When you find yourself in the middle of a jarring change or worried about the future, do you ever reach for a yoga bolster? Probably not, but here’s why it might be a good idea.
Transitions — whether planned or unexpected — can come with stress, pain, mental/emotional tension, and poor sleep. Many people try to take control by planning or doing more to cope with worries about an uncertain future. This often leads to exhaustion on all levels — mentally, emotionally, and physically. Restorative yoga offers a gentler way through.
Restorative yoga is a method of practicing yoga asana that prioritizes stillness, quiet, and warmth to give your five senses a rest while you remain awake. The nervous system becomes balanced through this deep, healing relaxation, which reverses the effects of stress and helps you develop mental, emotional, and physical resilience to change.
In practice, you use bolsters, blankets, blocks, and walls to hold postures for longer periods of time with zero muscular effort. While it may look like restorative yoga is just lying around and taking a nap, this couldn’t be farther from the truth!
How Restorative Yoga Helps During Change
When the body becomes fully supported and at ease, the “rest-and-digest” mode or parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, which helps settle a frazzled nervous system and busy mind. Through gentle awareness of breath, curiosity, and self-compassion, you gradually learn to be with what is, especially when it’s uncomfortable.
In soothing yourself with restorative yoga poses, you develop a greater capacity to move through transitions with clarity and a deeper connection to inner well-being, knowing that you’ll be OK even if things don’t work out as you planned. You increase your tolerance for change and don’t spend as much emotional and mental energy fighting it. All from the simple act of doing less and resting.
Tips for Practicing Restorative Yoga
To get started with restorative yoga, it’s ideal to be in a dimly lit, quiet space that’s warm (bonus: you can keep your socks on.) Minimize distractions and tell housemates not to disturb you. Follow the cues of your body and know that you don’t need to look a certain way or achieve anything during your practice. That’s the gift of restorative yoga: You can just be. And always check with a healthcare professional if you need additional safety guidance.
Get started with this restorative yoga sequence from my book Restorative Yoga: Relax. Restore. Re-energize. It’s called Grounding During Change. You can follow along with the photos or practice with me in the 40-minute free yoga class.
Grounding During Change Restorative Yoga Sequence
Printed with permission from Restorative Yoga: Relax. Restore. Re-energize. by Caren Baginski
Photos © DK: Jimena Peck
What You Need:
- Constructive Rest Position
Time: 5 minutes
Lay a thinly folded blanket on the middle of your mat. Loop the strap. Fold a hand towel twice and place it on the far end of the mat. Sit with your back to the hand towel, feet flat, and toes pointing straight ahead. Pull the looped strap over the legs and place the block between the thighs. Tighten the strap until the block is loosely held. Lie down, placing your head on the hand towel, then open your arms to a V shape with the palms up.
- Wrapped Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
Time: 5-10 minutes
Place your mat perpendicular to an open wall. Set two blankets on the mat, one for your head and the other folded thinly for under your pelvis. Keep an unfolded blanket and eye covering (optional) nearby. With your back to the wall, tuck and roll to swing your legs up the wall. Pull the unfolded blanket over the feet, send your legs back up the wall, and snug the blanket behind your legs, keeping the feet hip distance apart. Place the eye covering and open your arms to a V shape with the palms up.
- Supported Bridge with single bolster (Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Time: 5 minutes
Place a bolster widthwise across the mat and a thinly folded blanket on one end of the mat. Sit on the bolster with feet flat on the floor and your back to the blanket. Use your forearms to recline onto your back, resting your head on the blanket. Open your arms to a V shape with the palms up.
- Supported Child’s Pose (Salamba Balasana)
Time: 5 minutes
Place the bolster lengthwise up the middle of your mat. Set a folded blanket at one end, as well as another blanket folded on top of the bolster. Sit with knees wide outside of the bolster end, and optionally wrap the third blanket around your hips and upper torso. Rest your torso on the bolster, turning to one cheek, and extend your arms to the sides with forearms on the mat. Turn the palms up or down — whichever is most comfortable.
- Wrapped Relaxation Pose (Savasana)
Time: 10-15 minutes
Place a folded blanket at one end of the mat for your head, then sit on the mat with legs extended and your back to the headrest blanket. Fold two blankets twice, and place them slightly overlapping each other on top of your ankles, legs, and low abdomen. Use the edge of your hands to tuck the blankets into your legs, then lie down on your back, tucking the blankets around your hips and waist. Apply the eye covering (optional) and open your arms to a V shape with the palms up.
No matter the changes or transitions in your life, may you find rest and rejuvenation through the quiet power of restorative yoga. It’s not always comfortable to be still when everything around you is shifting, but over time you may find it’s exactly what you need to anchor into the present moment. From this steady place, you can flow through change and transition with more ease instead of fighting against the current.
— Caren Baginski, C-IAYT, is a yoga therapist and the author of Restorative Yoga: Relax. Restore. Re-energize., a step-by-step illustrated guide to deepening the connection between body and mind through the power of rest and relaxation. Subscribe to her YouTube channel for more free restorative yoga classes.