In this article, you will learn a variety of standing RESTORATIVE Yoga Poses & Asanas. Yes, you read the last sentence correctly. I said standing restorative yoga poses. Typically, standing yoga poses are thought of as ‘active’ and not incorporated into your mainstream Restorative Yoga Classes. However, standing yoga poses can offer a variety of therapeutic stretching benefits for the entire musculoskeletal system.
Yin / Yang Yoga
In addition, some of these therapeutic standing postures provide a great way for any yoga practitioner to achieve some upregulating movement with breath- before sinking into the highly degregulating nature of the prone or supine restorative yoga asanas. This type of yoga practice is commonly referred to as Yin / Yang Yoga. Standing postures that help to warm up and activate the yang energy of the body at the beginning of practice so that we can sink deeper into the yin restorative postures. The standing restorative yoga poses might also be referred to as hasta vinyasa postures. Here’s why…
What does Hasta Vinyasa mean?
Hasta vinyasa is a sequence of movements in yoga which mainly involve movement of the arms. The term comes from the Sanskrit, hasta, meaning “formed with the hands,” and vinyasa, which refers to a flowing or coordinated movement.
As with all vinyasa sequences, a hasta vinyasa involves coordinated movement with the breath. They boost circulation and energize the body, opening the chest and heart area. They are considered particularly useful for invigorating the body before a full asana practice. They are also effective stretches with significant mental and physical benefits.
The main postures for hasta vinyasas are lateral side movement (parsvabhaga), frontal stretches (purvabhaga), sweeping movement (prasarana), elbow movement, hands-on-shoulder blades movement, back salute (prishtanjali) and shoulder rotation.
The hasta vinyasas use tadasana as their base posture and, as such, they are considered beneficial for improving mental and physical balance and calming the mind. They are simple to perform, but are a powerful way to open and align the body’s structure. These vinyasas stretch the spine and guide it through all of its natural movements. They also improve shoulder mobility and open the pelvis. Hasta vinyasas should be performed with uddiyana bandha engaged.
Restorative Yoga Poses are held for 4 – 5 minutes, working deep into the muscle fascia where we harbor our energetic blockages. However, Standing Restorative Yoga Postures or Hasta Vinyasa Poses do not follow the same performance rule as traditional restorative yoga postures. Typically, these postures may be performed for 1 – 3 minutes. The standing postures might be passive stretches or incorporate sweeping movements, unlike the sedimentary static nature of most seated, prone or supine restorative yoga asanas.
Reprogram the Body
All Restorative Yoga Poses help to reprogram our muscle memory by allowing us to work deep into the fascia where we store past trauma, negative emotions, and hold onto the past. Through the practice of restorative yoga poses, we are able to release blocked energy in the body that is creating discomfort and disease. Restorative Yoga helps us to break up and release these negative energy patterns so we can be pain free. During a restorative yoga session, different negative emotions that have been buried in our connective tissue are finally able to come up to the surface. Fear comes up, anger rises, self-righteousness emerges, frustration lingers, anxiety surfaces, along with all of the other negative emotions holding us back in life. From a place of peace, we are able to release these blockages.
Standing Restorative Yoga Asanas
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Pose Type: Forward Bend with Inversion
Description: To enter the pose, start in table top pose on your yoga mat. Begin with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Now, walk your hand forward at least one full hand print forward on your yoga mat. Spread your fingers and apply even weight into each knuckle and your entire palm. Your first and middle finger should be pointing at 12 o’clock, directly in front of you. Curl your toes under and lift your hips upward, coming off your knees. Help to internally rotate your thigh bones by bringing your heels slightly wider than the pinky toe. Allow the heels to feel very heavy and sink down towards the earth. Some of us may never reach our heels to the floor, and regardless, that’s not the goal of the pose. Next, allow your head to drop so that your ears are in alignment with your biceps. Press the floor away from you by pressing your thumb and forefinger strongly into the mat. Active uddiyana bandha by pulling contracting your belly button towards the spine. Ujjayi breathing is recommended for this posture which means you inhale and exhale through the nose, making your exhale audible. Hold for 1 – 3 minutes.
