Using props to reduce stress on the body, restorative yoga aims to calm both the body and mind through gentle poses. Mankind’s ‘fight or flight’ response is ancient and often leads to a build-up of stress, both emotionally and physically.
Luckily, humans have now developed enough to be able to shut this stress response down. The parasympathetic nervous system in particular can trigger the ‘rest and digest’ mode where the heart rate decreases, blood pressure drops and muscles relax.
With a little effort, we can activate these triggers that tell our bodies it is time to slow down and relax – ideal for just before bed. The following tips from Judith Hanson Lasater, a teacher of restorative yoga, should help kick the body into rest and digest mode:
- Lie down in child’s pose resting your forehead on a yoga block. By putting pressure on your ‘third eye’ you will stimulate the vagus nerve, the body’s main messenger to the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Try using an eye pillow during reclined poses – the oculocardiac reflex, stimulated by gentle pressure on the eyeballs, is a great rest and digest trigger.
- Take some deep, slow belly breaths. This movement in the diaphragm stimulates the relaxation response, sending messages to your brain that it is time to relax.
The following restorative yoga poses are also known for triggering a relaxed state:
Place a block or bolster under your pelvis and lie back on the floor with your legs resting flat against the wall (making a 90-degree angle with your body). Close your eyes and enjoy.
Supported Reclining Twist
Sit at a 90-degree angle to a bolster with your left hip touching the bolster and your legs straight. Fold your left leg underneath your right and place a blanket between your thighs. Keeping your hips square, recline your torso down over the bolster with your arms resting out to the side. Repeat on the opposite side.
Pop a bolster under your knees and gently recline to lie on your back. Use an eye pillow and rest for at least 10 minutes.
To find out more about yoga, please see our dedicated yoga page.
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