I get it, you like to feel strong and accomplished at the end of your yoga practice. You enjoy a good sweat, and restorative yoga may seem too boring. Maybe you find it hard enough to remain still through savasana at the end of your vinyasa class.
So why on earth would you want to spend an entire practice in simple, supported poses?
Let me try to persuade you.
Perhaps you’d like to reap some of restorative yoga’s benefits, such as balancing the neuroendocrine system, boosting immunity, weight loss (surprise!), and even increasing our compassion for ourselves and others.
The deep relaxation of a restorative practice is also a wonderful complement for the fitness aspects of yoga.
And it can help you access yoga’s subtler benefits—such as deepening the breath, relaxing the muscles, and stimulating the vagus nerve through supported work—which can balance out the vigor that’s integral to a more active practice.
The deep relaxation of a restorative practice is a wonderful complement for the fitness aspects of yoga.
So, how can those who shy away from quiet and stillness for minutes at a time reap these benefits, while still fully enjoying their time on the mat?
Let me show you.
The following restorative sequence is designed especially for those who aren’t particularly fond of restorative yoga, or anyone who may just be hesitant to give it a try. It only takes six minutes and it can fit nicely at the end of an active yoga sequence.
This short practice also includes minimal props! You can do this sequence with just a bolster or even a couple of blankets folded into bolster-length rectangles and stacked on top of each other.
A Short and Simple Restorative Practice
Place the bolster or blanket stack lengthwise on your mat. Sit on the bottom edge of the bolster and lie back so that your head drapes over the top edge, which will rest at about the middle of your neck, with your chin pointing up.
If your head doesn’t touch the floor and your neck is uncomfortable with your head dangling, place a folded blanket underneath your head for support.
Bend your knees so that your feet are on the floor (it might feel good to widen your stance and allow your knees to rest in toward each other), and let your arms relax alongside the bolster, palms facing up (you can also prop your lower legs on the seat of a couch or cushy chair, if you’d like).
Deepen your breath, allowing your abdomen to rise and fall, and let the muscles of your neck and throat soften. Stay here for two minutes.
Next, slide back about six inches so that the top of the bolster is now at the middle of the shoulder blades and your upper back, shoulders, and head are resting on the floor.
Allow your arms to remain relaxed at your sides. If your legs are on a sofa or chair, you can keep them there—or if it’s more comfortable, place your feet on the floor (feet and knees about hip-width apart for this variation).
As you breathe, let your chest and belly expand. For the next two minutes, focus on deepening and lengthening your exhalations, and letting tension ease in your upper back.
Then, slither back another six inches or so until the top edge of the bolster is now below your rib cage. Keep your feet either propped up or on the floor with your arms at your sides. Let the breath expand from the abdomen to the chest for another two minutes, noticing the softness of your entire back (and perhaps a bit less resistance to gravity).
A nice savasana would fit well at the end of this sequence (with the bolster placed horizontally under your thighs, just above the knee, accompanied by relaxed breathing).
If you are short on time, however, from the final restorative pose in the sequence, just return to what is for you a more natural breath, slowly make your way to an upright seated position, then continue on with your day.
This simple routine does wonders for the spine, unraveling the tension that comes from habitually rounding forward. It can provide sweet relief in those moments when we feel like we don’t have time for more relaxation.