Have you tried Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga before and found it too physically demanding and fast-paced? If so, you might just fall in love with restorative yoga's slow, nourishing style. Never heard of it before? No worries, as this guide will explain what is restorative yoga good for and what to expect from the practice!
If you want to discover a style of yoga that is more relaxing, keep reading to learn more about restorative yoga. We’ll explore the benefits of restorative yoga, some basic restorative poses, and how it can balance out your yang practice.
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What is restorative yoga about?
Restorative yoga is a relaxing, meditative passive style of yoga. It is the opposite of Bikram and Iyengar, for example. It involves holding floor-based (seated and reclined) stretches for extended periods (several minutes) while using props for support.
You passively practice restorative yoga, which means the muscles are not actively engaged while holding the poses.
The long passive stretching and holds, meditative aspect, and use of props (yoga blocks, bolsters, blankets) promote deep relaxation and healing of the body and mind.
What is the difference between restorative yoga and yin yoga?
The main focus of restorative yoga is to relax the body and promote healing through prop support. However, Yin yoga focuses on applying gentle stress to the body to stretch the deeper connective tissues. While both restorative and yin yoga involve long holds and similar asanas, they are not the same.
10 benefits of restorative yoga
Restorative yoga can positively affect our health and well-being in many ways. Here are 10 key benefits of restorative yoga.
1. Promotes emotional relaxation
The most significant benefit of this style is its effectiveness in promoting relaxation. Restorative yoga classes encourage you to breathe slowly and deeply, which rebalances the nervous system by shifting the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight mode) to the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response). This, in turn, relaxes the muscles and slows mental activity.
2. Can lower blood pressure
The calming of the autonomic nervous system also helps to lower high blood pressure, which has a direct result on stress levels. Many yogis report feeling instant stress relief from a restorative yoga class, so it is great to do it in the evenings to unwind from a hectic day.
3. Restorative yoga can boost your mood
Restorative yoga's relaxation and stress-relief benefits have a ripple effect, boosting our mood. By reducing anxious thoughts and feelings of irritation, we naturally start to experience more positive thinking.
4. Restorative yoga reduces pain and tension
The long holds and passive style of stretching help you release tension in various body parts, such as the back and hips. Moreover, as restorative yoga allows your mind to relax fully, this yoga practice is also perfect for relieving headaches and mental tension.
5. Restorative yoga improves sleep and promotes deep rest
Restorative yoga is effective at improving sleep quality. It can help you fall asleep quicker and access deeper sleep states to feel more well-rested in the morning.
6. Restorative yoga promotes deep breathing
Mindful breathing is crucial in a restorative yoga session. This breath awareness carries over into daily life, giving you the tools to stay calm and collected in stressful situations by connecting to your breath.
7. Restorative yoga boosts the immune system
High-stress levels compromise the immune system, so improved immunity is another result of regular restorative yoga practice. Moreover, the focus on deep breathing improves the conditioning of the lungs and stimulates the lymphatic system to remove toxins from the body.
8. Restorative yoga may also help you lose weight
Losing weight is one of the most surprising yet interesting restorative yoga benefits. A slow, passive style like this will not cause you to work up a sweat or raise your heart rate significantly. So how could it help you lose weight?
It is to do with the way it changes our self-awareness and self-image. Restorative yoga is a reflective practice that helps us become more aware of our bodily sensations. Regular restorative yoga practice helps us become more mindful of our dietary and lifestyle choices and learn to love ourselves, reducing the tendency to overeat.
9. Restorative yoga is suitable for everyone
Restorative yoga is accessible to everybody, including pregnant women, those with current health issues, and those with past injuries. It is a healing practice that has been scientifically proven to assist in improving chronic health conditions.
10. Restorative yoga can help with chronic health conditions
Restorative yoga has been proven to effectively aid chronic health conditions, including cancer, osteoarthritis, and various autoimmune disorders. The gentle stretches combined with the deeply relaxed state the practice evokes can help practitioners manage chronic pain and flare-ups.
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The science behind restorative yoga
Many scientific studies have backed up the benefits of restorative yoga mentioned above. For example, a 2018 study on yoga in cancer care found that cancer patients who practiced yoga reported more significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life than those who didn't.
Another study investigated the effect of restorative yoga versus general stretching and concluded that restorative yoga helps evoke relaxation and reduce cortisol levels significantly more than stretching.
So considering all the great benefits of practicing restorative poses, how often should we do them? Well, as the practice does not stress the muscles, you can practice restorative yoga as often as you'd like.
Daily practice is ideal, but if your schedule does not permit that, aim for 2 to 3 times a week. I personally increase the frequency during times of stress, change, or uncertainty, basically whenever I have a stronger need to relieve stress.
Restorative yoga poses
As I mentioned earlier, restorative postures are all floor based. Therefore, you won't find Warrior 2, handstand, or arm balances in any restorative class. Instead, you will find supported versions of many gentle Hatha yoga poses.
What are 3 poses used in restorative yoga?
Three common restorative poses are:
1. Supported child's pose
Do you know how to make the child's pose even more nourishing? With the use of props. Widen your knees to hip distance and slide a yoga bolster between your thighs. Fold your torso over the bolster, resting your chest and belly on it.
2. Supported reclined butterfly
Place a bolster lengthways on your mat, then lay your back over it, allowing your head to drop down and rest on the ground. Bring the soles of the feet together, turn the knees out, and place a block under each knee for extra support. Open your arms and breath into your heart center. Add a strap in for even more support.
3. Supported bridge pose
From a reclined position, bend your knees and bring your feet close to your buttocks. Press into your feet to lift the hips high and slide a yoga block under your sacrum. Choose the level that feels best for you and ensure the prop supports the base of the spine, not the buttocks.
Restorative yoga sequence
Here's an example of a short restorative yoga sequence. Aim to hold each pose for at least 3 to 5 minutes.
- Supported child's pose (bolster in between the thighs)
- Supported straddle (bolster in between the legs and head resting on a block
- Pigeon pose (block under hip and forehead resting on a folded blanket)
- Legs up the wall (bolster under the sitting bones)
- Supported reclined butterfly (bolster under the spine and blocks under the knees)
- Supine twist (a folded blanket between your knees and a block under the bottom knee)
- Supported savasana (bolster under the knees and a blanket over the body)
Takeaway what is restorative yoga good for?
So who and what is restorative yoga good for? Along with having tons of benefits to your health and well-being, it is suitable and accessible for anyone. So why not try this rejuvenating yoga style and experience its wonders for yourself?!
FAQ about restorative yoga
How is restorative yoga different from regular yoga?
Restorative yoga is different from other types of yoga because of its use of props to support the body and long holds with the aim of total relaxation.
Is restorative yoga good for beginners?
Restorative yoga is fantastic for beginners because it will introduce you to some common yoga poses in a modified and supported way.
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