While I am a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance as well as an Apprentice Master Trainer for YogaFit, I am not a medical doctor. Please seek the care of your primary care doctor for specific ailments, diseases and other health-related concerns.
What is It?
Restorative Yoga is a type of yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, to heal the body. Unlike other styles of yoga, restorative yoga poses are held for several minutes (anywhere from 5-20) while the body is completely supported by props. The idea is to allow the mind and body to relax, and as a result, reduce stress and promote healing.
What Props are Used?
It’s best to have access to yoga bolsters, yoga blankets, blocks, eye pillows, a strap and the wall. I always joke with my students that it feels like we need a suitcase worth of supplies for a single restorative class, but it’s so true! The more props we have to support our body, the better!
Why Do We Use So Many Props?
As mentioned above, the goal of restorative yoga is to promote healing. Our bodies (and minds) can’t begin healing if they’re under stress, so we try to take away the stress of having to support our body by using the props.
We also used props to fill in all the spaces. For example, if a student is in a Reclining Butterfly Pose and I notice that there’s space between her neck and the bolster, I will recommend that we roll up a small towel to put in that space. We want to use as many props as we need to to bring the floor to our body and connect our body to some kind of prop for support.
How Should I Breathe?
I like to encourage a sinking breath as soon as we get our bodies into a new shape, and then usually transition to an equal ratio breath.
When we use our sinking breath in poses, it’s okay and actually very helpful to let out an audible exhale as we “sink” deeper into the posture and/or props. Generally, I’ll have students take a few sinking breaths to get settled.
After we find a comfortable position and get our body propped up, I like to talk about the equal ratio breath. It’s helpful to use this kind of breath when our minds might start to wander, which may happen quite often in a slower class like restorative. For an equal ratio breath, count (in your mind) as you inhale to maybe 6 or 8 and then exhale to that same count. With this type of breathe we’re not trying to force the exhale or make it loud, but rather expand and extend the breath.
If neither of these breathing techniques suite you, then disregard them! As I’ve said before, the point of restorative yoga is to release stress, not to create more! It’s always an option to breathe easy, without any particular breathing pattern in mind.
The out-breath…releases what is superfluous and removes what would otherwise become blocks to the free flow of prana within.” ~B.K.S. Iyengar
How Long Are Poses Held?
The length of time a pose is held will vary a bit from class to class. Usually, in a 60-minute class, I’ll teach 4-6 different poses (less when a pose requires a right and left side), allowing us to hold each pose for about eight minutes or so. As a teacher, I factor in a bit of time in the beginning to gather all the props, welcome people to the class and have an opening warmup, as well as time to transition and get propped up from one pose to the next. Nine times out of 10, I will end class in a seated position, so I also allow for time to slowly and mindfully come out of final relaxation to side lying, and eventually seated.
What Do We Do During The Pose? Just Hang Out?
A huge part of restorative yoga is meditation and introspection. It’s common for teachers to offer quotes or readings for students to ponder and meditate on during the class. For this reason, some people think restorative yoga is more challenging than a physically demanding class.
What are the Benefits of Restorative Yoga?
- decreases stress
- promotes relaxation
- enhances flexibility
- balances the nervous system
- heals emotion pain
- opens the chakras
- increases body awareness
- we can identify where we hold stress, and consequently, we can work on releases tension from those areas
- encourages mindfulness
- quiets the mind chatter <— eventually—usually in the beginning this is a hard thing to accomplish
Where Can I Get Props for Restorative Yoga?
Many studios will have all the props you need if they offer a restorative class. If you’re a yoga teacher or want to have props for you home practice, there are a couple websites I recommend for props.
I got my yoga mat, yoga blocks, yoga strap and eye pillow all from Amazon.com.
My Mexican blankets (not pictured) are actually from Mexico! The blanket in the photo above is from World Market. I have another similar blanket, and really love how they match my mat better than my Mexican blankets. (They no longer have the same pattern, but this is the same style.) However, any blanket will do! Again, Amazon offered a large variety of Mexican blankets, as does yogaaccessories.com