Restorative yoga can dramatically improve the quality of your life. This deeply relaxing practice is great for everyone, especially if you’re a person who is constantly responding to emails and text messages. We often don’t realize the massive amount of stimuli we receive each day, which requires us to constantly be in a mode of reaction. This is one of the reasons why so many people suffer from stress and anxiety.
In order to manage the constant barrage of information from the external world, the body uses what’s called the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). This is the part of the body’s response network which is responsible for the concept of “fight-or-flight.” This means we are responding to all the stimuli with aggression or fear. It is great for survival but nowadays, the SNS is often in overdrive.
In order to relieve stress or anxiety, it’s important to practice conscious relaxation. Restorative yoga is unlike any other style because it passive. While a Vinyasa class can get you hot and sweaty, a good restorative class will get you so deeply relaxed that you don’t even think about your physical body. Each pose is held without bearing any weight and supported by a variety of props including bolsters, blankets, straps and blocks.
These poses are designed to facilitate an optimal opening of your body, resulting in a sublime sense of surrender which facilitates a deep and conscious relaxation. By propping the body into certain positions and holding for extended periods of time (5 - 20 minutes) we can allow the body to shift from the SNS into the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
Acting as the housekeeping system for the body, the PNS is responsible for the “rest-and-digest” activities that occur when the body is at rest. This includes digestion, elimination, circulation and more. It can also help eliminate fatigue, battle depression and activate profound healing. Studies have shown that 90 minutes of Restorative Yoga can be as rejuvenating as 8 hours of sleep.
So if you’re interested in taking some time to recharge your batteries and eliminating anxiety or fatigue, here are three poses you can do at home:
1. Reclined Savasana (5 - 30 minutes)
- Lay back with a bolster under your torso.
- Use a blanket under your head to create an extra little lift.
- Let the legs be straight or place a bolster under your bent knees.
- Cover your eyes (optional) and take deep breaths, focusing on the exhale.
2. Supported Child’s Pose (5 - 15 minutes)
- Start on all fours, take your knees wide and your toes together behind you.
- Sit your hips back on your heels and bring a bolster between your thighs.
- Lengthen your spine as you inhale and relax your torso forward as you exhale.
- Turn your head to each side for half the time.
3. Supported Savasana (5 - 30 minutes)
- Lay on your back with legs straight in front of you.
- Lift your legs and take two bolsters under the knees.
- Lengthen your tailbone and ensure symmetry.
- Let the palms turn up and relax your shoulders down your back.
In order to keep track of how long you’re in these poses, consider setting a timer on your phone or watch. While you’re beginning to relax, understand that it is natural for the mind to be active. Practice deep breathing while focusing on the exhale. The purpose of this practice is not to stop the mind from thinking, rather you want to stop yourself from attaching to the thoughts.
So if the mind wanders, allow yourself to release any judgment of the thoughts. This is where the body’s nervous system shifts from Sympathetic (fight-or-flight) to Parasympathetic (rest-and-digest). Give yourself permission to relax and surrender. You deserve it.