If your idea of Restorative Yoga comes only from photos you’ve seen of it—looks boring, you say—your view is likely not accurate. While it’s true that Restorative Yoga does involve lying around on blankets and a yoga bolster for long periods of time, it’s anything but boring. Setting your body up in supported positions that you can then hold for long periods requires knowledge, body awareness and a pile of props. The results can be profound.
Restorative Yoga practitioners know its powers well. Restorative practice provides something we all could use in our non-stop lives—deep rest. It is both relaxing and regenerative. Deep rest is not the same as sleep, even though sleep sometimes happens in practice. In Restorative practice, our bodies rest deeply, creating an environment of ease for our minds. We come out of practice refreshed and renewed.
Tools for the Journey
Restorative Yoga is prop intensive. While I’ve taught Restorative classes in situations where only a blanket or two were available to each student, it’s not ideal. The collective where I teach is fully outfitted with everything we need for a Restorative class of 20 people. In other words, there are enough props for everyone to have:
This may seem like a lot of stuff, but all these props are useful in your regular asana practice too!
The Perfect Yoga Bolster
The most essential tool for Restorative practice is a firm yoga bolster. Hugger Mugger began making and selling bolsters 30 years ago. Over the years they’ve perfected the process. While you might accuse me of bias for writing this on HM’s blog, it’s really true that their bolsters are the best I’ve used. HM has perfected the process of creating bolsters that provide the perfect balance of firmness and softness. They are soft on the outside, so that they’re easy on your bones. But most important, they are firm enough so that they retain their shape no matter what kind of stressors are placed on them.
- Supported poses in Restorative Yoga place your body into a specific shape. Sofa cushions, pillows or more pliable (and usually cheaper) bolsters, have too much “give.” They smash down when you sit or lie on them. When this happens, you end up in a collapsed pose instead of the open position that feels so great. (For example, the lateral stretch in the photo directly above wouldn’t happen if you’re on a squishy bolster or pillow.)
- Many Restorative poses require that the bolster itself be supported, usually slanted on a block or two (as in the photo at the top of this blog). When you rest your body weight onto a flexible yoga bolster or run-of-the-mill cushion, it will collapse downward wherever it’s not being supported by a block. This can be uncomfortable and hard on your back.
Standard Bolsters are the most versatile type for Restorative practice. If you’re buying your first yoga bolster and are planning on having only one—for now—the Standard Bolster is the way to go. Round and Junior bolsters can also provide great support in specific situations and for people with varying body types. All of Hugger Mugger’s bolsters are handmade in their Salt Lake City-based facility.
A high-quality yoga bolster is an investment—in your own well-being. And they’re made to last. I still use bolsters I bought from Hugger Mugger decades ago. Give yourself the gift of relaxation time to regenerate your body and mind.