In YJ's newest course, Restorative Yoga 101, Jillian Pransky, director of Restorative Therapeutic Yoga teacher training for YogaWorks and author of Deep Listening, will have you rethinking rest one deep breath at a time. This four-week program offers students an in-depth look at eight essential poses that will help you elicit the relaxation response, simple prop setups that will help encourage release and healing, guided meditative sequences and breathing exercises, mind-body alignment lectures, and personal inquiry. Eager to learn more? Sign up now.
Restorative poses are passive postures supported by props, such as blankets, bolsters, blocks, and straps, so that you do not need to use any muscular effort. There’s no goal of stretching or strengthening. With the support of the props and the ground, we practice releasing the grip of muscular and mental tension. The props are there to support you, to hold you up and help you rest in an alignment that takes the strain and stress of the body and mind and allows the bones to relate to each other in a way that conveys safety.
The Benefits of Well-Propped Restorative Poses
In general, well-propped restorative poses can offer us the experience of being cradled and protected while providing the opportunity for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. This also allows our parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response—something that only happens when we truly feel safe.
Noticing what it feels like when the body is completely supported by the earth (with the help of our props) can help us feel more grounded; we are learning to trust that what is underneath is truly there to hold us up. Once we do this with our props, we get better at relying on the support of the ground in our day-to-day lives. Props help us feel integrated and held, creating a deeper sense of stability and safety, which can allow us to let go of the effort we use to constantly hold ourselves up and together.
How to Get the Most Support from Your Props
Because restorative poses allow us to release deep tension, it’s very important that the props are well placed and that poses have a real integrity in the way they’re set up. Props can be used under or around the body to help create insulation and boundary, which can help us feel calm and cared for, similar to the way that swaddling soothes a baby. Props can also help us feel less vulnerable in restorative postures; use blankets to create a layer of protection, or place eyebags over open palms to create a "hand-holding" effect.
What to DO in a Restorative Pose...
Once you're propped and positioned, take the first few minutes in each of the following 4 poses to sense where you connect with the floor or the props. Which part of your body rests most heavily on the support underneath you? Let this area be like an anchor rooting you to the earth. Slowly allow this sense of connection to spread to all the areas where you meet the ground and the props. When your body feels completely supported, let your attention turn toward your breath. Like an ocean wave, each breath will rise and fall on its own. Rest your mind on the tide of your breath. Throughout each pose, let your attention move back and forth between the earth-like qualities of your body and the fluid-like qualities of your breath. Try to stay in each pose for up to 15 minutes, but even a few minutes will make a difference.