Most of us lead very busy lives where we are constantly thinking of or trying to do several things at once, which can wreak havoc on our nervous systems. Restorative yoga poses have a profound ability to affect our nervous systems in a positive manner, and you know, get us feeling human again (almost).
The central nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight or flight mode, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which supports our autonomic functions such as breathing, heart, and metabolic rates, and balancing all of these systems. Most of us spend the majority of our time overworking the sympathetic nervous system, and restorative yoga helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus strengthening and balancing our central nervous system.
You may want to do some sun salutations before you practice restorative yoga poses in order to release any tension and let your body rest fully during the practice of the supported poses. Aim to find a quiet space to practice restorative yoga poses, perhaps using soothing music or an audio book to help you get out of the chatter in your mind. You will also want to have ample props: 2 bolsters, 3-4 blankets, and a belt are a great way to start. Check out our top 5 restorative yoga poses, with step by step instructions provided by Yoga Journal.
1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
This is a wonderful pose for relieving tensions in the hips and for improving digestion and circulation of blood to the abdomen. Remember to use a folded blanket at the top of the bolster so that your forehead is higher than your chin as this alignment allows for the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
2. Supported Balasana (Supported Child’s Pose)
This is a very comforting pose that tends to make us feel safe and protected, allowing us to let go fully and completely relax. Make sure to use more than one bolster, or stack blankets on your bolster if you feel like one bolster is not enough to support the entire front of your body.
3. Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero’s Pose)
This is one of the more advanced restorative yoga poses that requires either a lot of support underneath the torso, or more flexibility in the hips and psoas. Try to stay in the pose for 5-10 minutes to reap the full benefits.
4. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)
This pose is a softer variation of shoulder stand, and isn’t a full inversion since your uterus isn’t inverted (meaning that it is safe to do even on your menstrual cycle). Try to get your sitting bones against the wall, and you can use a belt on your upper thighs to hold your legs in internal rotation.
5. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
This breathing exercise can be practiced seating or reclined, but is most often done in a seated position. It clears any blockages in the central nervous system, and balances both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, making it the perfect exercise to do after practicing several restorative yoga poses.