Restorative yoga is a passive practice of letting go and undoing. That may not sound challenging but learning to release and surrender yourself is one of the biggest struggles, even for advanced yogis. We hold unnecessary tension in our bodies creating illness, we hold onto negative feelings, sadness and past hurts creating the way for future hurt.
Practising Restorative yoga is about treating yourself with the kindness you deserve and paving the way for a greater sense of wellbeing. It is a practice of floor-based postures supported by props into which you soften for pre-longed periods of time, typically for 5-10 minutes or as long as they are comfortable. Restorative yoga facilitates deep relaxation through the use of props including blankets, straps, pillows, eye bags, wedges, and blocks. As soothing as this is, and although you may have a blanket draped over you to keep muscles warm, this is not grown-up naptime – there will be no milk or cookies! The restful postures however do help those suffering from insomnia fall into a more peaceful slumber.
The practice is frequently concluded with an inverted pose, allowing lymph fluid to return to the upper body and increase heart function
Another attraction of Restorative yoga is how accessible it is for all ages and experience levels. A class provides both a mentally and physically supportive environment, allowing us to release muscles and let the mind drift inwards. It creates a deep state of relaxation, relieves stress and invites the breath low into the abdomen, creating a sense of ease and security. Regular practise of this therapeutic style can be helpful to all in many different ways, especially with chronic stress, insomnia or depression.
When practising Restorative yoga, take the time to make even tiny adjustments with your props, the devil is most certainly in the detail here, it can make all the difference between a heavenly or hellish hold.
The sequences focus around developing a healthy spine, using its full range of movements with rejuvenating forward bends, backbend and twists. The supported postures lengthen muscles without creating excess strain.
During these extended periods of glorious stretching, the sympathetic nervous system is relaxed, which controls our ‘fight-or-flight’ reflex, and we work into our parasympathetic nervous system -the core for our ‘rest-and-digest’ activities. Internal organs, glands, and body tissues are brought back into balance through a series of moves which may include the passive back bend, reclining butterfly pose, supported downward facing dog pose, supported lying twist, inverted cleansing pose, and supported child’s pose.
When in a supported backbend, the abdominals are squeezed together, forcing blood away from the digestive organs so that when the released fresh blood rushes in, refreshing and cleansing the system. The cells are stimulated more for more efficient exchange of oxygen and waste products, and the chest area is also opened for deep, full and easy breathing.
The practice is frequently concluded with an inverted pose, allowing lymph fluid to return to the upper body and increase heart function. After spending most of our waking hours upright, sitting or standing, this is a revitalising activity, dispersing the accumulated fluid from the lower extremities.
Although a Restorative practice seems easy, it can be challenging for beginners. Even when the body is relaxed and still, the mind doesn’t let go so readily. Be patient with yourself and take each session as a new experience without expectations. Restorative poses do cultivate the habit of inward stillness and attention to the body -it might just take some time. If it feels like a struggle and your meditative state is being imposed upon by feelings of frustration, release your judgements and follow your breath. Focus on where you feel the tension and send the breath to that area, or use it as a tool to clear out unwanted thoughts.
The resulting calm after a restorative practice can stay with you through your everyday life, helping you to manage stressful situations whilst remaining calm and clear-headed. Restorative yoga can help us to slow down and appreciate the good, both around us and within.
Take a deep breath, release
and enjoy your Savasana.