9 Restorative Yoga Poses That Will Help You Release Tension & Relax
Restorative yoga is all about slowing down, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and facilitating healing. In this type of practice, you'll typically hold poses longer than in a more active class (such as vinyasa), and use supporting props like blankets, bolsters, blocks, etc. (To learn more about the practice, check out our guide on restorative yoga.)
As a yoga instructor myself, I've rounded up nine of my favorite restorative yoga poses to get you started, demonstrated by Phyllicia Bonanno, Emily Chen, and Juanina Kocher:
- From tabletop, sit back onto your heels with the toes together and the knees out wide.
- Reach and extend your fingertips forward, allowing your chest to rest on your mat.
- Lengthen from the hips up to the fingertips.
- Breathe here for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
- Stand up tall with your arms reaching up to the sky.
- As you exhale, hinge at your hips and fold your upper body forward, bending your knees if needed.
- Inhale, and come into a half-lift.
- Exhale and lower back down. Hold for up to a minute.
Cross-legged forward fold + side stretch
- Come into a cross-legged seated position on your mat.
- Fold your torso over your legs, stretching your hands out long.
- Then, move your arms to the right side of your body for a nice stretch.
- Repeat on the left side. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Come to a seated position, crossing your legs in front of you. Place your hands gently on your knees.
- Inhale as you arch your back, bringing the chest forward and lifting the gaze.
- Exhale as you round your back, contracting the core and creating space in the spine.
- Repeat for at least a minute.
- From a seated position, slowly lower down onto your back.
- Allow your knees to fall open with the soles of the feet together, forming a diamond shape with your legs.
- Rest here for 1 to 5 minutes.
- From downward dog, reach your right foot up to the sky.
- Bend your knee and bring it in line with your right arm. Bring your right foot to the left side, and allow your shin to rest on the ground.
- Bring your back leg down to the mat, and lift your chest.
- Hold for a breath, then slowly lower your torso to the ground so it folds over your right leg.
- Allow your torso to fall over your front leg.
- Hold for anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- From child's pose or tabletop, bring your knees together.
- Walk your fingertips forward and bring your chest onto the mat.
- Allow your hips to lift high up toward the ceiling, opening up the chest and bending the back.
- Hold for up to 1 minute.
- Come to a seat with the legs out straight. Bring your right foot into the left thigh, then cross the left leg over the right so the left ankle is on the outside of the right knee.
- Make sure both sitz bones are on the ground, and sit up tall.
- Inhale your arms up to the sky. Take your left arm, place it on the mat behind you, and place your right hand on your left knee. Take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale, twist the body from bottom to top, gazing over your left shoulder.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds, then come back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Come to lie on your back with your heels together and toes falling apart.
- Bring the arms next to you with the palms facing up.
- Close your eyes, allow the body to relax, and breathe normally.
- Hold for as long as you like.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.