The 8 Best Restorative Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
As anyone who’s ever done a Bikram or vinyasa class knows, getting your om on can be hard work. In these types of yoga, the idea is to move from pose to pose increasing heat and flexibility as you go. Restorative yoga, on the other hand, is all about slowing down. Here, fewer poses are held for longer periods of time (typically for five minutes or more and often with the help of props) in order for body and mind to relax deeply. We wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s nap time for grown-ups, but it’s pretty damn close. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here, eight restorative yoga poses to help you de-stress and unwind. Namaste.
1. Child’s Pose
For this beginner’s pose (“Balasana”), start on your hands and knees and center your breath. Spread your knees apart, keeping your big toes touching, and sit back on the heels. (If you have very tight hips then you can keep your knees and thighs together.) Sit up straight and lengthen your spine. Exhale and bow forward, slowly bringing the forehead down in front of the knees and onto the floor. Extend arms in front of you with palms facing down. Ahh, that’s the spot. This peaceful pose gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles while calming the mind.
2. Happy Baby Pose
Gently stretch the inner groins and back spine while relieving stress and fatigue in this feel-good pose (“Ananda Balasana”). Here’s how to do it: Lie on your back and with an exhale, hug your knees into your chest. On an inhale, grab the outer part of your feet with both hands. Open your knees slightly and bring them up toward your armpits. Keep shins perpendicular to the floor and try to stack ankles above the knees. Flex through the heels and rock side to side like a baby. We told you it felt good.
3. Legs on a Chair Pose
Give those tired legs and back a break with this peaceful pose. Start by sitting in front of your chair and slowly lower down onto your side while keeping knees bent. Bring your legs up onto the chair as you roll onto your back. Allow the chair to support your calves and keep your toes pointed toward the ceiling. Your torso should be at a right angle with the chair. Once in position, soften the belly and release any tension in the muscles. For deeper relaxation, you can add a pillow under your neck or feet or even an eye mask.
4. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
You can practice this pose (“Viparita Karani”) with or without support. If using support, start by placing a bolster or pillow on the floor against the wall. Sit with your left side against the wall and your lower back resting against the bolster, if using one. Turn your body to the left and bring your legs up onto the wall. (If using support, shift your lower back onto the pillow or bolster before bringing your legs up to the wall.) Lower your back to the floor so that you are laying down. Your shoulders and head should be resting on the floor. Shimmy your hips close to the wall (but don’t worry if it doesn’t touch the wall—you want to feel relaxed) and let your arms rest at your sides with palms facing up. For those using a bolster or pillow, your lower back should be fully supported. Like all restorative poses, this one will help calm the mind and ease anxiety. It can also relieve tired legs and feet while gently stretching the back legs.
5. Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Stretch the inner thighs, groins and knees while relieving the symptoms of stress with the “Supta Baddha Konasana” pose. Start by lying down on your back with your legs extended and arms by your sides, keeping palms facing upward. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet are touching. Allow legs to fall open to a comfortable position (the closer your feet are to your body, the deeper the stretch). And...breathe.
6. Adept’s Pose
Sure, it may seem simple, but this seated yoga posture is actually pretty powerful. In addition to stretching the hips, knees and ankles, “Siddhasana” is an excellent pose for meditation. Sit on the floor with legs extended and arms resting at your sides. Keep your back straight. Bend the left knee and bring the left heel in toward the groin area. Then bend the right leg and draw your right heel in against the top of your pubic bone. Now try to quiet your mind and focus on the breath.
7. Supported Child's Pose
Think of this pose as a warm, comforting hug for your entire body. Grab a bolster or pillow and place it vertically on your mat. Stack a folded or rolled blanket on top. Add blankets underneath your ankles or knees as desired. Then rest your belly and chest on the bolster, followed by your forehead or cheek. (If resting a cheek just make sure to turn to the other side halfway through in order to avoid any neck pain.)
8. Corpse Pose
Ah, Savasana—aka the most relaxing pose of all. Lie on your back with legs stretched out and spread slightly apart from each other. Place arms by your side with palms facing up and breathe. Keep a blanket handy in case you get cold and enjoy.