Are you someone who always finds it hard to sit back and relax? Or, is your lifestyle so hectic that you barely get a few minutes to breathe and relax? Unwinding and giving your mind and body a break is critical to refueling and recharging your system. Yes, relaxing is easier said than done for many. With the lives we lead today our bodies are always in a state of ‘go-go-go’, making it difficult to pause. While meditation is a great way to relax, it can be the toughest for many. So in this article we’re exploring a few restorative yoga poses that will help your system restore and relax.
How do you know when you need to pause and relax
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, then you know it’s time to give yourself a break.
- You’re struggling to fall asleep
- You begin to feel sudden aches and pains in different body parts
- You feel unrested or tired every morning
- Several things in your surroundings irritate or anger you, like traffic jams
- You find it hard to quieten your mind
- You feel impatient and restless all the time
- You cannot stop thinking about your to-do list and feel the urge to constantly ‘multi-task’.
- You’re constantly checking your phone for notifications, updates and reminders you may have missed
Benefits of relaxation
Taking out a little time to relax can immensely help your system. While it might be hard to do, you can learn to relax and let go of everything you’re holding onto. Relaxation can impact your physical and mental health in a positive way, making you more prepared for busy days. Relaxing your mind and body with yogic practices can lower your blood pressure, slow down your heart and improve your breathing. It will reduce stress, which will improve digestion, energy levels and sleep quality. Relaxing will help you manage chronic pain, muscle pain and soreness, as well as balance your emotions and mind.
A gentle restorative sequence (that’s suited for almost everyone) offers a peaceful and relaxed way of getting in movement. It provides a deep stretch to the muscles and tissues and helps you breathe deeply and relax. If your mind is constantly wandering, this is a great way to pause, making you better equipped to manage your endless to-do list, and day-to-day activities.
Why yoga helps with relaxation
Restorative yoga poses activate your body’s relaxation response by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. They also stimulate the vagus nerve. Your breathing becomes slow, mindful and deep. This sends your heart and nerves a signal to relax. Furthermore, these postures stretch the muscles and connective tissues, improving blood circulation and functioning of certain body parts.
Restorative yoga poses to help you relax
Restorative yoga poses include gentle twists, forward folds, and supported backbends, and other relaxing postures. Here are seven restorative yoga postures to try:
Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
This pose relaxes your body by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. It calms down the mind, relaxes the back and improves digestion. You can also do the posture with the support of bolsters. Place a bolster on your thighs and bend forward, bringing your forehead and chest onto the bolster.
How to do Seated forward bend:
- Sit up with the legs stretched out straight in front of you (Dandasana). Keep the spine straight and toes pointing upwards.
- Inhale, raise both arms above your head and stretch up. As you exhale, bend forward from the hip, chin moving toward the toes. Keep the spine erect. Focus on moving forwards towards the toes, rather than down towards the knees.
- Place your hands on your legs, wherever they reach. Do not try to force yourself closer to the thighs if it is difficult. If you can, grab hold of your toes and pull on them to help you inch forward a little. You can also grab your calves if that’s where you’re comfortable.
- Breathe in, keep your head straight and lengthen the spine. As you exhale, gently try to take your naval closer to the knees. Try to use your breath to go deeper into the posture.
Child’s pose (Balasana)
The popular child’s pose helps relieve stress, fatigue, as well as physical pain in your back and hips. It stretches the muscles along the backside of your body and relieves any physical aches and pains you may be feeling. It easies the tightness and tension. This posture can also be done with the support of cushions or bolsters.
How to do Child’s pose:
- From thunderbolt pose or Vajrasana, bend forward bringing your forehead onto the head. Stretch the hands out in front or place the hands at the base of your spine.
- If you can’t reach the mat, you can place your palms in a fist and place the forehead on the fist.
- Relax here for a few minutes and try to take deep breaths.
- Now to come out of the posture slowly lift up, come back to Vajrasana and then release the legs by straightening them out.
Legs up on the wall pose (Viparita Karani)
One of the most relaxing poses, this posture is a great way to release tension, ease stress and help you unwind. It relieves pain from the legs and back, and boosts blood circulation from the legs back up the body. It helps you realign after hours of sitting or standing. It’s also perfect to practice before heading to bed.
How to do legs up on the wall pose:
- Lie down with your buttocks close to a wall and legs falling to one side. Now slowly lift the legs up along the wall. Adjust your position to make sure you are as close to the wall as possible. Make sure you are comfortable.
- Now relax the throat and head. Keep the arms on the side of the body or above your head - whichever is comfortable for you.
- Stay here for a couple of minutes. Try to take slow, deep breaths.
- To come out of the posture, slowly drop the legs to one side and push yourself away from the wall.
Reclined cobbler’s poser’s pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This is another very relaxing posture that stretches the hips, groin and thigh region. It provides immense relaxation to the back and helps you let go of tension, aches and pains.
How to do reclined cobbler’s pose:
- Lie down on your back. Now bend the legs and bring the feet as close to the groin as you can. Join the soles of the feet together.
- Relax the hand beside the side of the body.
- Now slowly try to bring the feet closer to the groin if you can.
- Keep your attention on the stretch in the groin, inner thighs and back.
- Stay here for a few slow, deep breaths. This will help you relax in the posture.
Easy pose (Sukhasana)
A popular meditative posture, this asana activates the body’s relaxation response, that is, the parasympathetic nervous system. It induces a calm and peaceful feeling in the mind and body. Keep a cushion behind your back, buttocks or knees if needed. Focus on your breath and relax here.
How to do easy pose:
- Start from a seated position. Sit with your legs extended outward
- Now cross your legs and widen your knees.
- Relax your arms. Place the palms on the thighs facing upwards. Keep the back straight.
- Gaze forward and take slow, deep breaths.
Thread the needle pose
The thread the needle pose stretches the upper back and shoulders. It provides a twist to the back, releasing tightness and tension from the upper body. You can try variations of this where you wrap one hand behind your back and the other hand is stretched out to the opposite side. This will make the stretch deeper and more intense.
How to do thread the needle pose:
- Start in a neutral position on all fours, keeping your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Tuck your toes under.
- Open up your chest to the right as you extend your right arm toward the ceiling. Direct your gaze toward your raised hand.
- Now move your right arm under your chest toward the mat. Your torso should naturally shift to face downward. Keep both knees and your left arm grounded for support.
- Continue to slide your right arm onto the mat, allowing your right shoulder to rest on the mat. Extend your left arm overhead so your fingertips touch the mat, and rest the right side of your head is on the mat. Continue shifting your right fingertips to the left until you feel a stretch. Hold the pose and focus on your breathing.
- Now repeat on the other side.
Corpse pose (Savasana)
The best and the toughest relaxation posture is the corpse pose. This posture allows you to let go completely and surrender. It releases mental and physical tension, calms the mind and body, and balances the nervous system. Make sure your body is in a neutral position and the lower back is softened. Take deep breaths and simply relax here.
How to do corpse pose:
- Lie down on your back and keep your legs slightly apart
- Bring your arms alongside your body, but slightly away
- Tuck your shoulder blades onto your back for support
- Now release and completely let go onto your mat
- Breathe naturally and relax here
When practicing restorative postures, it is best to hold each posture for a few minutes. Deepen the stretch, if comfortable, by trying different variations and using props. Focus on your breath and just let go. When getting into and out of the posture, do so gently and carefully. If you have the time, practice with a teacher to experience the benefits in a far greater way.