Time to Restore: What is Restorative Yoga?
Want the antidote to stress? In episode #57 of The Prana + Patchouli Podcast, we explore the benefits of the spacious and other-worldly practice of restorative yoga. Daily rest has transformed my energy-levels, mood and creativity, and if you let it, it’ll do the same for you, too.
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I’m really excited for this episode because today we’re talking about something that is super close to my heart and that is the spacious, other-worldly practice of deep relaxation and restorative yoga.
Even though I’ve always loved snuggling up to a bolster, for years, I only ever dabbled. That was until I was brought to my knees with burnout, and I realised how incredibly powerful and healing restorative yoga was. In my darkest hour, I only had the energy to lie down on the ground and breathe. But this was a catalyst for calm and my recovery.
At this point in my life, it’s become a cherished part of my daily spiritual practice and rest, which helps me show up fully for my dreams, whether it’s a deliciously long and deep session on a Sunday, or simply 10 minutes to steep in one of my favourite supported poses, like bound angle, or legs up the wall.
So what exactly is restorative yoga?
What is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is a deeply healing and nourishing practice where your body is supported by props (like bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps) and you’re invited to surrender to gravity and stillness. When you allow yourself to be held in this way, it sends a signal to your brain that it’s safe to relax and calm down. Each pose is held for 5-20 minutes as this gives the nervous system time to soften and switch on the relaxation response.
How Restorative Yoga Works
The soul of restorative yoga is stillness and the practice is about creating that with intention in every pose. But if you’re someone who struggles to stay still, you can take comfort in knowing that there’s always movement, even in stillness. There’s the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe, your heart beating, your blood flowing, and then there’s your mind, jumping from thought to thought, resisting stillness! Noticing these natural movements can actually anchor you into your body, which is especially helpful if you’re feeling anxious, as it brings you back to the present moment. And despite all of this, it’s still possible to let go.
The Benefits of Restorative Yoga
With the props supporting you from every angle, your muscles and bones can sink towards the earth, the antenna of your nervous system sends and receives fewer messages and your mind becomes quieter. You also relax into harmony with your body’s rhythms - like in nature - and after all, we humans are part of nature. This feels like coming home to yourself.
While it may not look (or even feel) like you’re doing much, there’s so much magic happening below the surface. If you’re always busy, your mind may resist at first because you’ll think you’re wasting time, but this is when it’s most important to stay. With every breath, you’re literally expanding your comfort zone - and that’s where growth happens!
As you drop deeper and deeper into a state of relaxation, you’ll slow down your brain wave activity and the process will draw you out of the Beta brain wave state - where we dwell during times of stress and busyness - and into Alpha and Theta brain wave states, the frequencies of relaxation, intuition, creativity, manifestation and healing.
This practice of daily rest has transformed my life and work and if you let it, I know it’ll do the same for you, too. Here’s why:
Healing stress requires a holistic mind-body-soul approach and that’s why this practice is so powerful. Restorative yoga is the antidote to stress and gives you tools to regulate your nervous system and self-soothe, whenever you need to.
2. Crystal Clarity
Stillness creates space for a-ha moments to land. As tension melts away and you clear the brain fog caused by stress, you’ll find clarity in your mind and heart - so you can see the next steps you need to take on the path to your dreams.
Life is full of noise, but when you get quiet, you can truly listen to your inner wisdom. If you think you’re not intuitive, we all have this connection, but ask yourself, are you taking the time to tune in? This connection allows you to stay open to receiving clear guidance, support and inspiration.
Make Space for Daily Rest
As busy as I am, I find that daily rest often saves me time in the end. While it can be challenging to include a regular restorative yoga practice in your life, if this is something you feel called to make space for, I hope the tips I’m going to share will inspire you.
In the midst of adrenal fatigue, I feel like I was divinely guided to my practice, and maybe you will be, too. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted, instead of pushing through, take a breath and ask yourself: what do my mind, body and soul need right now? Honour that and see where it leads you.
