Allowing yourself time to pause in stillness is an essential act of self-love. When we make time in the day for our bodies to be held and supported in a restorative yoga practice, we allow for the release of daily tensions, to-do lists, and matters of the heart. We move past resistance to the place where we can open ourselves to love in all its forms. We realign. As we create equilibrium within, we create peace without.
May this restorative practice provide you with spaciousness for healing. May it create a safe place for you to receive and nurture. May its stillness be your medicine.
A self-love restorative yoga sequence
For this heart- and hip-opening practice, you’ll need two or three throw-size blankets. You may also use a bolster, pillows, blocks, extra blankets, eye pillows, or anything else that will help you feel supported. More support is always good.
Start your practice seated in a cross-legged position. Take a moment and make any movement in your body that is needed to free up your shoulders, ankles, hips, and neck. Maybe move and shake your wrists.
Then find a still seat. Rest your hands on your thighs or knees. If it feels safe, close your eyes. Take a long inhale in and widen the breath out to the outer edges of the ribs. Exhale and sigh the breath out between your lips. Do that again with a small change: Take a deep breath in from your low belly to the center of the heart, close your lips, and hum the breath out for as long as it takes you to exhale. Do that two more times, please. Take a breath from the low belly to the center of the heart, keep the lips closed, exhale hum the breath out until it’s complete. Pause here. Just feel your body. Take a quiet moment, and ask it, what do you need? Listen to how your body is responding. Be here for 8 to 10 soft, slow breaths.
Set an intention for your practice. Tune in to what you are calling into your life and what needs to be let go. Take a deep, big breath in all the way up, purse your lips, and breathe out.
Move as you need
Come to your hands and knees, knees under your hips, shoulders over your wrists, and spread your fingers evenly on the mat. Move as you need here, whether that means gentle swaying from side to side, rocking forward and back, making a figure-eight, or whatever feels needed in your body at the moment. To take Cat–Cow, exhale as you press the mat away and gently round your back. Feel a lift from the center of your chest. Lengthen the back of your neck and draw your belly to your spine, strengthening and drawing your awareness to the center of your navel. Take a few breaths here. Feel the stretch in your spine.
Inhale and gently lower your belly and lift your gaze. You have the option to close your eyes. Take a few breaths here. Now begin to link the movement with the breath, exhaling slowly while rounding the spine to the ceiling, and breathing in slowly as you drop your belly and lift the heart. Please continue and take 5 full rounds.
From hands and knees, please press back to Child’s Pose, with your knees as wide as the mat, your big toes touching, and your hips sinking toward your heels as your chest and arms reach forward. Fold your blankets into narrow rectangles so they can easily stack one on top of the other and place them lengthwise in front of you. Slowly lean toward the blankets and stretch the heart and arms further forward, creating openness in the chest and shoulders and releasing your hips closer to your heels. Release your chest on the support and bring your arms wherever is comfortable. We are grounding our energies and opening our hearts, freeing us to open to our higher wisdom. Child’s Pose is the ultimate posture of surrender. As you are here, what can you release from your heart, whether past or present? Let go and relax into the pose. Stay for at least 8 breaths.
From Child’s Pose, bring your hands beneath your shoulders and slowly press yourself up to seated. Roll or fold your blankets and bring them by your mat at hip level. Make your way onto your back. Hug both knees in and lift your head toward your knees, then extend your body and lengthen through the spine. Relax the navel. Bring the bottoms of your feet together in Supta Bada Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle). Place a blanket underneath each knee for support. Bring one hand to your belly, one hand on your heart, and let the energies in these areas soften more.
Begin to deepen your breath, creating an even flow between each inhale and exhale. Take a moment and again, feel your body. Notice where you can release a little more, letting each exhale clear any sensations that come to the surface. Connect back to an even rhythm of breath, with a smooth inhale on the in-breath, an easy exhale on the out-breath. Take a moment. Use the breath like small love notes as you breathe in new energy and inspiration, and breathe out receiving love and gratitude. Take a moment and take that in. Stay for at least five more breaths, softening into the listening.
Bring your hands outside your knees and bring them together. Slowly make your way to the fetal position on either side, pause there, and draw your knees a little closer to your chest. Stay here a few breaths.
From lying on your side, slowly bring yourself up to seated. Fold the blankets into narrow rectangles so they can easily stack one on top of the other, as you did for Child’s Pose. Bring the blankets lengthwise in front of you along the center of the mat. Come into a Supported Twist by bringing your right hip up against the edge of the blankets and coming to a seated position there. Bend both knees and stack them, one atop another. Place a hand on each side of the blankets and gently twist to face your blankets. Slowly walk your hands forward and place your chest on the blankets. You can face your head towards your knees or turn your head in the opposite direction. Bring an ever-so-slight tuck to your chin. Stay here for at least 2–3 minutes. Slowly release and repeat on the other side.
Supported Bound Angle
From Supported Twist, slowly come up and move your blankets to the side. Come to a comfortable seat and bring the bottoms of your feet together, as you would for Bound Angle, but slide them forward to create a diamond shape with your legs. Keep the blankets stacked and bring them lengthwise in front of you and let them support you as you fold forward. Or if you prefer, roll or fold each blanket and use them as a support for your knees. Take a moment and check in. Notice where can you soften a little more. Take a few breaths and focus on the exhales letting the breath release the areas of tension. Just breathe here. Long inhales in, full exhales out. Stay here for at least 10 breaths.
Slowly lift your chest, bring your hands to the outside of your knees, and bring your legs together. Make any gentle movement that is needed.
Slowly come back to a seat. Stack your blankets and place them horizontally behind you. Bring your low back, at the base of the spine, to the edge of the blankets. Bend your knees and bring the bottoms of your feet to the mat. Slowly lean back onto the blankets, letting your legs remain bent or fold in toward one another or straighten out to come into a supported backbend. Option to bring your arms open like a cactus shape, creating a little more space in the shoulders and chest. Take a deep breath in, and then sigh out a full exhale. Relax your whole back body. Relax your whole front body. Feel the heart soften even deeper. Bring your breath to the center of the chest. Option here to mentally repeat as you inhale, “I am light.” As you exhale, repeat “I am love.” Repeat for 5 breaths. Stay in the pose for 8 minutes.
Slowly come out of the pose by lying on one side and, eventually, sitting up.
You may take Savasana or, if you prefer, simply come to a seated position. Create balance in your seat by rooting the tailbone down and lifting the crown up. Feel the sternum lift. Rest your hands on your thighs, just above your knees, palms up or down. Close your eyes. Even out your breath here. Breathe in with a 4-count and then release on an exhale with a 4-count. Take 5 deep breaths this way.
Let the breath relax and adjust back to its natural rhythm. Bring your awareness to your heart center. Begin to expand your breath across the heart, and exhale, slowly coming back to the awareness at the center of the heart. Take 5 deep breaths, focusing your breath at the center of the heart. Bring your left hand on your heart and your right hand on top of your left. Take a full breath in. I am light. Take a full breath out, I am love. Repeat 5 full breaths. Pause in stillness for as long as you like.
About our contributor
Tara Martell is a believer, spiritual mentor, energy medicine woman, intuitive, visionary, life coach, writer, master teacher, mom, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher-trainer. She has mentored numerous yoga students and teachers, co-wrote a yoga teacher training manual, and led international yoga retreats. She has spent the last two decades seeking, finding, and healing herself through yoga, spiritual work, and self-study. Follow her on Instagram @tt_1love.