How to Teach Restorative Yoga

By Arhanta Yoga | How to Teach

Apr 01

Tips How to Teach Restorative Yoga

Adding Restorative Yoga to your yoga teaching repertoire can be a great way to attract new students. But, just as importantly, when you start to teach Restorative Yoga, you’ll support your existing students to experience profound relaxation on a regular basis.   

In my experience, the best time and day to offer Restorative Yoga classes at your studio is Friday evenings. The workweek has ended, and students feel a great need to let the week go and release before the weekend. Saturday afternoons are often reserved for household and garden chores and on Sundays people (mentally) start to get ready for Monday again.  

Here are some ideas to promote the Restorative Yoga classes:  

  • Introduce a Restorative pose at the end of your regular classes.  
  • Organize a special live or online workshop during the weekend, to introduce your students to this new style at your studio.  

Tips on How to Teach Restorative Yoga  

1. Relax first

The best way to start is with a relaxation of at least 15 minutes for the 1-hour classes. In case of a shorter class, start with a relaxation of at least 5 minutes. 

2. Have a goal 

Define the goal of the class to build the sequence you want to use. Define the topic of each class and communicate it clearly to your students. 

Topics for your Restorative Yoga classes can be 

  • Anti-stress and fibromyalgia sequence 
  • Reducing anxiety & agitation sequence 
  • Exhaustion sequence 
  • Removing stomach-acidity sequence 
  • Anti-headache sequence 
  • Combat Lazy-bowel-syndrome sequence 
  • Sequence for PMS and menopause
  • Fertility sequence
  • Reducing Post-traumatic stress sequence 
  • Anti-insomnia sequence  
  • Boost the respiratory system sequence 

Remember that it is not necessary to cover all the asanas, each sequence has a goal to reach, just focus on that. Also, remember that the principle of holding time must be adapted depending on the goal and the frequency of the classes. 

3. Be mindful of the transitions 

When you teach Restorative Yoga, it’s important to pay great attention to the transition from one pose to another. Transitions take more time than in traditional classes and they should feel organic and gentle. 

4. Remind them to let go 

Make sure your students can relax on the supports, that they do not struggle with them. As you must have noticed with yourself, it isn’t that easy to let go. This applies to practising yoga too; most people find it difficult to completely surrender and relax their body against the props. That’s the reason why it is important to verbally guide the students to surrender the body. 

5. Don’t skip the final relaxation 

The best way to end a class is with a guided relaxation of at least 5 -10 minutes. 

How to keep your students safe during Restorative Yoga class

Keeping in mind how to guide your students will allow you to be a correct professional and to respect every physical and mental situation. 

When teaching Restorative Yoga, I advise you to keep the following points in mind. Some of these points I’ve come to learn in my more than 10 years of yoga teaching and other points are pearls of wisdom that I’ve received from my teachers:  

  1. Always remind your students to consult with a doctor before starting yoga. Yoga practice does not replace a doctor’s opinion.  
  2. Remind your students that even though certain poses seem very gentle and easy to perform, they are still very effective and deep. 
  3. Caution students to immediately tell the teacher if they feel pain in the neck because it is the most delicate part of the body.  
  4. Students with heart problems, ongoing infections, glaucoma, eye problems, in general, should avoid inverted postures. 
  5. Students who are are menstruating, should not hold the prone poses for too long and should avoid putting too much pressure on the belly. They should also decrease the holding time during twists.
  6. Students should not drive the car immediately after practicing Restorative Yoga. Advise students to take at least 10 minutes to make sure they are awake and alert.  
  7. Remind your students to practice with the right attitude and train their minds to stay in the present moment – this will drastically decrease the risk of getting hurt. When we don’t connect with ourselves we often enter and exit yoga poses in the wrong way.

Teaching Restorative Yoga – Emotions in Class

An important question I’d like you to reflect on for a moment is ‘What comes first, emotions or thoughts? What generates what?’

Through my NLP and Life/Sport coach studies, I have come to realize that we really are what we think. This fits perfectly with the traditional yogic philosophy of mind control = body control = life control, a circle that can also be read in reverse. 

But how can we identify with thoughts when they create emotions and moods? How do we create the life of our dreams without identifying with what we are not? 

Restorative Yoga effectively helps us detach ourselves from the false perception and conditioning of ourselves. It succeeds because in moments of relaxation we guide our students until they dissociate themselves from their emotions and accept them as part of them (but not as their essence). 

This introduction is useful to prepare you as a teacher for possible emotional outbursts during Restorative Yoga classes. Be ready to face, with detached and non-judgmental eyes,  

  • tears and cries,  
  • anger at the end of practice,  
  • inability to stay still,  
  • itching due to nervousness, and o 
  • any signals of unlocked emotions that come to the surface during practice. 

Emotional releases during Restorative Yoga classes are normal and to be expected. There are two reasons why students experience such emotional releases:

Muscular Release 

The first reason is muscular release. Very often, muscle tension contains repressed emotions and when we loosen the muscles and the tissues, these sensations rise to the surface. One of my greatest teachers told me that the yoga cleaning process resembles a glass with sand at the bottom: the water seems clean, but if we shake the glass, the sand clouds the water. Yoga moves this sand that is forgotten on the bottom, transports it out of the glass, and makes the water truly clear. 

