Cozy blankets, supportive blocks, comfortable bolsters, pillows, and other props are used in restorative yoga to help the body and mind relax through passive stretching and minimal movement. Restorative yoga classes typically last 45-60 minutes and focus on deep relaxation, activating the body’s relaxation response and relieving tension. This practice is suitable for people of all levels and can be especially beneficial for those recovering from illness or injury, going through major life transitions, or looking for a gentler practice.
Unlike a flow class, the goal of restorative yoga is to seek no sensations at all and to fully relax into the support of the props. As a result, the body’s relaxation response: rest and digest versus fight or flight, is activated.
Yin vs Restorative Yoga
Although both styles encourage stillness in each posture, Yin is designed to wake the body up by finding the edge or the sensation of stretch and challenging the body to hold that position. Yin poses are held from 3-7 minutes each and props are minimal (but not entirely discouraged).
In Yin, the focus is on the lubrication of the joints, bones and fascia, whereas Restorative yoga focuses on relaxation and the relief from any tension in the body. Restorative classes allow both sides of the body to stretch equally for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes per posture.
Tips for Practicing Restorative Yoga
The most important thing is ensuring you have all the props you’ll need within arm’s reach to avoid having to get up and go finds things during your practice. You might also consider:
- Keeping the lights down low
- Warming the room to prevent the body from being too cold when still
- Silencing all phone notifications or keeping your phone in another room
- Playing soft music and adding in elements that might help calm your nerves such as incense, candles, essential oils or sage
- Wearing comfortable clothing and socks to keep the feet warm
Even if you feel amazing after a single class, the best results happen over time. Yoga is a practice because practice requires patience, dedication and consistently showing up for yourself every day. Restorative yoga is safe to practice daily as long as you vary the postures for a total body experience.
The Yoga & Ayurveda School lists the following benefits of a regular restorative practice:
- Decreases cortisol, the stress response hormone
- Improves sleep, digestion and immunity
- Releases tension in joints and muscles
- Teaches conscious control of relaxation
- Increases concentration and improves focus – concentrate on the present and not on any anticipatory forms of stress by slowing down the brain wave patterns
- Creates balance within the nervous system
- Activates relaxation response
- Gateway to mindfulness
- Teaches you to be present in stillness and to listen to your body
- Promotes deep relaxation by using props for support
No two people will respond to a pose in the same way. As you practice, scan your body to note how you feel mentally, energetically and physically.
Yoga is for every body but every pose is not for every body at every phase of their life. Always consult your physician before beginning a yoga practice or if you have questions about which poses will be right for you. Restorative yoga is a great style to begin your practice, but it’s not designed to replace professional medical care.
For more information on starting an at-home yoga practice, check out this article.