Restorative yoga is more about slowing down, opening up, and encouraging relaxation of your body through passive stretching than other styles of yoga. Suitable for all levels, this style of yoga is a relaxing practice that ‘restores’ the harmony of mind-body-spirit.
Unlike active yoga styles that may focus on long holds, stability, and deep breathing, rarely move, while performing only a few asanas in a restorative yoga session.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is the practice of gentle, supportive, and passive asanas, each conducted as exercise classes longer than traditional yoga, often with the support of props such as blocks, bolsters, folded blankets to relax the body.
This type of yoga can be seen as Iyengar’s quiet child. Developed by renowned American yoga instructor, Judith Lasater (a student of BKS Iyengar), she adapted the use of her props to help her practice and support the body to calm and relax.
Each pose can be held for 5–20 minutes, which means that very few postures can be achieved during a this yoga session, but the time it takes to be guided by a yoga teacher and relax into the asana has a profound effect. Maybe because participants achieve a state of deep relaxation. As a result, restorative yoga can contribute to increasing the flexibility of your muscles, “restoring” the function of the parasympathetic nervous system, and increasing overall flexibility as the body heals.
Relieving stress and achieving a relaxation response can also be major benefits of restorative yoga, as long periods of lying in these postures provide the perfect opportunity to listen to the body’s cues and focus the mind.
Geraldine Beirne, writing in The Guardian, says this style of yoga “is often all about healing the mind and body through simple poses that last 20 minutes, such as with the help of bolsters, pillows, straps, blankets, and walls”.
As well as being ideal for those recovering from illness or injury, restorative yoga allows for complete relaxation in asanas to release psychological and physical stress responses.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
The restorative yoga benefits are similar to other styles of yoga. Restorative yoga can improve overall well-being in addition to promoting deep rest and relaxation.
In a study published in 2019, nurses working night shifts reported that their psychological and physical stress responses were significantly reduced after group restorative yoga sessions.
One another study suggests that this style of yoga has a beneficial effect on depression in AA BCS (African-American Breast Cancer Survivors). The benefits of yoga had a positive effect among minority breast cancer survivors. (study)
Similar to other styles of yoga, restorative yoga has been shown to range from reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression to improved sleep hygiene and overall quality of life.
How is Restorative Yoga (RY) different from Yin Yoga?
It is quite common to be confused with yin yoga and restorative yoga, but there are many differences between the two.
Props can be used in both of these styles of yoga, however, in yin yoga props are used to deepen the pose or to emphasize the stretching of connective tissues rather than muscles. In RY, far more props are used to fully support your body or allow the body to remain in the most comfortable, supported position.
RY is primarily for practitioners suffering from injuries, stress, or illness who need a yoga practice that can bring them back to a better quality of life. However, classes are essentially small so that each person is given detailed attention to ensure that they are safe and properly supported. Yin yoga uses props in a similar way, and holds poses for similarly longer periods, but is primarily aimed at healthy practitioners, and is taught in large classes.
While in yin yoga the poses are held for about 3-5 minutes or sometimes for 7 minutes if more experienced, in RY poses are also held for much longer than 5-20 minutes.
Restorative Yoga Sequence
Restorative yoga suggests a brief sequence of some gentle asanas, all with the use of support: bound angle pose (Baddha Konasana), Lega up the wall (Viparita Karani), a prone bend with both knees to one side, a forward Sitting twist (Paschimottanasana), child’s pose (Balasana), and corpse pose (Savasana, with or without support).
Restorative yoga poses allow the body to slow down and relax in a small number of asanas. Each pose is held for longer than traditional classes, sometimes for 20 minutes. Therefore a session can consist of only a handful of poses. To fully support the body and therefore allow the muscles to relax, holding the pose longer is often assisted by props such as bolsters, cushions, straps, blankets, blocks, and folded blankets.
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