Benefits: As an inverted pose, adho mukha svanasana gets blood and body fluids flowing in the opposite direction by reversing the action of gravity. The inversion is also thought to provide a different perspective on an emotional level, boosting confidence. This pose stretches the entire spine, shoulders, calves and hamstrings. Downward Facing Dog is also believed to benefit anyone suffering from asthma, sciatica and high blood pressure. The inversion gets blood pumping and activates the lymph nodes. Despite its benefits, downward-facing dog pose should be avoided by anyone who suffers carpal tunnel syndrome or who has wrist or shoulder problems. A substitute pose for the following conditions would be Dolphin Pose (featured below).
Ardha Pincha Mayurasana
Pose Type: Inversion
Description: To enter this pose, kneel on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Walk boths hands at least one full handprint in front of you on the yoga mat. Transition to drop down onto your forearms. Here’s an option for modifications in this pose- you are welcome to rest your forearms on yoga blocks if you are having trouble with the elbows reaching comfortably down onto the mat. Next, straighten the legs while lengthening out through the tailbone. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to help flatten out the upper spine. Allow your head to hang, with your ears next to your bicep muscles. Be sure to activate Uddiyana Bandha by pulling the belly button towards the spine.
Benefits: Dolphin pose is useful for stretching many different parts of the body at the same time. As a mild inversion, it is also considered to be a relaxing and calming posture. This is a great starting pose for those wanting to explore the meditative side of yoga for the first time. This pose is deeply beneficial to practitioners with high blood pressure, asthma or sciatica. It is also highly recommended for women who want to relieve menstrual symptoms and is popular among pregnant women as a more practical alternative to downward dog pose.
Holy Fig Pose / Pipal Tree Pose
Pose Type: Balance
Description: Begin standing in mountain pose with feet hip width apart. Next, reach the arms out to your sides at shoulder height, with palms facing the floor. Now, shift your weight to the left foot. Inhale and reach the right foot back and up. At the same time, extend the left arm up and slightly forward of the body to help maintain balance in the pose. Find your drishti by focusing on a non-moving point in front of you. This will greatly help to create stability in this balancing posture. Hold for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute, or if performing the pose in a dynamic way- you can alternate swiftly back and forth coming in and out of the posture for 2 to 3 minutes.
Benefits: Ashwanasana is an asymmetrical balancing yoga posture, suitable for beginners. Some consider it to be a variation or substitute for vrksasana, otherwise known as tree pose. Ashwanasana is thought to be named for the holy fig tree under which Buddha was meditating when he achieved enlightenment. Like all balancing postures, as well as its physical benefits, Holy Fig Pose is considered helpful for achieving mental and emotional equilibrium. The challenge is to maintain this equilibrium even when the physical balance is hard to achieve. In practicing this, the yogi can learn to be less attached to the results of the posture and to focus on the practice instead. This pose is also considered beneficial for improving concentration. It can be practiced in a static or a dynamic way, moving in and out of the posture.
Pose Type: Forward Bend + Inversion
Description: Begin standing in mountain pose, with your feet hip width apart and your arms at your sides. Go ahead and step your left foot about 3 feet back, making sure that you angle the left toes about 40 degrees off to the left. The right and left heels should be in one line, almost like you are standing on a tightrope. Grow your spine long and the crown of your head toward the ceiling, and now, fold forward, drawing the head toward the shin. If your hands can’t reach the floor, stack yoga blocks under the shoulders to rest your hands upon. This essentially brings the floor closer to you. Otherwise, if your hands can reach the floor, reach the arms back toward your left leg, pointing your fingers toward the wall behind you, resting your hands on the earth. Allow your upper body to deeply surrender into the pose. Pull the belly button towards the spine on every inhale to active uddiyana bandha and allow your torso to sink with gravity on the exhale. Ujjayi breathing is always encouraged in this posture. Hold for 1 – 2 minutes.
Benefits: Parsvottanasana is a pose that teaches one to facilitate freedom by setting up boundaries. Similarly, this pose expresses the importance of setting a firm foundation through strong alignment of the lower body, cultivating a sense of freedom for the upper body. The legs are strong and in alignment, allowing the upper body to surrender into the pose. Without a firm foundation, the pose would wobble and we might even sway or lose our balance as we fold forward. The boundaries and structure of alignment, combined with muscular action that one establishes through this sequence allows for a safe and deep release as well as the ability to experience more freedom of movement in this and other poses.
