Restorative Yoga helps guide us into deep relaxation, which is a great way to gently prepare for a good night’s sleep. I think we can all agree that after an evening restorative class, one of the biggest challenges can be traveling the distance from our yoga mats to our beds! Until we iron out the science behind teleportation, a home Restorative Yoga practice might be the perfect solution. Jenny Clise, a New York City-based yoga teacher, guides you through a sequence she designed to soothe your nervous system, increase flexibility, and calm your mind after a full day.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Start by sitting on your heels with a long pillow out in front of you. Bring your big toes to touch and separate your knees wider than your hips. If you feel any pressure in your knees, try straddling a pillow underneath your seat (as shown). Draw the long pillow in toward your pelvis and begin to fold forward, resting your torso on the pillow. You can stack multiple pillows underneath you until you feel like you can relax your muscles completely. Your gaze can fall to either side. Be sure to switch the direction of your neck halfway through the duration of the pose. Take deep inhalations and exhalations to slow down your heart rate and soften through all the muscles in your body. Breathe horizontally across your back and chest, creating space in the intercostals (the muscles between your ribs). Release through your face and jaw. Hold for 5-10 minutes.
Benefits: This modified version of Balasana (Child’s Pose) gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs and ankles while softening muscles along the front line of your body. It also aids in digestion (a key component of your parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest and digest” response).
See also Find Comfort in Child’s Pose
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Start by sitting tall with your legs out long in front of you. If you have tight hip flexors, try sitting on the edge of a folded blanket or pillow. If you have tight hamstrings, you can roll a blanket under your knees as well (the support of the blanket allows your knees to bend slightly without having to engage the muscles of your legs). Elongate through your spine and walk your sitting bones back away from your heels a few times. Place 1 to 2 pillows, lengthwise, on top of your legs, drawing the edge of the pillow(s) all the way to your lower belly and hips. Next, extend your torso away from your pelvis and reach your chest forward toward your toes. When you cannot extend your chest any further, start to soften it down toward the top of the pillows, resting your arms by the sides of your legs. Round through your entire back, releasing all of the muscles supporting your spine. Hold and breathe for 5-10 minutes.
Benefits: Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) stretches the muscles along your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. It also offers a little detox at the end of the day by stimulating your liver and kidneys
Try MoonRest Organic Cotton Pillows for if you need more support in this sequence.
Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
Start in a supported Hero Pose, kneeling with a pillow or two under your sitting bones and between your ankles. Your knees should be either equidistant to the width between your ankles or slightly closer together. Build a platform for your back to rest by placing one or several stacked pillow(s) lengthwise behind you. Make sure the edge of the pillow(s) behind you makes contact with the sacrum at the base of your spine. Walk your hands beside you until the entire length of your spine and the back of your head is resting on the pillow(s). Once supported, release your arms by your sides. You could keep the palms of your hands facing up toward the sky to open through your chest, or rest your palms on your body for more grounding. As you settle in, lengthen your tailbone toward your pubic bone, increasing extension through your spine. Now allow release through all of your muscles. Let gravity and deep breathing melt you deeper into this pose for about 5-10 minutes. Very gently support your way out of this pose, hugging through your core and using your hands to walk yourself up to a seat. It is important to extend through your legs after coming out of this pose to bring blood flow back to the lower body. Some options are taking a Downward-Facing Dog Pose for a few breaths, or, if you are in bed, Staff Pose.
Benefits: Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose) stretches your thighs, knees, ankles, abdomen and hip flexors. It is very beneficial to the knees, as the tissues making up the knee joint do not often get much blood flow. When you come out of this pose, fresh blood and oxygen will enter the legs, providing a healing effect to the knee joint and increasing overall blood circulation to the lower half of the body.
Side Lying Supported Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Start by laying on your back (resting your head on a pillow if you like).
Draw your right knee in toward your right armpit, avoiding your rib cage by drawing it to out to the side of the right ribs. Take a few breaths here. To enter the twist, gently guide the right knee across your body to the left. Once you start to feel resistance in the body, slide a pillow (or multiple pillows) underneath your right knee and shin. Continue to roll all the way onto your left side, stacking the right shoulder over the left. You could support by resting it in your bicep, or rest your arms wherever is the most comfortable for you. If you decide to turn this into a twist, begin to roll the chest back open, extending your arms out to a T- or goalpost-shape.
With every exhale, let gravity encourage the right shoulder down toward the earth, softening the chest. It is important to feel supported here, so avoid forcing the twist deeper and try to relax the mind. The muscles will begin to release the longer you are in the pose. Release your right hip point away from the lower right ribs to lengthen the spine and side bodies. Hold and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes. To come out, gently peel the right hip back towards the mat. Lay on your back with your legs extended out long for a few breaths to neutralize the spine. Repeat on the left.
Benefits: Laying on your side (shown) relaxes the mind and body and can cultivate a sense of security. Should you decide to roll the heart open, turning the shape into a supine twist, you will begin to stimulate the abdominal organs, facilitating digestion. Restorative twists can be a wonderful catalyst for the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Twisting increases the range of motion in your thoracic spine and the gentle opening can help to alleviate pain and stiffness in the chest, shoulder, hips, and back.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
Place a pillow down against the wall. The support underneath your sacrum will relieve tension in the hamstrings and hip flexors, so if you feel tight in these areas, use a few pillows. Scoot one side of your side hips up to the wall, lying on your side next to the pillow(s). Next, roll on to your back so that your sacrum is down on the pillow and legs are up the wall, perpendicular to the hips (this may require some scooting and adjusting). Rest your arms by your sides and relax all your muscles. Sometimes, I like to tuck a blanket over my feet and pull it over my body. The weight of the blanket holds your feet in place so that you can release more through the outer thighs, and it can be a cozy/warm addition to the pose. Hold for 5-10 minutes and take slow, deep breaths.
Benefits: This one is great if your bed is up against a wall, but really any wall will do the trick! This pose is good for you in a variety of circumstances: having been on your feet all day, standing, or sitting at your desk. Propping your legs up a wall, releases fluid buildup in the legs and feet, brings blood flow back to the heart, calms the nervous system, and even provides a gentle stretch to the hamstrings and low back.
This Hand Woven Yoga Blanket can help you get extra cozy in this pose.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Start on your back, placing your favorite pillow for sleep underneath your head. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees widen apart (like opening a book). Slide a second pillow (or two) underneath your knees. This support will allow your hip flexors to soften and release, reducing strain on your lower back. Let your outer upper thighs roll down, away from the thigh bone, toward the earth. Roll your shoulders underneath the backs of the ribs and let the arms extend out to the sides, palms face up. Lengthen your tailbone down toward your heels to extend the spine. You can also bring your heels farther forward, away from your pelvis, if you feel any low back pain. Soften through your belly and take deep breaths for 5-10 minutes. Begin to enter your deepest state of surrender and invite in the mantra: In this moment, I feel inner peace and ease of mind. To exit the pose, simply extend your legs out and fall asleep. Wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated the next day!
Benefits: I love experiencing this pose last because afterward I can simply extend my legs out and hit the hay (zzzz)! This shape will gently stretch your inner thighs, groins, and muscles around your knees, decreasing muscle tension. It will also help lower blood pressure, guiding you into a more restful heart rate.
See also Recharge in Supta Baddha Konasana
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