Restorative yoga is a yoga practice that is suitable for all levels and abilities. The following sequence was designed slightly more towards those people with tight hips, but anyone can practice it.
Allow yourself to relax into each pose for at least 3 minutes. The total sequence will take anywhere from 15-40 minutes depending on the individual. It also helps to drop any sense of urgency you may have when practicing restorative yoga, as this will allow you to sink a lot more deeply into the poses.
– Soft yet firm surface that you can lie flat on
– At least two blankets, and a few pillows
– At least one yoga bolster. Yoga bolsters are perfect for this practice but not everyone has one—so be resourceful. Bolsters are chunky, so you will need to replace them with lots of pillows or cushions if you don’t have one.
– Warm things: warm clothes, socks, extra blankets, heaters if suitable. Warmth helps your blood and energy flow more easily through your body.
– Nice music helps. Any ambient music, I find, works great. Slow hypnotic music, world music, maybe some classical.
– Water and fluids. Warm water is best; avoid ice cold water (it’s not good for your stomach). Cups of herbal tea close by would be picture perfect.
Do not force anything; restorative yoga is done in a gentle and organic way. It takes time for some tissues in the body to respond to the pose, so just wait, find your breath, and progressively relax the body as you begin to “feel into it”. If you force the body and joints where they don’t want to go, your body will give you a number of signals:
– The breath may become tight and you may tend to hold your breath
– You may experience a sharp shooting pain
– Something around the joint just won’t feel right
When any of these happen, pull back! If you keep going, it is likely that you will have a muscle spasm, overstretch a ligament, or compromise the joint—and if any of these things happen, they will have you hobbling around for at least six weeks, unable to do much until your body recovers. It’s not worth it! Be patient and gentle with yourself, and use your abilities of awareness to move your body with integrity.
Many of the following poses can be adapted to suit your level of mobility and the resources available. It is encouraged that you experiment with the poses once you become familiar with the main poses outlined below.
1. Massage the Legs
It’s always a good idea to incorporate a little leg and foot massage into any restorative yoga practice.
The insides of your legs are the “yin” channels, and the outsides of your legs are the “yang” channels. For restorative and relaxation purposes, it is best to work with the feet and insides of the legs.
1. Start by accessing just one of your feet. Start to work the thumb pads into the inner arches of that foot. When you find tender points, hold the pressure; it should decrease in tenderness after a little while. Keep massaging the foot.
2. Start working the thumb pads into the underbelly of the foot. Again, if you come across tender points, give them more attention by holding a gentle pressure on them and letting the tenderness dissipate.
3. Allow your hands to work up to the inside of the ankle, and use you palm to squeeze the inside of the ankle. Be gentle yet firm.
4. Now, let the hands work up the insides of the lower leg, again using your palms to squeeze gently. I also use my thumbs to add pressure just under the shinbone, like in the picture below. Be gentle; the insides of the legs will generally be more tender and sensitive than the outsides of the legs.
5. Work your way all the way up to the knee, and give the knee a bit of a squish and massage. Feel free to adjust your leg so it is comfortable for you and for your knee.
6. When you feel like you’ve had enough, let that leg go and begin on the other foot and leg. Repeat steps 1 – 5 on the other side.
7. Afterwards, notice the sensations in your legs, and whether you feel like your mental condition has also changed.
2. Supported Butterfly
1. Bring the soles of your feet together. Allow some space between the heels of your feet and your groin—no need to jam yourself up.
2. Grab your feet, or interlace your fingers around your toes (it doesn’t really matter which); inhale to lengthen through your spine, exhale to draw yourself gently forward and down.
3. Take your time to soften into the pose. Connective tissue in the body takes at least thirty seconds to respond, so just go easy into it.
4. After thirty seconds to one minute, allow your back to curl and your head to soften towards the floor. Let gravity do the work! Relax your shoulders, arms, legs, and head, and sink towards the floor. Closing the eyes can be very powerful here. Stay for at least three minutes if comfortable.
5. For extra comfort and support, use a yoga bolster to rest your head on. When the body feels the support, it will naturally start to release and relax. Keep your breath smooth and gentle. Stay for at least three minutes if comfortable; if not comfortable and then come up whenever you’re ready.
1. If your knees are uncomfortably up, and/or your lower back is curling out and it’s uncomfortable, then try sitting up on a few blankets to raise your hips away from the floor, and then try again.
2. If you find that you can’t relax your legs and allow the knees to move towards the floor, then put some pillows underneath the knees and legs so they feel supported. If the knee joint feels threatened, the muscles will tighten up naturally to protect it. You will need to support the knee joint so that it feels supported; only then will it allow itself to let go.
3. The Hug
1. Come to sit upright on the heels, with the tops of the feet flat.
2. Spread your knees apart so they are comfortable.
3. Bring the bolster and/or pillows in between the legs. Be sure not to jam the bolster and pillows into your belly; give your belly some space so it can relax and not be cramped up. You can add a little cushion or pillow just for your head if that feels good.
