Restorative Yoga for Your Pain

We continue our series on pain awareness this September, Pain Awareness Month, with a blog about Restorative Yoga and how it can be used to manage pain. We have partnered with Lindsay Armstrong, a certified yoga instructor who uses a range of practices, including yoga, massage, and reiki, at her studio in Montpelier, Vermont, to help people living with serious pain to feel better. Please consult your physician before starting any new exercise program. 

Lindsay Armstrong is a certified yoga instructor and the owner of Embodied, a yoga studio, in Montpelier. Lindsay regularly receives referrals from community providers for people who are living with physical pain and who want to incorporate yoga into an integrated approach to their healthcare.

“Sometimes, a person’s pain is caused by an injury, a serious illness or treatment for an illness, or the side effects from medication,” said Lindsay. With these clients, Lindsay often turns to Restorative Yoga. “Restorative Yoga does not necessarily come to mind when one thinks of yoga,” Lindsay says. “Restorative Yoga is about comfort and ease and putting your body into its natural state of being rather than active, willful movement. The intention is to place the body into comfortable, supported positions that you hold for extended periods. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, providing an opportunity to relax. It can be incredibly helpful for people experiencing pain and other forms of stress because it directs the mind and body’s energy toward healing.”

The good news is that these Restorative Yoga poses are not just for people experiencing pain. Almost everyone can benefit from incorporating these practices into their regular routine. Here are two Restorative Yoga poses that Lindsay often recommends to many of her clients.

Tented Knee Pose

“This pose supports the whole back and uses the weight of the body to gently release tension in the spine and hips. It’s very calming.”

Find this pose:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor a little wider than hip-width apart.
  • Allow your knees to fall into one another, adjusting, if needed, to find a position of ease.
  • Rest your arms alongside you, a comfortable distance away from your hips, with hands facing up, or gently lay one hand on your belly and the other on your heart.
  • Rest here for 5 minutes or more.

Supported Child’s Pose

“Child’s Pose gently releases the lower back, hips and shoulders, while massaging the digestive and respiratory organs and inviting deep calm. For many bodies, this pose offers deep sweetness and rest. With all Restorative Yoga poses, the goal is comfort – feel free to adapt by adding, adjusting or removing the props.”

Find this pose:

  • From a wide kneeling position (or from your hands and knees), slide a bolster, large bed pillow, or several blankets folded in a rectangle between your knees. For additional support, you may wish to use 2 bolsters (1 between your legs and 1 stacked on top with 2 blocks supporting the end near your head) and/or place a blanket or folded towel behind your knees and/or beneath your ankles.
  • Lay your belly, chest, and one cheek on the support.
  • Relax your arms beside your body or beyond the top of your head.
  • After several moments, gently turn your head to the opposite side.
  • Rest here for 2-5 minutes (or longer if you’re comfortable).

Supported Reclining Bound-Ankle Pose

“A universally-loved pose, this is a great choice for almost all bodies,” says Lindsay. “This pose fully supports the hips and lessens the tension in the belly, lower back and pelvis while opening the chest and shoulders, all of which allows space for breath. Among other things, this pose can be helpful for someone experiencing digestive discomfort and hip pain.”

  • Make a slope by placing a block (or thick book) under one end of a bolster (or folded blankets). Take another firm, folded blanket and place it at the top of the slope, where your head will rest. Roll up another blanket on its long edge into a snake shape.
  • Sit in front of your positioned blankets, with your sacrum nestled against your props, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching. Place the center of the rolled up blanket on top of your feet and tuck both ends of the blanket underneath your thighs (this “snake roll” can be replaced with a block or folded blanket under each outer thigh).
  • Using your abdominal strength and your arms to support yourself, lie back onto the bolster
  • Let your arms rest gently on the floor, hands facing up.
  • Hold this position for 5 minutes or more.

For more information about pain awareness, check out our Managing Your Pain page.

To reach Lindsay Armstrong, or for more information about her services, please visit www.embodiedvermont.com.