Restorative Yoga with Bolsters or Blocks, Along with Some Beginner Poses
Restorative yoga offers the ultimate form
of relaxation and healing to your body. With a few simple yoga props and a quiet
space to practice, you can enter a state of deep calm and restoration.
Restorative yoga is a slower and more sedated type of yoga, that entails different types of passive stretching. It offers
different benefits than standard forms of yoga and may done with just a few different poses in one session.
We’ll get into the basics of this practice and touch on using yoga bolsters and yoga blocks with this yoga form.
Why Should You Add Bolsters and Blocks to Your Practice?
To properly do restorative yoga, you may need a few different tools. Props like blankets, bolsters, or yoga blocks are sometimes helpful for your practice to complete certain asanas with more effectiveness, especially for beginners. These props can aide in holding poses for longer durations then with more traditional types of yoga.
Restorative yoga involves holding asanas for prolonged periods of time (sometimes 10 minutes or longer, but often in that 5-10 minute range), so in all actuality your sessions may only last for a handful of asanas. Hence, you'll want to help support your body with bolsters, blocks, or blankets, to make each pose as effective as possible, and reap the full benefits of your session(s).
With many types f yoga including vinyasa yoga, or flow yoga, sequences are going to occur quicker. These types of yoga maneuvers activate and stimulate many different muscle groups throughout the sequences. However, with restorative yoga, it is a more relaxed type of practice, which really engages the aspect of stretching and specific muscle groups for a prolonged period of time. As you progress with each hold, your stretches should get deeper.
Many may even follow a flow yoga sessions or other faster paced yoga routine with restorative yoga, once they are warmed-up, making it easier to get that deep stretch. This type of therapeutic practice is fantastic when used as a cool-down session, helping to slow the breathing, blood pressure and other physiological functions back to normal.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga With Bolsters and Blocks:
1. Deeper Relaxation
Restorative yoga gets you more in tune
with your body and your mind. With longer poses, you have the chance to really
sink into yourself and experience the present moment. Not only that, the longer you're able to maintain the pose, the better possible stretch you can endure over the duration of the pose, ultimately leading to better overall muscle endurance, flexibility, and potentially decreasing risks for injury.
At first, this slow-paced yoga form might seem boring or even repetitive to some, but when you really start to allow yourself to heal and take in each pose, you can see just how powerful and relaxing this type of yoga is!
If you remember from previous discussions, yoga in general is a mind-body exercise and helps decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety. Yoga itself supports stress management and mental health.
According to IJOY or The International Journal of Yoga, yoga should be considered as a complementary method in treatment for certain disorders as it has shown to increase feeling of relaxation, improve confidence and lower irritability. These include stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
2. Helps With Muscle Tension and Flexibility
If you feel tense and sore often,
restorative yoga might be able to help. As you stay in certain postures for several minutes, your muscles can unfold and relax more easily. There may be times as beginner yogis or even intermediate yogis where you feel quite stiff or tense, especially in poses that may be new to you. In time, you can improve
your range of motion and really learn to open up your body to yoga as well as other more difficult asanas.
According to one 10-week study, which included college athletes, it was suggested that regular practice may increase flexibility and balance. This was particularly in male college athletes.
Another study published in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity provided evidence for promoting yoga in physical activity guidelines for older adults to improve areas of balance, flexibility and strength!
addition, you'll expand on your flexibility and strength as you do these poses.
Some people might assume that in some way, using props makes restorative yoga easier and less effective, but this
is not necessarily the case with this form of yoga. The combination of yoga props and restorative postures
allows you to improve your yoga abilities on the yoga mat and actually can increase effectiveness and form!
3. Reduces Stress
Finally, restorative yoga is a great
stress reliever, like mentioned above! If you experience stress on a regular basis or your stress
levels are out of control, we definitely recommend getting into this specific
type of yoga.
If you have trouble sleeping at night because of anxious thoughts and worries, restorative yoga can help, bringing you into a state of calm and peace over-time, helping you to focus on you mind body connection instead of negative daily thoughts. Studies have actually shown that yoga can help with sleep quality and overall quality of life.
