Restorative yoga poses are a wonderful way to recover, relax and wind down. As the name suggests, these poses are less strenuous than a normal yoga practice and focus primarily on the restoration of your physical, mental, and emotional self.
The adjective restorative refers to something that has the power to reinstate health, strength or well-being. In a yoga context, it means relaxing and recovering the body and mind through poses that release tension.
Restorative yoga poses include very gentle twists, seated forward folds, and gentle backbends.
Restorative yoga poses are usually held for longer than they would in a conventional yoga practice and are meant to reduce stress and relax the body. They offer a peaceful way of moving and loosening your body and joints and calm down the mind.
This passive healing allows your body to be completely still and so can help your nervous system calm down.
If you like to exercise without the intensity and impact of most sports, a restorative yoga practice might just be the answer for you.
6 Essential Restorative Yoga Poses
Restorative yoga poses are done when sitting or lying down, sometimes with the aid of props to make exercises more comfortable and allow the body to completely relax into the pose.
Each pose is usually held for 2 to 5 minutes each and don’t require any pulling, pushing, balance or flexibility.
Benefit from the soft relaxation these 6 restorative yoga poses offer.
1. Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose is a great way to start a restorative yoga flow, as it helps you take control of your breath and feel grounded. Balasana in Sanskrit, you can include this pose between more challenging ones to recover.
How to do it:
- Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width apart and your big toes touching, then sit on your heels.
- Exhaling, bring your torso forward to rest on your thighs and extend your arms out in front of you, resting your forehead on the floor. Lengthen your lower back as you exhale.
- Your palms should face the floor. If extending your arms above your head is too hard, you can also rest them by your sides, palms facing up.
- Add a cushion under your head and arms if this position is too difficult. Feel the weight of your body and relax onto the floor.
- Inhale and exhale deeply and intentionally. Remain in this pose for around 5 minutes.
- Go back into a seated position to release child’s pose.
Child’s pose can help relieve stress and fatigue, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting down. This pose gently stretches the spine, hips, glutes, hamstrings and shoulders.
2. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
This restorative yoga pose stretches your hamstrings and relieves your legs and feet.
How to do it:
- Place the short end of your mat against a wall and lie down on it, bringing your bum as close to the wall as comfort allows and swinging your legs up.
- Make sure your legs are extended along the wall and feel the pull of gravity on them.
- Focus on your breath and let your body relax, releasing tension off your muscles. Stay in this position for at least five minutes.
Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, this pose can relief tired or cramped legs. “If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis,” recommends the Yoga Journal.
3. Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This restorative yoga pose is excellent for opening your hips and reducing groin resistance.
How to do it:
- Start sitting down with your legs extended in front of you and your back straight. Inhale.
- Exhale and bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet together in front of you. Relax your hips and bring your knees as low as your body allows you to.
- Using the help of your elbows, lower yourself to the ground and bring your back to the floor.
- Stetch your arms to the sides and hold the pose for at least two minutes, deliberately inhaling and exhaling and trying to relax the hips as much as possible.
- Use the help of your hands on your knees to deepen the pose.
Supta Baddha Konasana in Sanskrit, you can raise your feet slightly off the floor to deal with strain in the inner thighs.
4. Supine Spinal Twist
Jathara Parivartanasana in Sanskrit, is a satisfying pose.
How to do it:
- Lie down on your back with your legs extended and your arms by your side.
- Pull you right knee up to your chest and, exhaling, pull it over to the left side of your body with a gentle twist of your torso.
- Exhale and deepen the twist, keeping your shoulders on your mat. Extend your arms to the sides and breathe deeply. Turn your gaze to the opposite side.
- Repeat on the other side, holding the pose for the same amount of time.
This is a great pose to stretch the back, glutes, chest and obliques. Perform this pose once your muscles have warmed up so you can twist deeper without discomfort.
Don’t force your knee to the floor but bring it down as much as you comfortably can. Use a pillow under it if you need additional support.
5. Happy Baby Pose
Happy Baby is a gentle pose great for relaxing and winding down. Ananda Balasana stretches your hips, inner thighs, lower back, and groin.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Keeping a neutral spine, bring your knees to your chest and lift up your feet to the sky. Your hips should stay on the floor, with your tailbone touching the mat.
- Flexing your feet, wrap your first two fingers around your big toes and lightly pull down. Release your hips, bring your knees closer to your chest and relax. Continue breathing deeply and relax your back into the floor.
Happy Baby is a nice treat and is recommended to relief stress, fatigue and help you come back to the present.
6. Corpse Pose
Known as Savasana in Sanskrit, corpse pose is the usual end to a yoga practice. It is exceptional for deep relaxation and stress relief.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back and extend your legs, arms on your sides with your palms facing up.
- Place yourself in a natural position, ensuring your whole body feels comfortable against the floor. Wiggle your glute muscles and shoulders until that is the case.
- Stay in this pose for at least five minutes, focusing on your breath to start with and simply being. Release all tension from your muscles.
Corpse Pose is where you learn to master the art of relaxation. You’ll gradually become aware of all parts of your body and the thoughts clouding your head, so it’s a great restorative yoga pose to release stress and improve your emotional well-being.
Restorative Yoga Routine
Restorative Yoga Poses FAQs
What restorative yoga poses are there?
There are many restorative yoga poses you can add into a flow, but a good six to start are:
- Child’s Pose
- Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
- Reclining Bound Angel Pose
- Supine Spinal Twist
- Happy Baby Pose
- Corpse Pose
What are restorative yoga poses good for?
Compared with regular physical exercise, restorative yoga can help decrease the body’s chemical reaction to stress, reduce blood pressure and decrease pain and fatigue, a 2016 review in the International Review of Psychology found.
The same review found that there’s a higher emphasis on breath regulation and mindfulness during yoga practice.
Restorative yoga is great to relax and open your muscles. From a physical standpoint, if your goal is to lose weight with yoga or use yoga to build muscle and flexibility, you might be better off practicing a variation such as Hatha or Yin Yoga, or doing a standing yoga flow.
Restorative yoga is good for unwinding and spending time focusing inwards, with little external distraction.
Other physical and mental benefits of restorative yoga are:
- Greater flexibility over time
- Improved mind-body connection
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Greater relaxation and enhanced overall wellbeing
Who should do restorative yoga poses?
Restorative yoga is beneficial for both beginners and advanced yogis. As a gentle, passive stretching practice, restorative yoga is for everyone wishing to relax and unwind both the body and mind.
If you struggle to be still for longer periods of time and your mind buzzes from place to place, restorative yoga might help bring some calm into the storm, although it might feel unusual and uncomfortable at first.
If this is the case, find ways to look forward to the practice through background music or shorter poses – don’t pressure yourself into being perfect, the whole point of yoga is to be at peace and focus on the union between the body, mind, and spirit.
Restorative yoga poses are for everyone who wants a break from strenuous activity or life, to completely relax and restore both the body and the mind.
Do I need to be flexible to do yoga?
No, yoga is adaptable to your skills and you shouldn’t stretch to the point of pain or discomfort. All poses can be modified to meet you where you are. Yoga is ultimately about internal and external balance, so nothing should be forced.
If you struggle with any poses we recommend you practice them with a certified coach.