And if, like me, you’re a huge fan of comfort, you’ll likely find that you revel in restorative yoga, so it’s not that hard! When something feels good, you’ll return to it - with little resistance.
You could also combine it with your movement practice by pausing at the end, or try just one pose a day and spend 5 or 10 minutes there. I love to do this at night before I go to bed! Or when you have more time, like on Sundays (which is my favourite day of the week), you can set up for a longer session.
This is also why I created my LIGHTER Membership - to help you make space for daily rest and design a spiritual practice that you can stick to - so you can feel calmer, clearer and more connected every day. When you become a member, you’ll get monthly support for your mind, body and soul, all the tools you need to turn inwards, short and sweet practices to fit easily into your schedule and access to our community for extra encouragement and inspiration. Plus that's the magic of the practice. You'll find that time actually expands when you’re embodied and inspired! Click here to learn more and join the membership.
Basic Relaxation Pose
If it’s the right time for you, I’m going to guide you into a restorative yoga pose called ‘Basic Relaxation’. If you can’t do this with me now, just listen, and come back to it later.
You’ll need two blankets. They don’t have to be yoga blankets - any will do. If you like, you can also grab a pillow, something to cover your eyes (like a small flannel or eye pillow), and an extra blanket to get warm and cosy.
Sit on your mat. Fold and roll one of your blankets, placing it behind your knees. This will support your lower back as you lie down, especially if you have any tension or pain there. Place another folded blanket or pillow beneath your head. If you like, you can roll the edge of the blanket towards the base of your skull, so it supports the gentle curve of your neck. Tuck your chin slightly, lengthening the back of your neck, reaching up through your crown to decompress your throat. When your chin is lower than your forehead, it quiets the frontal lobes of your brain. If you’re not in a dark room, cover your eyes to encourage relaxation.
Although this is a short practice, set an intention here by silently repeating our mantra for today:
In rest, I receive.
Let your fingers curl naturally into your palms. Your ankles roll out heavily to the sides. Your back body is completely at ease and held by the earth. Bring your attention to your pelvis, gently rocking it from side to side, then rest, and feel both sides balanced evenly. Feel all of your organs nestling into your body. Your arms and legs become heavier. Let your larger muscles drop away from your bones. And all of your smaller muscles relax, too.
Smoothe your forehead, soften your eyelids, hollow your cheeks, release your tongue and relax your jaw.
Notice when you begin to feel lighter. This is a signal that your body has relaxed and you can begin to centre yourself with your breath. Take a long, slow, gentle inhalation, followed by a long, slow, gentle exhalation, and then just allow your body to breathe for you for several rounds.
Invite the inhale more deeply into your body and soften on the slow exhale. Then, breathe naturally for several cycles of breath.
Last time, inhale slowly and deeply again, feeling the receptive quality of your breath, and exhale, feeling the active quality as you release all the air out. Feel free to continue with this breathing pattern, or let it go, so your body is just breathing for you once again.
Feel yourself relaxing - more and more - with every breath.
Letting go of stress and making space for clarity, creativity, ideas and inspiration.
In the stillness of your mind, silently repeat your mantra one last time:
In rest, I receive.
Feel free to stay here for 5-10 minutes.
When you’re ready to wake up, deepen your breath and send tiny flickers of movement through your fingers and toes. Circle your wrists and ankles, then take a full body stretch. Hug your knees into your chest, roll over to your right side, and leading with your heart on the left, press yourself back up to sit. Pause there for a moment, resting your hands on your knees. Inhale deeply and exhale completely, then open your eyes to the room.
I hope you’re feeling so relaxed and restful after that practice. For me, this still, quiet space is where all the magic happens. It’s what allows me to stay on my game and keep going for my dreams.
And don’t forget, if you want to go deeper in your restorative yoga practice, be sure to join us over in LIGHTER. I’m here to support you every breath of the way. I hope to see you there!
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