You know when you’re so tired, you can barely think straight? Even the idea of getting your yoga mat out is beyond you. That’s when I most love restorative yoga poses: simple positions, supported by props such as chairs and pillows that enable me to rest deeply – but quickly.
I sometimes use these at the end of the day when I’m desperate for the kids to go to sleep. I tuck them up in bed then get myself into a pose outside their bedroom door. So while I’m “guarding them” to get them off to sleep, I’m also giving myself a much-needed and instant rest.
Even better is after lunch. Kids are at school, I’ve done a morning’s work, but 15 mins in a restorative pose re-charges my energy levels to see me through the rest of the day. When I do this, I seem to get a better night’s sleep too.
While I’m in a restorative pose, I feel myself slip quickly into a deeply restful state (Pratyahara – quietening of the senses, according to Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga). I’m not asleep, but I’m unperturbed by distractions outside and within. It’s quite a treat in the middle of a busy day.
How to do the poses.
The priority with all restorative poses is relaxation. They should feel incredibly easy to stay in. It’s not about stretching or straining; if you’re at all uncomfortable you won’t be able relax. So adjust your position and props until you feel you could stay there as long as you like. Warmth and darkness also help, so once you’re in position throw a blanket over yourself and perhaps an eye pillow or light scarf over eyes.
Here are three restorative poses to try.
1. Instant Maui: This has all the benefits of an inversion, calming the nervous system physically and mentally. It is also a very gentle back bend, bringing relief to neck and shoulders.
- Lie down and rest your calves on a chair or sofa.
- Lift your hips off the floor and place a firm folded blanket, yoga block or thick book under your back. Position it so that it is supporting both your sacrum (middle of the back of the pelvis) and your lower ribs. Your tailbone and pubic bone should be sinking down towards the floor, not lifting up. Adjust until comfotable.
- Tuck chin slightly so it’s not sticking up in the air.
- Cover yourself to keep warm and dark
- Stay here for as long as you’re comfortable – up to 30 minutes
2. Supported child pose: This is so great. Folded forward, you feel very safe and protected, instantly withdrawing within yourself, away from the world. I discovered why it’s called ‘child’ when my children were babies – it’s the position they used to fall asleep in.
- Kneel down with a bolster, firm pillow or pile of books between your knees.
- Rest your bottom back onto your heels and if that’s not comfy put a cushion underneath your bottom.
- Have some books or cushions handy to support your arms.
- Lean forwards over the bolster, turning your head to one side
- Stay here for 3-5 mins; turn head the other way and stay for another 3-5 mins.
3. Savasana – with legs raised: Who doesn’t love savasana (corpse pose)? But raise the legs and it’s even lovelier. Your body doesn’t have to work so hard pumping fluids from your legs back to your vital organs, so your whole system slows down, which in turn tells the mind that you’re safe, causing it too to quieten.
- Lie down and rest your calves on a sofa or chair.
- Rest your head back onto a folded blanket and tuck the edges under to really support your neck. It’s worth experimenting with this until it’s just right
- Rest arms out to the side or on belly.
- Cover body and eyes and just be for as long as you’ve got!
Thanks to Judith Lasater’s Relax and Renew training for these beautiful poses. I’d love to hear how parents – or any other super-tired people – get on with them. For a private restorative yoga session for 1-3 people at my studio in south London feel free to contact me.