Restorative Yoga to Relax and Unwind

By Bethany Nickerson, LMSW

I took my first yoga class during my freshman year of undergrad. My mom had been doing it for a few years and kept telling me that she thought I should give it a try. She was right. I loved it. I have always been a pretty anxious person and yoga was a great way for me to get back into the present moment. I really liked how each movement was joined to my breath and found that the combination of the two was very calming. I continued to take yoga each semester and completed a teacher training. I taught yoga for several years and it was wonderful to share something that I love so much with other people. That being said, going to a yoga class can feel intimidating. Clients often tell me that they don’t have time or they worry that they will “do it wrong” and feel embarrassed. One of the best things about yoga is that it is totally doable on your own at home. Lately I’ve been ending my day with a short restorative practice to help me unwind and stretch my body. Here are a few of my favorite parts of that practice:



1. Crescent moon

How: Reach your arm up over your head, interlace your fingers and let your first fingers point straight up. Inhale and lengthen your spine, on the exhale lean to the right. Take a few breaths here and feel the stretch through your side body. Then on an inhale bring yourself back to center. Repeat on the left side.

Why: Opens and stretches the sides of your body and improves core strength.


2. Forward fold

How: Inhale and reach your hands up, extending them all the way up towards the ceiling. On the exhale come all the way forward. Take a few breaths here. On an inhale roll back up to standing, one vertebra at a time.

Why: Keeps your spine strong and flexible. Calms the mind and soothes your nerves.

Modifications: Don’t worry if you can’t reach the floor. You can rest your hand on your knees or place them on a stack of books or a chair.


3. Goddess

How: Sit down on the floor and either cross your legs (like the picture) or put the soles of your feet together in front of you. Inhale and lengthen your spine, imagine a string running from the top of your head to the ceiling. On your exhale roll your shoulders down your back and place your hands on your knees. If you want more of a stretch reach forward (bending at the hips) over your legs and walk your hands over to the right. Repeat on the left.

Why: Opens your hips and is a great way to ground yourself (feeling your sits bones on the floor).

Modifications: If your hips are tight try sitting on the edge of a folded blanket.


4. Legs up the wall

How: Slide right up against where the wall meets the floor and swing your legs up the wall. Scoot forward until your tail bone touches the wall. Lay back and picture breathing your spine back into the floor. Stretch your arms out like a T. Take several breaths here and pay attention to what you feel as you take deep inhales and long exhales.

Why: Increases circulation and promotes relaxation. Stretches hamstrings and lower back. Great for people who spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day.

Modifications: Feel free to use a firm blanket under your hips or to support your back. If you can’t completely straighten your knees that's okay! Just meet yourself where you are and don’t worry about doing it perfectly.

Remember that the point of practicing yoga isn’t to do the poses perfectly or to make yourself achieve a certain “level” of flexibility. It's all about being kind to yourself and spending time connecting to your body.

Bethany Nickerson is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.