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4 Must-Try Restorative Poses & How to Get the Most Support from Your Props

Restorative poses are passive postures supported by props, such as blankets, bolsters, blocks, and straps, so that you do not need to use any muscular effort. There’s no goal of stretching or strengthening. With the support of the props and the ground, we practice releasing the grip of muscular and mental tension. The props are there to support you, to hold you up and help you rest in an alignment that takes the strain and stress of the body and mind and allows the bones to relate to each other in a way that conveys safety. The Benefits of Well-Propped Restorative Poses In general, well-propped restorative poses can offer us the experience of being cradled and protected while providing the opportunity for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. This also allows our parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response—something that only happens when we truly feel safe. Noticing what it feels like when the body is completely supported by the earth (with the help of our props) can help us feel more grounded; we are learning to trust that what is underneath is truly there to hold us up. Once we do this with our props, we get better at relying on the support of the ground in our day-to-day lives. Props help us feel integrated and held, creating a deeper sense of stability and safety, which can allow us to let go of the effort we use to constantly hold ourselves up and together. How to Get the Most Support from Your Props Because restorative poses allow us to release deep tension, it’s very important that the props are well placed and that poses have a real integrity in the way they’re set up. Props can be used under or around the body to help create insulation and boundary, which can help us feel calm and cared for, similar to the way that swaddling soothes a baby. Props can also help us feel less vulnerable in restorative postures; use blankets to create a layer of protection, or place eyebags over open palms to create a "hand-holding" effect. What to DO in a Restorative Pose... Once you're propped and positioned, take the first few minutes in each of the following 4 poses to sense where you connect with the floor or the props. Which part of your body rests most heavily on the support underneath you? Let this area be like an anchor rooting you to the earth. Slowly allow this sense of connection to spread to all the areas where you meet the ground and the props. When your body feels completely supported, let your attention turn toward your breath. Like an ocean wave, each breath will rise and fall on its own. Rest your mind on the tide of your breath. Throughout each pose, let your attention move back and forth between the earth-like qualities of your body and the fluid-like qualities of your breath. Try to stay in each pose for up to 15 minutes, but even a few minutes will make a difference.

Poses NOTES
1

Constructive Rest

Constructive Rest is a simple restorative pose that happens to be one of my favorite positions to meditate in. I use this pose (and recommend it to my students) when the lower back starts to get tight or cranky, or if there is excess tension and constriction in the psoas or groin.

This pose is also wonderful to help us experience free and deep breathing, as it allows us to deeply release holding in the belly, groins, low back, and all along the spine. It feels like a cranial sacral adjustment as the weight of the head and sacrum release heavily into the floor and the whole spine is freed. Constructive rest is calming and can release over-effort so you feel gently energized afterward. It is also a great pose to address tension around the digestive system.

YOU WILL NEED
1 long, rectangular, folded blanket for back support
1 strap
1 foam block for leg support
1 large hand or dishtowel for neck and head support

Prepare

Place a long rectangle-folded blanket, vertically, up the center of your mat. You will lie down on this, the edge of the blanket filling in the curve of your low back.

Place your towel near the top of your mat so that it is there for you when you are ready to set up your neck and head support.

Prepare your strap: Place a block between your knees. Secure a strap around your thighs so that the block doesn't drop from your knees, and yet the strap doesn't cut off your circulation. You want it just tight enough to feel that your knees can't separate, the block can't fall, and you don't need any effort in your thighs to keep your legs up and together. This will help you release all muscular effort in your legs.

Move Into the Pose
With the strap around your thighs and the block between your knees, lie down on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, arms resting alongside your body. Bring your feet a few inches from your seat and a little wider apart than your hips.
As you explore being in this pose, feel free to readjust with any micro-movements that help you feel more comfortable, grounded, and at ease.
Enjoy several long exhales as you progressively release your body weight into the ground.

Relax Into the Pose
Breath by breath, let go into the ground. Trust that your props and the ground will support you. They will hold you up and together.
Allow your feet, seat, back, and head to fall into the embrace of the earth. Let go of all effort in the thighs, seat, and belly.
For the last couple of minutes in this pose, bring your hands to your belly and pause to feel your palms receiving your breath. Imagine the breath unraveling any lingering knots inside.

