What Is Restorative Yoga?

Lauren Wellbank
·2 min read

Like traditional yoga, restorative yoga is a low-impact way to exercise both your mind and body. The practice, which is similar to other types of yoga but typically performed at a slower, gentler pace, can be beneficial if you're looking to tweak your existing routine or trying to find a new way to relax and unwind.

Related: Is Yoga Really a Workout?

practicing yoga in living room
practicing yoga in living room

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What is restorative yoga?

Restorative yoga is a passive form of stretching your body and calming your nervous system, according to Ally Hamilton, owner of Yogis Anonymous. "It differs from more athletic styles of yoga, like vinyasa flow or Ashtanga yoga where we're linking the breath and moving fairly quickly from one pose to the next, building heat as we go," she says. "In restorative yoga, we are not building heat or looking for athleticism; we are interested in opening the body, quieting the mind, breathing deeply and soothing the nervous system, and in particular engaging with the parasympathetic part of the nervous system that offers the potential for a deep relaxation response." Learning to work with your nervous system gives you the tools Hamilton says you need to move through anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia with ease.

How is it different from traditional yoga?

Unlike traditional yoga, restorative yoga is about muscle relaxation versus any sort of muscle contraction. "The aim is to actually help the mental and physical body fully ease and unwind," Atthena Breitton, founder and owner of AtthenaYoga says, adding that the desire to unwind is part of the reason why practitioners elicit the help of props like blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, eye masks, and towels. "We want the physical body to be extremely comfortable so that it may fully 'let go,' and for the mind to not become agitated or disturbed by any level of physical discomfort," she says.

Additionally, unlike with traditional yoga (like vinyasa, hatha, or ashtanga) where you typically flow through many poses and perhaps practice with little to no props, restorative yoga is all about long holds and is prop-heavy, according to Breitton.

Who can benefit from restorative yoga?

Restorative yoga is a different approach to relaxation and unwinding and can be helpful when you need to turn off your mind. "This is not at all saying the traditional or more physical yoga practice is bad or doesn't have tremendous benefits (stretching, strength, balance, etcetera); it's just good to maybe think about incorporating restorative yoga into your overall practice/regimen, whatever or however that may work for you: daily, once a week, once a month, etcetera," says Breitton. Especially if you struggle with quieting your mind at the end of the day or are looking for better ways to cope with stress or other distractions.