Standing Spinal Twist “A”
Pose Type: Twist
Description: To practice the pose, the yogi stands tall with feet slightly wider than hip width apart and arms resting at your side. Before we begin, you need to understand that the twisting action of this pose comes from the SHOULDERS verses the HIPS. Trust me when I say that the twist of your hips and torso will follow the lead of the shoulders. Your head always turns in the direction of the twist. Here are a few advanced cues to help you gain the optimal benefits from this posture. First, allow the upper body to relax and flow at a slow pace back and forth, side to side. As you gain more relaxation in your upper body, allow your arms to feel like they have turned into jelly. As you twist back and forth, your forearm and back of your hand might even softly hit the mid-back area just below the ribcage.
Benefits: As an active standing spinal twist, this pose releases tension from the spine and boosts energy. Kati Chakrasana is particularly beneficial for those who have sedentary jobs or work with computers. This pose helps to open the neck and shoulders, while stretching and strengthening the lower back muscles. Contraindications for this pose include pregnancy, hernias and disc injuries to the lumbar spine.
Kati Chakrasana (variation)
Standing Spinal Twist “B”
Pose Type: Twist + Balance
Description: Stand in mountain pose with the feet together. Cross the left leg over the right leg. Place the left foot outside of the right foot. Inhale and open the arms to a T shape. Exhale and rotate the torso and arms to the left. Be sure to that your arms remain at shoulder height. You can hold this pose statically on one side for up to one minute or dynamically rotate back and forth, side to side for up to 2 minutes. Standing spinal twist pose “B” is a gentle beginner’s twist that challenges balance. With one foot crossed over the other, the practitioner opens their arms wide and twists to the side. Although this is a simple posture, the pose gently stretches the spine while developing focus.
Benefits: This variation of Kati Chandrasana releases tension in the muscles around the spine, stretches the psoas, while engaging the arms and shoulders. This standing twist is known to stimulate the abdominal organs and enhance stagnant digestion. Standing twists are also said to be good for detoxification and weight loss. They are particularly good for those with sedentary jobs to get the spine moving again. Standing Spinal Twist Pose “B” should be avoided during pregnancy, or for those suffering a hernia.
Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana
Revolved Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold
Pose Type: Forward Bend + Twist
Description: To practice this asana, stand with the legs wide apart, then bend forward until the chest is parallel with the ground. Place one hand on the ground directly under the shoulder, then rotate and extend the other arm toward the sky. For a deeper stretch, grab each ankle with the opposite hand. Place yoga blocks under the center of the upper body to rest the hand, in the event the floor is too far of a reach.
Benefits: In addition to its physical benefits, parivrtta prasarita padottanasana is believed to relieve tension, anxiety and stress, and calm the mind. The pose is also thought to open and balance three of the body’s chakra energy centers: the throat, sacral and root chakras.
Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold
Pose Type: Forward Bend
Description: To enter this asana, step the legs about two to three feet apart. Feet should stay parallel with the toes turned slightly inward. The body bends forward at the hips, stretching the spine. The hands are placed on the floor in line with the feet, then the elbows bend so the torso and head can lower into a full forward bend. If possible, the crown of the head can rest on the floor. Place yoga blocks under the center of the upper body to rest the hands and head, in the event the floor is too far of a reach.
Benefits: This asana brings a sense of calmness to the body and mind and has a cooling effect on the brain. There are many spiritual benefits to this asana. It energizes the first three chakras: the root, sacral and solar plexus chakras. Opening these first three chakras helps promote a sense of stability, productivity and self-acceptance.
Pose Type: Core + Balance
Description: To begin in Tadasana, you may start with your feet together or apart, as there are several variations of this posture. The most common variations have one difference, which is placement of the feet. Pick which variation suits your body best. If you decide to keep your feet together, stand so that the insides of your big toes are touching, both facing straight forward. If you start with your feet apart, place them so they are directly beneath your hips. Keep the feet facing forward so that heels and big toe are in line. From here, begin to position your lower body. Bend into the knees a bit before straightening them out. Lift your toes, finding a sense of stability, evenly distributing your weight onto both feet. If you feel tension in your back or legs, try bending your knees slightly and pull in your tailbone before straightening the legs again. Your upper thighs should roll inward slightly. Internally lift your ankles, knees and pubic bone, visualizing a straight line running through the length of your body. Though stationary, keep your entire body active by pulling in and up at your navel (uddiyana bandha) and lifting your breastbone up toward the ceiling. Your head should be directly above the center of your pelvis. Stand with your arms relaxed & neutral at your sides, broadening your shoulder blades and widening your collar bones. Begin relaxing and softening your face and neck as well; be sure your throat isn’t tight and that your tongue is flat and soft. Relax your gaze, directing it past the tip of your nose. Stand in this position as long as you like, at least 30 seconds if performed on its own. Mountain Pose serves as an integrated starting point for many of the standing postures.
