This restorative yoga sequence consists of 10 nurturing poses. Yoga instructor Charlotte Dodson believes the power of this group of asanas (poses) lies in the time taken to hold each posture:
“During restorative yoga we hold the postures for some time feeling comfortable and supported.” The sequence is supported by props, from blankets to straps and walls, making restorative yoga an indulgent “last course”. “The more fully your body is supported, the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be,” Dodson says.
While this practice is suitable for everyone, variations in props can increase or decrease the intensity of each pose depending on expertise and comfort level – the distance between heaven and hell can be as little as a centimetre so give yourself time to get comfortable with each prop and ensure they are close by. Begin the sequence by holding each pose for 30 seconds to a minute, building to 5-10 minutes each.
STEP 1. Supta Baddha Konasana (cobbler pose)
Sit with knees bent and feet together. Place support under each bent knee and folded blankets behind you. Exhale as you recline your torso to the ground supporting your head and neck on a bolster if needed. Place your hands on inner thighs, pressing your outer thighs away from your torso. Lay arms at 45-degree angle by your side, palms up. Hold pose for one minute.
STEP 2. Supported Upavistha Konasana (Wide forward bend)
Sit on the mat with your legs wide apart. Place folded blanket on bolster and slide in between your thighs. Exhale as you recline forward, placing your head facedown onto the blanket in front of you and allowing your arms to relax as you stretch them out in front of you, alongside the sides of the bolster.
STEP 3. Supported janu sirsasana Paschimottanasana (seated forward folds)
Sit supported by a blanket, right leg out. Bend left leg and support left knee with blanket. Place bolster and blankets over right leg, lean forward resting arms over support with head to one side [A]. With both legs out, place bolster over legs and lean forward, arms in front. Place head facedown on bolster. Hold for 1-3 minutes [B].
STEP 4. Supta Virasana (Reclining hero pose)
Sit on knees and place a strap around your legs. Exhale and lower yourself back on to the blankets behind you, tucking your feet under. Lie in this position with your arms at a 45-degree angle beside you. Hold for 1 minute gradually building to 5 minutes. TIP: Do not splay your knees more than hip-width apart.
STEP 5. Parshva Bharadwajasana (supported Twist)
Place bolster against right hip with folded blanket on top to support head. Swing legs around to the left, knees bent. Lay torso down on the bolster and turn head to the left with arms bent and forearms resting on the mat. Lengthen torso as you inhale [A]. Turn torso and head in the opposite direction as you exhale [B]. Hold only for a minute or so each side.
STEP 6. Supported Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
Lie back over the bolster with head and shoulders resting firmly on the floor. Rest the backside of the body on the support. With strap tied loosely around the ankles, rest feet on a folded blanket. Hold pose for about 5 minutes [A].
Stretch out arms and place behind the head. Keep lengthening the back and avoid “pinching” by drawing tailbone down into the support [B]. ADVANCED: If you want more of a chest opening, then you can add blankets to your bolster.
STEP 7. Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) and Supported Balasana (child’s pose)
Place bolster a few inches from a wall. Lie back over bolster, shoulders on the floor. With ankles tied, swing legs up, pressing buttocks against the wall and off the floor. Hands out to the sides, hold pose for 5-15 minutes [A]. Bend knees and turn to one side to come out of the pose. Sit on knees, feet together. Slide bolster between thighs. Exhale as you extend forward. Support head with folded blankets. Hold for 3-5 minutes, turning head to opposite side halfway through. Rest head face down if the neck does not like being turned [B]