Restoratives: Relax the Body, Refresh the Mind

Learn how to do a restorative yoga sequence using common items found around the house to help you reach maximum relaxation.

By Romy Phillips

August 2018

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Learn how to strengthen your back with these sequencing tips from Yoga Forma (Cedar Fort, 2018) by Romy Phillips. If you are experiencing any back pain, try a new sequence for general or specific pain, as well as restorative moves for strengthening muscles. These moves are great if you work in an office setting and are experiencing posture problems. This excerpt can be located in chapter 10, “Pranayama, Meditation & Restoratives: The Foundation for Relaxation.” 

In the yoga tradition, restoratives help calm and balance the nervous system. The practice is done with the use of props positioned in a specific way to support the body (Figure 10-5). Just like asana, pranayama, and meditation, there are many methods and poses to consider. However, in the context of lower back pain, some poses are specific to helping ease pain, opening the chest, or releasing muscle tension. In general, reclining asanas relax and soothe the body and refresh the mind. When practicing restoratives, consider the condition of the body, mood, and time of day, and adjust accordingly. Judith

Lasater in her book Relax and Renew refers to restoratives as “active relaxation.” She goes on to say that we support the body with props, and alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance. Restoratives can be a regular part of a yoga practice perhaps on a weekly basis or when you are experiencing stress or facing other challenges (major life events, grief, illness, or recovering from injury).

A Short Restorative Sequence

Mountain Brook Pose                             

5-10 minutes   



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Bidalasana (Cat/Cow)

Several times

cat-cow

Adho Mukha Svanasana with block              

2-3 minutes    

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Supported Child’s Pose

Several minutes or longer

childs-pose

Supta Padangusthasana I                                

1-2 minutes   

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Supta Padangusthasana II

1-2 minutes

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Supta Baddha Konasana                                

10-15 minutes

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Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana                                            

Up to 10 minutes

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Supported Prone Twist                         

5 minutes each side 

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Supported Janu Sirasana

2-3 minutes per side

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Viparita Karani (Figure 10-5)                                            

15 minutes   

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Savasana

5-20 minutes

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This is just one example of a restorative sequence. There are many options. For example, you can alternate the forward bends, with supported Janu Sirsasana, Upavistha Konasana, or Paschimottanasana. You can also practice the forward bends with a chair (Figure 10-6).

 

chair-yogachair-yoga

Figure 10-6 Restorative versions of Upavistha Konasana and Janu Sirsasana with a chair

When creating a restorative sequence, please keep in mind that it must be well balanced, in a similar way that a regular yoga class must be balanced. The sequence should include forward bends, backbends, twists, and inversions, and, in some cases, gentle dynamic movement (cat/cow, 1/4 salutes) can be added to help release muscle tension through the synchronization of breath and movement. Why do we add inversions? Easy inversions will help alleviate blood and lymph fluid retention that tends to build up from sitting and standing during the day. Judith Lasater states that “by changing the relationship of the legs to gravity, fluids are returned to the upper body and heart function is enhanced” (Lasater 1995).

In the poses, you should experience subtle, not forceful, stretching. I like to tell students that they should feel as if they are “letting go” and the floor and props are there to provide support. Finally, there are physiological benefits in practicing restoratives that can positively affect internal organs, the circulatory and lymphatic systems, respiratory system, hormones, and blood pressure. Restoratives enhance overall energy.

I highly recommend attending workshops by Jillian Pransky. I had the opportunity to assist her in a workshop many years ago and really enjoyed learning her creative use of props and adjustments that enhance physical comfort.

Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.

—Patanjali, Sutra 2.46


Reprinted with permission from Yoga Forma and published by Cedar Fort.




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