We live in a society that never stops. We’re always on the go. But we as human beings are not designed for that. If we don’t give our bodies and minds space to release tension, to make sense of the inner chatter and to quiet down, the whole system gets overtaxed and our whole being switches into an alert mode, a state of constant vigilance, a sort of pre fight and flight mode.
Fortunately, we also have tools that can help us regulate that and restorative yoga is one of those tools. It’s a practice full of relaxing and supporting poses that give your being the space and comfort it needs to return into its natural balanced state, homeostasis. We remain in each pose for 5-10 minutes on average and let me tell you, just 15 minutes a day can make a massive difference! Just try it for yourself and see…
These are my top relaxing yoga poses I turn to whenever I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed and feeling the anxiety creeping in.
Child’s Pose / Supported Child’s Pose
Probably the most popular and relaxing yoga pose is the Child’s Pose.
The version I personally turn to on a daily basis is with no props whatsoever.
Begin on all fours, then open your knees so they’re roughly the width of the mat, join your big toes together and send your hips back towards your heels.
If you can’t quite sit on your heels, I recommend you place a folded blanket between your heels and your hips for support.
Extend your arms forward, palms facing down, and lay your forehead onto the mat.
Adjust the pose in any way you need so you feel as comfortable as you possibly can.
Breath deeply into the belly and try to soften and release tension with every exhale.
Relax in the pose for about five minutes (or longer if it feels reeeeeal good).
Then press into your palms and slowly walk your hands back and lift yourself up again.
For a more restorative version of the pose you will need a bolster (or a long-ish, sturdy pillow) and two blocks (or hardcover books).
Place the short side of your bolster in between your knees and sit on your heels. Slowly, keeping your spine as long as possible, lay your belly, chest and head on the bolster, resting on one side of your face. Rest your arms along the sides of the bolster, palms facing down.
If you can’t sit on your heels, place a folded blanket in between your thighs and your hips. You can also bring the bolster higher for even greater support by placing two blocks on the low or mid height underneath.
Try what feels best for your body.
Get as comfortable as you can and rest in the pose for about five minutes (or more). Turn your head to rest on the other cheek half way through.
Then press into your palms and slowly walk your hands back and lift yourself up again.
Bound Angle Pose/Butterfly
Forward folds are on top of the relaxing yoga poses list and Butterfly is my personal favourite whenever I feel anxiety creeping in. It’s super simple, never fails to calm me down and it stretches the hip are at the same time!
Sit on the edge of a folded blanket and bring the bottoms of your feet together. Drop your knees to the sides to create a diamond shape.
If you feel a lot of tension in your hips, place blocks (or books) underneath your knees for support.
As you exhale, start slowly rounding forward. Go just as low as feels good in your body. No need to pull yourself closer than gravity lets you. You can either have your arms extended forward, palms facing up, or you can gently hold onto your feet. (Just don’t use your arms to pull yourself closer.)
Relax into the pose and breathe deeply. With each exhale try to soften as much tension as you can.
Just keep an eye on your cervical spine. You want to keep your head in line with the neck, not really bending forward too much. If your chin is touching your chest, lift it up a little bit to protect your cervical spine.
Remain in the pose for 5 minutes or more. Then press your hands into the mat and veeeeery slowly roll back up.
Legs Up The Wall
Running around all day? Put your legs up the wall for a few minutes to calm down the nervous system, get the blood circulation going and release fatigue from the legs, feet and hips.
Put the long side of a bolster or a sturdy pillow about 5 centimeters from the wall. With the wall to your left, sit onto the shorter edge of the bolster with your right hip (your left hip will probably be touching the wall). Lower yourself down to your right elbow, then roll to your back while extending your legs and resting your heels on the wall.
Your legs can remain bend and your lower back should be resting on the bolster. Then lower the rest your your torso and your head onto the floor. Adjust your low back on the bolster so it’s as comfortable as possible.
You can either leave your arms alongside your body, palms facing up, bring them up above your head in a wide V or bend them at the elbows to create a cactus shape.
Find the version of the pose that works best for you and again focus on your breath. Remain in this super relaxing pose for 5 minutes or more.
Come out of the pose by first bringing your knees to your chest and then roll yourself to the left or right, down from the bolster.
The goddess of heart opening relaxing yoga poses. I love doing Reclined Goddess when I feel fatigued, discouraged and whenever I’ve spent a day in front of a computer with my upper back slouching forward.
There are many version of this pose and you can build a really fancy set up for it with loads of props but my personal favourite is the simples on. All you need is a bolster and maybe two blocks (or books) if your hips are tight.
Place the bolster lengthwise on your mat and sit with your back as close as possible to the short side of the bolster. Join the heels of your feet together and let your knees drop to the sides so you create a somewhat regular diamond shape with your legs. (Your heels don’t have to be close to your groing.) You can place blocks underneath your knees if you feel too much tension in your hips.
Then place your hands behind you, each on one side of the bolster, and start lowering your back down onto the bolster. Low back, mid back, upper back and head. Then let your arms relax alongside your body, palms facing up. Focus on your breath. Try to fill your whole torso with air and as you exhale, soften into the bolster. Let it hold you. Let gravity do all the work for you.
Again, remain in the pose for 5 minutes or more.
Come out of the pose by rolling yourself to one side and down from the bolster, then push yourself up into seated.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
The ultimate relaxing yoga pose. No yoga class is complete without Savasana.
Lay down on your back, cover yourself with a blanket if you’d like or put a bolster underneath your knees if that feels good to you. Savasana can look different for everyone… Find a version that is right for you and just let gravity do the work for you. Focus on your breath and let you whole body melt into the ground beneath you.
Savasana is also a great starting point for guided realxation and visualisation, such as the practice of yoga nidra (yogic sleep) which you can try here!
All of these super relaxing yoga poses that I mentioned above are an integral part of my personal practice. I strongly believe that in today’s busy world a restorative practice is just as important, if not more, as more dynamic practices such as Hatha or Vinyasa.
Just as any practice, restorative yoga is the most effective when done regularly. A little bit and often is better than a lot but every once in a while.
With that in mind I created a super simple restorative yoga package for you. I created it in a way that truly allows you to make restorative yoga a part of your day-to-day life. You can check it out here if you’re interested: RELAX. RESTORE. REIGNITE. Restorative Yoga for Everyday Practice.
A little present for you!
If you like guided relaxations, don’t forget to download my 20 minute yoga nidra (yogic sleep, guided relaxation) bellow.
A word of advice if you’re just starting out with restorative yoga
Although a lot of recent research looks keenly on yoga as a way to relieve anxiety we are all very different and it may not be suitable for absolutely everyone. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.
It is true that practicing yoga can sometimes bring unexpected feelings and emotions to the surface and while it’s true that these states can often be very healing they can be scary and uncomfortable if you’re taken by surprise by them.
So please make sure that you practice in a space that feels comfortable and safe. That could mean making your space super cosy if you’re practising at home but I would also encourage you to looks for in person classes that are specifically tailored for people struggling with anxiety or trauma if you can.
I hope you find this post helpful and that these relaxing yoga poses can bring more peace and quiet into your life.
Sending loads of warm hugs, smiles and good vibes your way!
More restorative yoga resources:
Restorative Yoga for Better Stress Management
Yoga, Stress & The Nervous System – Hack The System, Deal With Stress