I always recommend Restorative Yoga between the start of daylights saving time and the Winter Solstice. This is the time of year that our energy levels are lowest (especially for those of us in New England), and there is more on our plates with the holidays. Restorative Yoga is a practice of deep relaxation and rest. A Restorative Yoga practice helps calm the nervous system and release tension from the body. The ongoing pandemic is taking a toll. We are feeling the emotional effects of decreased community activity and lack of contact with extended family. I encourage you to explore making Restorative Yoga part of your self care and stress management routine this winter. Now more than ever, it is important to hit pause, turn inward, rest and heal so we can keep managing it all and stay healthy in the year ahead.
While students are still welcome to practice Restorative Yoga in the studio, some are livestreaming Restorative classes or accessing the recordings. We ALL have things from around our houses that we can use to have a great Restorative Yoga practice at home. Household items you can use for a home practice and my favorite “real” Restorative Yoga props are outlined in this blog. Maybe you will add a Restorative prop to your holiday wish list, or give the gift of a prop and a Restorative Yoga gift card to a loved one this holiday season.
- Big Bolster. At my studio I have “Yoga Direct Supportive Rectangular Cotton Yoga Bolsters.” They are big and firm and great for bringing the floor up to you and supporting the body in Restorative Yoga poses ($40). You can also use one of the back cushions from your couch as your “big bolster.”
- Small Bolster. We often use a second bolster in Restorative Yoga classes – to support the knees, feet or provide a smaller amount of opening in a chest opener. I LOVE my round Gaiam Sol Yoga Bolster; it costs $60 and is worth every penny. Gaiam also makes a good smaller bolster as well, the “Rectangular Meditation Pillow” ($40). The Gaiam bolsters are covered in a soft, shammy material, which is an extra perk. If you want to treat yourself I recommend either of these options; if you are keeping it simple at home a FIRM bed pillow will work. You want the pillow to provide support and lift; a feather pillow will flatten out the longer you rest on it.
- Two Blankets. Yoga blankets are nice to have because they fold to the right dimensions for the postures and provide support. I have the “Open Road Goods Handmade – Thick Mexican Blankets or Throws” ($35) in the studio. They are soft and have held up well even with lots of washing due to Covid. However, we all have blankets at home that would work just fine. You can just use what you have at home rather than investing in “yoga blankets.”
- Hand Towel. I recommend having a couple of bath hand towels, not dish towels, nearby when you are practicing Restorative Yoga at home. They are great for rolling to support the neck or sliding under a wrist or other joint for extra support. No need to spend any money on this.
- Eye Pillow. My second highest recommendation after the round yoga bolster is a lavender scented eye pillow. I have the “Blissful Being Namaste Yoga Eye Pillows” at the studio ($15). If you are not a fan of lavender, they have unscented ones as well. Adding a weighted eye pillow or eye covering dulls the sense of sight and helps transport you deeper into yourself, so that you can let go and rest deeply wherever you are practicing.
- Yoga Blocks. You can substitute books, packaged food or game boxes for yoga blocks; man, we have been creative with our blocks the last nine months! However, if you are going to buy one thing for your home yoga practice, let it be blocks. You don’t need fancy blocks; simple foam blocks cost $15 for a set of two. Substitutes are not as safe because they often fail to provide the right level of support.
My final recommendations for setting up for Restorative Yoga at home are more general. If you have a house full of kids like me, set up somewhere you can lock the door and put your spouse in charge for an hour. Still practice on your yoga mat, because it adds an extra layer of cushion. I also recommend laying a blanket folded once over your mat for the same reason. Having some throw pillows nearby to add extra support under the arms is also a good idea. My last tip for a home practice would be to use wireless ear buds if you have them. The ear buds will make the cues easy to hear and help dull other sounds in your environment.
Order a few of your favorite props, pull the other items together from around your house and join a Restorative yoga class soon! I guarantee it will be a precious 60 to 90 minutes well spent – one that helps you stay calm, rested, strong and balanced for whatever the holidays and the New Year bring. Namaste, Jessie