Restora-Yin : Detox, Digest and relax  sequence

A recent bout of colitis forced me to  re-evaluate my daily yoga practice and prevented me from attending public classes.  I am actually thankful that this happened because it opened my eyes to Yin yoga, sparking a passion that was lying dormant. 

But my body didn’t always agree with the sequences. It needed detox and digestion stimulation combined with gentle stretching and sometimes complete relaxation. I listened to it carefully and gave it what it wanted; the freedom to choose if I wanted to be in a pose in Yin style, or restorative style. It’s about what resonates with you, with your body, and mind at that moment. 

Some of the asanas are the same in both yoga styles, though they might go by a different name.  The main difference while doing the poses is that Restorative yoga uses more props for each pose. In contrast, many Yin poses are prop-free or use blocks or straps as opposed to blankets and bolsters which are prevalent in Restorative. 

Photo credit: Anja828/Pixaby

For those that aren’t sure what Restorative and Yin yoga are, here’s a very basic outline: in a nutshell, Yin poses still involve some active stretching whereas the goal of Restorative yoga is to provide support and help the body achieve total rest and relaxation.

In Restorative yoga, a sequence typically involves only five or six poses that are each held for five or more minutes-sometimes up to twenty.   Most restorative practices are based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, which he developed to treat students with injuries or illness. 

Props are a must have for Restorative yoga, as these help to completely support the body in the asanas and invite us to let go of all tension. Bolsters, blocks, blankets, eye pillows and cushions offer the ultimate in coziness.

Although props are at times used in Yin, the goal is a bit different.  If one is used, it is generally done so in order to make the pose a bit more accessible, with some exceptions of course. In supported bridge, for example, it is made harder by changing the position of the block.

While Yin is also relaxing in its  own sense, the poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body, such as the tendons, ligaments and fascia.   The aim is to increase lubrication in the joints by applying subtle , sustained stress to them,  and improving flexibility.
Yin poses are generally held for 3 to 7 minutes and blends traditional Hatha yoga with Chinese Taoist yin/yang philosophy. 

Both yoga styles have their share of twisting asanas, which are among my favourites. These massage the organs, which are said to stimulate digestion, detoxification and elimination.  

Pranayama aids by pressing on the thoracic duct with deep breathing. This is the largest part of the lymphatic drainage system, which moves toxins through and out of the body. This is incorporated in both Yin and Restorative yoga when we do long, deep breathing while in the various poses. You can further incorporate other breath techniques before or after doing the sequence. 

Not sure which one you’d like? In the sequence below, you can try either the Yin or Restorative version to see what works best for you.

Regardless of what type of yoga I’m doing, I always warm up first and urge you to do the same. End the warm up with a few, gentle cat/cow’s, sit back into child’s pose, and our practice will begin. 

Restorative Duration Yin

Supported child’s pose                     5 minutes Child’s pose
Supported reclined bound angle 5 minutes Reclined butterfly
Supported side body stretch 3 minutes/side Lying chest opener
Supported bridge/extended bridge 5 minutes Bridge 
Supported reclined easy twist 3 minutes/side Lying spinal twist
Supported forward fold 5 minutes Caterpillar
Supported corpse pose 5 minutes Corpse pose

  • Supported child’s pose 5 minutes

Benefits: calms autonomic nervous system, compresses organs: detox, digest, stimulate and eliminate. Opens hips, stretches low back, thighs and ankles. Relieves back and neck pain.
Contraindications: diarrhea & knee issues.
How to: Legs bent beneath you, sitting back on your heels, place bolster between legs and under torso, block for forehead if desired. Hands behind you, resting on ground or on your feet, let shoulders hang forward to release all tension. Can also place blocks or blanket under shoulders.

Yin variation: no supports, regular child’s pose.

                                                                          Restorative/bolster and block

  • Supported Reclined bound angle 5 minutes, followed by windshield wiper-ing legs side to side for 1 minute 
Benefits: Stimulates organs and heart, improves circulation stretches    groins
Contraindications: groin injury, weakened or injured knees.
How to: Lie on back, bend knees, keep feet flat on floor. Next, keeping soles of feet together, allow knees to fall open. Bolster/ blankets/blocks under back and head,  bolster or blocks under knees/thighs. Arms are alongside body, palms facing down,  or place hands on belly, as is comfortable.

