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Yoga / November 2021
Tara Gardner, Reebok Contributor

Channel the Power of Rest With Restorative Yoga

Get ready for the simple, soul-soothing reset you didn’t know your body needed.

If the last year taught people anything, it’s that being busy is not a badge of honor and boundaries between work and life are essential. With burnout becoming recognized as a medical diagnosis earlier this year and fatigue levels on the rise, it’s no surprise that the mindful practices of yoga and meditation are more in demand than ever. The emphasis on breathwork, posture and a clear mind make yoga one of the most stress-reducing fitness modalities available—especially restorative yoga, the lesser-known cousin of faster-flow vinyasa. 

A slice of pure Zen, restorative yoga is the type of practice that hooks you from the very first class (or YouTube video), and entices you back with even more weird and wonderful poses you never knew you needed. It’s a completely different experience than all the other asanas and offers a restful and receiving practice that creates stillness within. During an hour-long class, you may only move a few times to change pose, and as your autonomic nervous system starts to chill out, you’ll find yourself drifting into a meditative state that’s like no other. 


How It Works

The slow deliberate poses of restorative yoga help release tension in your body, regulate your central nervous system and encourage deeper breathing. When you’re stressed or hunched over your computer, you’re likely to be doing more shallow breathing, which can lead to tiredness, an inability to focus and irritability, too. In a nutshell, restorative yoga helps reframe your relationship with your breathing, which helps reset your body.

Within the restorative practice, different poses perform different functions. For example, forward-folding poses are believed to create a calming effect across your nervous system by stretching and creating space for better circulation in your spine, which then send signals to the brain that help promote feelings of tranquility.

Restorative yoga leans heavily into props such as bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets to support the body and avoid any strains. These props help the postures feel effortless, letting you focus your mind on deep, unwavering relaxation. 


Benefits of Restorative Yoga

Along with reducing stress and tension, restorative yoga has also been found to help with wider mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Your sleep may improve as well: A recent study determined that different types of yoga, including restorative, can be effective in managing sleep issues by increasing the body’s production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and reducing feelings of arousal. 

Of course, the more you practice, the greater the benefits, which is why you should slip on some comfy pants and a relaxed top and do restorative yoga on the regular (daily or several days a week). As you enter each posture, it’s important to do a mental body scan from toes to the top of your head to see where you’re holding tension—it could be somewhere you don’t realize, like the jaw, abdomen or back. Then make any adjustments needed to feel relaxed and supported. 

If you’re ready to give this slower version of yoga a try, start with these five poses.


Supported Fish

Perfect after a long day at your desk, this opening pose helps alleviate upper body tension and stiffness by stretching the chest, shoulders and abdominal muscles. It’s often one of the first poses you’ll do in a restorative yoga class. 

  • Place a bolster, a couple of thick pillows or a yoga block with blankets folded over it the long way your mat. 
  • Sit with your tailbone at one end of the bolster and slowly lean back, allowing your shoulder blades to wrap around the prop.
  • Stretch your legs out in front of you, hip distance apart. Let your arms fall to the sides, palms up. 
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • Stay in this pose for up to 10 minutes.


Child’s Pose

This healing posture gently stretches the spine and gets the blood circulating. Soothing and warming (because the head and heart are level), Child’s Pose puts the body into a deeper state of relaxation.

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your knees hip-distance apart or slightly wider.
  • Bring your sits bones towards your heels and reach your arms forward, lowering your head to the floor. (For extra support, add a cushion between your thighs and then fold forward over it, hugging it.) Turn your head to one side so the neck is relaxed. 
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.


Legs Up The Wall

This restorative pose is known as an inversion, and the position improves circulation by restoring the bodily fluids stored in your legs, helping with blood flow and alleviating any fluid retention. 

  • Place one end of your mat against the wall and place a towel or flat pillow for your head at the other. 
  • Sit with hips close to the wall; lie back and slide your legs up the wall, getting as close as you can to it so your sits bones and backs of legs are flush up against the wall, tailbone on the floor.
  • Keep legs straight and knees relaxed. It should feel like a light stretch but nothing strenuous. 
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • Stay like this for up to five minutes, then slowly relax out of the pose.  


Reclined Twist 

Twisting can help release spinal tension and unlock the core. 

  • Lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest.
  • Open your arms out to the sides, keeping your shoulders relaxed and flat against your mat. 
  • Lower knees to one side, letting them rest, one stacked on top of the other.
  • Let your head rest wherever it feels comfortable.
  • Stay for a few minutes then bring your knees to the center and switch sides.


Savasana 

Known as the Corpse Pose, this is a final moment of quiet reflection at the end of your yoga practice. If you do your Savasana in a class, your teacher may share a guided meditation to help you focus. If you’re doing it yourself, try to empty your mind of all thoughts.

  • Lie on your yoga mat with a cushion under your head and under your knees if you find that comfortable.
  • Add a blanket and an eye mask if you like. 
  • Keep arms at your sides, palms facing up. (Alternately, place one hand over your heart and the other on your stomach.)
  • Breathe in deeply and relax. Do a body scan starting with your toes to ensure every area is relaxed and not holding onto any tension.
  • Stay like this for up to 10 minutes.

As with any new practice, working with an instructor or joining a class can help perfect your movements and ensure you’re doing them safely. Consider it an investment in your body and mind, and maybe even your productivity, too. 

 

Related Products: 

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Natural Dye Pants

Yoga Mat


Related Links:

Different Types Of Yoga

6 Yoga and Mindfulness Rituals For Gratitude

Good Posture, Good Mood: The Connection Is Real

 
Yoga / November 2021
Tara Gardner, Reebok Contributor