This summer has been insanely busy for me. From blogging to my IT job, teaching yoga, and working at summer markets for my business, The Spiral Collective, I have had my hand in lots of cookie jars. Sometimes I need to totally just crash, curl up in bed, snuggle my pups and escape with a ridiculously cheesy romance novel. Other times I head to a restorative yoga class. One of my specialties I teach is ‘restorative’ yoga, which I lovingly describe as a yoga nap.
The following poses are some of my favorites; most can be practiced with or without props, or by using makeshift props: couch cushions, organizing baskets, and rolled up blankets work just fine. I LOVE the Barefoot Yoga lavender and flax eye pillows for an extra added luxury when in a restorative practice! When it comes to teaching restorative yoga poses I tend to instruct from the ‘do what feels most comfortable to you’ viewpoint.
The first and most important pose is not really a pose at all. Meditation can be practiced anywhere in any position. I like to come to a comfortable seat, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing to calm down the energy in my body and around me. Giving yourself even just a few minutes of calm before you relax into your restorative poses can really aid in renewing your body. P.S. this outfit was sent to be by Soybu, I am LOVING the back of this flowy top!
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Reclining Bound Angle Pose is one of my favorite ways to start out a restorative yoga practice. It allows gravity to work its magic, slowly opening up your shoulders, back, and hips as they drift toward the earth. To set up this pose use a bolster (if you’re at home a couch cushion works!) and place a block or two under the bolster to keep it upright. Come to Staff pose, hips flush against the bottom of the bolster, bring the soles of your feet to touch, and gently lower yourself onto the bolster. Adjust your props as necessary and let your arms drift to the earth. Focus on your breathing and let yourself be held up by the props! This is also a wonderful alternative to traditional Savasana for pregnant mothers.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
Legs Up the Wall is both simple and incredibly effective for relaxation and muscle recovery! Scoot up to a wall either on the floor or with a pillow under your hips, then place your feet high up the wall. That simple. Stay for 3-5 minutes and feel your body begin to heal itself with your perspective flipped upside down.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)
Placing a block under your hips in Bridge is a great way to allow your hip flexors to slowly open in this inversion. Start with a block on its medium setting then adjust to high or low depending on your flexibility. Start in Staff pose and lower your torso to the ground so that you are supine with your arms beside you. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor so that your feet are stacked underneath your knees. Pressing your feet, legs, and arms energetically to the floor, begin to lift your buttocks off of the floor. Make sure that you keep your feet, knees, and thighs parallel to each other, keeping them from drifting apart. Slide a block under your hips. Lift your chin away from your chest, and breathe deeply, allowing your chest to lift away from the floor.
Supta Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Reclining Pigeon)
Reclining Pigeon is a great way to gently open your hips, relieving stress. Starting in Downward Facing Dog, inhale your right foot up to the sky, hip creases facing towards the earth. Draw your knee into your nose and reach right knee up to right wrist. Begin to rotate your right ankle towards your left wrist, as your shin lowers to the ground. The angle of your leg underneath you will depend on the openness of your hips- stay where is comfortable for you! Start to sink into your hips, left leg is sent back and grows long behind you, top of the foot grounding into the ground. Hip creases stay facing forward. Lower until your hips don’t want to come any further down, take a deep inhale to grow length in your torso then fold forward either onto the ground or over a bolster snuggled into your hips, hands walking in front of your body. You can bring forearms to ground or reach your arms forward to come flat onto the earth. Breathe deeply into your hips, then draw left leg in, right knee back and send your hips skyward into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the left side.
Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
Reclining Hero is a beautiful gentle heart opener that helps to open the hip creases and gently backbend. In hero pose you have two options for your foot placement, either way you start by kneeling with your shins flat on the floor and thighs directly above. To come into the gentler version of hero, scoot your feet apart, just wider than your hips, so that your big toes are slightly angled in. Your toes should be touching or just in front of a bolster or pillow placed long-ways on your mat. The pillow can be propped up with a block like we did in reclining bound angle, or flat on the earth. Your torso should be held, core engaged perpendicular to the floor, then slowly lowered down to rest.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
I like to call Child’s Pose the ‘reset button,’ it allows you to melt into your self and reflect while restarting your body, and loosening up joints! Start by kneeling, big toes touching then sit back onto your feet. You can keep your legs underneath you or keeping your big toes touching widen your thighs to about hip’s distance apart. Inhale to create length and nestle your body in between your legs. You can outstretch your arms in front of you or let them float back to rest beside your side bodies. Child’s pose not particularly comfortable? Let your torso rest on a bolster that you scoot between your thighs and melt in!
Savasana (Resting Pose)
First off, I refuse to call Savasana Corpse Pose. Just no. Second, Savasana is different for everyone; listen to your own body as it relaxes. Want to bend your knees? Do it. Hands feel better overhead? Do it! Want to lay on your side? Totally okay. For this variation of Savasana, I lay flat on the earth and slide a bolster under my knees. Pop on an eye pillow and focus on your breath.
There are so many other wonderful restorative yoga poses that allow the body to relax and recover. Are you interested in a twisting restorative practice?
Thanks to Belly Bliss for letting me use the space I teach in for this post.
How do you like to hit the ‘reset button?’ Let me know in the comments below!