You may or may not have heard of restorative yoga, but once you have tried it youwill always remember it, for its healing, nourishing and recuperative benefits. I think of restorative yoga as a form of yogic therapy, relaxing and regenerating thebody and the mind. In this article I would like to share with you an explanation ofwhat restorative yoga is, a little bit about the history of restorative yoga, and an explanation of the benefits of a balanced restorative practice.
Restorative yoga combines physical and mental exercises. It is a selection of postures, where the body is supported with props. The props include, bolsters, blankets, eye pillows, straps and blocks. The props are used to help us to explore deep relaxation and stillness with no strain on the physical body. The physical body receives a passive but deep stretch to release physical tension and to realign the body. This stillness provides a calming hug for the over stimulated mind. It is like a ‘quiet awake time for the mind’. The postures are held comfortably for extended periods of time (usually between 5 – 15 minutes) to allow for maximum benefit. This is combined with pranayama (breathing techniques), relaxation and meditation techniques to still, calm and comfort the mind. Restorative yoga can be quite a challenge, holding a supported asana in stillness can be challenging for the mind while comforting for the body. Restorative yoga requires attention and receptiveness. You receive the greatest benefits by releasing and surrendering. This can have far reaching effects as often, what is revealed to us on the yoga mat, serves as a metaphor for our lives.
It is not a new style of yoga. Restorative yoga with the use of props was founded by BKS Iyengar. Through his ingenuity and experience, he developed a system of using props to make yoga available to everyone. His use of props allows students to go deeper into the Asanas (postures) and be supported in their practice. Judith Lasater, world renowned dedicated yoga teacher and physical therapist, expanded this unique approach in the West.
The benefits of a restorative practice are many and varied, and as ever are different for each practitioner. The benefits mirror and enhance the benefits of a regular “classical” practice. A restorative class can enhance a regular yoga practice by teaching the body optimal alignment in a supported way, and this learnt alignment then translates into your regular practice. Mindfulness and proper breathing can be practiced a little more deeply in a restorative class and this too will enhance a regular practice. Restorative classes are excellent for anyone recovering from illness or injury, or emotional difficulties such as trauma, anxiety and depression, as it allows the mind time and space to process emotions. Restorative classes are a useful support for sports to relieve tired muscles and passively stretch, improving flexibility safely, without risk of injury. leading to improved function in other sports.
A restorative practice encourages mindfulness, and develops patience and focus, offering a respite from the turbulence of life and opening a doorway to a deeper understanding of your body. It teaches us the art of deep relaxation.
It is my sincere wish that you experience the soothing balm of restorative yoga for yourself.