While yoga is known to provide many general health benefits, restorative yoga specifically is known to be one of the best styles of yoga for reducing stress and anxiety.
What is restorative yoga?
Restorative yoga practice is a slower form of yoga that focuses on achieving a state of physical and emotional relaxation. In this style of yoga poses are held for longer periods of time to allow the body to completely relax into a stretch without tension or strain, while focusing on the breath to achieve a meditative state. The use of props can be very beneficial in offering support in this practice.
Here are 5 restorative yoga postures to leave you feeling rested and restored...
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Typically considered the final resting pose in yoga and the least challenging, Savasana is perhaps one of the most important. Savasana allows the body to delve into a deep state of rest and relaxation by letting go of any body tension and focusing on the breath. This posture is particularly beneficial in calming a busy mind and the body's nervous system, thus reducing stress and alleviating muscle tension.
For cushioning use a yoga mat underneath the body when practising Savasana. If you experience any lower back pain or tight hip flexors a yoga bolster positioned under the knees can take pressure off the back and provide a welcome support.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Most often referred to as ‘Child’s Pose’, Balasana is an easy, resting yoga pose that can be performed by beginners or advanced yogis alike. Balasana opens up the back and spine to alleviate any tension held in the shoulders, back and chest. Through deep and regulated breathing the body can achieve a state of calm to alleviate fatigue, stress or feelings of anxiety.
To alleviate any tension or make Child’s Pose more comfortable, place a yoga bolster vertically in between your knees and rest your upper body and head on the bolster. An eco cork yoga block placed underneath each hand can also be a great support for achieving a deeper stretch of the shoulders.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall)
Accessible to anyone, putting your legs up on the wall - even for 5-10 minutes - can have the most profound effects! This ancient posture improves circulation by moving fresh oxygenated blood to the upper body, strengthens immune health and calms the body's central nervous system. Resting in an inverted position encourages breathing to slow, sending a message to the brain and the nervous system that it’s time to move out of ‘fight or flight’ mode and into a state of rest and digest.This reduces cortisol levels in the body making it a great way to decompress and shift your state of mind. Viparita Karani is best practised daily in the morning so you can start the day feeling calm and refreshed.
A yoga bolster placed under your hips allows for a deeper relaxation and added comfort in this pose. However be cautious not to use a bolster if you have lower back pain as this can put further strain on the back.
Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
A popular more contemporary pose is Happy Baby Pose which relaxes the lower muscle groups, stretching out the hip joints, groin and inner thighs and releasing any lower back pain. There are many benefits to this magical pose, but true to its name it fosters happiness by reinvigorating the body, improving vitality and activating positive energy to reduce anxiety and stress.
If you experience any difficulty in keeping both shoulders on the ground during this pose, you can use a yoga strap wrapped around the middle arches of your feet to bridge the gap between your feet and your hands. Alternatively, you can perform this pose one side at a time by extending one leg straight on the floor, and bending the other bringing the knee up to meet the chest. Support the bent leg with a strap around the middle arch of the foot. You should also consider this modification if you have any difficulty keeping your neck and hips flat on the ground during Happy Baby pose.
Baddaha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
A simple seated posture whereby the bottoms of your feet come together close to your pelvis and knees fall to the floor, Baddaha Konasana is a grounding pose that relieves tension from the neck, head and back. Regular breathing in this asana improves oxygen flow around the body which has been known to improve headaches. Focusing on the breath also encourages you to enter a meditative state which is a powerful way to reduce any built up stress or anxiety.
If you find it difficult to stay in stillness in this posture, the use of props can help. Try a buckwheat yoga bolster in between your legs so that you can lean on it or lay on it in a forward bend. Alternatively, using sustainable cork yoga blocks under the knees can add further comfort and support.