In yoga, we’re often taught to challenge ourselves physically; to stretch the boundaries of what we think we can do so we can gain more confidence both on and off of our mats. While this is great teaching, the wise yogi also understands that effort and action should be periodically intermingled with rest and recuperation.It’s this rest and recuperation that allow one to reflect upon one’s life and set new intentions for the future.
Rest and recuperation, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up your practice altogether. Instead, you can simply ‘shift gears’ into a more gentle practice that will support your needs during this time of introspection. This more gentle practice is often termed “restorative yoga.” Restorative yoga is a yin-oriented practice in the sense that it is more passive than a yang orientated practice, which is fierier and heat building.
Restorative yoga helps coax the mind and body into a state of deep rest and relaxation. By giving ourselves permission to take a time out, we can return to life feeling more peaceful, calm, focused, and energized. Restorative yoga is also great for anyone experiencing injuries that prevent them from engaging in a more challenging practice. While some people might think that restorative yoga is “the easy way out” and that it’s not really yoga, this is hardly the case. In truth, yoga is simply the stilling of the mind. Any effort that one makes towards this stilling is yoga. Restorative yoga can be just as stilling and transformational as a more challenging practice. More importantly, it gives the body an opportunity to rest and prepare for that physically challenging practice when it does come.
Try these 2 restorative poses on for size. Stay in each pose for five to seven minutes. Feel free to explore more on your own!
Restorative Bridge Pose:
For this pose, you’ll need the assistance of a yoga block. Lying flat on your back, place the souls of your feet flat on the earth about hip-width apart. The toes should be pointed straight ahead. See if you can touch the backs of your heels with your fingertips. Now lift the hips and pelvis up towards the sky until they are parallel to the knees. Slide the block underneath your sacrum (at its lowest height) and relax. If this back bend is too gentle, you can adjust the block higher. The idea behind a restorative yoga pose is that it should be effortless. The only thing you need to do is focus on the breath. Feel the breath expanding into the belly, into the ribs, and into the heart. Imagine the breath as having three parts all seamlessly connected. Follow the exhale in the same manner.
Restorative Butterfly Pose:
This is another great pose to help the body and mind relax. For restorative butterfly pose, you’ll need two blocks. Laying flat on your back, place the souls of your feet together. Then slide your blocks underneath your knees at their lowest height. Draw your attention to your breath and allow gravity to open up your hip joints. Just like restorative bridge pose, this pose should be effortless. Your only job is to relax and breathe.