Slowly transition out of the pose by taking the block out from between your legs, and sliding your strap off. If you’d like, hug both knees to your belly for a few breaths. Gently move in any way that feels good to you. Mindfully roll to your side and pause, then with care, press up to sitting.

2

Surfboard

I use surfboard for many of the same reasons I would use Child's Pose, but I find it more accessible for the wide range of students I have. Plus, you can stay in Surfboard a lot longer than Child's Pose, and therefore gain even deeper calming benefits. Surfboard helps to release lower back tension, elongate the spine, and soften the rigidity of our "turtle shell." The breath deepens and expands the back, as the front body drops into the embrace of the props, helping to calm and soothe the mind and body, eliciting the parasympathetic nervous system. Being on the belly in this way also allows us to un-clinch deep gripping in the thighs, groins, pelvis, and belly, releasing extra effort and constriction in the psoas and relieving tension in the abdomen, digestive system, and kidneys. It can be beneficial when we need to turn inward, such as during times of grief or depletion.

YOU WILL NEED
2 or 3 long, rectangular, folded blankets, stacked
2 short, rolled blanket
1 small towel, such as a large hand or dishtowel (or 2 eyebags)

Prepare
Place your stack of blankets, vertically, up the center of your mat. Fold the far edge of the top blanket back toward you, about two-thirds of the way down (about 10 inches). You will lie on these like a surfboard.
Place your towel or eyebags near the top of your mat so that they are there for you when you are ready to set up your head support.
Place the rolled blanket across the bottom of your mat to rest the tops of your feet on.
Move Into the Pose
Begin on all fours over the stacked blankets and lower down onto them the way you would lie down on a surfboard. A few inches of the tops of your thighs come up onto the blanket stack. Your pelvis, torso, and head are all supported by the blankets. Your ribcage and breastbone are up on the top folded blanket.
The center of your kneecaps rest on the ground.
Bring the top of your feet onto your blanket roll.
Place a support under your forehead, brow bone, and bridge of your nose. I suggest that you roll or fold a towel to the height you need, so that when you place the roll under your brow line, your neck is in line with your spine, and your cervical curve is natural. If you prefer, use eyebags for support under your head.
Relax Into the Pose
Make any adjustments you need to feel more comfortable, supported, and relaxed.
Let your whole body fall into the blankets. Release all the effort in your legs, belly, and arms. Enjoy a few long breaths to allow your full body weight to drop into your blankets and down into the ground.
To finish, bring your hands under your shoulders, gently firm your belly, and press up onto all fours. Slowly come to sitting. Pause and feel your seat on the ground. Welcome your breath into your body.

3

Supported Goddess Pose

Goddess Pose is an expansive pose. It is important to feel the integrity of your props and the support of the floor. It is also nice to insulate your whole body with a blanket, so that you can relax and release into the fullness of the posture, including the spread of your chest and softness of your belly. This can help to make more space for the breath to move fully and freely throughout your body.

Goddess Pose offers a lot of circulation and awareness of the contents of the pelvis, abdomen, heart, and lungs. It's also known to enhance digestive function, help relieve abdominal or menstruation cramps, and give you an energy boost when you need one. The practice of soft belly breathing is perfect for this pose. Imagine the breath is able to be received by a softening belly. Welcome the breath into your body. Using no effort, be completely passive on the inhale and exhale, allowing it to come and go on its own.

YOU WILL NEED
2 or 3 long, rectangular, folded blankets stacked for back support
1 long, rolled blanket for leg support
2 blocks for leg support
1 small towel for neck and head support
Optional: eyebags for under the arms or hands and an extra blanket over you for warmth or deeper calming and grounding

