Photo Credit:
cmfotoworks/iStock/Thinkstock

5 Restorative Yoga Poses

These supportive positions promote a sense of calm and relaxation in both body and mind
Written by 
Pamela Newton
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 

Practicing any type of yoga can help you release tension, feel centered and become more aware of how you’re feeling in the moment. Restorative yoga lets you reap those benefits through nurturing, well-supported positions that allow you to enter into a deeply restful, still state. Especially soothing for many after work or before bed, restorative poses are designed to do just what their name suggests: restore the contentment and mindfulness you may have lost over the course of a busy day while offering your muscles and joints a gentle and lengthy release.

For a relaxing and rejuvenating practice, try the following restorative poses. Remember that this type of yoga is ideally done in a warm, dark room. Place several different props (yoga blocks, blankets, bolsters, cushions) nearby, so you’re prepared to provide your body support. Feel free to adjust them as necessary for maximum ease and comfort.


Supported Fish (Matsyasana)

Fish pose is a deep backbend that opens the muscles in your neck, chest and abdomen. This supported version allows you to modify the intensity of the bend and relax in the pose.

Place a block on one of its long sides on your yoga mat lengthwise; position it where your thoracic (upper) spine—the area between your shoulder blades—will be when you lie down. Then place another block on one of its short ends, perpendicular to your mat, where your head will rest. Slowly lie back with your legs extended out straight, your upper back and head resting on the blocks. Let your arms fall out to the sides with your palms turned up. Adjust the placement of the blocks as necessary to find your sweet spot. If the backbend is too intense for you, lower the height of the blocks. Stay here for five to 10 minutes and then slowly rise back up, pressing your hands into your mat for support.


Supported Spinal Twist

This is a relaxing pose that also allows for some movement in your spine and inner organs.

Place one bolster on the floor and sit with your left hip against its short side (two folded blankets are a suitable substitute, if necessary). Bend both legs to the right, keeping your knees touching the floor. Your left calf should be tucked toward you and your right leg should be angled slightly behind you. Slowly turn your torso to face the bolster and place your hands on the floor on either side of it. Slowly walk your hands forward, allowing your torso and head to lower and rest on the bolster, arms flat on the floor, palms in or fingers interlaced. Turn your head to gaze in the same direction as your knees. For a deeper twist, turn your head the opposite way. Remain here for five to 10 minutes. When you’re ready, place your palms on the floor, slowly push yourself up and reposition the end of the bolster against your right hip. Repeat the pose.


Supine Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)

This pose allows your chest and hips to open and stretch.

Place two stacked folded blankets (or a bolster) lengthwise along your mat. With your back to the blanket, sit down in front of it and bring your legs into Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana), with the soles of your feet pressing up against each other and your knees falling out to the sides. Place a block under each knee for support and then lie back with your spine resting on the blanket. You may also want to place a small cushion or folded blanket underneath your head. Remain in the pose for five to 10 minutes before slowly rising back up, using your hands on the mat for support. For another variation on this pose, try starting with two blocks underneath the blanket—one close to your seat, resting on its lowest height, and one close to your head, resting on one of its short ends so it’s perpendicular to your mat. This will create a reclining chair effect.


Supported Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child’s Pose is already a resting position meant to relax your body, but you can get an even deeper release with a little support.

First, lay out a blanket on your mat. Kneel on it, using it to cushion your shins and the tops of your feet, and sit back on your feet with your knees wide apart. Turn a block onto one of its long sides, so it’s running parallel to your mat, and place it between your thighs. Place a second block about six inches in front of the first (beyond your body), this one resting on its lowest height and perpendicular to your mat. Inhale and as you exhale, bend forward, letting the first block support your chest and the second support your head. Your arms can fall beside your body so your hands are down by your feet, palms turned up, or extended so your hands are beyond your head, palms facing down. If the blocks feel too hard, place a bolster or cushion on them and release onto this softer surface instead. Remain in the pose for five to 10 minutes before slowly rising back up.


Supported Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Most yoga classes finish with Corpse Pose, a meditative position in which the floor supports your whole body as you relax in silence. This pose can be even more nurturing with a few minor touches.

First turn off any music you may have playing. Sit on your mat and place a folded blanket or bolster underneath your knees to release tension in your lower back. Next, place a blanket or a flat cushion where your head will rest so that your forehead will be lifted up slightly higher than your chin, creating support for your neck. Lie flat on your back with your legs slightly separated and laying over the support, and your feet naturally turning outward as you relax. Place an eye pillow or folded cloth over your eyes to block out ambient light and allow you to mentally turn inward more easily. Lastly, let your arms rest a few inches from your sides, palms facing up. Breathe here for five to 10 minutes. When you’re ready, roll to your right side, knees bent, and push yourself up gently into a seated position.

Reference(s) 
Light on Yoga (1966)
About the author 
Pamela Newton is a freelance writer and a certified yoga instructor. She has been practicing and teaching yoga and writing for magazines for more than 10 years. She lives in Brooklyn.