About the Sequence
There’s never a time when a nice, relaxed restorative practice won’t do us good. Perhaps you’ve had a long day at work and aren’t sure how to slow down. Perhaps you have a stressful day ahead and you’d like to start off your morning with ease… It doesn’t matter if you’re injured, what age you are, or what your experience with yoga is — this sequence will benefit you.
The best part about this restorative yoga sequence is that the only prop you need is a wall. That means you can do it everywhere except the middle of nowhere 😉 You’ll find that the wall is more than enough support for you to get deep into your body and relaxation.
This sequence targets the hip region of the body. Famously, the hips tend to store a lot of tension — thus stretching them can create a lot of sensation. But while some of these postures may feel intense, they have the potential to create a ton of space for us.
We yoga teachers like to say that the hips are the “junk drawer of the body” — the place where we store old stresses and feelings. It’s the region where our unprocessed past might be rooting itself energetically. It is not uncommon that stretching into the hip area might yield a lot of emotion.
Throughout this flow, you might experience a huge spectrum of emotions: from deep peace and joy-for-no-particular-reason to intense anger and sadness. Please know that the emergence of an emotional experience via restorative yoga is incredibly normal (and amazing!). Physical sensations as well. If at any point you feel too uncomfortable or in pain by either, stop the practice.
Restorative Yoga for the Hips
The practice of restorative yoga works in some pretty magical ways. While it looks like we aren’t doing much in these postures, so much is happening for the body, mind and spirit. The potency of the practice should not be underestimated.
In restorative yoga, we put the body into shapes that it can relax into completely. Throughout these postures, you should not have to engage any muscles to hold the shape. And if you do find yourself engaging — please adjust your body until you can thoroughly disengage.
As you relax into each posture, invite your mind to slow down. If you’re like the rest of modern humanity, you might find that next to impossible to do… And this is the precise reason why we practice.
As you settle into each pose, guide your mind to the sensations that appear in your body. Guide your mind to the breath and simply observe it. Allow your mind to absorb the qualities of the present moment — sounds, sights, smells, etc — without judging or contemplating upon them.
As thoughts and todo lists carry you away, it’s totally okay. Just guide yourself back to body, breath, and the moment. It’s okay if you have to do this dozens of times in a single practice!
Reset Your Nervous System
This practice is about complete relaxation: of your body and mind. As you begin to relax deeply, the relaxation response of the nervous system is within reach. Blood pressure and heart rate decrease, digestion enhances, and hormones balance when we slide into the relaxation response.
In other words, we put our body in a healing state. We begin to heal all of the harm which stress causes on our bodies and minds — which happens to be a huge cause of disease.
And the greatest part is that you don’t have to do anything to make this healing happen. In fact, you need to do less. The less that you do in this practice, the farther you go.
It can be hard for the mind to not have any goals or destinations to work toward… So we also practice letting go of this frame of mind. We are constantly busy; know that it may take some time to get used to the gentle nature of restorative yoga.
Get Ready to Practice
Find yourself an open wall! You can also grab a pillow or folded up blanket for comfort. Feel free to play some of your favorite relaxing music, dim the lights, and do whatever else you need to create a safe, quiet, and calm space.
Refrain from interruptions of all kinds. If you share your home, you can kindly ask for privacy. Move your devices to another room, and turn off the screens around you. Create intentional space for yourself and you’ll get so much more out of your practice.
You’ll want to have some kind of timer for this practice so that you can make sure you’re holding each posture for even time. It’s okay if you have to use your device, just put it on airplane mode!
1. Shoulder Stretch at the wall — Hold for 90 seconds to 2 minutes
Sit on your knees with the right side of your body close to the wall. Your right hip should be facing the wall. You can sit on top of a folded blanket or pillow to cushion your knees. If it hurts you to sit like this, feel free to sit cross-legged instead.
Reach your right arm to the wall, and sweep it back across the wall until it is reaching behind you; palm touching the wall. Note that your hand should be more or less in line with your right shoulder. You can rest your left hand in your lap.
Once you place your hand, turn your chest gently toward the left to start feeling the stretch in the front-right shoulder. If you need more intensity, sit closer to the wall. If you need less, move slightly away from the wall. Start the timer once you have settled into your comfiest expression of the posture.
As you hold this posture try to relax every part of your body around the intensity of the stretch. Try to relax your shoulders down your back; soften your neck; release your jaw.
