Restorative Yoga with Pillows
"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear." - Rumi
Ahhh... restorative yoga. A big love of mine. Restorative yoga helps me to slow down, recharge the body, and enjoy deeeep, delicious stretches.
Restorative poses are traditionally done with supportive props, such as block, blankets, bolsters, etc. Each asana (pose) is held for 5-20 minutes, allowing the practitioner to fully "let go". This allows the muscles in the body to relax and we can stretch even deeper into the connective tissue and fascia.
I think the hardest part of restorative yoga is the tendency for the mind to wander... Okay, focus now on breathing... what do I need from the grocery store? Do I have my reusable bags by the door?... Shit! Focus... focus... did I remember to call my sister back? I am the worst!... Oh yea, yoga. Meditation. SHUT UP BRAIN!
You get the idea, right? We ALL do this! I think my biggest piece of advice in terms of restorative yoga is to just let the brain do it's thing. When it gets lost and you notice it wandering, gently refocus. Without judgement or annoyance. Be kind to yourself!
Restorative Yoga with Pillows
We don't all have the availability to traditional yoga props at home, or especially on the road. Blocks, bolsters, blankets, all of these things are great! However, they are usually only found in a studio. What if we want to practice at home?
PILLOWS! This is my absolute favorite prop! Plus, you have pillows at home, there are pillows in hotel rooms, there are pillows in Airbnb. Pillows everywhere! You don't even need a mat, really. Just grab 3-4 pillows and some comfy clothes and let's do some restorative yoga!
Suggestion: If you are used to restorative practice: hold each pose for 5-8 minutes. If you are new to the practice, spend 2-5 minutes in each pose.
Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana - Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
- Stack a few pillows in a way that they angle upwards. The lowest pillow positioned at the bottom of your back.
- Lay back on the pillows, making sure the head is supported.
- Bring the soles of the feet together, allowing the knees to fall out to the sides. Place pillows under each thigh to support the legs (option to double up pillows here or fold in half).
- Let the arms fall out to the sides naturally, with the palms upwards.
This pose helps to initiate calm for the practice, stretching the inner thighs, hips, back and pelvic area.
Salamba Balasana- Supported Child's Pose
- Starting on your knees (in tabletop position), bring the big toes together and the knees as wide as the mat. Sit back towards or onto the heels.
- Grab 2-3 big pillows, stacking them on top of each other, and slide the stack all the way up in between the hips.
- Lay onto the pillows, letting the arms rest naturally forward. The head can rest with the forehead to the pillows, or switching the direction of the head from side to side.
This pose is my favorite! It is like a mini escape from the chaos of each day. Supported child's pose boosts serotonin levels and immunity in the body, enhances sleep, and helps to calm and focus the mind.
- Starting on your knees (in tabletop), tuck your toes.
- Slowly, start to walk the hands closer to the knees as you begin to sit back on the heels. If it is too much pressure on the feet to fully sit onto the heels, keep your hands on the mat to keep weight off of the feet (see below).
This pose is great for stretching out the feet and toes, while strengthening the ankles. Only hold this pose for 2-3 minutes.
Salamba Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - Supported Pigeon Pose
- From hands and knees, bring your right knee up towards your right wrist and stretch your left leg straight back behind you.
- Place a pillow underneath your tailbone and right hip to support the space between the hip and the floor.
- Place another blanket (or two) in front of the body and lay your chest and head onto it for support.
- Relax into this side for the amount of time you have chosen, then switch to the left side.
Focus on taking deep breaths, allowing your hips to relax into this pose. It is one of my favorite poses for stretching hip flexors! This pose helps to release tension in the low back, especially for those confined to a desk all day.
Salamba Bhujangasana - Supported Cobra/Sphinx Pose
- Start on the belly with the tops of the feet resting on the floor, about hip distance apart.
- Bring the elbows directly underneath the shoulders, hands right in front of the elbows, fingers spread wide.
- Actively pull the shoulder blades back while opening the chest forward. Head and neck should remain neutral.
- Option: Use a pillow underneath the chest for additional support (see below).
Paschimottanasana - Seated Forward Fold
- Seated, bring the legs out straight in front of you, about hip distance apart. The flesh of the tailbone should be pulled back behind you, seated directly onto the boney part.
- Place a pile of pillows on your legs. Fold forward, relaxing the chest and head onto the pillows. You should feel a nice stretch on the back of the legs, but not any sharp pains.
- Relax into the pose.
Seated forward fold is great for low back pain and to stretch out the hamstrings. This pose is also awesome for stimulating the organs, soothing headaches, releasing anxiety, and calming the brain.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Supported Bridge Pose
- Lay onto your back and walk your feet back towards the body, feet hip distance apart, until the feel are as close the the tailbone as comfortable.
- Lift the hips off the ground towards the ceiling and place a couple pillows under the low back for support. Relax into the pillows.
- Roll the shoulders back, allowing the arms the rest naturally out to the side with the palms facing upwards.
This pose is great for stretching the fronts of the hips, the back of the neck, and the upper back. This also opens the chest and the heart, allowing you to build space for self love. Relax and enjoy the support of the pillows.
Legs Up the Wall Pose
- Laying on your back, bring your legs up onto the wall and scoot your tailbone as close to the wall as is comfortable. Option: Place a pillow underneath the tailbone and low back.
- Allow the arms to rest out to the side, palms up. This allows the shoulders to rest back.
- Use this pose as your final savasana. Relax into this posture. Allow the weight of the body to be fully supported by the ground and wall. Release control of the mind, the breath, and the body.
- Enjoy this pose for as long as feels good (suggest more than 10 minutes).
This pose is incredible for relieving stress and anxiety. I suggest doing this every night before bed, as it is a simple inversion that feels so, so good.
I hope you take the time to slow down and enjoy a few of these poses. You can enjoy a nice 30 minutes of restorative and do them all, or you can try one every night for a week. Be gentle, be kind, and be grateful for your body.
Questions? Comment below and I would love to assist!