I have been practicing yoga for almost twenty years and have seen a profound change in how I feel, not only physically but emotionally and psychologicaly too. But more impressive are the hundreds of patients I’ve seen over the years who have used yoga as a way to better health.
Restorative yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, a universally recognized expert on yoga, author of the classic book, “Light on Yoga” and one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people of our time.
By adapting classic yoga postures and using “props” to help support the body, Restorative yoga maintains the correct position without straining. You get the benefits of the poses, but without any energy loss because you are being actively supported by props and aren’t straining to hold the pose.
It’s particularly helpful when you feel rundown, burned out, stressed or just plain tired. Restorative yoga is a powerful tool that supports the healing process during and after an illness or injury because during these times, energy must be conserved for the body to restore itself.
You don’t have to be on any plan or program to benefit from these remarkable exercises
Since they’re restorative they’re totally safe, it’s impossible to overdo it. They can be done by anyone, anytime. For more Restorative yoga poses see the exercise section for Cleanse.
Now on to some of my favorites.
Reclining Open Chest Pose
In this video, I demonstrate an easy-to-do restorative yoga poses that helps to elevate your mood and energize you when you are tired. When we support the back in this way and open the chest, we tend to feel more emotionally buoyant and physically energized.
- Roll up one blanket into a long, tight Tootsie Roll shape (like the one in the photograph under the model’s chest).
- Take a second blanket and fold it in half (like the one under the model’s head).
- Adjust the rolled blanket’s position so that when you lie back, it comes to rest in the center of the upper back, just under the shoulder blades.
- Then lie back so that your head rests comfortably on the second folded blanket. Your head and neck should feel easy.
- Your throat should be relaxed and not overstretched or closed.
- Open and lift your chest.
- Stay in the pose, relaxing for 5 to 10 minutes.
Supta Baddha Konasana | Modified Goddess Pose
After about five minutes, this pose has a strong, beneficial, effect calming the breathing and soothing the emotional center of the chest. It releases stress and the frustrations of the day.
It can be practiced before going to bed – it’s also good after meals if indigestion is a problem since it relaxes the abdominal organs.
A yoga bolster comes in handy because it makes the set up much easier, but if you don’t have a bolster, you can also use a sofa cushion or neatly folded blankets for the set up.
- Sit down on the floor with your bolster and blanket near by.
- Place the bolster behind you so that it is snuggled up against your sacrum and butt flesh.
- Take an easy cross-legged position. Don’t fold the legs too tightly.
- Notice in the photograph how the blankets are used to support the head.
- Grab your yoga blanket, fold it in half and then in thirds so that when you lie back, your head is higher than your heart and your chin is parallel to the floor – not tipping up to the ceiling or down toward your chest.
- If the blanket feels too bulky, take a fold out until you find a way for your head to feel easy with the head above the heart and the heart above your groins. As you see in the picture, there should be a natural slope from your forehead down to your feet.
- When going into the pose, allow the lower back to relax over the bolster. Let your face and throat relax as you completely rest onto the support of the bolster. Any stiffness usually fades after a minute or two. Do not resist the pose – completely release into the position.
- When you finally find the right position, you will feel an inner “aahh.” Stay with this, watching your breath move in and out of your body. Not forcing or controlling it. Just noticing that you are breathing in. Noticing that you are breathing out.
- Occasionally, extend the length of your exhalation and allow yourself to be more supported by the bolster.
- Stay in the pose for 10 minutes, relaxed with your eyes closed.
If you have tight hips and need to support your knees so that the cross legged position is not pulling on your groins, then put a cushion under each thigh.
Don’t worry if it takes you a while to get used to setting up your props for the pose. It becomes easier and easier the more you do it
Supta Baddha Konasana | Modified Goddess Pose | with belt and bolster
Another of my all time favorites is especially restful and rejuvenating. If I had to choose any one restorative yoga pose to recommend, this would be the one. It takes a bit of setting up, but anyone who has practiced this pose correctly for ten minutes will tell you that there is nothing like it. It is my ‘go to pose’ when my body is tired and my mind is racing. There is something about this pose that facilitates a deep relaxation.
If you have practiced the previous exercise,modified Supta Baddha Konasana, a couple of times, this will come easily. This pose is excellent for combatting stress and exhaustion and the best pose to do for menstrual discomfort and indigestion.
- A yoga bolster or large, thick sofa cushion.
- Three pillows, (or rolled blankets) one to support your head, the other two to support your thighs
- A belt (or two joined together) long enough to reach around your waist and feet, while in the position.
To do the pose
Study the photographs to see how the belt supports the legs.
It loops around the back of your hips – not your waist – it sits low across the sacrum and then in between your knees and then around the outer edges of your feet.
Set up the belt around your feet in this way and have your legs supported before you lean back centrally onto the bolster.
When going into the pose, allow the lower back to relax over the bolster. Let your face and throat relax as you completely rest onto the support of the bolster. Any stiffness usually fades after a minute or two. Do not resist the pose – completely release into the position.
Make sure that a folded blanket or pillow supports your head properly as in the photographs.
Make sure that there is no strain on your hips and knees and that your legs are fully supported. If your hips are tight and you need to support your knees so that the cross legged position is not pulling on your groins, then put a cushion or blanket under each thigh.
The soles of your feet are pressed together and the belt can be tightened to pull the heels closer to your groins.
When you finally find the right position, you will feel an inner “aahh.” Stay with this, watching your breath move in and out of your body. Not forcing or controlling it. Just noticing that you are breathing in. Noticing that you are breathing out.
Occasionally, extend the length of your exhalation and allow yourself to be more supported by the bolster.
Stay in the pose for 10 minutes, relaxed with your eyes closed.
Then come up, undo the belt and stretch out your legs.
For more Restorative yoga poses see the Exercise sections for Cleanse.
About the writer – Dr. Frank Lipman is an internationally recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine. He is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, where for over 20 years his personal brand of healing has helped thousands of people reclaim their vitality and recover their zest for life.
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