Work your breath into the places where you feel the stretch most. Notice the sensations in the posture — it’s not easy. Just like the hips, the shoulder harbor a ton of tension… Be patient as the stretch unfolds.
Repeat this posture on the left side (left shoulder stretch) for the same amount of time.
2. Figure Four Stretch on the wall — Hold for 4-5 minutes
Turn your body so that you are now facing the wall. Sit on your seat, approximately one foot away from the wall. Lie on your back. You can move your blanket/pillow underneath your head for comfort.
Stamp your feet on the wall so that your knees stack above your hips and your ankles are in line with your knees. You may find that you need to scooch closer or farther away from the wall — adjust accordingly.
Once you’ve found your optimal position on the wall, cross your right ankle on top of your left knee, at the very base of your upper leg. The right ankle bone should be on top of the knee so that your foot hangs off an inch or so.
Relax your upper body completely, and rest your arms wherever they want to go. Begin to focus on the area on the outside of your right hip. You can even gently press the right knee toward the wall, and feel that stretch intensify. If you feel that you still need more stretch, scooch your seat slightly closer to the wall.
This stretch can invoke a lot of overwhelming sensation. Focus on your breath. Observe the sensations and what they feel like, without labeling them as “good” or “bad” or “hard” or “easy” — just be with whatever you’re feeling.
If you’re feeling knee pain here, you can try sliding away from the wall quite a bit. If you find that you cannot do this posture without pain, please skip it! There’s nothing wrong with skipping over a posture that doesn’t feel good in your body.
Repeat on the left side for the same amount of time.
3. Legs Up the Wall Pose — Hold for 5 minutes
Slide your seat as close to the wall as you can, and straighten your legs so that they extend up the wall. If it feels impossible to straighten your legs, slide away from the wall a bit.
Once you’ve extended your legs up the wall, relax them. It’s totally fine if the knees bend slightly, or if the feet flop open. The pose should feel completely effortless. Relax your upper body and do whatever you please with your arms.
Take a moment to notice the legs, and the sensation of their elevation. The legs are constantly at work for us, moving us around. In this posture, they finally get a break! Allow the weight of your legs to plug into your pelvis to create a grounding sensation.
Feel the back of the pelvis, and your tailbone, weigh heavily into the ground. Relax the length of your spine, the back of your shoulders, the base of your skull, into the floor.
It’s quite likely that your toes will start to tingle or feel cold — totally normal. Breathe into the sensation of the blood draining down your legs, and get excited for the oxidized, healthy blood that will be filling them back up momentarily.
4. Frog Pose on the Wall — Hold for 3 minutes
From Legs up the Wall, part your legs two feet or so. Now bend your knees and allow your feet to slide down the wall. Your knees will fold back toward your shoulders a bit and your feet will stay flat on the wall. It will look like you have little frog legs.
Depending on your hip opening, you may choose to widen or narrow the feet. Allow yourself to experiment with the shape that feels most comfortable for this posture. You can also play with how close your seat is to the wall.
We’re looking to feel a stretch of the inner thighs in this posture; the inner hip space is opening here. As you hold this pose, completely relax your inner thighs, pelvic floor, and lower abdominals. Feel the spaciousness of the pelvic region and see just how far you can let go.
3 (again). Return to Legs up the Wall Pose
Come back to Legs up the Wall Pose for at least two minutes. Feel free to stay for longer if you’d like.
5. Splits Stretch on the Wall — Hold for 3-5 minutes
From Legs up the Wall, open your legs as wide as the inner thighs will allow. It doesn’t matter how deep you go in this stretch, but we want it to remain effortless. Make sure that you don’t feel the inner thighs have to engage to keep your legs in position.
Essentially, the feet are heavy here and we relax the legs to feel the inner thigh opening. This is a huge stretch that we’ve prepared the body for through our gentle opening. Make sure that you don’t feel like this stretch is overwhelming. And if it is, return to another variation on the wall or skip this pose entirely.
As you hold your splits stretch, breathe into any discomfort you might be feeling. Can you stay completely relaxed, even when the body is in such an unfamiliar position? Can you feel the space that you’re creating in your body here?
Close Your Practice
When you’re finished with your last posture, you can lie down in savasana or perhaps take a few minutes seated with your eyes close. Give yourself a moment to check in with how you’re feeling — the thoughts and sensations that are present.
If you have any comments or questions about this sequence, we’d love to hear them! Please comment below.