The Restorative Workout

Jan Johnson

Soothe tight, tired muscles and recharge your body and mind with these yoga-inspired moves.

The Workout

  • Release tension by selecting poses that target specific areas, or complete the flow of all seven poses. These recovery moves are especially restorative in the evening, as you wind down your day and prepare for sleep.
  • Take care to ease into each pose without pain; focus on a sense of release while still maintaining good form.
  • Hold each pose for at least five deep breaths. Switch sides and repeat, when applicable.

What You’ll Need

  • Yoga mat
  • Wall
  • Bolster (optional)
  • Pillow (optional)

Note: Avoid any upside-down poses like Rag Doll if you suffer from glaucoma or high blood pressure. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise programs if you have these or similar conditions.

Legs-Up-the-Wall

Jan Johnson

Why: Whether you’ve been standing or traveling for an extended period of time, or are sore from a heavy lower-body strength-training day, changing your relationship with gravity helps decrease fluid buildup in the legs, relieves pressure in the hips and pelvis, and increases circulation.

How:

  • Sit with your right shoulder and right hip about 3 inches away from a wall.
  • Lower your right shoulder toward the floor while pivoting and swinging your legs up the wall so both legs are straight, supported by the wall, and both your shoulders and head are on the ground.
  • Hold for five or more deep breaths, focusing on the release of tension and weight in your legs.
  • If you need more support, place a pillow under your head or a bolster next to the wall and under your hips.

Cobbler’s Pose

Jan Johnson

Why: Open up the hips and glutes to decrease tension and increase blood flow while also taking pressure off the lower back and knees. Runners, try this after a long training day.

How:

  • From sitting, bend both knees in toward your chest, then drop your knees out to the sides.
  • Press the bottoms of your feet together and bring your heels in toward your pelvis at a comfortable distance.
  • Place your hands on your ankles, and with each exhalation, relax your knees closer to the floor, if possible.
  • Hold for five or more deep breaths.
  • If your hips are extremely tight and you need additional support, place blocks or bolsters under your legs.

Rag Doll

 Jan Johnson

Why: Hamstrings, back, shoulders, neck — this pose helps release the most common problem areas, and more. Give it a go to loosen up after a total-body interval workout.

How:

  • Stand up straight with your shoulders over your hips, palms facing forward.
  • With a soft bend in your knees, hinge from your hips and pelvis to fold forward, bringing your torso toward your legs.
  • Cross your forearms to hold the opposite elbows.
  • Allow your head to hang heavy and upper body to give in to gravity.
  • With each exhalation of your breath, relax deeper.
  • Hold for five or more deep breaths.

Easy Seated Twist

Jan Johnson

Why: Rotating the spine in a different axis than it normally rests in helps counteract the impact of hours of sitting. This pose is especially ideal for cyclists who are often bent over handlebars.

How:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, keeping your upper body tall while lifting your core up and out of the pelvis.
  • Place your left hand on your right thigh.
  • Reach your right arm forward with palm up. Inhale and rotate to the right, moving from your midback. Keep the arm parallel to your shoulder.
  • On the exhale, drop your shoulder blade and tuck your left lower ribs to rotate further; place your hand just outside the hip.
  • Hold for five deep breaths.
  • Release the pose, and change your cross-legged position so your other leg is in front; repeat on the other side.

Child’s Pose

Jan Johnson

Why: Child’s Pose opens up the shoulders and back while the reaching portion opens up the side body. Try this pose after workouts that include core strengthening.

How:

  • From all fours, with toes together and knees slightly apart, lower your hips toward your heels and drop your forehead toward the floor.
  • Reach your arms forward in line with your shoulders. If you experience pain, back off your reach until you are comfortable.
  • Walk both hands 8 to 12 inches to the right while keeping your hips back toward the heels and your head centered.
  • Move the hands back to the center and hold for five or more deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Supine Bent-Knee Twist

Jan Johnson

Why: There’s a reason this is often the last pose before final relaxation in many yoga classes. The twisting motion wrings out any remaining tension in the body, whether in the chest or the glutes. This is an excellent pose to do before bedtime.

How:

  • Lying on your back, hug both knees to your chest, giving them a squeeze that stretches the lower back.
  • Keeping your left knee at your chest, extend your right leg back to the ground.
  • Place your right arm on the outside of your left thigh while extending your left arm out to the side, perpendicular to the body and in line with your left shoulder.
  • On an exhale, gently guide your left leg to the right, aiming to keep both shoulders on the floor. Depending on how tight you are, your left shoulder may lift — don’t force it down. Use your exhalations to relax deeper into the pose.
  • Look toward the ceiling or over your left hand, and hold for five or more deep breaths. Return to center, then repeat on the opposite side.

Savasana

Jan Johnson

Why: While Savasana looks simple and like a pose you could easily skip, it’s the most important aspect of a restorative practice, promoting mindfulness, body awareness, and recovery. Ease into sleep or further meditation by closing your practice with this pose.

How:

  • Lie face-up with your legs extended, arms slightly out at your sides with palms up.
  • With your weight distributed evenly, tune in to the subtle sensations of your breathing as you give in to gravity, relaxing your body toward the floor.
  • Rest in this pose for five minutes or more. If you have trouble releasing the chatter in your mind, focus on counting 20 long, slow, deep breaths in reverse order, from 20 to one.

Photography by Chad Holder

Workout designed by Dana Santas, yoga mobility trainer for several majorleague sports teams, and creator of Radius Yoga in Tampa Bay, Fla. This article originally appeared as part of “The Restorative Workout” in the May 2016 issue of Experience Life. To order a back issue, call 800-897-4056 (press option 3 when prompted). To get all the articles from each issue of Experience Life, subscribe online at https://experiencelife.com/articlesubscribe.

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Karla Walsh, NASM-CPT, AFAA, is a health and fitness writer based in Des Moines, Iowa.

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