Yin variation:  Reclined butterfly, same positioning as above, block under thighs only, if needed.

  • Supported side body stretch 3 minutes on  each side 
Benefits: when lying on right side, blood pressure can decrease since pressure is relieved on the blood vessels that return blood to heart- except for pregnant women with blood pressure issues (remain on left side due to location of internal organs and pressure from baby). Lying on the left side may improve circulation and digestion.    
Contraindications: If either arm tingles, carefully ease out of pose.
How to: Lying on side, Bolster side body and head, hip is on mat and snuggles up to bolster, top leg is on block, blankets or bolster. Arm on bottom stretches up overhead- support by blanket or blocks as needed.  Arm on top can be supported if needed or have hand flat on floor. Both knees can be bent or bottom leg can be straight.

Yin Variation: Lying chest opener- on side, knees bent, arm on floor bent cactus style at elbow for a deeper stretch  (block can be placed under head to make this a bit more accessible) or arm can be straight out overhead. Arm on top is either bent behind the back or  hand is flat on the floor. 

  • Supported Bridge/extended bridge 5 minutes then stretch legs out into savasana  for 1 minute.   Legs can be straight or knees bent while in bridge pose.

Benefits: expands the chest, can ease low back discomfort, stretches hip flexors.  If the head is lower than heart and neck is flexed,  baroflex  is 
triggered,  which  suppresses sympathetic nervous system response of fight or flight and parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which stimulates rest and repair.
Contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure, glaucoma, detached 
retina, disc problems in back or neck. Use caution if you have any spine issues.
How to: Lie on back, knees bent and feet flat. Lift pelvis, place block or bolster under hips, keep low if high blood pressure. Arms are alongside body, palms down, or you can place hands on belly  A blanket can be placed under the head.

Yin Variation: Only a block under hips is used. To make it more challenging, place block on “highest setting”.

Yin variation/block only

  • Supported Reclined Easy Twist 3 minutes per side, then hug knees in and gently roll side to side at end. 

Benefits: Stretches glutes and back muscles, tones waist, massages back and hips, hydrates spinal discs.  All  twist poses massage abdominal organs,  aid with  elimination, digestion and lymphatic system stimulation. 
Contraindications: knee, hip, back and spine pain/injury, degenerate disc.
How to: Lying on back with knees bent, allow knees to fall to one side onto bolster or blankets. You can place a blanket between knees and under head or under hip, and a block under the feet if the feet are not on the bolster. Arms can be straight out in a “T” or in cactus position.

Yin variation: lying spinal twist, body position is same as above but with no props unless you’d like to make pose easier with block under knees.

                                                               Restorative/with bolster, Block & blanket

    • Supported Forward fold or wide leg forward fold. 5 minutes; come up slow, head last, then stretch arms up then stretch neck side to side for a few breaths 

Benefits: headaches, hormones (the thyroid is stimulated when the neck bends to chin), tension, stretches hamstrings, and lengthens/tractions lower back. Calming. Since abdominal organs get compressed, reproductive and urinary systems are stimulated.
Contraindications: asthma, diarrhea, sciatica, hamstring injury, SI joint dysfunction, pregnancy.
How to: sit up tall to lengthen spine, with legs straight out or wide. Bend forward onto bolster/cushions under torso and head, turning onto one cheek or placing forehead on blankets/bolster. Hands can be placed under cheek or forehead or on floor.

Yin Variation: Caterpillar, no supports, just let torso and head “hang”. Option to have block under buttocks or forehead to make It easier.

  • End pose 5 minutes: supported corpse (or choose your favourite end pose. One of my favourites is the wind releasing pose/hugging knees in to chest with a block under my neck)

Bolster under knees, blanket under head if needed
Yin variation:Corpse pose,  block under knees if needed

Enjoy, Namaste!
Judy Volhart
Certified yoga teacher, Author, Blogger


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