Restorative Yoga Reclined Poses “My Favorites”

These are my top three favorite Restorative Yoga reclined positions. I also have a YouTube video available in case you need more details for the poses below. Any questions feel free to email me

For all of the shapes, I have a blanket covering my sticky yoga mat for added padding. Also make sure you are warm…wear socks, have a blanket to cover up completely, etc. If you feel safe to do so, close your eyes and use a light-weight eye pillow or scarf to block out any light from your room. I am showing the usage of yoga props but any bath towels, bed pillows, couch cushions, can be utilized from around your house.

Note that all of the poses I have learned from my studies with Judith Hanson Lasater. If you need more info on Restorative Yoga, check out my previous blog post (Restorative Yoga 101).

Supported Backbend (with 1 blanket)

  • Props = 1 blanket
  • Fold your blanket or towel so that it is the length of your torso from the very bottom of your shoulder blades to the top of your pelvis. Note I am showing using one blanket but you can add an additional blanket on top for more height.
  • Make sure the smooth folded edge of the blanket is facing towards your head.
  • Sit on your mat. Lay down on your blanket support so that the very bottom of your shoulder blades are on the folded smooth edge. This creates a feeling that your low ribs are expanding upwards and outwards aka creating a backbend shape.
  • Duration = 2 to 10 minutes
  • Benefits = Opens up the front of the body; Provides a calming effect by slowing brain waves (head is below heart); Low back relief after sitting all day


  • Props = 1 blanket for head support, firm rectangle bolster, 2 blocks
  • Create a head support with a blanket. This will be positioned under the entire head, cervical spine and under the very top of the shoulders. In anatomy terms, you have the support under the intersection of C7/T1 which is the base of the neck where it meets the thoracic spine at the top of the shoulders. I am showing using a fleece blanket which I find the most comfortable.
  • Set up your bolster on two yoga blocks. The blocks are at the medium height to create an equal sign. They are positioned about a hand print distance apart.
  • When you lay down, the back of your knees touch the front edge of the bolster and your feet hang out in space, a little lower than your knee level.
  • Duration = 10 to 20 minutes
  • Benefits = Reduces muscle fatigue in legs from standing or walking all day. Helps to drain fluid from the legs as well.

Basic Relaxation Pose

  • Props = Important props here are the head support and under the knees. Other props you can add as you wish.
  • Create the same head support as the previous pose.
  • Use a firm round bolster under your knees as well as a smaller prana bolster or rolled blanket under the back of your ankles (Achilles tendons). Noting that the height of your knees in this pose is twice the height from the ground as your ankles.
  • Your heels are elevated off the ground.
  • Your arms are out to the sides, palms facing up to the ceiling. Hands and wrists supported with small throw pillows or additional blankets.
  • Eye pillow.
  • Duration = 10 to 20 minutes
  • Benefits = Creates potential for deep relaxation. Slows down heart rate and respiratory rate. Lowers blood pressure. The body relaxes the best when you have the most flexion (think bent knees for example). This poses creates almost a wave to the body which is soothing.

My Yoga Props

Restorative Yoga does use a ton of props. When you are first starting, just use the items around your house. You can even make a bed pillow into a firm bolster by wrapping a blanket around it tightly and securing it with a string. If you would like to have more info on the items I am using in the post, here is my list. Note that I am just putting the brand name. You can search for these on Amazon, YogaOutlet or the brand’s site themselves.

  • Blankets =
    • Fleece one for under my head = Life is Good brand, I only found this during December but these fleece type blankets are easy to find with many brands.
    • Purple and off-white ones that are more “traditional” 100% cotton blankets, I like the smooth edges = Kakaos Brand
    • Mexican yoga blanket (blue striped one with tassels in supported backbend image) = You can find these online easily, I got mine from Amazon awhile back. I only have one of these and use it when I want a thicker blanket.
  • Eye Pillow = You want either a scarf or a very light-weight kind. You do not want a heavy pressure on your eyes for a long period of time. I purchased mine from Amazon, brand is Clocktower Fitness. It is also unscented which is nice since smells are linked to our memories so having no scents is important.
  • Rectangle and also Round Bolster = Hugger Mugger
  • Small prana bolster (gray one under my ankles) = Brentwood Home, they have a Crystal Cove yoga collection of meditation cushions and bolsters.
  • Blocks = Hugger Mugger
  • Yoga mat = Liforme
  • I have purchased a lot of props that did not work out so well, so if you think I can be of any help, please email me with any prop questions.

