If you’re looking to calm your nervous system and let go of stress, look no further: restorative yoga is the practice for you. One of the best things about restorative yoga is its ability to heal, relax and renew. This powerful effect is brought about by the longer, supportive holds in each pose while being in a comfortable space. These elements, along with the meditative aspect of restorative yoga, brings about the nervous system’s relaxation response a.k.a. the parasympathetic response. Here are some restorative yoga poses for your practice to reduce stress in your life.
1.) Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Why? Legs up the wall has so many benefits, including stress relief. As a gentle inversion it also effects the lymphatic system which has to do with your immune response. Excessive fluid drains from the lower body (feet and legs) so it soothes swollen ankles or tired knees. Ultimately, legs up the wall can calm the body to relieve stress but can also alleviate headaches, lower back pain and menstrual cramps.
Tight hamstrings or low back? Some extra options to try if you’re having trouble getting comfortable:
- blanket under your hips
- bent knees
2.) Supported Twist
Why? When stress is high the nervous system goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, also known as the sympathetic response. Adding this supportive twist to any restorative yoga practice feels great for your spine, but it also stimulates digestion. This is supported by the “rest and digest” (relaxation) response.
Shoulders don’t feel supported or does it feel tight around your spine?
- try using more props underneath your shoulders or a blanket underneath your chest
3.) Support Child’s Pose
Why? Have you ever tried just doing less? You may have done child’s pose before, but practicing it in such a supportive way can feel amazing for your well-being. It’s great for stress while keeping your ego in check. It encourages you to listen to your body, to do less and to find a nurturing, supportive shape.
Are your hips, knees, or ankles sensitive?
- hips: an extra bolster (or pillows at home) can do wonders! Also, a blanket or pillow underneath the hips may feel great
- knees: a blanket underneath your knees and/or support underneath your hips like a pillow or bolster between your sit bones and heels
- ankles: try a blanket underneath your feet/top of ankle
4.) Supported backbend (fish)
Why? This is a great way to gently increase mobility in your spine while opening your chest and shoulders. Emotionally, it can feel very freeing to practice this heart opener; one of the reasons it’s a great shape to practice for stress relief.
Tight low back?
- Use a blanket or a pillow underneath your hips to reduce the amount of extension in your low back