Some of you may not know but I am a restorative yogi. My relationship with yoga has furthered for my love of this style of practice, and helped me decide to share restorative yoga as a healing modality offered here at Free Mind. I offer restorative classes every Wednesday here at my ranch at 6pm. I hope this article gives you a better understanding of restorative yoga, what to expect in a class, and how it can change your life the way it has for me.
You Can Book My Wednesday Restorative Class Here:
Restorative yoga is an invitation to slow down. It’s all about relaxing the body, finding rest and opening the body through passive stretching in supported poses. It is a meditative practice that focuses on the breath and cultivates calming stillness. In restorative yoga, we use props to support the body, but it is also a great way to reduce any discomfort we might experience in the body on a regular basis by relaxing those muscles, joints and bones, supporting them and reducing tension and pressure. These classes are the perfect way to find balance during a busy lifestyle, and for me have served as the perfect way to reset mid-week. This is why I find that Wednesdays are the perfect time to have a restorative flow. It differs from a vinyasa yoga class in that most restorative poses are seated or reclined, always supported, and we spend more time in each pose. Restorative practices will often only include a few poses throughout the entire class. These classes often focus on grounding poses with lots of twists, heart openers and of course, support!
Restorative yoga has been a key in my anxiety healing for a while now. Because, like many people, I am constantly go, go, going. A restorative practice invites in stillness, silence and relaxation. It does this by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, aka “rest and digest,” which helps bring balance to our nervous system because when we are stressed, which we are more often than not, we are in a sympathetic state. Practicing restorative yoga helps us wind down our brain and makes getting into the parasympathetic system while not doing yoga much easier, because while we are in the practice we are forming new neural pathways in the brain. Yoga has also been shown to improve gray matter in the brain, which is where neural pathways are made. New pathways come from all over our body, through our spinal cord, and into our brain, sending us all kinds of information. Doing yoga forms new path waves telling us that we are home and safe. We have to do this by completely relaxing in the body, working mindfully with a breath, and meditating. In short, the practice focuses on completely relaxing the body and holding positions for 5+ minutes. With the support of props we find our self in perfect alignment, allowing our body to be home and it is and helping us feel safe.
Practicing restorative yoga once a week has been proven to decrease stress, anxiety and depression, as well as boost the immune system. It also releases muscular tension, stills a busy mind, and improves mobility and flexibility in the body. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system it also slows the heart rate and regulates blood pressure, which is what helps relax the body. It has also been reported to help with insomnia, headaches and other stress related symptoms. In restorative yoga we spend a lot of time connecting with and anchoring our thought to our breath. By doing this we enhance respiratory and cardiovascular function. This practice has also been proven to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain. Studies show that different styles of yoga including restorative yoga are helpful interventions for the management of musculoskeletal pain.
One of my absolute favorite aspects is the bridge to meditation. In a restorative practice a body is completely supported by props, allowing us to go deeper into our practice mentally. Do not be discouraged if this does not happen right away. Day to day living, constantly thinking, and the fast paced going in our daily lives is not conducive to yoga, and like any new skill, relaxing the body in order to still the mind will take some practice. Meditation has been shown to have a huge amount of benefits, but starting a mediation practice is no small feat. Restorative yoga is a great starting point to build up this skill. By including mindfulness in our practice we often offer the time to just notice the body and sensations within it. We also encourage just observing our thoughts without any form of attachment, or engaging in them. By doing this, we create space in the brain for the big-S “Self”(higher state of consciousness) to notice the ego, and in this practice we become less attached to our thoughts and sensations in the body. Through the practice of meditative restorative yoga we also cultivate deeper spiritual growth, patience, compassion, skill and courage.
Restorative yoga has its roots in the yoga of B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune, India, author of the contemporary classic Light on Yoga who developed a yoga that allows students to practice without any strain or pain. This style of yoga became popular in the United States in the 1970s, mainly thanks to yoga teacher and often dubbed the founding mother of restorative yoga, Judith Lasater, who was a student of Iyengar. Judith Hanson Lasater has taught yoga since 1971 and was a founder of the San Francisco Iyengar Yoga Institute ,as well as Yoga Journal, where she wrote the popular “asana” column for 13 years. She is the author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times and Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. Lasater holds a degree in physical therapy and a Ph.D. in East-West psychology. She is renowned for working with all levels of students, from beginners to teachers, with respect and humor. Restorative yoga is one of her specialties.
If you this all sounds amazing to you I highly recommend you come to my class on Wednesday nights at 6pm! You will need your yoga mat, 2 blocks, a yoga bolster and a blanket!
I will soon have restorative practices available online as well, so keep an eye out for that! I hope you join me soon!
Shanti, my friends.