Benefits: In Tadasana (with tada meaning mountain) the intention is to cultivate the strength, stability and stillness of a mountain. A related term, samasthiti, means to establish an equal or steady stance at the front of one’s mat while performing Tadasana. Mountain Pose is both physically and mentally grounding, and can be used to form a connection with the earth. Deepen this pose by closing the eyes to challenge your balance. Tadasana is one of the many poses that are excellent for balancing the root chakra.
Swaying Palm Tree Pose | Standing Side Bend
Pose Type: Lateral Side Bend
Description: Stand with your feet a step wider than the hips. Interlace your fingers and on the inhale, reach the palms toward the sky. Now, from the hips bend your upper torso to the right, creating a lateral side stretch. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed between both feet. It is very easy to want to dump most of your weight into the right foot. Check in and redistribute your body weight evenly. Allow your shoulders to sink down and away from your ears, creating space in the cervical spine. On the inhale, grow your spine long and on the exhale, bend deeper into the stretch. Avoid performing this pose if you have a hernia, suffer hypertension, vertigo or cardiac issues.
Benefits: Holy Fig pose has a plethora of healing benefits. It stretches the spine, helps with spinal alignment and clears congestion in the spinal nerves. The lateral stretch opens the side body stretching the transverse abdominals and obliques. This pose opens the clavicle, chest and heart chakra. In addition, Tiryaka Tadasana helps to improve balance, focus and concentration.
Upward Crescent Moon Pose
Pose Type: Back Bend + Balance
Description: Start in the Mountain Pose (Tadasana) standing on your mat with big toes touching and arms at your sides. Next, step your left foot back about 2 feet and lift the heel, coming onto the ball of the left foot. Keep the toes of both feet facing forward. Draw your hands up to your chest, pressing your palms together in a prayer position, also known as Anjali Mudra. Slowly lift your hands (still pressed together) up toward the ceiling. Visualize lengthening your spine upward and your tailbone toward the floor. Be sure to pull your shoulders down to create space between your arms and ears. While reaching through your fingers, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Continue to actively reach up with your arms and through the pinky-sides of your hands, gently arching the back to form a crescent shape with your upper body and left leg. This pose is not meant to be a deep backbend, so be sure not to arch too much, which can put strain on the lower back. Tilt the head back slightly without compressing the neck, and gaze up at the ceiling. Hold this pose for 30 to 90 seconds.
Benefits: Upward Crescent Moon helps to improve spinal alignment, reduce mild back pain and provides a gentle back bend stretch for the entire spine. This pose also improves concentration, balance and strengthens the core muscles.
Pose Type: Forward Bend + Inversion
Description: Begin in Mountain Pose with the feet hip-width apart and the knees deeply bent. Now hinge forward from the hips, allowing the head to hang down between the upper arms. Cross the arms and softly grasp each elbow with the opposite hand. As you deepen into the pose, slowly start to straighten the legs. Regardless of your flexibility, your knees should always maintain a micro-bend in this posture. To release the low back, gently sway from side to side. While experiencing this pose, focus on lengthening the spine on the inhale and allowing the upper body to relax deeper into the forward bend on the exhale.
Benefits: This wonderful variation of Uttanasana helps to release tension in the lower back and relax the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Ragdoll pose has been known to stimulate digestion and also helps to drain the sinuses. In addition, the forward bend of this pose creates an inversion which helps to relieve stress and calm the mind.
Micah Lyn is an Intuitive Healer and E-RYT 500 Certified Yoga Instructor registered with the Yoga Alliance. She offers a variety of private yoga classes, therapeutic yoga sessions and intuitive healing services at Pachamama Yoga ✨ Los Angeles Healing Center. Visit the YTT Programs & Workshops page to see upcoming Online & Hands-on Intensive Yoga Teacher Trainings, Virtual Online Yoga Workshops & Transformational Yoga Retreats featured worldwide.
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