The idea of restorative yoga is to promote deep relaxation while holding the poses for longer periods of time, with the help of props.
The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, promoting relaxation, which helps balance and heal the body. This practice is great to balance an active yoga schedule or to give yourself a break when you feel under the weather.
Restorative Yoga balances a fast lifestyle and has an enormous capacity to heal physical and mental symptoms that are stress related
Origins & History
Restorative Yoga is derived from a yoga style that was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar is widely regarded as one of the greatest yoga masters in the world. Iyengar has been practicing yoga for over 60 years.
Iyengar’s vast teaching experience showed him how pain or injury could sometimes happen when you strain too hard in a pose. He developed and adapted asanas using props and modifications so that a student could practice without pain or strain. Upon exploring these adapted poses more, it has been seen that they also help people recover from illness or other existing injuries.
Judith Lasater, a student of Iyengar, popularised restorative yoga in the US in the 1970’s.
Philosophy and Principles
The main philosophy of Restorative Yoga is that by relaxing in poses, with the aid of props, without strain or pain, we can achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
Our parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated when we relax into poses, which promotes a relaxation response and reduces stress in our bodies. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for slowing your heart rate and breath and increasing blood flow to your vital organs, among other things.
The goal is to combat the physical and mental effects of everyday stress and ease common ailments such as headaches, backaches, anxiety, and insomnia with the use of restful poses and deep breathing techniques.
A principle of note includes cultivating the habit of attention. The mind should always focus on the breath. When you notice your mind wandering bring it back to the breath. Focus on where and how you hold tension and use the breath to release the tension. Breathe into the area identified and on the exhale release the tension.
Restorative Practice Today
Restorative yoga classes are usually very relaxing and slow paced. Don’t come prepared for a workout. A restorative class is about rejuvenation and renewal. The lights may be dimmed, with music playing and plenty of socks present! Props, like blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps: are used so that you are in your pose comfortably. You will then hold the pose for an extended period of time.
When you are practicing restorative yoga, you will feel a sense of motionlessness and shapelessness, and this can lead you to feel some emotional discomfort and vulnerability. Stay with the breath and allow it to pass. Many yoga instructors include some restorative poses at the end of their normal active routine.
• Enhances flexibility
• Deeply relaxes the body
• Stills the mind
• Improves capacity for healing and balancing
• Balances the nervous and immune system
• Boosts immunity
• Enhances your mood
To read more on restorative yoga have a look at Esthers article: Why Restorative Yoga?