Rather than the sweaty, muscular yoga that is so popular here in the West, let’s talk about a whole different thing. Restorative Yoga. It’s like a yoga nap for adults and leaves you feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the world. Perhaps a little sleepy too, I should add.
I am a huge fan of restorative and teach it from time to time. There aren’t many poses and each one is held for a long time – 10 or more minutes. The goal is to allow your nervous system to settle down and allow you to really rest. No wandering mind, no to-do lists, no planning or stressing or preparing, just resting, in totally comfortable, supported poses and breathing.
The recent restorative class I taught, a 75-minute class, one student mentioned afterward that it took up until the last pose (an hour in) for her to really calm down. She left feeling amazing, relaxed and without the strain of the stress she came in with. Pretty powerful stuff.
Here are all the details for my absolute favorite restorative pose, reclined bound angle pose, or Supta Baddha Konasana. It’s a gentle heart opener, gentle backbend and super relaxing if you get the props just right.
Supta = reclined
Baddha = bound
Kona = angle
Asana = pose
Before you Begin
Just like most poses, there are many ways to do this pose and the use of props can make it slightly different feeling. I’ll walk you through my favorite version, and one that is easy to do at home (with minimal supplies).
What you’ll need:
- Yoga Mat (or soft carpeted area free from distractions)
- Eye Pillow or Scarf
- At Least Three Blankets (at least two the same or similar size/thickness)
- One Bolster or Cushion (or you can use a thick blanket or two stacked in a rectangular shape)
Before you get started, prepare your props. If you don’t have a bolster, fold blankets to make a cushion long enough to support your body from sacrum to head or use cushions or pillows from your couch or bedroom (see the photo to help get an idea of what to use). Fold a blanket 4+ times to make a small pillow. Make sure your eye pillow is within reach once you recline. Fold two more blankets into small squares, attempting to keep them relatively even (you’ll use one to support each leg). If you get chilly, have another blanket handy to cover yourself. Place the bolster (or folded blankets) with pillow parallel to the sides of your yoga mat, with one end of the bolster directly behind you.
Doing the Pose
- Start seated with your legs out straight (Dandasana), with the bolster touching your sacrum/lower back
- Bring the soles of your feet together (into a butterfly position) with your knees bent out to the side
- Find the right spacing for your feet. Avoid putting them too close to avoid strain on the muscles.
- Prop yourself up to make sure you’re sitting on your sitting bones, without rounding your pelvis (tucking) or forcibly arching your low back (tilting). This will create a neutral spine to start with.
- Find your two evenly sized blankets and place one under each knee to support the weight of your legs and limit the stretch through your groin. Resist the urge to feel a deep stretch, that isn’t what this is about. The goal is support, ease and comfort. Play around with where the blanket is placed (closer to the midline of your body or further away) depending on how flexible you are.
- Then lower yourself down onto your bolster/blankets, allowing your low back to slightly arch. If this arch is too much, lower your cushion.
- Make sure your pillow is in the right place. You don’t want your chin to be too close to your chest, as this negatively impacts the curve of the cervical spine (neck), so make sure you adjust the height so your neck is long and stable and comfortable enough to relax.
- If you are likely to get cold, use your extra blanket to cover your whole body for warmth.
- Find your eye pillow and place it over your eyes so it’s dark enough for you to turn inward. If you don’t have an eye pillow, you could use a scarf of other lightweight material that isn’t see-through.
- Finally tuck your shoulder blades down your back, keeping relaxed shoulders.
- Allow your arms to fall down toward your sides and out away from your body as far as is comfortable. Turn your palms toward the sky.
Take your time getting set and then allow yourself a couple moments to find the sweet spot. Wiggle around if you need. Rock your head side to side. Find a comfortable position and then find stillness. Begin to focus on your breathing, attempting to fill your torso with air on every inhale, without strain or striving. Allow the breath to move effortlessly and smoothly.
Stay in this position for as long as you’d like. There is no maximum. Some suggest it takes 15 minutes for our bodies to settle down and relax completely, so play around with times.
To come out of the pose, roll onto your right side, being mindful that you’re raised off the ground and rest there for a few moments, mentally preparing yourself for movement again. Come to seated, open your eyes and either move through a home practice, move into seated meditation or get up off your mat, rested and restored.
Try it out and let me know how it goes. Any questions or feedback? Post them in the comments!