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gentle yoga: 10 restorative poses for renewal

gentle yoga: 10 restorative poses for renewal

Published: 12-05-2023 - Last Edited: 28-05-2023

Gentle yoga

Gentle yoga is a form of Hatha yoga that emphasizes slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and relaxation. It is often described as a more accessible and less physically demanding style and is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Key Takeaways

  1. Gentle Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga that emphasizes slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and relaxation.
  2. It’s a style of yoga that is accessible and less physically demanding than most others, making it suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.
  3. Gentle Yoga includes several styles, such as Yin, Restorative, and slow-paced Hatha Yoga.
  4. Gentle Yoga aims to relax and release the body and mind by encouraging the nervous system to move from fight or flight mode to rest and digest.

What is Gentle Yoga?

Gentle yoga

In a gentle yoga session, the focus is on practicing postures (asanas) in a way that is comfortable and supportive for the body, rather than pushing it to its limits. The yoga teacher will pace a gentle class slower than other styles such as vinyasa, and poses are often modified to accommodate individual needs and abilities.

Gentle yoga offers a combination of seated, standing, and reclined postures, as well as breath work and meditation. The goal of the practice is to release tension, improve flexibility, balance and body awareness, and promote relaxation and overall well-being.

Which styles are classed as Gentle Yoga?

There are several different gentle yoga styles that match the criteria for a gentle yoga class: slow-moving and nourishing. Yin, Restorative and slow-paced Hatha are the most well known forms of Gentle Yoga practices.

Yin Yoga

Gentle yoga

Yin yoga is a slow-paced, meditative style of yoga class that emphasizes long holds of passive postures. The practice works with the meridian lines in the body and involves holding seated or supine poses for extended periods of time, typically ranging from 3 to 5 minutes.

The focus of yin yoga classes is to achieve a deep stretch of the connective tissues in the body, such as the ligaments, tendons, and fascia, rather than the muscles. This is achieved through the use of props, such as blocks, blankets, and bolsters, which allow practitioners to relax into the poses and hold them for longer periods of time.

Restorative yoga

Restorative yoga is another gentle and slow-paced style that is focused on relaxation and stress relief. The practice involves holding passive postures with the support of props such as blankets, bolsters, and blocks. The poses are typically held for several minutes at a time, allowing the body to completely relax and release tension.

The primary goal of restorative yoga is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” response of the physical body. This is achieved by using props to create a comfortable and supportive environment that encourages the body to let go of tension and stress.

See below for the key differences between Restorative and Yin yoga.

Slow-paced Hatha Yoga

Gentle yoga

Hatha Yoga is a style that focuses on physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation. It is one of the oldest and most traditional styles of yoga and is often practiced at a slower pace.

In a slow-paced Hatha Yoga class, the focus is on holding each pose in a gentle yoga sequence for several breaths, allowing students to deepen their awareness of the body and the breath. The class may start with simple breathing exercises and warm-up poses, followed by standing, seated, and supine poses.

The pace of the class is deliberate and slow, emphasizing relaxation, mindfulness, and introspection.

The class often ends with a period of relaxation, such as savasana (corpse pose), where students lie on their backs and allow their bodies to relax and release tension fully. The teacher may also lead a guided meditation or breathing exercise during this time.

Slow-paced Hatha Yoga is an excellent option for people new to yoga or looking for a more gentle and meditative, balanced yoga practice. 

Key differences between Yin and Restorative yoga

Yin and Restorative are both classed as Gentle yoga and have many similarities, but there are some key differences between the two practices worth remembering:

Intensity of poses in gentle yoga

Yin yoga poses are more intense and challenging than restorative yoga poses. In yin, poses are held for between three and five minutes to stretch the body’s connective tissues. In restorative yoga, poses are held for a similar length of time, but the focus is on relaxation and stress relief rather than deep stretching.

Use of props in gentle yoga

Both yin and restorative yoga use props such as bolsters, blankets, and blocks to support the body in poses, but restorative yoga uses more props and is more focused on creating a supportive and comfy environment so the muscles can fully release. 

Physical benefits of gentle yoga

Yin yoga primarily focuses on stretching the connective tissues of the body, while restorative yoga focuses on relaxation and stress relief. As a result, yin yoga is often recommended for improving flexibility and joint health, while restorative yoga is recommended for reducing stress, improving sleep, and promoting overall well-being.

Mental focus

Gentle yoga

Both yin and restorative yoga are meditative practices, but the mental focus of each practice is slightly different. In yin, the focus is on staying present and attentive to sensations in the body. In restorative yoga, the focus is on relaxation and letting go of tension and stress.

What are the benefits of a gentle yoga practice?

Practicing yoga of any form can have countless benefits, ranging from physical relief from chronic pain to the emotional release of long-held trauma.