4. When you’re ready, just bring the torso forward and down over the bolster and pillows. Rest your head to one side.
5. I find bringing the arms up to hug the bolster gives a nice release for the upper back.
6. Rest and relax; breathe gently.
7. Be sure to rest your head in the other direction at some point.
8. You can stay for at least three minutes in this one. Continue to breathe gently. Close the eyes. Feel the whole of the back gently open and soften.
1. If your knees don’t feel good when sitting this way, you can bring a few blankets between your heels and your buttocks or hamstrings. This will take the pressure off of the knees.
2. If your ankles or feet don’t feel good when sitting this way, try bringing a rolled up blanket or small cushion under the front of your ankles, so that the foot and ankle will have more of a natural angle and not be so flat against the floor. Feel free to experiment to find a position that works for you. When you bring your weight forward over the bolsters and pillows, it will take a lot of the weight off of the feet also.
3. If you have trouble bringing the torso down to rest on the bolster and pillow supports, then you may just need to bulk up your support with more pillows, blankets and bolsters, so that you can rest the head and torso. Again, feel free to experiment.
4. The Hug with a Twist
This is a variation of the hug, and can be done after the hug or on its own—but be sure to do both sides. This pose allows for the most amazing opening, which goes diagonally across the back from the shoulder to the opposite hip.
1. To set yourself up, bring both knees over to your right side so you are sitting on your left hip.
2. Bring the bolster and pillows lengthwise, and draw them in towards your belly. Do not jam them up into your belly; allow a little space. Just make sure the knees are actually coming up beside the bolster and pillow supports. Again, feel free to add a little cushion for the head if that feels good.
3. When you are ready, bring the torso forward and down so that the chest comes to rest onto the bolster and pillows. At first, rest the head in the direction of the knees; after a while you can change the head to the other direction if it feels good for your neck.
4. Allow the body to soften. You can bring your hands up and hug the bolster and pillows.
5. Relax your shoulders. Relax your back. Breathe easily. You can stay here for around 2 – 3 minutes.
6. Finally, when you’re ready, draw yourself up, slowly swap your legs over to the other side, and repeat.
5. Forward Bend
1. Sit with your legs straight out in front of you.
2. Place the bolster (or a few pillows) on your thighs. Be sure not to cramp your belly area; give it some space.
3. When you’re ready, simply inhale, draw the arms above the head, and get some length on the spine. Then as you exhale, draw your chest forward and down over the legs. You don’t have to be able to grab your feet—that’s not important. Your hands go anywhere that is comfortable; on the floor, on your legs, or on your feet is fine.
4. Take your time and be patient. It takes a while for some tissues in the body to respond, so just keep breathing and keep softening into it. We want to get to a point where gravity is doing most of the work for you; you just have to soften your body and allow it to move further down towards the floor. Relax your shoulders and arms, no need to hold on here…
5. Allow the back to curl, and relax your head to rest the forehead onto the bolster or pillows. Close the eyes, soften the body, and breathe. Hold for at least three minutes if comfortable. Feel free to come out if you feel like you’ve had enough. (Try not to come out until you have found at least one moment of peace within the pose.)
1. If you are having difficulty getting your chest and torso forward, then try sitting up on some blankets or some cushions so your hips are off the floor. This helps the upper body to be able to come forward over the legs. Experiment with the height of the hips if you need to. With this one, you are looking to find a place where gravity takes over and draws your torso down towards the legs.
2. If you have trouble getting your head to sit on the bolster or the pillows, you may need to increase the amount of pillows and cushions so that your head can find a place to rest on them. If that is too distracting or you don’t have enough pillows to make it work, try not using any pillows or supports and letting your head hang in space towards the floor. Relax your neck and let gravity draw your head down. Breathe. Soften.
6. Rest / Shavasana
Final relaxation pose
This is the pose you always need to finish any sequence with. The body needs a moment to settle and reorganize itself. It is very powerful and should not be skipped over. Even just one minute can bring much benefit.
1. Lie straight out on the floor with your legs extended.
2. Place legs slightly apart, with feet splaying out to the sides.
3. Your arms should lie just away from the body, with palms facing up or down. Or, you can place your palms onto your chest or belly, which ever feels right for you.
4. Close your eyes. Relax the eyes into the sockets.
5. Have a quick scan through your body, moving your awareness through your feet, legs, hips, back, belly, chest, arms, shoulders, neck and head. Check to make sure that you’re not holding on to any tension in the body.
6. Stay for 1 – 5 minutes. Try not to move your body; just remain still. Relinquish thoughts as they arise; don’t give them any importance, just let them go for now.
1. You might like to try bringing a bolster or pillow supports under the knees. This helps soften the lower back towards the floor. Therefore, this is recommended if you have lower back pain or problems.
2. Follow steps 3 – 6.
There you have it… I’m sure this sequence will help you find more peace in your day. Feel free to leave a comment below.
I have many more sequences and information regarding restorative yoga in one of my books published on Amazon. Check it out here —