Yoga is for everyone. Don’t get intimidated by yoga fanatics who show seemingly impossible positions, are obsessed with one-and-only yoga tendency or act like holy rollers. Yoga is not a religion or a doctrine. Yoga respects all cultures, religions, nations and individuals (and all yoga disciplines). It’s not competitive, it’s all-embracing. It nurtures our capacity to feel compassion, to better function with other people and to live more peacefully (including ourselves!).
What kind of yoga we need and prefer varies according to our personalities, state of body and mind, and life situations. Moreover, our yoga likings most probably vary during our lifetime. Yoga will stretch and strengthen our body, and even more importantly, our mind. It provides us tools to calm us down, to become more open, lenient and curious and to better listen to our body and inner voice. Ultimately it helps to restore the often lost connection between the body – mind – soul triangle, and helps to find peace inside us and between us and our (messy, complex and stressful) environment.
Long-term yoga practitioners in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well as reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA (the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system) levels and has been shown to improve mood and anxiety more than some other metabolically matched exercises, such as walking.
Note: The American Yoga Association states, “Yoga exercises are not recommended for children under 16 because their bodies’ nervous and glandular systems are still growing, and the effect of Yoga exercises on these systems may interfere with natural growth.” However, meditation and simple breathing exercises (without breath-holding) are safe and can help children to manage stress, impulsiveness and emotional situations.
One of the most loved and oldest mantras from vedic tradition (gayatri mantra) teaches us that everything in life gets its strength from the same continuously rejuvenated life source. Restorative yoga and restorative body positions (position=asana) particularly focus on rebuilding the connection to this silent, powerful and enormous life source. According to yoga teachings our bodies learn to heal themselves when we have a natural bonding to our higher awareness. This all sounds a bit beyond our reach short-term but restorative yoga positions actually help almost immediately. These positions are easy to learn (physically) and they are ideal when we are fatigued, tired and exhausted. Just 10 minutes per day is an excellent start and you can see positive consequences very quickly – often immediately.
How do these restorative positions differ from other yoga positions? Firstly, they differ (only) slightly from classical positions and are passive in nature. Secondly, a different kind of support equipment is normally used (chairs, blankets, bolsters) to give an extra support for the positions so that you don’t have to use energy to get energy. Instead you receive energy in these restorative positions. Thirdly, restorative positions are purposefully a little bit strained – the focus is not on stretching the muscles but unloading stress and intensifying blood circulation into central body organs. Restorative yoga positions – rightly supported – feel utterly comfortable without the intensive stretching element. As a consequence you can rest in restorative positions much longer than in normal positions. These positions are claimed to positively impact our nervous system, chronic pain, the immune system, and the balance between body and mind. It goes without saying that restorative yoga positions are extremely helpful for racing and worrying minds on overdrive who struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Surprisingly restorative yoga positions are not seen as ‘simple’ among yoga teachers. This is because we are so used to focussing on immediate sensations and results. However, restorative yoga positions require looking deeper ‘inside’ to feel (and enjoy) the gentle physiological and psychological effects. For this reason although restorative postures look peaceful, restoratives can be challenging for beginners. Just because the body rests quietly doesn’t mean the mind will settle into stillness too. Be patient, practice makes perfect and accept days when your feel ‘nothing’ or disappointment.
3 key principles in short for restorative yoga positions:
- Breathing: Let the breathing move you.
- Grounding: Root your body onto ground and feel the weight and lightness.
- Navel radiation: Move from inside->out.
Take the time to get comfortable on your props (bolsters, blankets, etc) and make any necessary adjustments before you settle in. In restoratives the distance between heaven and hell can be as little as half an inch. A small adjustment to a blanket or a minor shift in the body’s position can transform a moment of exasperated agony into pure rapture. Be creative and use your inner wisdom to guide you toward greater comfort, making any modifications you need.
In time and with practice, you will be rewarded with the ability to drop with ease into a place of deep contentment. And this is what yoga is all about, calming our rambling minds so that we may rest quietly in the present moment and feeling the peace that resides within.
These yoga postures are very simple and can be done even if you have never familiarized with yoga before. Follow the simple instructions. You can also do these postures just before going to bed.
NOTE: If you have severe back problems or tight muscles and hamstrings it might be better to check with your doctor or physiotherapist before going forward. Also, discuss with your doctor if you are pregnant (To lie straight on your back after 3 months is generally not recommended).
Ideally, you hold each posture for 3-5 minutes each, but you can stay longer as well. As you practice more regularly and learn how your body and mind feels about the different postures you find the suitable times for you.
PREPARATIONS: Make it a treat! You can light a candle, use some relaxing aromatherapy oils and play some calming music. Have a bolster, blankets and eye pillows at hand.
- Legs up the wall pose. There are different variations of this posture. If you have time for only one restorative posture – choose this one. Most yoga teachers say this is the most all-healing all-embracing yoga posture.
- Legs up the chair/bed
- Legs up the wall pose
- Legs up the wall pose (with bolster)
- Legs up the wall (with bolster and blankets)
- Corpse pose. There are different variations of this one too.
- Corpse pose
- Corpse with bolster and blanket (on back)
- Corpse with bolster (lie on your belly)
- Child pose
- Child pose
- Child pose with pillow
You can make these postures every day and build up a routine for you (note: our bodies and minds love routines). These kinds of routines are especially helpful if your days have been hectic, stressful and you have been working late.
Popular bedtime yoga exercises
- 15 minutes before or in the bed
- 35 minutes practice for insomnia relief, relaxation, calming
- 7 minutes yoga practice for better sleep
- Yoga to help fall asleep by Lori Massad-Koska