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Restorative yoga 101: This laidback practice can help you lose weight without breaking a sweat

Published on:15 October 2020, 19:10pm IST
Forget sweating and straining. Restorative yoga can work up the charm of a spa session and help you lose weight too. Here are 3 poses to get you started
Srishti Sawhney
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Try this laidback form of yoga to feel calm and light. Image courtesy: Srishti Sawhney
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What if we told you that there is a kind of yoga that helps your mind and body to relax in a supported semi-seated or lying down position? That it gives your muscles the required stimulation and offers most benefits of a regular yoga practice as well. 

This is restorative yoga. Now imagine adding to this cocktail, the ability to help you lose weight as well. Unbelievable, right? I won’t mind if you told me that you do not believe me. But then, here we are introducing this type of yoga that you can do by yourself—at home!

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What is restorative yoga?

Restorative yoga poses are often performed in a reclined or seated position, with limbs and parts of the torso supported by blankets, pillows, or padded bolsters that resemble a sofa cushion. Poses are held much longer than in other styles of yoga, each for seven to 15 minutes. 

A peaceful, preferably dark or dimly-lit room, soft-music and candle-light just complete the picture. Oh, and did we mention adding fragrant essential oil diffuser or oils for the finishing touches?

Also, read: Try these 5 restorative yoga poses to relax your mind

Regular yoga vs restorative yoga: here’s the difference

Unlike more intense forms of this ancient practice, restorative yoga does not feature flowing body movements or challenging balance poses. Therefore, because of its passive nature, it is beneficial for those who want to start an exercise program but cannot due to lack of motivation, poor stamina or their body weight not allowing for a rigorous workout. It can also be practiced by pre- and post-natal women after seeking expert advice for modifications.

yoga poses for calm mind
Try yoga to tame that anxiety. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Studies supports using restorative yoga for weight loss

A study funded by the American National Institutes of Health (NIH) divided participants into two groups: one that did restorative yoga and the other that  performed stretching exercises. 

It was found that the group that practiced restorative yoga for six months lost more weight and subcutaneous fat than the latter. The participants in this group kept losing fat during a maintenance period with less direct supervision.

A review of studies from 2013 found that yoga is a promising way to help with behavioral change, weight loss, and maintenance by burning calories, heightening mindfulness, and reducing stress. These factors encourage mindful and clean eating.

The many benefits of restorative yoga

Stress reduction

One explanation for this difference in weight loss may be that restorative yoga reduces levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that our body produces in excess during times of stress. It is known to increase abdominal fat. A calm mind and relaxed body keep the unwanted weight away.

stress management
Let’s look at the ancient solution for these modern-day problems. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Improves your vitals

A deep state of relaxation reached through these poses lowers the heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and slows down breath and brain wave frequency. Remember: relaxation is the antidote to stress.

It is highly customizable

Pregnant women, people with asthma, or back troubles can ask an expert to design a sequence for them. They can choose to do a few sessions or classes with experts and then follow it up at home by themselves.

Depending upon your requirement for feeling energized or calmer, you can choose and sequence poses accordingly. A well-balanced session makes you feel energized at the beginning and calm at the end.

Here are 3 restorative asanas to get you started

Inversion- Viparita Karani

Sit with your hip against the wall. Lie back onto the floor, swinging legs up the wall. If desired, place a prop such as a bolster or a hard pillow behind your legs for support. Bend knees and lift hips to insert it. If available, insert the legs in a loop of strap to keep them supported.

 

Supta badha konasana

Place a bolster lengthwise on your yoga mat. Place a block a third of the way under the bolster. Place a folded blanket for your seat. Sit with your hips against the bolster. Lie back on it and join the soles of your feet. Alternatively, you can let an eight-way folded blanket be against your spine. Let your forearms be by your side and be supported underneath by blocks, rolled blankets or sofa cushions.

Shavasana variation (stonehenge style)

As needed, place a folded light blanket at the end of the mat where your head is going to be. If you have blocks, place them on the other end and top them with a bolster. Sit in the middle and place your calves on the bolster. Lie on your back and lengthen your spine. Let your elbows open out and arms be at a 45-degree angle from the torso.

From personal experience, I can vouch that restorative yoga feels like a warm hug, a spa for the body and soul. It is like being in a super comfy-lounge chair. But there is only one way to test these claims: trying it yourself to experience its therapeutic benefits.

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Srishti Sawhney Srishti Sawhney

Srishti is a trained and registered yoga instructor (220 HR). She is passionate about fitness, self-improvement, and mindfulness.