RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Restorative-Yin Yoga Sequence Sampler

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Moon Lotus/Getsuren, 2011

Overall Restorative Components:

  • Pose Followed By Counter-Pose: Poses are selected that tend to provide a pose that stretches the lumbar region and/or hips, followed by a pose that counters the lumbar stretch.
  • Support: Blankets, blocks, bolsters and straps are utilized on most poses to relax muscles to relax and open the body and to concentrate on connective tissue. 
  • Longer Duration Of Pose:  3 minutes to 20 minutes allows for deep relaxation for healing restoration as well as stretching of connective tissue.  Introductory Restorative-Yin sessions may utilize shorter durations to begin to familiarize participants with the practice and to experience more options.  Restorative retreats may utilize rather lengthy durations to deepen relaxation, restoration and deep listening to body-mind-spirit. 
  • Brief Intermediary Poses: intermediary poses are used primarily for gradual transitions between primary poses, for relaxation, for massaging movements, and as points for experiences such as guided imagery.
  • Inversions And Twists: Inversions and twists are typically integrated near the end of the session.
The order of poses is not critical, nor is the sequence of ten poses inclusive.  It can be helpful to begin with gentle poses and gradually move toward more “active” poses with twists near the end for rebalancing.

There are practice blends where Yin Yoga or “gentle flow” might be the central practice, with some restorative poses as adjuncts.  While this can positively increase the calmness of yoga practice, it can miss the core values of restoration and deep relaxation.

Intensity of the stretch can be increased for more of a Yin Yoga orientation for participants who experience a need for this in a particular session.

A Sample Ten Part Restorative-Yin Sequence

1.   Supported Sphinx
2.   Supported Child
3.   Supported Reclining Bound Angle
4.   Supported Forward Fold/Butterfly
5.   Supported Half Bridge
6.   Supported Happy Baby
7.   Supported Legs-Up-The-Wall Variations:  Up Wall/Pigeon/Splits/Bound Angle
8.   Supported Kneeling Dog
9.   Supported Reclining Side Twist
10. Savasana


1] Supported Sphinx
A rather gentle pose: On belly, chest supported by blanket roll with head supported on block tilted toward head at an angle (to fit forehead)

Options: More intensive: Supported Cobra/Seal Pose

2] Supported Child
A gentle pose, but increasing height of the support increases the lumbar stretch: On bent knees, (with one block between knees, then space for folded hands, then second block in front) hug a blanket roll with folded blanket on top of roll that are raised on two blocks.  [Some participants may have difficulty keeping thighs on calves, and tend to lean forward and rest more on supports.  Support can be placed on legs between thighs and calves as well as under shins.]

3] Supported Reclining Bound Angle / Supine Goddess /Cobbler Pose
Perhaps the “heart pose” of restorative yoga, but sometimes the bound angle aspect may be discomforting for some: On back, [A] support upper back (and/or head) on blanket roll (or upper back only on block raised to various heights for more lumbar stretch) and [B] bend legs—soles of feet touching near groin—supported by blocks under knees, with optional strap circling lower back and feet for additional support

Option:Mountain Brook” Pose (with legs straight and supported on a blanket roll under knees); in addition, arms may be supported on blankets as well as body draped in blanket, eye pillows

4] Supported Bound Angle Forward Fold (similar to a Yin  “Butterfly Pose”)
A more active stretch: Seated, soles of feet together with knees supported on blocks, leaning forward and hugging a bolster, optional strap binding hips and feet (Intensity of stretch can be increased by moving support forward.)

Options: Supported Head-To-Knee Pose, Supported Forward Fold, Supported Half Butterfly Pose—all supported with blanket roll under bent knee(s); or Legs Apart Pose with knees bent to ninety degree angles [similar to Yin “Dragonfly”]

5] Supported Half Bridge
Restful yet active with a slight inversion quality: On back, blanket low under head and upper back with pelvis on block (raised to various heights for increased intensity of the lumbar stretch) or bolster

6] Supported “Bound” Happy Baby
Allows for a nice transition from Half Bridge, but somewhat more active if legs are extended up for the extended pose rather than folded: On back, legs bent forward with feet toward the ceiling, supported by blanket roll up against and slightly under gluts but not under pelvis (increasing outward lumbar arch, and supporting legs to fall forward), with optional strap around ankles; hands grabbinginside outside of extended feet or big toes

Options: Easy: Folded Pose [apanasana]—“Give Self Hug” Pose (Practitioners can shift to apanasana midway through “Happy Baby” for relaxation.

