Recharge Your Body with Restorative Yoga

By Erin Taylor | May 18, 2018, 12:27 p.m. (ET)

“Work In: The Athlete’s Plan for Real Recovery and Winning Results” shares new mental and physical recovery techniques for athletes who give it all in every workout.

childs pose

Why Do Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga aids recovery — it’s a legit way to work in — and as a result optimizes athletic potential and performance. Not all yoga has to be restorative to move you toward your goals, but to work in, it does.

Restorative yoga is not like other kinds of yoga — it is by definition restful.

So, if you find yourself doing traditional sun salutations or other dynamic movements in a “restorative” session, know that you are in the wrong place.

When you work out, your body contracts. Muscle fibers shorten as they power your movement. While dynamic stretching is helpful for maintaining flexibility and range of motion, applying force — too much, too hard, too fast — can overwhelm tired muscles, and they will fight you back.

contract and open

Restorative yoga is a path of less resistance.

It helps you open your body with simple postures, often supported by props, that are held longer than in typical yoga classes. Props do the work of supporting your body so that your aching muscles don’t have to. And long holds give your body ample time to endeavor in the opposite direction of the status quo. This practice also uses gentle movements to help restore fluidity to muscles, tissues and joints. The combination of stillness and movement helps your body transition from working to resting, from contraction to expansion.

OPEN = Create space

Don’t feel for a big “stretch” like the sensation you might be accustomed to when you reach to touch your toes; you probably won’t find it in restorative yoga, and that’s OK.

Unlike many styles of yoga, the goal of restorative yoga isn’t to stretch or strengthen. While some of the poses do indeed stretch your muscles, it’s more likely that your connective tissue is being stretched. Imagine you have an internal wetsuit on that surrounds all your muscles and other tissues. Stretching it increases circulation and opens the body in a way that is conducive to deep relaxation and real recovery.

Restorative yoga optimizes recovery by:

  • Decreasing tension
  • Increasing breath capacity
  • Increasing circulation
  • Increasing blood flow to internal organs
  • Improving immune system functioning

Try a couple of poses to get started:

Calf Pump

calf pump

How:

Come onto all fours.
Straighten one leg behind you, tucking your toes under on the floor.
Keeping your hips level, rock forward and back, as if you’re doing standing heel lifts on that leg.
Continue for 10 reps, then switch sides.

Windshield Wipers

windshield wipers

How:

Sit or lie down with your knees bent and your feet wider than hip-width (about as wide as your mat if you’re using one).
Rest your arms open, palms up.
Drop your knees to one side.
Lift your knees back to center, then drop them to the other side.
Continue for about 20 reps.

work inAlong with restorative yoga poses, “Work In” offers practical meditation exercises to get your head right and mind focused. Try the Awareness Meditation to get started.

Republished with permission from “WORK IN” by Erin Taylor. "WORK IN" shares new mental and physical recovery techniques for athletes who give it all in every workout. Learn more at velopress.com/workin.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.