Sometimes you just have to stop trying to control everything, slow down, take a deep breath, and listen.
– Jennifer Vafakos
Our days are filled with responsibilities. Responsibilities to work, family, friends, relationships, even social media. On top of ALL that, we live in a world that moves at warp speed, which means we try to do all the things at a pace that just isn’t sustainable.
We push our bodies and our minds to the brink. We stop bending and we start breaking down.
I am committed to figuring out how to relax. Being a new-ish mother, I joke that I haven’t slept since 2017. But it’s not a joke. Sleeplessness (induced by two things I love – my daughter and my business) is a one-way ticket to stress-ville. When someone off-handedly tells me to “just relax”, I grit my teeth at how easy it seems, sounds, and feasibly could be…
And then, something interesting happened. I was gifted a glimpse of restorative yoga and I left feeling refreshed. Calm. Clear.
As if I had slept for 8 hrs.
I wanted more.
Restorative yoga is a kinder and gentler form of yoga that provides the physical and mental balance needed to prevent stress and anxiety, using props for support. Unfortunately, many people think restorative yoga is boring or it is simply not for them. Some may even think that it is only meant for those who have physical limitations or need recovery.
But the benefits of restorative yoga should not be trivialized, as even the most active yogis can benefit from integrating it into their regular routine. While it is a healing practice, it is not just a recovery modality.
Restorative yoga is an essential antidote to the stress we deal with in this fast-paced marathon race called life.
We all can benefit from utilizing its unique blend of mindfulness and slow movements to achieve the desired effects within our bodies. From healing depression to managing panic attacks, restorative yoga has helped lots of people become more optimistic and regain their confidence.
Here are eight reasons people of all ages and abilities should practice restorative yoga.
Creates Conditions for the Body’s Relaxation Response to Thrive
By regulating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (which regulates the fight-or-flight response), restorative yoga takes the body into a calmer and relaxed state, initiating the body’s self-healing response in the process. The parasympathetic nervous system acts as a ‘dimmer switch’, and the more we employ this switch, the better we are able to set the nervous system to cultivate emotional balance. This, in turn, gives us a sense of deep, inner calm.
More than just a therapy for stress reduction, a 2013 study from the University of California shows that restorative yoga helps overweight women trim subcutaneous fat. Over a 48-week period, the study compared those taking restorative yoga with those performing more active stretching exercises, and found that woman practicing restorative yoga lost more subcutaneous fat.
An explanation for this may be that restorative yoga helps to reduce cortisol levels – and high levels of this stress hormone have been linked to increased abdominal fat.
Relieves Chronic Pain
Yoga and modern science agree that pain is beyond just the structure of the body. Chronic pain is in the mind, and one of the best ways to relieve it is by unlearning the pain.
Restorative yoga helps to relax the mind and body, turning off the stress response and directing the body’s energy towards repair, growth, immune function and other self-nurturing responses. By transforming the body’s pain-and-stress responses into responses for chronic healing, restorative yoga helps to relieve the suffering of chronic pain.
While we were younger, we all enjoyed our body’s flexibility. But this flexibility wears out with age.
Restorative yoga can restore or maintain your flexibility as it involves holding postures for about two minutes or often more. This prolonged hold causes the stretching and slow release of tight muscles, allowing you to assume a deeper pose. The longer you are able to hold this posture, the deeper you get. Thanks to props, performing restorative yoga helps to minimize the risk of straining muscles.
Heals Emotional Pain
Just as you need to work on your physical strength immediately after an illness, you need to build your inner self so you can heal emotional injuries. Restorative yoga poses provide soothing relief when you are dealing with relationship stress, the loss of a loved one, anxiety/depression, or you’re coming to terms with certain life changes.
As you assume the restorative poses, it is not unusual for negative emotions that are rooted deep within your inner self to creep in and cause an emotional release. In other words, it is just fine if you break into unexpected tears in the middle of your practice. Allow the tears to flow. It will give you a sense of relief as nothing else would.
At times we need to disconnect ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the outside world to better discover ourselves and improve our productivity. This is one of the benefits of restorative yoga.
Restorative yoga fosters introspection, allowing us to detach ourselves from the outside world, so we can communicate with our spirit within. It exposes new levels of contemplation and self-analysis, allowing your inner self to shine through.
Eases the Aging Process
Aging is inevitable. Someday, our hairs will turn white, our skin will wrinkle and we will lose our youthful energy. However, aging doesn’t have to be as scary as some people think of it. In fact, there is so much grace if we can enter it with ease. Through the use of props, restorative yoga can help you go through the aging process smoothly. Seniors who suffer physical limitations such as osteoarthritis, pain and joint stress imbalance can benefit from integrating restorative yoga practice into their daily routine. This practice helps to improve balance, flexibility, stability, respiration and reduces anxiety and high blood pressure.
Provides Relief for Insomnia
No matter how stressed out or tired we are, sleep can be a luxury sometimes. And insomnia can lead to even more feeling of tiredness.
If you are struggling with insomnia, practicing restorative yoga can provide relief to your problem. Positions such as Child’s Pose (Balasana), supported half frog pose (Ardha Bhekasana), reclining bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana), happy baby pose (Ananda Balasana), and supported reclining twist can help you enjoy bedtime at the end of a very busy day.
If restorative yoga seems like a practice you would like to try or continue to practice Inlet Yoga is running monthly restorative yoga workshops with some of our top senior teachers. These workshops are to support, nurture, and educate students in the ongoing process of self-care.
Inlet Yoga is “over the moon” excited to welcome Jillian Pransky to Inlet Yoga October 26 in partnership with the Vibewell Festival and NJYC for a 4-hour juicy minimal prop restorative experience.
About Jennifer Vafakos
Mom, daughter, teacher, business owner, recovering fashion designer; like many I have worn different numerous hats in this lifetime. I began practicing yoga in my mid-twenties as a way to take that “one day off” from training for marathons, biathlons, triathlons as well as basically blowing off a lot of steam from a corporate day job. What began as a “day off” threaded through years of practice and countless hours of trainings. Most notably with Dana Trixie Flynn and Sheri Celentano of Laughing Lotus where I have almost 1000 hrs of training, Baron Baptiste, Tari Prinster (yoga for women cancer survivors).
Currently I am embarking on the 200 hr advanced Katonah Yoga training.
Yoga currently for myself is a potent practice to help endure and thrive in life physically and mentally. Yoga gives me the tools to live a well lived life. I don’t call myself a yogi or care too my aim in this life is the importance of being a good human to myself and others.Particularly when our paths get bumpy and life in general is overwhelming.
Currently, I own and manage Inlet Yoga studio in Manasquan, NJ which includes heading up and coordinating workshops, classes and teacher trainings and am co-host of Here for Savasana a podcast on all things yoga but not “asana”. In multi-tasking, I have found time to be a new mom, teach yoga, run the 200 hr RYT training programs, and be talent scout for some of the most amazing instructors at the Jersey Shore and NYC area.
Never Miss a Post!
The Top Three Reasons for Joining NJYC
The greatest teachers, studios, classes and communities are in the Garden State.
You are ready to inspire and be inspired.
You believe in living a life you love, supported by a practice that makes you feel amazing