Everything You Need to Know About Restorative Yoga Poses

These days everyone could benefit from employing a few restorative yoga poses in their daily routine. Although, if you are a trainer or a coach and needing something to spice up your clients’ prescribed cool downs or meditations, then keep reading.

As I’m sure you know, yoga in all forms has a multitude of physical and mental benefits. Benefits range from flexibility, mindfulness, spirituality, strength, pain relief, stress relief, and the list goes on. Restorative yoga poses focus on using passive stretching and supportive equipment to reach full relaxation.

What are restorative yoga poses?

Restorative yoga poses are exactly what they sound like. Calm, centering movements that allow you to reach a state of meditation through gentle stretching. These yoga poses are not intended for straining the muscles to gain strength or become toned, but to provide a unique experience of muscle relaxation and mindfulness.

An important aspect of this form of yoga, more than others, is the breathing component that induces the state of meditation. Focus on breath is vital to any form of yoga, but specifically facilitates the meditative state that restorative yoga poses help the practitioner relax into.

Many research studies prove that restorative yoga poses relieve a wide range of health conditions or side effects from chronic health conditions. These poses are proven to treat the effects of osteoarthritis, cancer and its treatment, back pain, emotional distress, and more.

Restorative poses specifically activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which has tremendous control over a couple of the most important functions of your body. This part of your nervous system is one of two halves. The sympathetic nerv0us system makes up the other half.

The specific nerves in the parasympathetic system mainly powers/facilitates the rest and digestive functions. In fact, the parasympathetic nervous system does most of the unconscious work inside of you that keeps your heart from beating out of your chest and your feces from not building up inside you. Of course, those are a couple of noteworthy functions out of many.

Nonetheless, restorative poses specifically empower this part of your nervous system. So you could say it pairs well with probiotics!

Passive vs Active Stretching

Active stretching requires you to use one muscle group to stretch another. Essentially you have to exert the force to stretch out the targeted muscle.

Active Stretching vs Passive Stretching
Active stretching requires you to push through the movement to expand your muscles.

However, passive stretching is stretching a muscle group without actually exerting any force. This aspect makes restorative yoga poses so unique. Instead of pushing through the poses like the bridge or the dolphin pose, you rely on the blocks and such to relax your body on and support you through the stretch.

Restorative Yoga Props

Props facilitate restorative yoga poses by taking the burden from the muscles to exert the force for the stretch. The person must relax into the props and use them to provide the support for the body instead.

Six Easy Ways to Add Restorative Yoga to Your Practice or Teaching | Kripalu
Source: Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

The props used in restorative yoga are simple and cheap!

You need:

  • Blocks
  • Blankets
  • Bolster
  • Straps

You can purchase a set of blocks, blankets, and straps from amazon for $40 and under. Bolsters are a little pricier between $4o and $70, but they are washable and you only really need one to start off with.

** Note: these are not sponsored suggestions, just examples of what to expect when searching for equipment.

Yoga set on Amazon for Restorative Yoga Poses
Yoga Bolster for Restorative Yoga Poses

The amount of equipment you need will rely on how often you wish to implement any form of yoga in your clients’ routines.

Applications for Restorative Yoga Poses

I mentioned before that many studies exist for the multitude of different wellness applications for chronic disease. However, the applications for such a relaxing stretch are endless.

Number one, restorative yoga poses are simple and require little to no effort to partake in. Hence the passive stretching. Its passiveness makes it a significant form of mobility work for clients who are not entirely flexible, have chronic pain, or are suffering from an injury that makes it difficult to exert the power needed to stretch.

Here is a list of all forms of relief that restorative yoga can provide:

  • Healthier sleeping habits through relaxation and less muscle exertion.
  • Supports healthier digestion because of its effect on the parasympathetic nervous system.
    • Paired with your other aspects of training, this will also help support better eating habits and sustained weight loss for clients.
  • Decreases stress, which has an indescribable impact on your physiological state
    • For example, people with PTSD often have chronic pain and are often diagnosed with diseases like fibromyalgia because of the permanent effect of stress from their trauma on their bodies. Although this is not the experience of everyone with stress, it’s an extreme example of what can happen to the body when we do not give attention to our mental state.
  • Use these poses specifically for meditation. If you task your client with daily meditation, then suggest a few of these poses to choose from. This could make for much more effective mediation sessions for your clients.

What are these poses you’re talking about, Claire?

Glad you finally asked! Here are some restorative yoga poses for you and your clients to practice. Yes, I said you because trainers need their time to relax and restore just as much as anyone else!

The length of time spent on any of these poses depends on you and your client’s preferences and needs!

Childs Pose

Tuck your feet underneath your hips and rest your upper body on blankets or a bolster. You can complete this exercise with or without support, but for the restorative, relaxing qualities of the movement, the support is beneficial.

Legs Up Wall

This pose is quite simple and follows its name exactly. Modify this pose with props underneath the hips to provide support in holding up the lower body against the wall. This provides some relief to the lower back and makes it easier for certain populations of clients to support of the weight of their lower body.

I would also suggest a pillow or blanket under the head, but that’s just me…

Fish Pose

Flop like a fish into this position! Without the support of a bolster or a couple of blocks, you or your clients will need to support yourself in this position using your elbows and forearms.

Corpse Pose

This one is super easy and great for meditation. All you have to do is relax while laying down. If there is any feeling of strain in any part of the body when doing this pose, then modify it with blocks or bolsters to provide support.

Sleeping Pigeon

This pose stretches the hip hinge and hamstrings in all the right ways. Using the props, you can modify this pose by placing blocks underneath the hip on the side of the leg that is tucked in. Also, rest your arms, hands, or head on a blanket, box, or bolster to provide support for your upper body.

Supported Forward Pose

Yoga and High Blood Pressure: A Sequence to Help Reduce Stress | YogaUOnline
Source: YogaUOnline

Your basic sitting hamstring stretch, but with the support of a blanket or bolster underneath your head. This is an example of the difference between a passive and an active stretch. As an active stretch, you are forcing your body forward to pull on the hamstring muscles and the surrounding ones. In a passive method, you rest your body on a bolster or blanket and rest in this position for an extended period.

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