7] Supported Legs Up Wall
Once experienced, a favored pose for most participants—a refreshing inversion that can be held for a long time, and very calming, especially when wrapped in blanket(s): On back, hips and lower back supported on a blanket roll or bolster, gluts close to the wall with legs supported on the wall, optional blanket wrapped around legs and over chest and optional strap around ankles or hips for various pose options

Several options for leg position:
1) Legs straight up [option: bound for support],
2) “Butterfly on wall”: knees bent to the sides with soles of feet joined   [option: bound for support],
3) “Eye of needle”/pigeon: rotate between left and right leg crossed at knee, with option to turn sole of foot to the wall for additional lumbar stretch,
4) Both legs split out to both sides,
5) Rotate both legs lowered to one side, variation of above: turn right, lower right leg to floor, bring bent left leg over to floor if possible, repeat on other side
6) More intense: soles of both feet on the wall, legs bent toward 90 degrees, hips lifted off floor or support and pose held; additionally
8) More intense: extend one leg back overhead and hold [repeat on other side].
9) OPTION NEAR END: Side twist: turn to right, bring right leg down and put sole of right bent foot on wall, then bring left bent leg over to floor if possible. 

Options: Easy: raise legs on blankets or bolsters or ball or chair, or with knees bent to ninety degrees on chairs; COUNTER WALL POSE: Roll over onto belly, then bend knees and place legs with insteps on wall at 90 degrees, elbows on matt at shoulders—“Sphinx “on wall or more difficult Seal on wall [arms out at angles]

8] Supported “Kneeling Dog”
Very restful once participants get high enough chest support, and offers a slight inversion: Kneeling forward with legs bent at ninety degrees, lean forward with chest on bolster or high blanket roll and arms folded on matt and head turned to the side—lumbar curve/belly “sink” toward matt as in table top cow

Option: Easy: tabletop cow; tabletop “cow” but laying chest on a chair or footstool

9] Supported Reclining Spinal Twist [rotate both sides]
One variety of a number of twists that is restful with support: On back with legs straight, turn onto right side bringing left leg straight out to the right on a blanket roll, turn upper body to the left extending left arm to the left on a blanket tube or blocks, head can be turned to the left for a twist of the cervical region

10] Savasana
On back, normal breath, blanket under the thighs and soles of feet pressing against a blanket roll, with blanket(s) covering the body

Options: Reverse Savasana (on belly with one leg bent inward—leg and head on pillow); basic “Legs Up Wall” Savasana; Yin “pentacle pose” (on back, with arms and legs outspread, maximizing body surface contact with floor)


Intermediary poses are optional, and designed to sustain the process of calm relaxation in the process of transitioning between selected restorative poses.  In flowing from back to a seated position, apanasana fits well.  In briefly releasing a forward stretch, slowing coming to a seated pose and leaning back on hands to counter the pose is natural and fluid.  In releasing from a bridge pose, imprinting the lower back into the matt, doing apanasana, and then keeping knees bent and rotating knees in small circles massages the lower back and pelvis.  Reclining on back provides a relaxing state as physiology continues to calm, to listen to the body rather than do something, as well as provide an opportunity to shift into guided imagery that either explores body sensations or intuitive responses.
(a) 1--Lie on back, bring knees to chest and hug legs [apanasana]; 2—On back: from apanasana, rotate to massage lower back/pelvis
 (b) Listen to physiology: heart beat, heart pulse in lips/face/hands; listen to ring in ears
(c) Reclining On Side: Blissful Baby: Lay on side in fetal position [As a longer held restorative pose, support such as a blanket between the knees might be added.
(d) Child’s Pose: Exhale and slowly release your belly and lower your torso and head to the floor. Turn your head to one side. Lie quietly for a while, broadening your back with each inhale, and releasing any tension with each exhale. Reach tailbone toward the back while stretching arms forward.  Bring hands to side near heel, then hands clasped on back, then raised above back to a point that is “edgy,” yet comfortable.
(e) Gentle Cat/Cow/Child vinyasa
(f) Guided body scans
(g) Guided Imagery:  recalling an early childhood memory; meeting a teacher/healer; being in a favorite healing/relaxing place (either real or imagined); opening body; grounding or floating
(h) Concepts: “thriving” vs. surviving, optimal health, and transformation
(i) “Themes:” surrender, eloquence, oneness/wholeness, kindness

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