In today’s hectic life, people often don’t take the time to stop, slow down, and take a moment to restore the senses. Some of us have become accustomed to chaos. Unfortunately, our body has not. Stress can increase blood pressure, speed up the heart rate, raise blood sugar levels, and significantly affect the digestive tract.
Enter restorative yoga. Restorative yoga allows us to remember the art of relaxation and self-soothing. The focus of this type of yoga is not on stretching or strengthening, but on releasing. We release tension in the muscles and gently stimulate the organs by holding onto poses a bit longer than a usual yoga pose.
According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health in 2018, restorative yoga has been shown to be effective for alleviating occupational stress among female nurses in Japan. It not only promotes mindfulness, but it also helps rebalance the nervous system. Restorative yoga can reduce the production of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, improve immune system functions, reduce muscle tension, and reduce stress-triggered IBS-D. According to the researchers, this is the first clinical evidence about the effectiveness of restorative yoga for easing stress.
Unlike typical yoga, restorative yoga is passive. The body is supported with a pillow or towel to promote relaxation of the muscles and spine. Restorative yoga is based on the premise that pain and injury could occur when amateur athletes attempt difficult yoga poses. The creator of restorative yoga — B.K.S Iyengar — combined his experiences as a yoga instructor and physical therapist to blend ancient movements with modern science.
Here are five restorative yoga poses to try from certified yoga instructor Rachel Mackey. To bolster the comfort factor, you’ll need a variety of “props,” such as blankets, blocks, small pillows, and a yoga mat.
Supported Vertical Leg Extension
This pose relieves swollen ankles and varicose veins, eases menstrual cramps, and improves digestion. Place a folded blanket or pillow on top of a yoga mat close to a wall. Sit on the blanket with one shoulder touching the wall. In one movement, rotate your body to lie down on the blanket and rest your legs up on the wall. Rest your head on the mat with arms to the side on your chest. Hold for 5 to 20 minutes.
Supported Supine Twist
This movement is great for people who sit at a desk for long hours. It helps release pain in the upper and lower back and the neck. Place a blanket over a yoga mat and lie down. Place a folded blanket to the right of the head and a cushion to the left of the help. Lay the right arm on the blanket near the head then twist the spine, placing the right leg on the cushion, stacking the hips. Rest the left hand onto outer thigh and hold for 3 to 5 minutes. Switch sides and repeat.
Supported Supine Hero’s Pose
This hero pose improves digestion and stimulates the digestive track. It also helps relieves both upper and lower back pain. Place a folded blanket over a yoga mat and sit with knees together, legs bent, and feet pointed, resting to the side of the hips. Place a cushion behind and lean back lying down on the cushion. Straighten arms on the ground above the head. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Supported Lounging Pigeon
The pigeon pose improves digestion, stimulates the digestive track, and lower back pain. It also helps stretch the hip flexors, glutes and piriformis muscle, located deep in the buttocks. Place one block or cushion at the top of a yoga mat (place one at the center of the mat and the cushion lengthwise, farther down). Lie down with head resting on the top block, ribs resting on the other. Bend the left leg with the foot under right hip. Extend the right leg, resting on the cushion. Rest forearms to the sides of the head. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 minutes, then switch sides and repeat the pose.
This pose creates more flexibility in the spine. It’s also a great stress reliever by opening the chest and shoulders while stretching the middle and lower back. Place one block or cushion at the top of a yoga mat and another block or cushion just below the shoulder. Lie down on the back with one block or cushion under the head and the other under the shoulder blades. Lay arms out to the sides and lengthen legs. Hold for 5 to 8 minutes.