Many of us practice yoga for the ‘workout’—toned pins, lean muscles, tight abs, and lifted glutes. And yes, yoga does all of these fabulous things, but it does much more.
It was only after years on the mat that I fully grasped the need to practice restorative yoga as well—the moon to the sun, the oil to the vinegar, the yin to the yang.
Restorative asana is great for the body—it increases flexibility and can release tension from sitting at your desk or being on your feet all day. Rather than a fast-moving practice where you transition on the breath, in a restorative practice, you hold each pose for a few minutes.
The daily stress we carry causes our central nervous systems to be in a constant state of ‘fight or flight.’ Restorative yoga melts away that tension and pacifies a stressful mind. It cultivates an inner awareness, encourages mindfulness, stimulates digestion, and soothes the central nervous system.
So give it a go, and bring back the balance with this loving and nourishing restorative yoga sequence that focuses on the hips. We tend to store unconscious feelings in our hips, so don’t be alarmed if emotion emerges during this sequence.
Find somewhere warm and comfortable. Perhaps light a fragrant candle or put on relaxing music if that’s nourishing for you. Make each pose feel amazing and comfortable, as you will hold them for 3 to 5 minutes.
1. Begin in Child’s Pose.
Starting on your knees, sit back on your heels, knees open slightly wider than the hips. Inhale and lengthen through the spine. Exhale as you walk your arms long in front of you, bringing your torso down so that you can rest your forehead on the mat.
Breathe deeply here for as long as you like. This pose should feel completely relaxing.
2. Shift your weight forward for Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana).
From Table Top position, inhale, look up to the sky, shine your collarbones forward, and point your tailbone up for Cow. Exhale, tuck your chin to chest, round the spine, and tuck the tailbone for Cat. Inhale slowly for Cow, exhale slowly for Cat.
Spend 3 to 5 minutes moving organically with the breath.
3. Lower down to Thread the Needle Pose.
From Table Top position, inhale as you extend your right arm up. Exhale, thread it through the space between your left hand and left knee, palm facing up. Rest your right ear on the mat. Hold for 1 minute and repeat on left side.
4. Kneel on your shins, right hand on left knee, for a gentle Seated Twist.
Inhale and extend through the crown of your head. Exhale, twist to the left. If comfortable, gaze over your left shoulder. Close your eyes. Hold for 3 minutes and switch sides.
5. Extend the legs in front of you for Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana).
Inhale, lift arms overhead, hinge at the hips and reach your hands toward your feet. Rest them where they land (shins, ankles, toes, or soles of feet). Stay for 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Stack the legs in Double Pigeon or Fire Log Pose (Agnistambhasana).
I love hip openers in a restorative practice to release tension in the illiotibial band, lengthen the psoas, and melt away stress.
Lean back, bend the knees, and place your palms flat on the mat behind you. Put your right ankle over your left knee. Work your left foot to the right, place its knife-edge on the mat. Sit up straight to stack the right ankle above the left knee, and the left ankle below the right knee.
Use a block or towel between ankle and knee for additional support. Make it feel amazing. Hold for 3 minutes. Release and repeat on the other side.
7. Cross the legs, knees stacked, for Shoelace or modified Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana).
Lean forward as you work the right foot toward the left hip, and the left foot toward the right hip. Sit up straight, with sit-bones resting flat on the mat. Rest your hands on your lap, or down by your sides.
8. Move into Pigeon Pose.
From Table Top position, bring your right knee towards your right wrist, right ankle toward your left wrist. Extend left leg behind you. Square the hips. If you have a block, place it beneath your right hip. Try not to collapse to one side or the other, but distribute your weight evenly.
Option to rest the palms, forearms, or forehead on the mat in front of you. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes. Switch sides.
9. Lie flat for Supported Bridge Pose.
Plant the feet about 6 inches from the tailbone. Inhale and lift the hips up off the floor. Place the hands under the sacrum to support, or use a block either at its medium or highest height. Hold for 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly remove support. Lower the hips.
10. Slow down in Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani).
Place your sit-bones close to the wall. Take a strap, or a towel, and tie your ankles together. Extend your legs up the wall. Stay here for 10 minutes. Let gravity do what gravity does best!
11. Relax your entire body flat on the mat for Savasana.
Lie on your back, arms by your side, palms facing up. Take a deep, nourishing inhale and exhale anything that isn’t serving you. Rest here at least 10 minutes.
What’s your favorite restorative yoga pose? Share them with the DOYOUYOGA community!