Potential health benefits of practicing gentle yoga regularly include improved mobility and joint health, reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep, and an overall sense of calm and tranquility.

The yoga practice can also help to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and improve digestion. Gentle yoga has also been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain and other health conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Additionally, the practice of gentle yoga promotes self-awareness, mindfulness, and a greater connection to the present moment.

What is the most gentle yoga pose?

Gentle yoga

There are many gentle yoga poses that can be practiced when you need to slow down, but one of the most gentle and relaxing poses is called “Balasana,” or Child’s Pose.

To practice Child’s Pose, start on your hands and knees with your hands just in front of your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart. Slowly lower your hips back toward your heels, stretching your arms in front of you. Rest your head on the mat and allow your body to relax into the pose.

Child’s Pose is great for beginners or anyone looking for a gentle stretch. It can help to relieve tension and stress in the body and is often used as a resting pose during a yoga practice.

10 Restorative Gentle Yoga Poses for Renewal

Child’s pose (Balasana)

This pose is good for releasing hip, back and shoulder tension. To do this pose, sit on your heels and stretch your arms forward while lowering your forehead to the ground.

Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

This pose helps to relieve stress and tension in the legs, and can also assist in calming the mind. Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended straight up, gently press them against a wall and relax. 

Supported fish pose (Matsyasana)

This pose is a nice chest opener and promotes deep relaxation. Lie on your back with a bolster or pillow under your shoulder blades. Reach your arms out in a t-shape and extend your legs long or knees bent. Relax your upper body as enjoy this heart opener.

Reclining bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Bound angle pose, also known as Butterfly, helps open the hips and inner thighs, and can also help relieve tension in the lower back.

woman with a dog layoning on floor savansana

To do this pose, lie on your back with the soles of your feet together and your knees apart, creating a diamond shape. Put yoga blocks under each knee for support if the stretch is too intense, and breathe for a few moments to settle into the pose.

Supported bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

This pose relieves tension in the lower back and hamstrings, and can help calm the mind. To begin, lie down on your back with your feet on the ground, hip distance apart.

Raise your hips to the sky and position a yoga block or bolster under your sacrum. Ensure there is no pain and relax.

Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)

One of many seated yoga postures, this pose is excellent for releasing hamstrings and lower back tension. To do this pose, sit on the ground with your legs extended, ground your sit bones into the mat, extend your arms to the sky and slowly fold forward.

If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees slightly and breathe gently.

Seated Wide – Legged Straddle Pose (Upavistha Konasana)

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Then spread them out as wide as you can, making sure your knees and toes point straight up toward the ceiling.

Hinge forward at your hips, bringing your hands to the floor in front of you. Relax in the pose and feel your hips, hamstrings and back stretch.

Head to Knee Forward Bend Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

A gentle seated twist, similar to the seated forward fold, begin by sitting with your legs straight. Bend your lift knee and place your right foot on your right thigh.

Hinge forward from your hips and reach your hands forward to your right foot. Feel the stretch in the left side of your body and into your right leg.

Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Supine Twist, or Supta Matsyendrasana, is a gentle yoga pose that can help stretch the spine, hips, and shoulders. Begin lying on your back with your right arm and left arm extended to the sides in a T-shape.

Bend your knees 90 degrees into a table-top position and slowly lower both legs over to one side, keeping the knees stacked on top of each other. Turn your head in the opposite direction to your legs. Try to keep both shoulders grounded on the mat.

Corpse pose (Savasana)

The ultimate relaxation pose, Savasana, is great for helping you to fully let go of tension and stress. Simply lie on your back with your arms and legs extended and allow your whole body to relax completely.

Is Gentle Yoga good for beginners?

A gentle yoga class is a good way for beginners to learn the fundamentals of yoga in a supportive and non-intimidating environment. It can help to improve overall fitness, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better sleep and relaxation.

Many people are drawn more towards athletic yoga styles because they want an intense workout, but gentle yoga often can be more beneficial with the typical stressors of everyday life.

Gentle Yoga classes typically include various poses adapted to suit the needs of individual students. The transitions between poses are slower, allowing students to focus on their breath and their body’s sensations. This can help to build strength, flexibility, and balance over time, while also promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.

It is also suitable for recovering from injury or physical limitations, making it a great place to start. Chair yoga is a form of gentle yoga popular among older people or those with limited physical capabilities.

Gentle yoga


In conclusion, gentle yoga is a form of yoga that is accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. Its emphasis on slow, controlled movements, deep breathing, and relaxation makes it an ideal practice for those with physical limitations, injuries, or chronic health conditions.

The benefits of gentle yoga are numerous, including improved flexibility, balance, strength, and overall well-being. It can also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and has been shown to have a positive impact on heart health and immune function.

Whether you are a seasoned and confident yogi or just beginning your wellness journey, gentle yoga can provide a safe and effective way to promote physical and mental health.

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