A restorative yoga sequence typically involves only five or six poses, supported by props that allow you to completely relax and rest.
Held for 5 minutes or more, restorative poses include light twists, seated forward folds, and gentle backbends.
Most restorative practices are based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. They are also arranged with the head below or near the same level as the heart, which helps to stimulate reflexes that quiet the brain and heart.
To many frazzled Western yogis, minimizing effort can feel counterintuitive, but there are real benefits to what may seem like doing very little. Restorative yoga is in fact better than sleep for releasing tense muscles, relieving joint aches, and transitioning the mind and body quickly from stress to calm, says Cole. He continues: “It also teaches conscious control of relaxation.
Sleep is essential for completing the job of full recovery of the nervous system, sorting out memories and emotions, and literally finding meaning in our lives.”
In addition to an immediate calming effect, some of Cole’s regular restorative practitioners also notice improved powers of attention and concentration. But the most powerful health benefits of yoga may be harder to measure. “When the body is deeply relaxed and the nervous system is balanced, the mind is able to engage in our direct experience,” says Bo Forbes, a Boston-based therapeutic yoga teacher, psychologist, and the author of Yoga for Emotional Balance. “Over time, this body- based mindfulness helps us to gain a better perspective on our challenging interactions.”