Restorative yoga is a form of yoga where blankets and bolsters (or pillows) support the body to help you sink deeply into the poses and quiet both body and mind.
“Although you stretch in these poses, the goal is relaxation, which helps with the fatigue caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and also benefits the immune system, since the profound rest encourages healing,” says Leslie Kazadi, a certified yoga therapist. Kazadi, who often teaches people living with chronic conditions in Santa Monica, California, and online at YogisAnonymous.com, developed this 6-pose practice.
You can complete the series in 30 minutes or less, or just pick your favorite yoga pose and do that one, suggests Kazadi, who models the moves. Refer to the instructions in the slides and photos, but just take it slow and do what you can. You do not have to perfect each pose to benefit.
Stretch Your Back and Pelvis
This practice works on a yoga mat on the floor, but your bed, with your own bedding as props, is also perfect.
1. Begin by sitting on a bolster or pillow laid vertically beneath you, with your knees bent and your feet on the floor or mattress.
2. Lean back on your elbows and then continue going back until your head and shoulders are firmly on the floor and your back remains on the bolster.
3. Release your legs and stretch your arms to the side. (Bend your knees if that’s more comfortable.) Hold for 3 to 5 minutes as you release into the stretch.
4. To come out of this position, bend your knees and plant your feet. Press your arms and feet into the floor and slightly lift your buttocks. Push aside the bolster and lie flat.
Relieve Tension With This Hip Joint Release
This pose is sometimes called happy baby, so be sure to have fun in it.
1. Fold a blanket and, lying on your back, place it under your head and neck. (Your forehead should be higher than your chin.)
2. Keeping your legs slightly apart, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor.
3. Place your hands behind your thighs and either grab one wrist with the other hand or, if that’s not comfortable, place flat hands on the back of the thighs, resting your elbows on the floor for support. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes, gently rocking from side to side whenever you feel inspired.
4. To exit, release your hands and let your legs flutter to the floor.
Reverse Lower Body Inflammation With This Leg Relaxer
This leg relaxer is perfect to do before bed, Kazadi says, because it makes you sleepy. It also helps ease the inflammation in your legs and feet.
1. Begin by folding a blanket and placing it against a wall; make sure it's approximately a palm’s distance away. You can also fold a second blanket for under your head if you like.
2. Sit sideways on the blanket near the wall, then use your hands to help you turn towards the wall as you slide your legs up it. Lay your head down, and if you want, place the second blanket under your head.
3. Adjust your legs so they’re comfortable; if you feel too much intensity in the back of your legs, slightly bend your knees.
4. Release your arms to the side. Relax for 10 minutes and let yourself soften into the floor.
5. To come out of this position, bend your knees, letting your feet slide down the wall. Roll off the blanket onto one side, keeping your knees bent. When you’re ready, push your hand against the floor and roll up slowly.
Safely Stretch Your Back With a Gentle Folding Twist
1. Sit on your right hip facing sideways. Place your bolster in front of you, parallel to your chest.
2. Fold a blanket (three folds if it’s thin) and place it between your legs so that your knees are even with your hips.
3. Turn your chest toward the bolster, place each hand on the floor on either side, lengthen your spine, and drape yourself over the bolster.
4. Lay your cheek on the bolster, facing the same direction as your knees.
5. Relax your arms and feel yourself melt into the bolster with the help of gravity (don’t actively push yourself into a deeper twist). Hold for 5 minutes.
6. To come out of the pose, place your hands under your shoulders, press into the floor, and roll up. Then place the bolster in front of the other hip. Switch sides and repeat.
Relax Into a Supported Forward Bend
Curling up into a little ball can give you a secure sensation. Tuck yourself into this pose and you can calm your nervous system, making it easier to quiet your mind.
1. Sitting on your knees, place a folded blanket under your ankles and feet. (Be sure it isn’t too high, or it will put pressure on your knees.)
2. Place your bolster vertically on the floor in front of you, close to your body. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, fold yourself over the bolster so your chest and abdomen rest heavily on it, as does your head, facing one side. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes, turning your cheek to the other side at some point.
3. When you are ready to come out of this pose, press your arms on the floor and slowly bring yourself to a kneeling position. Shift your weight onto one hip and release your legs.
Linger in Downward-Facing Deep Resting Pose
1. Fold a blanket into thirds and place it on top of your bolster. Sitting on the ground, position these props vertically in front of you. Come onto your hands and knees over the bolster and blanket, and slowly release yourself as you lower yourself down on it.
2. Your head and your tailbone should hang over the bolster to create a gentle slope of the spine. Fold your arms crosswise at the top of the bolster.
3. Stretch your feet out and keep them hip-width apart. (If your ankles hurt, put a blanket under them.) Place your forehead on your folded arms. If you don’t feel extremely comfortable, shift the blanket and bolster until you do.
4. Hold the post for at least 5 minutes, or as long as you want — it should feel so good you don’t want to come out of the pose.
5. When you feel you should come out of the pose, place your hands under your shoulders and press up to all fours, and release your arms so you’re sitting on your legs.
6. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply and relish your relaxed state before sliding your legs out from under you and continuing on your day.