What is Restorative Yoga?
Neck and shoulders short
Legs up the wall meditation
Restorative yoga for legs
Restorative Yoga is a slow-paced sequence without any dramatic movement on the yoga mat. We use yoga props such as bolsters, blocks, straps and blankets so that we can hold postures for longer periods of time. We practice a few postures (as little as four sometimes) and we stay in them for around 5 minutes. The class lasts for 1 hour 30 mins and includes a longer (at least 20 minute) guided relaxation or Yoga Nidra.
Why should I practice it?
Yoga props make it easier and less stressful on your body to hold postures for longer periods of time, therefore allowing your body and mind to restore, relax and renew.
Every joint is supported by either the mat or the props, giving your body a message of compassion, comfort and restoration.
You may find that a restorative practice can also lead to better flexibility as the body and mind relax. It may become possible to reach deeper into postures.
The restorative postures are also beneficial to your parasympathetic nervous system.
During our daily life, whether conscious or unconscious, we are constantly expending energy. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. When life events happen that cause things like grief, worry, anxiety or anger, we use a great deal of energy. The body needs to restore that energy in order to work and to heal itself, otherwise it becomes weak and we can become ill. It only restores properly when we rest properly. We all know that if we have been through an emotional or stressful time, it is more likely that we become physically ill – all our energy is used up and we can’t fight off illness in the same way.
Is this any different than sleeping?
When we are sleeping, our body does restore – but we have to be able to relax before we can fall asleep – often we spend minutes or sometimes hours in a stressful state of mind as we think of all the things we need to do, or haven’t done, or about the one thing that is worrying us, or we get anxious trying to remember things that don’t matter. If we don’t have awareness, these thoughts circulate in our head all the time.
In restorative yoga, we are learning to be awake and alert while in a state of complete relaxation. Relaxation is our mind’s way of revitalising and can help to reduce the arousal we experience from stress and/or anxiety so at night, instead of being caught in a vicious cycle of worrying thoughts before bed, we know how to gently say to ourselves, ‘I don’t need to do that now’ so that we can relax enough to fall asleep. The more we are able to do this, the easier it will be to slip into the parasympathetic nervous system when we want to.
“Relaxing has been shown to improve our mood and cognitive functioning, like decision making and memory, and lowers the risk for depression, anxiety, and other heart-related issues. Additionally, when we relax, we boost our immunity and this can sometimes curb our desire of sugary fatty treats!” (https://psychprofessionals.com.au/rest-vs-relaxation/
But what does all this restoration chat actually mean?
Restore (verb) – to return something or someone to an earlier good condition or position, to make it possible for someone to have a quality or ability again that they have not had for a long time, to give something that has been lost or taken, or back to the person it belongs to.
So that might be to allow your body to relax and release tension so that it goes back to its best condition, or to restore your ability to relax enough to get to sleep. It could be to restore the feeling of being supported, balanced and in alignment physically, so that your body has the time and space to repair and you benefit mentally from feeling those things deep inside your body.
My personal experience has been that in areas where I hold tightness (for me the thoracic spine and shoulders) and where I have overworked muscles, after a restorative practice, I experience a huge release in the muscles. I feel lighter, relaxed and have less pain in those areas. Mentally, when I am running at full throttle, doing too much and feeling like I am always running out of time, it forces me to stop, take note of where I am, what I am doing and why I am doing it. Often I fall asleep on the living room floor at relaxation!
Is it the same as Yin?
It is very different to Yin. Although the emphasis in Yin is also on staying in postures for long periods of time, Restorative Yoga is about releasing all effort, and Yin is about maintaining a gentle, consistent pressure over a period of time. Yin is about being very aware of your body and finding an appropriate depth where you can stay in a stretch for a longer period of time. It’s still not about pushing or forcing your body to stretch, but there is consistent effort – in restorative, there should be no effort.
Do I need any yoga experience to practice?
You need no former yoga practice to do Restorative Yoga. As long as you are comfortable lying on the floor and getting back up.
But I don’t have time to relax – other people need me!
“The role of deep relaxation in deep healing should never be underestimated. It is a generous act, not a selfish one, to give yourself restorative time. Relaxing fully lets you emerge refreshed and vibrant to participate in a wonderful positive life. You will be better able to give more, live more, laugh more and love more.” Christine Brown
For yoga classes in Ayrshire and online - go to www.vhairislavenyoga.com/book.