Stress Release 

In a state of stress, we usually hold emotions inside of us. When we relax, when stress is released. As the stress is released, we allow ourselves to feel, listen and process situations, reactions, and emotions. When we relax, our perception changes, and instead of focusing on the reaction, we begin to realize and analyze.

Restorative yoga
Restorative Yoga Teacher Training Online

How to Teach Restorative Yoga for a Busy Life

For people who experience a lot of stress and demands in their daily lives, one Restorative Yoga class a week is not enough. Therefore, we encourage students to include a (short) daily practice at home or at work. 

Our goal as Restorative Yoga teachers is to teach our students how to be present in the now, in the present. I recommend you bring the students’ attention to the breath because breathing consciously stimulates the lymphatic system, helps to relax the muscles and the internal organs, and keeps the students in the present. Bringing attention to the breath means keeping the mind on a leash. 

The importance of slowing down even for a short time is a principle that you should point out from the very beginning. This goes hand in hand with re-educating your students to the art of doing nothing.  

The first and most important thing that you should teach your Restorative Yoga students, is a simple relaxation pose for everyday life. You should explain to your students how to recover energy with a quick rest at work, at the desk, or by using a chair. 

In order to motivate your students, I suggest you create some 5-minutes mini videos for them. They can follow such a short Restorative Yoga video, or audio recording if you prefer, at work or at home. They will grow loyal to the practice of Restorative Yoga forever.  

Restorative Yoga Students’ Frequently Asked Questions  

Below you will find some of the most common questions usually asked by students. When you teach Restorative Yoga, you’ll actively support your students’ home practice. Therefore they often have many questions regarding this. 

How long should I practice, I don’t have time

This is one is of the most common questions because when we are stressed, we think we have no time, and we often get stuck in useless or superfluous matters. When we are in an altered state, we cannot distinguish priorities. I recommend that you explain to your students that it is natural to feel this way, but that if they really want to start feeling good, they must start bringing good habits into their life. A practical exercise that I give to my students is the following; maybe it will be useful to you too. 

Exercise 

  • From tomorrow put the alarm 5 minutes earlier than usual and dedicate it to a little breathing exercise that you learned in classes. Practice this for a week.
  • From the second week onward, set the alarm 10 minutes earlier than usual. To your breathing exercise from the previous week add one Restorative Yoga pose that you really enjoyed. Practice for a week. 
  • From the third week onward, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual. Practice 10 minutes, just as the previous week. In the remaining 5 minutes write a diary about your 10-minute practice, the goals you want to reach with your practice, and the priorities of your day. 

 After these 21 days, you will have an 80% more chance of having found the time to take care of yourself and you will have found the will and time to practice yoga regularly throughout the week. 

With which pose/sequence do I start?

Advise your students to start with one pose per day combined with one breathing exercise. If you want to start immediately with a mini-sequence, start with the short one of 20 minutes. 

I have no space at home

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a dedicated space for yoga, where they can leave the props and mat throughout the day. This should not be a hinder to the practice, however. Advise your students to practice on the rug in front of their sofa (for example) and use a small corner or box to store their props and mat.  The only important condition is that the space is quiet and well-ventilated during their time of practice.  

How should I dress?

Recommend warm, comfortable clothing that does not obstruct movements. I don’t recommend wearing synthetic fabrics. 

When should I practice?

Even if the mornings and evenings are the best moments to practice, the practice will be beneficial regardless of when it is performed. In the morning it will help to recharge; at the end of the day, it will help to relax. And in the middle of the day, it will help you to take a much deserved (and needed) break.  

Can I eat something before practicing Restorative Yoga?

No, it is better to practice on an empty stomach. Advise your students to practice at least 2 hours after having eaten a full meal. An empty stomach allows you to breathe better. 

Am I in any danger if I do it wrong?

Restorative Yoga is a very safe practice because we use props, and we stay well within our limits of mobility. Remind your students that they must always and immediately exit the pose if they feel that something is wrong. 

Advise your students to put a chair nearby, it will help them to get in and out of the poses, especially if they have special needs. 

What should I do if I feel pain while performing a pose?

Suggest exiting the pose, performing the variations you have shown them, asking the teacher for help and returning to the pose with the suggested adjustments. If the pain persists advise your students to speak to their physician.  

How do I keep track of the time?

Using a timer is the best choice. If possible, do not use the phone, because it represents something that connects us to the outside world and reactivates stimuli of the nervous system that we want to deactivate. 

How can I stay focused?

My tips are:  

  • always practice in the same (clean and quiet) space,  
  • practice with an empty stomach, 
  • put your phone on silent mode, 
  • practice in silence or play low-volume music,
  • use a timer, and  
  • breathe naturally. 

About the Author

Lucia SeglieLucia Seglie is an experienced yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer. Lucia started her yoga journey in India with traditional teachers. During her 10-year teaching career, she has worked with various anatomy and physiology experts and has developed a comprehensive approach to yoga and Restorative Yoga in particular and including teaching, adjustment, and modification techniques.

Lucia runs successful two yoga studios in Italy and guides a team of more than 10 yoga teachers. She has taught Restorative Yoga for many years and collaborates with Arhanta Online Academy in offering an Online Restorative Yoga Teacher Training.