This article is part of SELF’s Rest Week, an editorial package dedicated to doing less. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally, is impossible without genuine downtime. With that in mind, we’ll be publishing articles up until the new year to help you make a habit of taking breaks, chilling out, and slowing down. (And we’re taking our own advice: The SELF staff will be OOO during this time!) We hope to inspire you to take it easy and get some rest, whatever that looks like for you.
Carving out time in your schedule to take it easy isn’t lazy—it’s a crucial component of self-care that can seriously boost your mental and physical health. And that’s where a restorative yoga stretch routine with some feel-good stretches comes in.
According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing relaxation techniques—which include yoga stretches—can lead to a ton of benefits, including decreased heart rate and blood pressure, boosted mood and focus, and reduced pain and muscle tension, among many other perks. So adding a yoga stretch sequence can be a simple and convenient way to add more chill to your day, even if you’re not planning on leaving your house.
In fact, a restorative yoga sequence may be especially apt on those days when you’re just lounging at home. Ever notice how your joints can feel a little stiff after a Netflix marathon? With a restorative yoga sequence you can maximize relaxation activities by loosening key areas of the body that tighten up from lots of sedentary time. In other words, slotting a quick yoga stretch sequence alongside other relaxation activities can help you unwind while also making sure your body feels its best.
Yoga helps you relax because it’s an extremely grounding activity, London-based yoga teacher Jen Landesberg, RYT, an instructor with the fitness app EvolveYou, tells SELF. By moving your body through a series of poses, you can get out of your head and focus instead on the here and now of what your body is doing, she says.
As a study published by the International Journal of Yoga puts it: “Yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response.”
“That’s kind of the magic of yoga,” Landesberg says. “It keeps us in the present.”
Best part is, you don’t need to leave your house or spend a ton of time in poses to reap the benefits. “When people think they have to go to an hour and a half class, I’m like, no!” Landesberg says. Even a few minutes flowing through poses at home in your pajamas can help center you, she says.
With that in mind, Landesberg designed the following six-move yoga sequence that can help soothe a busy mind while also loosening achy muscles that might result from a tough workout or from sitting for long periods of time. This flow targets areas of the body that can be chronically tight in a lot of people—hips, back, neck, shoulders, legs, and glutes—with poses that bring you on (or close to) the floor as a way to help you literally feel grounded. The sequence ends with an especially chill pose—legs up the wall—that requires pretty much zero effort and delivers “complete calmness and relaxation,” Landesberg says.