stress on each.

Now that you know the benefits, before we get into the yoga poses you can try at home or in a yoga class, let’s briefly discuss the role of props and what you’ll need for therapeutic yoga sessions.

Props for Restorative Yoga

Props are frequently used in restorative yoga to support your body and allow you to hold a particular pose for more extended periods than you may be able to otherwise.

The poses in this yoga style draw from seated yoga postures with the inclusion of a yoga bolster, a yoga block, and blankets to take away the strain.

For example, take the seated forward bend. This traditional yoga pose can be turned into a restorative pose by using a bolster or placing folded blankets over your legs, which will support your posture by allowing your torso to rest on props and reduce strain on your back and core.

Similarly, the reclined goddess pose can become restorative by using a bolster to support your spine.

With that, it’s finally time for us to look at the poses to get you started with restorative yoga.

Poses to Try at Home or in Class

There are several therapeutic variations on classic yoga postures and numerous ways to use props. Below, we outline some of the most essential therapeutic yoga positions essential to practicing deep rest.

If you’re new to this yoga style and just getting started at home, set a timer for 5–10 minutes per pose to direct your focus solely to relaxation and deep breathing.

After a while, you can increase your duration to 15–20 minutes.

Child’s Pose With Blankets

This is one of the most common and quickly executed yoga poses. To make this pose restorative, use a few stacked blankets and place them between your thighs to raise and provide support to your torso.

First, take a tabletop position. Then, gently lower your body toward your heels, spread your knees, and draw your big toes closer.

Then, unlock your elbows and gently place your forearms before you while lowering your torso atop the blankets.

About halfway through the pose, slowly turn your head from side to side.

Bridge Pose With Yoga Blocks

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet approximately hip-distance apart on the floor, arms flanking your sides. Then, to raise your pelvis a few inches, press onto your feet and tap into your hamstrings.

Place a yoga block or a stack of books beneath your lower back to support your tailbone. Finally, lift your hips, remove the block, and lower yourself back down.

Reclined Twist With A Yoga Bolster

Begin by slowly lowering your bent knees to one side while lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Place piled yoga blankets or a bolster between your thighs and knees. Your arms can be spread out in front of you, beside you, or in any position that keeps your shoulder blades fixed to the floor.

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose With Folded Blankets

Place the shorter end of your mat up against a wall and put a bolster or three folded blankets horizontally several inches from the wall. Then place another blanket on the edge of the bolster.

From the side, bring your butt closer to the wall and stretch your legs upward while your lower back rests on the bolster. As you lay back, the additional blanket will support your spine.

Corpse Pose With Yoga Bolsters

To convert this traditional pose into another one of the restorative yoga poses, start by putting a bolster or rolled-up blanket behind the knees to offer support. Next, cover your body with an extra blanket and your eyes with an eye pillow or mask.

A Quick Recap

Restorative yoga practice is a great way to relax and enjoy deep, healing stretches while relieving stress and tension.

Before you try restorative yoga, it is good to consult with a professional and enroll in a class or session. The two main yoga types to look into if you want to heal through yoga are:

  • yin yoga practice
  • restorative yoga practices

Finally, remember that patience is a virtue, and you should relish in the stillness of your body and mind. Restorative yoga practices can take some getting used to, but soon enough, it will become second nature, and the rewards may astound you.

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