So try performing yoga for better sleep!
Beginner Poses With Bolsters and Blocks:
1. Restorative Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a very popular restorative yoga posture and is done in the prone position. This simple beginner’s pose can be extremely relaxing and is what makes it prefect as a restorative type asana.
With focuses on the lower/upper back and knees, to get into this pose, set your yoga bolster down on your mat. It helps if your bolster has good length to it, so that the majority of your upper body can relax on-top of it. Allow the bolster to support your weight, breath slowly in and out
Once the bolster (or blanket) is on the ground, kneel down on your mat. Place your knees around the bolster, then bend over the bolster for the child's pose. You should be laying down on your bolster with your palms to the ground (or wrapper around the top of the bolster), and your head tilted to the side so you can breathe.
Overall, this is a pretty basic restorative pose.
2. Supported Savasana
Another restorative pose you might want to try with your bolster or multiple bolsters is a supported savasana or corpse pose. Savasana is usually done at the beginning or end of your practice, it's really up to you. This is another beginner maneuver, that is done supine, and focuses on relaxation, breathing and focuses on the lower back.
Place your bolster(s) down on your mat. The bolster should be positioned and stay under your knees. You can also put another bolster or blanket under your head and upper back as you lay in this pose.
Maintain this pose for several minutes, keep your hands on your stomach (or off to the side of your body) and
focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out and notice each sensation in your
body, letting go of all tension.
3. Supported Bridge Pose
The next pose can be done with a yoga block, bolster or blanket, depending on your comfort level. Another beginner pose that is done in the supine position. It can benefit muscles in your chest, pelvic region, as well as your lower, middle and upper back.
The supported bridge pose is a great back-bend type stretch, but you'll want to ensure that you're putting your block in the right position to be able to maintain this pose.
Get into the bridge pose first, keeping your block nearby, (you can also do this with blankets, adding more under your back as you feel more comfortable to gain a bigger stretch).
Lie on your back with your hands to your side. Then bend your legs and plant them into the mat. Push upward so your back is lifted off the ground and then reach for your block.
Place it right under your sacrum (or slightly above), which is the lower back area. Lower yourself back down onto the block. Your head and shoulders should be on the mat, but your hips, glutes & thighs should be elevated by your block.
This is definitely more involved than the
other two poses we introduced, especially holding if for extended periods of time, but try and hold the supported bridge pose for
at least 5 minutes or build up every session, extended your time.
4. Supported Forward Bend
Forward bends can be done with the aid of a yoga bolster or block. This is another fairly easy and basic restorative pose, which is done in the standing position. This yoga position can help your lower back and stretch your hamstrings.
To get into the supported forward fold, stand in front of your yoga block. Inhale and stand-up tall, exhale and bend forward. Place your hands on-top of the block for assistance.
As you get better with this asana, you'll move away from a larger block to a smaller one, or maybe transition the block to a horizontal position.
5. Supported Fish Pose
Finally, the last restorative pose with
blocks and bolsters we'll discuss in this post is the supported fish pose.
Supported fish pose is another great back-bend. Individuals who have a lot of
tension in their back or pain may try this pose, but like anything else these poses should not cause intense pain and if they do, STOP!
You can use either a block or bolster for this asana as well, but using a bolster might be more comfortable for you. This asana is great for the lower back, neck and chest.
To start your restorative fish pose, lay your block or bolster down on your mat. Position yourself (in the supine position) over your yoga prop and make sure the prop is hitting right in between your shoulder blades (can be slightly lower).
Your legs will stay firmly planted on your mat, however, arms should be suspended off to the side, (you can use another support for your neck if need be). Keep your arms lifted above the mat slightly, and really bend into your bolster or block.
Restorative yoga with bolsters or blocks is such a fun place to take your yoga routine(s). It is just another way to add some flexibility and change up your sessions that adds a new dimension of endurance and stretch to and for your joints, and muscles.
It is a great way to really get some cohesiveness to your mind and body, a kind of togetherness that may be hard to find for some people.
Please be sure to share your experiences with restorative yoga or any other type of yoga for that matter on our blog, and let's help each other have a more sound body and mind!