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Today’s world can be a hectic, stressful place. With everything going on in our daily lives—from family and work to keeping up with our health and wellness—it’s easy to find ourselves feeling run-down, tired, and not quite ourselves. 

Common quick fixes like coffee and other caffeinated beverages can provide a jolt of energy that may work in the short term but may irritate the digestive system, cause jitters, or disturb sleep. For a more long-term solution that’s better for your overall health, many experts suggest restorative yoga.

The idea of getting started with yoga might seem intimidating, but yoga is meant for everyone, regardless of physical ability. If you’d like to get the benefits of incorporating yoga into your routine, start with these basics.

Where Did Restorative Yoga Get Its Start?

Restorative yoga builds on ancient practices initially developed in India more than 5,000 years ago. The concept of restorative yoga came to the U.S. in the 1970s as a technique to assist in recovery. The practice has grown and evolved over time. It now aims to help individuals dealing with various ailments, from insomnia to anxiety. One key difference between restorative and other yoga types is in the restorative practices. The poses are held for longer, emphasizing the breath and paying close attention to how the body feels. Restorative yoga is also practiced at a slow pace.

How Does It Work?

Restorative yoga relies on a natural process in our bodies called “rest and digest.” This state is the opposite of the better-known “fight or flight” response, triggered when the body is under stress. “Rest and digest” allows our bodies to slow down and complete their natural processes for recovery and repair. In short, restorative yoga helps turn our bodies off so they can recuperate from what is bothering us.

Photo: Fly View Productions via gettyimages.com

How Can I Get Started?

While some yoga practices are meant to be challenging workouts, restorative yoga is just that—restorative. It involves holding stretches, deep breathing, and modifications to the movements to accommodate any pain or physical limitations. Restorative yoga can take as little as five minutes or as long as 90 minutes. Additionally, you can use props like yoga blocks or a rolled-up towel to make sure that the poses are comfortable. Take it as slow as you like to make sure you’re getting the full benefit of the movements.

What Are the Benefits?

Any movement is usually good for maintaining your physical and mental health. Restorative yoga is particularly beneficial for easing stress, anxiety, and generally enhancing your mood. By activating the relaxation response, restorative yoga helps soothe the nervous system, improves sleep and well-being, and treat chronic pain without drugs. Since the poses and movements are slow and gentle, restorative yoga is an excellent option for seniors, people with physical limitations, or pregnant women. Start with a few basic poses and see what feels right, and remember that you can always stop and take a break.

Dealing with the world today can be challenging. The idea of starting a complicated new fitness routine doesn’t help relieve stress or ease us into a restful sleep at night. Fortunately, the ideas behind restorative yoga offer a tried-and-true way to move your body for mental and physical relief. With just a few minutes a day and some easy stretches and deep breathing, you’ll likely start feeling better in no time.