Have you (or one of your students) ever wondered, “what exactly is restorative yoga”?
If so, please know that you are not alone. Also, there isn’t one perfect definition, so please indulge us these three answers we love from a few experts:
“Restorative yoga is intended to take the mindfulness that is found in all disciplines of yoga to the next level. It’s still and slow, and it’s as much (or more) about the mind as it is the body.”
– Eric C. Stevens
“Restorative yoga is an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the frenetic activity of daily life and let your speedometer return to 0 mph. It offers a welcome respite among all the turbulence of life and helps to prepare the mind and body for the inward stroke of meditation and deepened awareness. Moving slowly through the poses allows you to explore your mind and body at a steady and natural tempo.”
– Adam Brady
“As its name implies, restorative yoga promotes healing and renewal. Restorative yoga is an active form of relaxation that moves you into a state of being rather than doing. As you practice, you move away from the normal activity of the body and the mind and experience a deep sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.”
– Alyssa Pfennig
Our friends at Karma Barre put together this excellent list of three reasons to add restorative yoga to your practice (or really, your life). Check them out – and we’ll see you in class soon!
Relaxation of the Body and Mind
Restorative yoga is a practice that is all about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. A restorative yoga sequence typically involves only 5 or 6 poses held for 5 minutes or more. During the long holds of restorative yoga your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. Props rather than muscles are used to support the body so there is the unique feeling of the absence of muscle contraction and engagement, which puts the body and mind into total relaxation mode. Gentle music may be played and the practice may be combined with a guided meditation. A fast paced yoga practice, while good for building strength and endurance, can overstimulate our nervous system and we may end up feeling overwhelmed and tired, with a racing mind. Restorative yoga balances a fast lifestyle and has an enormous capacity to heal physical and mental symptoms that are stress related.
As noted previously, there is no muscular contraction involved in restorative yoga. Props such as bolster, blankets, blocks and belts are used to allow the body to be in the most comfortable and supported position as possible. We typically believe that we have to work our muscles to increase flexibility, but we often achieve more opening in tight parts of the body when we soften and relax our muscles than we would through an active asana practice. During a restorative yoga sequence, you will stretch, but you can fully relax into the stretch and release tension held in the muscle fibers and the joints, as well as that tension held in the mind. The mind focuses on the breath in order to cultivate mindfulness and release stress from the body. This allows for a relaxed stretch that enhances flexibility of the body and mind.
Balances our Systems and Develops Qualities of Understanding and Compassion
Restorative yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, regulates blood pressure and relaxes the body. As such, this practice is particularly beneficial for those suffering from anxiety, insomnia or headaches, as well as other stress related conditions. Restorative yoga is believed to boost the immune system, balance the nervous system and accelerate the body’s natural healing process. Because through this practice we are allowing the body and mind to relax, literally becoming softer, we also create space to get in touch again with our natural qualities of compassion and understanding of others and self.
Thank you to Karma Barre & Yoga for this article! KBY is a unique studio providing a haven for fun-fitness, barre, dance, yoga, and health workshops. They pride themselves in providing a studio that has as much character as you. Their clients’ health and wellness is our driving force.
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