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5 Restorative Yoga Poses for Self Care

Even though I love teaching fast-paced & high intensity Vinyasa classes, my personal practice is the exact opposite! I’ve found that restorative stretching, breathing, and slow movements really help with my anxiety and re-regulate my nervous system. It turns out there’s a ton of science behind restorative and Yin yoga and how it can be used to heal the body and support mental health. Yin yoga is a specific type of relaxing yoga that invites us to hold restorative postures for several minutes at a time, allowing the body the chance to release accumulated tension and tightness in the body. I’ve compiled my top 5 favorite poses that I keep coming back to whenever I feel stressed & overwhelmed. You can do each pose separately or link them together for a mini restorative flow.

Reclining Bound Angle Pose | Supta Baddha Konasana

Come to lie down comfortably on your mat with the soles of the feet together. Let the knees fall out to the sides and flutter them up and down a couple times to get comfortable. You can experiment with drawing your heels closer toward you, or further away from you. Stay wherever you feel most comfortable and adjust as needed! Take one hand to the heart and one hand to the low belly. Begin to take slow, deep breaths in and out through the nose. Spend this time relaxing into the posture, giving yourself permission to create space, be still, and let go. Hold for 1-3 minutes. 

Reclined Spinal Twist | Supta Matsyendrasana

Transitioning from reclining bound angle pose, gently place your hands underneath your knees and draw the knees in toward one another, pulling them toward your chest, rolling them around in circles. This helps release the the hip flexors. Keep your right knee hugged in toward your chest as you extend your left leg long on the mat. Take your right arm out to the side, palm facing down. Take the left hand and draw the bent right leg over to the left, crossing it over the body. Keep drawing your right shoulder down toward the ground and look toward the right. Hold for 1-3 minutes, then switch sides.

  • Supine Pigeon | Supta Kapotāsana
  • As you are lying down on your back, cross the right ankle over the left knee and flex the foot. Soften your upper back into the mat. Stay here or draw your knee in closer toward your chest as you reach through the triangle you created with your legs. Interlace your hands behind your left knee or thigh,, pulling it closer toward your chest. Find stillness and hold the pose for 1-3 minutes on each side. Bring your intention back to the forefront of your mind, and let this replace your anxiety. Let the anxious thoughts fall away as you focus on the sensations in the body. Switch sides when you're ready. Bring just as much attention to this side, noticing the difference between the two. Know that differences in flexibility in the left and right sides of the body are completely normal!

  • Forward Fold | Paschimottanasana
    From supine pigeon, wrap your hands underneath your knees, hug them in toward your chest, and start to rock backwards and forwards until you come up to a seat. Extend your legs out in front of you and flutter the legs up and down a couple of times to release the hip stretch. When you’re ready, take a deep breath as your reach the arms up, and on your exhale, fold forward over your legs. There’s no need to reach for your toes here! Just allow your upper back and shoulders to round. Stay here 3-5 minutes.. The longer you hold a pose, the quicker the body releases and opens up. 
    Child’s Pose | Balasana 
    From your forward fold, gently roll up, cross your legs, roll over onto your hands and knees, and press back to a child’s pose. For child’s pose, bring your knees about as wide as the mat, hips back and down, seat toward your heels. Reach your arms forward, palms on the mat. Start to shift your weight from side to side, releasing the low back and stretching the inner thighs & hip flexors. Gently move from side to side to massage the forehead. Then find stillness. Stay here for 3-5 minutes. When you are ready, draw your knees together, let your chest rest on your thighs, and reach your arms back alongside your body, palms facing up, for close kneed-child's pose. Hold for 10 breaths. After you finish you practice, take one last big deep breath in, and exhale the breath completely. Know that the space you create in your body and your mind when you are on your mat is something you can recreate at any point in time throughout the day by linking your breath with intention.
    About the Author

    Aurora has been teaching & studying yoga in Portland & San Francisco for the past 6 years. She creates light-hearted, all levels classes with an emphasis on strength, alignment, creative sequencing, vulnerability, and authenticity. Aurora has taught for Nike, Lululemon, WeWork, Relay for Life, and dozens of companies & organizations around the country. As the Founder of Rooted & Rising, she blends her background in mindfulness & her passion for mental health advocacy through personal stories & yoga guides for anxiety & depression. Her goal in openly sharing her struggles with mental health is to connect with others and de-stigmatize the culture & conversation surrounding mental illness. You can connect with Aurora and download free yoga guides and resources on her website, therootedandrising.com

    Instagram: @auroralyrayoga