Restorative yoga is a deeply relaxing form of yoga that has been developed especially as an answer to the stresses of modern lifestyle. It can help with muscular aches and pains, stress and sleeping problems.

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga differs from the more physical yoga practices, and it also differs from most typical meditation practices. Restorative classes are usually offered in the evening and their main purpose is to relax the body and to calm down the mind. The postures are based on some of the more typical asanas, but they are modified so that they become more relaxing and require less effort.

Students are encouraged to use bolsters, blocks and even blankets to support the body. When supported by a bolster, a student can relax into the pose and hold it without any strain to the body. This passive stretching is different from the stretching that happens in a typical yoga class and that usually requires some effort from the practitioners. Inverted postures, such as shoulder stand, are modified so that students lay down with their legs raised up against the wall. Postures are held longer than in a typical class, sometimes up to ten or twenty minutes. The class usually ends in a version of Savasana, the corpse pose, and a long relaxation.

Breathing techniques form a part of all yogic practices and they are also important in restorative classes. Deep breathing helps to bring more oxygen to the body, to boost circulation and to relieve pain. It also helps to release tension in the muscles and to calm the mind. The breath combined with the releasing postures create sense of deep relaxation that continues after the class.

How Yoga Helps with Insomnia

Everyone has occasional difficulties with falling asleep, but insomnia is a more serious condition. Some typical symptoms include persistent difficulties when trying to fall asleep, inability to sleep even when one is tired, waking up throughout the night, waking up very early in the morning, not feeling rested even after a night's sleep, and feelings of fatigue or problems with concentration.

Some yoga postures are especially beneficial for people who suffer from sleeping difficulties. Halasana (the plough) helps to focus on the breath and to consciously relax the muscles. Adho Mukha Svanasana(downward dog) promotes deep breathing and also stretches the body. It is important to breathe deeply through the postures.

A restorative yoga class after work in the evening can help to let go of any tension that remains from the day's activities. If you cannot find a yoga class near you, it is also possible to try the postures at home. Restorative postures are safe for most people and do not require special flexibility or strength. However, it is important to find a peaceful and quiet place for the practice.

Chakras (Energy Centres in the Body)
Credit: Silvanasono