I seem to write a lot about restorative yoga… or maybe I just think about writing about it a lot.
I know I think about it a lot. I use restorative yoga with my private clients and teach it quite a bit, even in my vinyasa classes there are elements of a restorative practice. So it’s always on my mind.
In the last few years Restorative style classes have popped up everywhere. And that’s a good thing in our Go GO GO world. We need that quiet time, that meditative rest that is so good for the spirit as well as the body.
Physically your body gets many valuable benefits from your restorative sessions…
** Deeper stretches…… When we can release and let go of long held tension in the body the body responds by ‘unraveling’. Long, supported poses allow your body to completely release, soften, and allow that unraveling to happen over time, without the need to pull or tug.
** Increased flexibility….. And while all that unraveling and releasing does promote more flexible muscles and joints it’s not a goal, or even an end results we are seeking. Restorative gives you a sense of freedom to explore what happens when you release the tension you habitually hold in your body.
** Getting to know your body….. When you spend concentrated time setting up for a pose and exploring how it feels and then giving yourself permission the change that setup, to adjust what you need, you learn where your patterns of tension occur in the body. And when you connect to those patterns it’s then that you can begin to change your body’s boundaries. This is where you get to be Magellan or Lewis & Clark and you become an explorer.
But a restorative practice is so much more than the sum of its physical benefits. There are countless mental and emotional reasons to add restorative yoga to your life.
**Cultivate body awareness….. Wait didn’t I just say that in the paragraph above?? Yes.. but getting to know your body eventually shifts from the physical and delves deeper into the mental and emotional layers. Most people are cut off from their bodies, especially when we experience chronic pain. But through the practice of restorative yoga we can begin to explore a deeper intimacy with ourselves and we may find a profound sense of self-love and acceptance.
** Sooths the central nervous system….. In our crazy busy lives, we seem to always exist in a heightened state of nervous energy. That ‘fight or flight’ we all hear about. All those stress chemicals constantly trickling into our bodies does an inordinate amount of damage to our cells. But when we know how to turn on our Relaxation Response then we can counter the effects of those chemicals, some studies now show that we can even reverse that damage.
** Encourages a meditation mindset….. When are first encounter meditation or are first learning about it, it can be very challenging to simply ‘sit still’ to cultivate that deep quiet of the mind. But when we start with a restorative practice we discover that it might just be the hardest yoga we can do! Because we were being asked to quiet a mind that never knows when to quit and that’s where the work can be. But in that work, we can find the deepest benefits of the practice, the greatest growth of who we are, physically and spiritually.
Lets look at a few of the common restorative poses
First ‘Supported Child’s Pose –
- Gently releases the lower back
- May relieve shoulder tension
- Quiets the mind and deeply calming
- Stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system
Key propping ideas – For more height (head higher than hips) you can put a block or another bolster under the front end of the bolster. This can help if the back isnt comfortable in this pose.
Another place to consider when propping is if the knees are tight.. adding a blanket between the knees the calves often helps this.
If the Ankles are tight try adding a small blanket under the ankles
supported childs pose
Next is Supported twist over a bolster
- quiets the brain, calms the central nervous system
- quiets distress and anxiety
- reduces tension in posterior muscles of back, lateral, and neck muscles
Key Propping issues – The bolster can be elevated on a block reducing the angle of the twist.
You can add blankets under the knee to reduce strain on the hips
And place blankets under the arms to support the shoulders
- Proceed carefully if you have severe back problems
- Can be difficult if you have sacroiliac joint issues
Finally everyone’s Favorite Legs up the wall
- reduces edema in the legs and feet.
- relieves tired leg muscles.
- gives you all the benefits of inversion, without the effort.
The key prop is a wall…that’s all…. But if you have an eye pillow that’s glorious! And you can have someone put a sandbag on your feet that’s a nice luxury!
So give restorative a try and let me know how it goes!
I love to hear your thoughts about your practice so feel free to email me or to comment in the posts below.