I’ve been baking all day long (vegan white chocolate pecan cookie recipe here), which means my shoulders, neck, and legs are aching. I think a lot of you are in the same boat. So here’s the best 20-minute restorative yoga sequence to help you get the rest you need for Christmas morning. (Office workers, nurses, retail workers, this is also great for you.)
- One bolster (or one firm pillow with one bath towel wrapped around it tightly)
- Two yoga blocks (or 12-15 soft cover books)
- Sandbag (not necessary, but a very yummy addition)
- Yoga mat or towel laid out on the floor
Make sure you’re wearing comfy clothes. And try and hold each pose for at least 5 minutes in order to fully restore.
POSE 1: Restorative Fish with Two Blocks (great for shoulders)
- Take one block (or about 5 soft cover books) in between your shoulder blades, no lower than about the middle of your spine. This block will be on the lowest height, and will be placed lengthwise underneath your spine.
- The second block will go underneath your head, at the medium setting (or use about 7-8 books under your head – making sure your skull is supported and your head is higher than your heart).
- Straighten your legs, let your feet hang to the side, and let your hands rest by your side, palms turned up; similar to savasana.
- Feel your shoulder blades rounding around the block, spreading your collarbones and softening your shoulders away from your ears.
- Breathe into your low belly, slowly lengthening your inhales and exhales. Stay in this pose for at least 5 minutes.
- If you wish to come out before going into pose 2, bend your knees and then roll to your right side. Stay there for a few breaths before coming back to seated.
POSE 2: Restorative Fish with One Block (great for shoulders and slouching)
- From the previous restorative fish, remove the block (or the books) from behind your head. The crown of your head will now reach towards the floor, opening your shoulders, collarbones, and neck even more.
- This pose can feel uncomfortable at first, as most people are not used to having their belly, heart and throat so exposed. Try to keep this pose, focusing on your breath, for at least 5 minutes, unless you are in any pain.
- To come out, remove the block and slowly lower your head back to the ground. Stay for several breaths as your spine gets used to settling in.
POSE 3: Seated Neck Stretch with Block (great for shoulders and neck)
- Sit on a bolster (or your pillow/towel) up against a wall.
- If you have a block, put it horizontally behind your shoulder blades, so that your shoulder blades can press into the block, helping your spine sit up straight and your shoulders relax.
- Turn your right cheek to your right shoulder, and hold for 5-10 breaths. Bring your attention to your left shoulder, lowering it down, allowing it to get heavier, as you are breathing. Return to center, and repeat on the other side, holding for the same number of breaths. Return to center, lower your chin to your chest, relaxing both shoulders down, holding for 5-10 breaths. Then tilt your head back, hold for a few breaths. Repeat each side if needed.
POSE 4: Restorative Butterfly (great for shoulders and hips)
- Sitting on your mat or towel, place the bolster (or pillow/towel) a few inches behind your bum, so that when you lay down, the bolster will be lengthwise, supporting your spine beginning at your low back.
- Have your two blocks (or books) and sandbag (if you have one) close by.
- Sitting in front of the bolster, bring the soles of your feet together, knees wide. Take the 2 blocks and place them under your thighs, so that your thighs are fully supported when you lay down.
- Then place your sandbag on your feet, which will help keep your feet in places you lay down.
- Holding on to the bolster, begin to lay down, adjusting your spine and the props as needed.
- Let your arms drop to your side, palms up, shoulders dropping down towards the floor.
- Stay here for 5-10 minutes, longer if desired.
- To come out, begin by straightening your legs. Stay here as long as you’d like before rolling to your right side an d coming up to seated.
POSE 5: Legs up the Wall (great for sore legs and hamstrings)
- If you own a sandbag, have it nearby for this pose.
- Sit with your hip about 2 inches away from the wall, and begin to lay down, rainbowing your legs up the wall.
- If you have a sandbag, bend your knees, place the sandbag on the bottom of your feet, and then slowly and carefully begin to straighten your legs.
- Let your arms drop to the side, palms facing up.
- Stay here at least 5 minutes, or longer if desired.
- To come out, carefully bend your knees, remove the sandbag, and then roll to your side for a few breaths before coming up to seated.