Prepare
Prepare support for your back. Place the two or three stacked blankets vertically up the center of your mat, with about a third of the length hanging off the back of your mat.
Place your towel for neck and head support near the top of your mat or on your blanket stack, so it is there for you when you lower down.
Prepare support for your legs. Sit on your mat, with your blanket stack behind you. Place two blocks across the front of your mat. Lay the long-roll blanket on top of the blocks.
Move Into the Pose
Bring your legs over the rolled blanket, feet on the floor.
To lie down, hold the corners of your blanket stack to help you stay centered as you slowly lower your back down onto the blankets. The blanket stack should fill in the curve of your lower back all the way up to your head. (Your seat is on the mat, not on your blanket.)
Create head support. Roll your towel to fill in the full length and arch of your natural cervical curve. If you need more height for your head, fold the top edge of the top blanket under your head and neck until it meets your shoulders. Again, ensure that your neck has a natural cervical curve.
Move legs into a diamond shape by pressing the soles of your to feet together as you allow your knees to fall apart. With your hands, draw the back of your thigh muscles and flesh wide. Let your outer thighs and knees rest heavily on the rolled blanket.
Bring your arms by your sides, palms down or palms up. Or rest your hands on your belly, elbows on the ground.
Make any adjustments you need to ensure that you are evenly laid out, supported, and comfortable.
Relax Into the Pose
Slowly scan your awareness down the back of your body. Sense all the places you feel your body making contact with the ground and with the props.
Take several long breaths and progressively release all your body weight down toward the ground. Let the props hold you up.
Before you finish, bring your hands to your belly and feel your palms receive your breath. Imagine your belly being cared for by the breath, and imagine the breath unraveling any lingering knots inside. Welcome your caring breath with your caring hands.
When you’re ready to finish, slowly take your time to roll onto your right side and enjoy a few quiet breaths.
Take care of yourself as you press to a finishing seated position. Stack your hands over your heart. Feel your breath in your hands. Slowly transition back into the space around you.

4

Easy Fish Pose

While this is a calming pose, it is also a gentle chest-opener, making room for the breath to expand in your heart center, which may leave you feeling gently energized. It is a great pose after a day of sitting as it re-opens posture, elongates the spine, and releases neck and shoulder tension if propped well. This pose can be useful for calming the body, clearing the mind, and opening the breath and heart center.

YOU WILL NEED
2 long rectangle–folded blankets stacked for back support
2 long, rectangular, folded blankets for leg lift support (Fold one into fourths and one into thirds.)
2 small towels for knee support and neck and head support
1 strap for leg support
Optional: eyebag or an extra blanket for weight on top of the body to create a sense of calming and groundedness or for warmth

Prepare
Prepare support for your back. Place the two stacked blankets vertically up the center of your mat. Stagger the blankets slightly, so they are not flush with each other. This will create a more gradual backbend.
Place your towel for neck and head support near the top of your mat or on your blanket stack, so it is there for you when you lower down.
Prepare support for your legs. Place an accordian-folded (4 folds) blanket at the foot of your mat and another tri-folded (3 folds) at a similar height on the bottom of your blanket stack. Place a rolled towel across the folded blanket that is on your top of your vertical stack. This will go under your knee pits.
Prepare your strap: Secure a strap around your thighs so that your legs are hip-distance apart. Ensure that the strap does not feel too restrictive or cut off your circulation. It should be just tight enough that you can let go of the effort of holding your legs together, and release all muscular activity.
Move Into the Pose
Put the strap around your thighs before you lie down.
Sit in the middle of your blanket stack, with knees bent and feet up on your folded blankets.
Slowly lower yourself down. Position yourself so that the edge of your blanket stack is just below your armpits, the upper back and head landing on the ground. Place your arms on the ground just above the blanket stack, in a T-shape or a cactus position (see photo above). Place your neck roll towel under you to ensure that your neck has a natural cervical curve.
Mindfully take your legs over the folded blanket support. Allow your legs to be hip-distance apart, and completely held by your strap. The backs of your heels should rest heavily on the folded blanket.
You can place an eyebag on your belly or if you have an extra blanket, place it over your pelvis or over your whole body.
Make any adjustments you need to ensure that you are evenly laid out and comfortable.
Relax Into the Pose
Take several long breaths and progressively release all your body weight down toward the ground. Let the props hold you up.
Before you finish, bring one hand to your belly and one hand to your heart center.
Feel your palms receiving your breath. Welcome your caring breath with your caring hands.
When you’re ready to finish, slowly draw your knees toward your belly, and roll toward your right side. If you wish, slide your strap off. Pause here on your side and enjoy a few quiet breaths. Press to a seated position. Stack your hands over your heart. Feel your breath in your hands. Slowly transition back into the space around you.