According to Fern Olivia, founder of Thyroid Yoga, which offers retreats in Nosara, Costa Rica, “Rituals are habits made holy.” She spoke with MyDomaine about types of yoga for relaxation, specifically about the power of restorative yoga. She has generously shared with us a beginner’s flow (below) with effects that will resonate with everyone. These restorative yoga rituals are easy and free and require only your mindful awareness—a relief, given what people have to worry about these days, e.g., the kids, the dog, the business, and other various other moving parts of our very intricate lives.
With patient breathing, energy healing, aromatherapy, and sound healing, you will find yourself able to relax, reset, and recenter. Long holds in poses, deep stretches, and yoga props help unwind the body and identify where you may hold on to trauma. As you hold restorative yoga poses, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, invoking your innate healing energies so that you are able to avoid distress or disease and achieve states of deep relaxation and healing by yourself.
DeLora Frederickson described it best: “The parasympathetic nervous system is the sweet sister of the sympathetic nervous system… This is the path to deep rejuvenation for the body, mind, and soul. Relaxation is the yin to our fitness efforts’ yang.”
Once you set your intentions on relaxing your physical and energetic body, Olivia recommends you apply organic essential oils that will ignite plant medicine as your ally. Essential oils react quickly and efficiently when we apply them. They are so powerful that they can impact our mood, emotions, and thoughts. In addition to her many other endeavors, Olivia creates her own line of organic essential oils, Ajai Alchemy, with Radiance Alchemy for hormone balancing and Grace Alchemy, an aphrodisiac with calming and anti-anxiety effects. Put together with other elements, restorative yoga can create bliss.
For this sequence, you’ll also need two to four yoga blocks, a blanket, and a yoga bolster.
Restorative Heart Opener
Place a bolster vertically along the spine or a block under shoulder blades to support the spine, with legs extended, or knees bent and feet on the earth. Arms stretch out to the side, optionally place cushions under the elbows and forearms for additional support.
Practice for: 5-10 minutes, with long deep breathing.
Staff Pose With Palms on Elbows Overhead
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your feet with toes pointing up, and keep a long, neutral spine. Bend your elbows, and clasp opposite elbows above your head, lengthening your spine as you breathe. Reach out through your lower legs, and spread the balls of your feet.
Practice for: 5 long deep breaths.
Seated Forward Fold
Hinge from your hips as you guide your sternum forward and reach the crown of your head toward your feet. Without straining the shoulders, invite your hands to rest along your legs or reach your feet without compromising the length in your spine or rounding your back. Keep your feet flexed as you spread the balls of your feet.
Practice for: 5-10 long deep breaths.
Press your inner feet and hands down against the floor, and lift your hips until you come into a reverse tabletop position, torso and thighs approximately parallel to the floor, shins, and arms approximately perpendicular. Optionally, without losing the height of your hips, straighten your legs one at a time.
Practice for: 3-5 long deep breaths.
Knees Stacked in Cow-Face Pose
Place your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bring the right foot to the outside of the left hip. Try to bring the heels equidistant from the hips. With the right leg on top, you'll have to tug the right heel in closer to the left hip. Sit evenly on the sitting bones, using a blanket under your seat if needed. Twist to each side using your elbow outside your top leg to help rotate your torso.
Practice for: 3-5 breaths twisting to each side. Repeat with the other knee on top.
Knees Stacked in Cow-Face Pose Wrapped in Eagle Arms
With the same leg positioning, wrap the opposite arm on top (left on top while right knee is on top) and inhale lift your elbows up, exhale lower your arms down while keeping the arm wrap. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm positioning.
Practice for: 5 breaths inhale, lift elbows up; 5 breaths exhale, bring elbows to a block.
Restorative Bridge Pose
With feet hip-distance apart and knees bent, slip a block or two under your sacrum—the bony triangle at the base of your spine. Rest your arms alongside your body with your palms face up. You may slide a block under your neck to offer additional support. When you’re ready to release the pose, press down with your feet to lift your hips and pelvis up. Remove the block and lower your back to the floor slowly, letting each vertebra gently meet the earth.
Practice for: 3-5 minutes, long deep breathing.
Extend your left leg along the floor, keeping your right knee drawn to your chest. Extend your right arm out along the floor at shoulder-height with your palm facing down. Shift your hips slightly to the right. Then, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Exhaling, drop your right knee over the left side of your body. Keep your left hand resting gently on your right knee. Optionally kick the left leg back behind you as you hold onto the foot and turn your head to the right.
Practice for: 1-3 minutes, long deep breaths. Repeat on each side.
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Lizarraga‐Valderrama LR. Effects of Essential Oils on Central Nervous System: Focus on Mental Health. Phytother Res. 2020;1-23. doi:10.1002/ptr.6854