When some people think of yoga, they picture holding challenging poses for extended periods. Or, they imagine a hot studio with lots of slow poses and sweat. Fitness culture places such an emphasis on the workout potential of yoga that we sometimes forget that the activity can be incredibly relaxing. 

Luckily, a popular new trend known as restorative yoga started becoming increasingly popular in the community. So, what is restorative yoga? Believe it or not, restorative yoga is what it sounds like: yoga that restores your body and mind through stillness and deep stretches. 

Primarily, the practice utilizes passive stretches for opening up your body and gentle breathing opportunities for encouraging a stress-reducing environment. During a session of restorative yoga, you will not move much, instead of focusing on the gentle stretches and cultivating an atmosphere of mindfulness.  

Now that we have a basic idea of what restorative therapy is, let us explore the activity a little more thoroughly. Specifically, we will look at the ways this type of yoga differs from other popular methods like hot yoga. We will also explore some of the favorite restorative yoga poses and how you can do them. 

What Are Some of the Major Ways Restorative Yoga Differs from Regular Yoga?

While we answered the question ‘what is restorative yoga?”, we still have not gone into the differences between these types of sessions. Many newcomers often remark that these types of course often look like adult nap time. On the outside, this fact might seem right, but a lot is happening. 

One of the significant differences in the poses used in restorative yoga is their incorporation of props. Since you usually hold the poses in restorative yoga for a more extended amount of time, instructors often utilize objects like the wall, blankets and bolster devices.

Mindfulness, or the process of being aware of yourself and your surroundings, is a tenant incorporated in even the most basic yoga classes. But restorative yoga puts a much greater emphasis on the mindfulness aspect than these traditional models. 

Even with the most laid back teachers, you still usually expect at least a minor workout in terms of holding the positions. Restorative yoga workouts are slow and, for the most part, entirely still. Your goal with these situations will involve trying to align both the physical and the mental. 

Everything should feel balance during these stretches — your body, breathing, and calm mind. As such, you might find that restorative yoga falls more of the meditation side of the spectrum. In many ways this statement is true, but it is more helpful to think of it instead as a hybrid between the two forms. 

Why Should I Practice Restorative Yoga?

woman doing yoga

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It is true that restorative yoga does not provide the same workout as Bikram yoga, but that does not mean you should not practice it. For one thing, this type of yoga dramatically increases an individual's will power. It takes quite a lot of will to decide to remain still for nearly a whole hour.

This willpower will translate to your life in the form of greater self-control and heightened decision making. You will also become much more in tune with your body. The first time many people take a restorative yoga class they report sleeping like a baby the following night.

  • ​Increases an individual's will power
  • ​Greater self-control and heightened decision making
  • ​You will become much more in tune with your body
  • It helps you listen to your body

When we become more in tune with our body’s — how they feel and what they need — then we can respond to them in kind. It is essential to know when we might be holding a great deal of stress, or when we're feeling too sore from exercising. Restorative yoga can help remind you of this fact. 

It helps you listen to your body when it tells you it needs something. Humans are actually straightforward creatures a lot of times. When something is wrong with our body, it tells us! We need to learn how to listen to it. 

What Does A Usual Restorative Yoga Class Look Like For the Average Person?

three women having restorative yoga class

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Most restorative yoga teachers put a heavy emphasis on maintaining a calming atmosphere. Imagine an incredibly relaxed yoga environment — dimmed lights, soft music, and natural smell. Get ready for intense relaxation when you attend (and do not worry about bringing props — the teachers will provide them). 

As we mentioned, restorative yoga looks and feels a lot like meditation. You should expect a lot of instructions on breathing and be prepared to work hard and balancing yourself.

If these types of classes seem easy, then you are mistaken. It is true that they are different from Bikram sessions — you will not find your legs burning, but you will find new challenges that you will have to adapt to if you want to get the most out of restorative yoga. 

For example, many may find the simple act of sitting completely still for an extended period difficult in a restorative yoga session. In the hustle and bustle of the modern world, slowing down can feel incredibly counterintuitive. 

This fact is especially actual if you have a personality type that thrives on adventure and intense workout. Many people would instead go hiking than sit in a room and try to clear their mind. But we promise that even though the road to a calm mind is steep, it is worth it in the long run.

Popular Restorative Yoga Poses

In this section, we cover some of the core restorative yoga poses that most instructors will incorporate. If you have not taken a class, we recommend watching a video before trying any of the poses on your own, so you know you perform them correctly. 

Child’s Pose

Kneel into a comfortable position and slide your feet together so that they touch. Keep your knees apart about the length of your waist. Take a deep breath and lay the upper half of your body down onto your thighs. Broaden your hips and lift your tailbone and skull. 

Put your hands down facing forward in front of your torso. Take off the weight from your shoulders and position them on the floor. You should feel your shoulder blades stretched across the length of your back. Stay in this resting pose for one to three minutes — or thirty seconds if you feel discomfort.

​​Corpse Pose

While the corpse pose might seem simple, there is actually a lot going on underneath the surface. You can start by leaning back on to the floor with your arms while your feet remain firmly planted on the ground and your knees raised. Straighten your pelvis until it lines up with your tailbone. 

Next, release your legs and soften your hips. Your legs should fall in line with your body, and your feet should fall outwards. You also want to push your skull away from the base of your neck. If you cannot do this on your own, then you can use the help of a pillow or blanket.

During this pose, you will routinely lift your arms toward the ceiling and rock slightly back and forth. This action will open up your back and shoulders. When you finish the pose — it usually lasts around five minutes — then roll on to one side, let out three long breaths and lift your torso with your hands.

​​Happy Baby Pose

Lie flat on your back and then slowly bend your knees into your stomach while letting out a deep breath. Next, take a deep breath and grab the outside rims of your feet with your hands. If you cannot hold on to your hands by yourself, then you can use a belt or similar object wrapped around both feet. 

Once you have a firm hold on your feet, then adjust your knees so that they fall slightly further apart than your hips. Then, tuck them up into your armpits. Your legs should remain perpendicular with the floor during this period. Use your heels for flexing and push against the force of your feet.

Conclusion

woman doing child's pose yoga

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​​​We hope this article helped you figure out the answer to the question ‘what is restorative yoga?’. If you incorporate the practice into your life correctly, then you can get all the mental health benefits of a meditation session with the physical benefits of a yoga session.

Generally, restorative yoga is much more comfortable to do in a guided teacher setting, so we recommend taking a class before you try it yourself. But once you get in the rhythm of the activity, you can do it by yourself as often as you want! It is a great way to combat the stress of everyday life. Good luck and have fun!

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