Why Restorative Yoga

I’m a Type AAA personality. Used to be, when I was all wired up, I’d do a hard workout to tame that energy. I’d feel good while working out and for about 30-60 minutes after. Then I’d feel all wired up again.

Then, in December of 2008, I took a restorative yoga class with Susan Van Nuys at Health Advantage Yoga Center in Herndon. I was feeling wired, holiday pressure, two small children, business, ….

But after that restorative yoga class I felt GREAT. And I continued to feel great for the next couple of days. Amazing. I knew right away I needed to know more about this thing called “restorative yoga.”

Learning More About Restorative Yoga

I started incorporating the poses into my home practice, with help from Judith Hanson Lasater’s 2005 book Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times (updated in 2017 to the book Restore and Rebalance: Yoga for Deep Relaxation). In 2009 I completed Judith’s weekend teacher training on Relax and Renew®: Learning How to Teach Restorative Yoga: Level 1 and became a Certified Restorative Yoga Teacher.

A phenomenal resource is B.K.S. Iyengar’s book YOGA: The Path to Holistic Health. Restorative poses are integral to the practice of Iyengar Yoga. Mr. Iyengar shows in numerous color photographs with detailed instructions exactly how and why to set up in particular restorative poses, and includes sequences for 70 specific conditions, ranging from respiratory ailments to insomnia and more.

Ever since my first experience with restoratives, I’ve been seeking out teachers who understand the therapeutic applications of yoga and restoratives and incorporating restoratives into my practice and teaching.

Restorative poses have helped me through life transitions including my father’s death, menopause, long-haul travel, and colds that otherwise would have put me out of commission for days.

Want to experience it for yourself? Try out the sequence below and/or come for group classes – we do restoratives every 4th class.

How will you benefit from restorative yoga?

A Restorative Yoga Sequence

Below is a 5 pose restorative sequence. If you have 1 minute, pick 1 pose and do it. If you have 5 minutes you can do each pose for 1 minute or pick 1 pose and stay in it for 5 minutes.

Have 4 blocks and 1 strap. Don’t have yoga specific props? Be creative and use whatever is at hand.

If menstruating, also have a bolster and 1 blanket and for poses 1 and 2 do only the upashrayi variations. You can do poses 3, 4, and 5 as described.

1. Upavista Konasana – upward angle pose at the wall
  • Loop a strap.
  • Sit with your hip next to a wall.
  • Swing your legs up the wall and your torso onto the floor.
  • Place the looped strapped around the mid-point of the calves to hold the legs.
  • If the hamstrings are painful, move farther from the wall until you can stay with ease within the effort.
  • To come out of the pose, bring the legs together, remove the strap, and roll to the side.
Restorative Yoga Pose Supta Upavista Kanasana - Reclining Wide Angle Pose, Legs Up the Wall
Upashrayi variation:
  • Place 2 bricks against the wall as in photo.

  • Place a bolster against the bricks, as in photo.

  • Sit about 6 inches in front of the bolster.
  • Recline back on the bolster.
  • Take the legs wide.

2. Supta Baddha Konasana – reclining bound angle pose with 4 bricks
  • Place 2 bricks together with the short end against the wall, at the lowest height.
  • Have 2 other bricks nearby.
  • Sit in front of the wall and put the pinkie toe to heels of both feet on the wall bricks, soles of the feet together, opposite big toes and pinkie toes touching, torso on the floor or mat.
  • Place a third brick at an angle under the left hip and a fourth brick at an angle under the right hip.
  • Gently allow the knees to come out to the sides.
  • Tuck the shoulder blades under and rest the arms out to the sides.
  • Stay 5+ minutes.
  • To come out of the pose, take the hands to the outsides of the legs and close the knees together like closing a book.
  • Roll to the side and press yourself up to seated.​
Restorative Yoga Pose Supta Baddha Kanasana - Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Upashrayi Variation

  • Set up as described for the upashrayi variation of the first pose: 2 bricks against the wall and a bolster against the bricks.
  • Unfold a blanket once from blanket-pile fold.
  • Roll the blanket long end to long end, ending with the neat end of the blanket.

  • Sit about 6 inches in front of the bolster.
  • Recline back on the bolster.
  • Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together.
  • Take the blanket over the tops of the feet and tuck the ends under the hips to support the legs.
  • Allow the knees to rest out to the sides. There should be no pulling in the groins. Make a thicker roll if needed by rolling two blankets together instead of one.

​3. Purvottanasana – intense stretch of the east (front) side of the body, supported on 3-4 bricks.
  • Have 3 bricks.
  • Place the bricks in a line on the center of the mat, 1 at each height, in order.

  • Sit in front of the lowest brick, then hold that brick in a hand.
  • Bend the knees.
  • Recline back over the mid-height brick so the bottom tips of the shoulder blades are at the head end of this brick and the head is supported by the highest brick.
  • Press into the soles of the feet and place the lowest brick under the sacrum and upper buttock.
  • Extend the legs. Ideally, the feet press into the wall, heels on the floor. Optional: use a 4th brick, at the lowest height, or a blanket, to support the calves.
  • Stay for 3+ minutes.
  • To come out of the pose, bend the knees, press the feet enough to move the lowest brick out from under the sacrum, and sit up.
Restorative Yoga Pose Purvottansana - Intense Stretch of the East Side of the Body, Supported
4. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – supported bridge pose on bricks
  • Have 4 bricks and a blanket.
  • Place 2 at medium height and 2 at low height, as in photo.
  • Place the blanket as in photo.

 

  • Take the 3rd brick (counting from the wall end) in hand and sit in its place, facing the wall, knees bent, soles of the feet flat on the floor.
  • Recline back so the bottom edge of the shoulder blades are on the brick towards the blanket side.
  • Be sure the entire back of the upper shoulder is in contact with the mat, but not more than that.
  • Place the brick in your hand under your upper buttock and sacrum.
  • Extend the legs so the feet are on the brick closest to the wall (against the wall is good) and the calves are supported by the 2nd brick from the wall.
  • Stay for 5+ minutes.
  • Check that the forehead and chin are in one level line. If the forehead tilts back, then place the blanket under the head and neck, but not the shoulders. Otherwise set the blanket aside as not needed.
  • To come out of the pose, bend the knees.
  • Move the brick out from under the buttocks then lower back to the mat.
  • Roll to the side just enough to move the brick out from under the shoulders and then lie on your back.
  • Move the other bricks with the legs and transition to svasana.
 
Restorative Yoga Pose Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Supported Bridge Pose
 
5. Svasana – corpse pose
  • Sit on the mat, knees bent.
  • Recline back on the forearms.
  • Extend the legs.
  • Using the hands to hold the head, lift the head and look down the mid-line of the body. Make any adjustments so you are even.
  • Gently lower the head.
  • Hold onto the edges of the mat and push the mat towards the feet to release the flesh of the back body.
  • Release the mat and turn the palms up.
  • Stay for 5-20+ minutes.

Restorative Yoga Pose Svasana - Corpse Pose