Restorative Yoga 101

Before this blog post please read my previous ones about actually setting time aside in your day for a rest (Starting a Mindfulness Practice) & also some techniques to focus the mind (Mindfulness Techniques).

After this post, please reference a list of my “go to” reclined positions (Restorative Yoga Poses). They are comfortable shapes to try out in order to facilitate a more restful practice.

Based on previous blog posts, you have committed to (or at least realize the importance of) stopping and resting during your day. It is not a luxury and never a waste of time. It is an absolutely necessary part of life. Our days naturally do not lead us into a balanced state concerning our nervous systems. In the history of human beings we used to fight/flight against real threats for survival like running away from a bear. But the normal daily “bears” now are a never-ending to do list, an overflowing inbox of emails and other family/career demands.

Anatomy side note, our nervous system is not as simple as parasympathetic (rest/digest/recover) vs. sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze). There are at least 8 major nerve systems that activate you vs. around 3 major systems that quiet you down. Which means it is much easier for us to stay in a constant active revved up state than to be quiet and calm.

Just because it is not easy to do doesn’t mean we don’t need it. Resting is the most beneficial thing you can do. I call it a daily vitamin. Your muscles release, blood pressure and stress-hormone levels drop, heart rate and breathing rate decrease and even brain waves slow down. This leads to a benefit for your circulatory system, immune system, digestion and other functions of the body.

There are many ways to have a mindful practice. One of them is restorative yoga. The key here is that the shape you create with your body aids in the relaxation response. Note that the shape you hold is not magic. Your brain does need a focal point to get the full benefits. In the previously related blog posts I outlined some suggestions. Below is an example of a daily practice I have been doing. Note it does vary each day. Some days it is “easier” to let go and others I struggle and get frustrated because I am human! But the point is, it is a practice. You are training yourself to release just like you would go the the gym to train for running a marathon. The point here is that you are training to live your best, most balanced, life.

Restorative Yoga is the use of props to support the body in positions of comfort and ease to facilitate relaxation and health”

— Judith Hanson Lasater

For more info please reference the book Restore and Rebalance by Judith Hanson Lasater

My Daily Vitamin (aka mini 20 minute Restorative Practice)

  1. I put my pajamas on! Or at least change out of my tight yoga pants. Just to make sure I am fully comfortable.
  2. I let my husband know I am taking some quiet time for me. I also silence my cell phone.
  3. I close the door to my yoga room, lower the shade and get my props in place. If a cold day I turn on my personal room heater by Taotronics.
  4. I set a timer for 20 minutes. I recommend checking out a couple of cell phone apps that create pleasant tones after a set time = “Insight Timer” and “Meditation Timer & Log”. Note these apps still work even with your phone on silent mode for texts/calls.
  5. I get comfortable in my reclined restorative pose (aka my nest). Being mindful to scan the body for any prop/clothing distractions or discomfort. The body enjoys symmetry when resting. The pose I usually use is called the Basic Relaxation Pose.
  6. Then I go through a series of steps to focus my mind (note this changes daily, this is just an example)
    • Focus my attention on the literal center of my brain.
    • Starting from my head I work my way noticing sensations in parts of my body. Traveling down one arm at a time, even noting each finger. Reminding myself to release.
    • Next I go through a breath count starting at 27. Inhale 27, Exhale 27, Inhale 26, Exhale 26, etc. If I lose count (which I normally do), I use this as a sign it is working.
    • After I feel more at ease, I use the remaining time to focus on the sensations of me breathing. Normally centered around the low rib cage movement.
    • When distracted I turn to one of the two mindfulness techniques. Inhale I think “So”; Exhale I silently say “Hum”. Otherwise I notice my thoughts and acknowledge them without trying to figure them out. That is a positive thought, there is a neutral one, that one is negative. Just labeling and then letting myself go back to my breath focus.
  7. I come out of the practice moving slowly. Landing in a fetal position on my side for a minute and then upright seated position.
  8. Sometimes I will journal for a couple minutes or at least write down what came into my mind during the practice.
  9. Most important of all is that when it did seem “impossible” for me to rest fully, I remind myself that it is a journey and a practice. Being gentle and kind to myself and knowing that I will try again tomorrow.