chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: January 2024

Restorative Yoga for Your Physical and Mental Well-being

Ashley Hallene


  • Instructors plan and create a tranquil experience, guide the series of restorative yoga poses, and offer hands-on adjustments for comfort and ease in each pose.
  • Some benefits include relaxation, improved flexibility, pain relief, stress reduction, and emotional healing.
  • Restorative yoga and meditative walking both offer similar benefits for reducing anxiety, improving circulation, sleep quality, and more.
Restorative Yoga for Your Physical and Mental Well-being
Isbjorn via Getty Images

Jump to:

Over the years I have been on many fitness journeys with varying measures of success. This year I discovered Restorative Yoga. If the mention of yoga has you picturing spandex clad people in various pretzel shapes, that is what I thought too. The first class I took at my gym changed all that.

The moment you walk in, the studio lights are dimmed to set the mood for relaxation. There is ambient spa-like music playing in the background. The instructor will get you set up with a mat and the props you may need for the day (yoga blocks, bolster pillow, etc.). The props can help you adjust the poses to benefit your unique needs.

Everything is planned out for a tranquil experience. The instructor guides you through a series of restorative yoga poses and may offer hands-on adjustments to help you find comfort and ease in each pose. I found I needed more neck support when I’m on my back so I keep an extra hand towel with me to roll up. The poses are often held for longer durations (5-15 minutes) to encourage deep relaxation and release tension. You will have time to focus on breathing as well. It took a few tries to understand how taking a deep breath, holding it, and relaxing your muscles as you breathe out really works (it’s not just normal breathing).

Most of the poses are gentle, passive, and usually done close to the ground, allowing you to fully relax into each posture. Some classes may incorporate elements of mindfulness and meditation to encourage present-moment awareness and mental relaxation. I struggle with this part a bit. It seems whenever we meditate in a pose for long, my mind wonders to work, writing assignments, family matters, and suddenly I snap back and realize I was holding my breath. 

I developed sciatic pain this year and was surprised to leave my first class feeling the muscles in my back relax a little. At that point, I was hooked. It is a part of my routine that offers a nurturing and calming experience that focuses on physical relaxation, stress reduction, and emotional well-being. It provides an opportunity to disconnect from the busyness of daily life and cultivate a sense of inner peace and tranquility.  Some weeks life gets in the way, and I notice I get cranky if I go too long without taking some time for myself. 

Some of the benefits you can experience include:

  • Relaxation
  • Improved Flexibility
  • Enhanced Circulation
  • Pain Relief
  • Balanced Nervous System
  • Stress Reduction
  • Mindfulness and Presence
  • Emotional Healing
  • Improved Sleep
  • Enhanced Self-Care
  • Mind-Body Connection

These benefits make restorative yoga a valuable practice for individuals seeking physical relaxation, stress reduction, and emotional well-being.

If you try restorative yoga, you may find that once you are comfortable you are ready to kick it up a level. Look for a Vin-Yin Yoga class. Vin-Yin yoga is a yoga class that combines Vinyasa and Yin Yoga. The class typically begins with dynamic Vinyasa flows and ends with a restorative Yin sequence.

If you enjoy the meditative qualities of restorative yoga but hate the “stillness” you should try meditative walking. Walking meditation, also known as khinin, is a Buddhist practice that involves walking between periods of sitting meditation. It's a moving meditation that can be practiced in many forms, including Theravada, Mahayana, and Zen Buddhism. Some of the benefits of walking meditation include:

  • Improved physical health.
  • Improved balance.
  • Reduced stress-inducing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
  • A way to bring your body and mind together.
  • A way to keep you grounded in the present moment.

To get started, find a place that is calm and safe for you to walk. Start your walk off slower than your normal pace and focus on the feeling of walking and notice how your body feels with each step. Keep your hands wherever comfortable, it can be on your belly, behind your back, or at your sides.

With each of your steps, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your foot. Notice the movement of your legs and the rest of your body. Notice any shifting of your body from side to side. Try focusing on different senses at different times. Start with focusing on sounds. You do not need to identify the sound or whether you enjoy or dislike it, just take it in as nothing more or less than sound. When you are ready, move on to smell and vision with similar effort. If you catch your mind wandering, simply guide it back to the present. The more you practice, the better you will get and the greater the benefit you will realize.

Restorative yoga and meditative walking both offer similar benefits for reducing anxiety, improving circulation, sleep quality, and more. Try adding one or both to your weekly fitness routine.