I have practiced yoga for years and find deep peace in moving through the poses as it allows me to feel free and strong in my body and mind. Many yoga classes focus on active asana and end with a five to ten minute Savasana, a time for rest and integration. Most students (including myself) are just starting to let go when the teacher says it’s time to roll to your side and come to sitting.
I am a big believer that we need movement in our life to keep our bodies strong and supple. However, we tend not to devote as much time to deep relaxation. I have personally been working on showing more compassion towards myself through cultivating the things in my life that help me rest and renew. One of these being restorative yoga.
Restorative yoga uses props to support the body and promote deep relaxation, bringing you to a place where it is easier to let go. This form of yoga strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for slowing the heart rate, relaxing blood vessels, promoting digestion, and calming the brain.
In my restorative yoga classes, I teach 3 – 5 long held poses depending on the length of the class. The first pose is typically a reclined 30-degree angle pose, which helps to transition from the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. I use guided relaxation and breath awareness to encourage students to shift from their outside word into this deeply restful environment.
This is followed by a lower lying pose and/or a gentle backbend. The use of props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks, and straps is an integral part of restorative yoga. It is important that students feel perfectly comfortable as any discomfort will only intensify as the pose progresses. Adjustments are made to accommodate your unique needs. Finally, class ends with a supported Savasana, many times with legs elevated for a gentle inversion.
Listen to your body. Instead of pushing through fatigue, slow down and take care. For a simple restorative yoga pose, place your legs on a chair and a pillow under your head. Then cover yourself with a blanket. All you’ll have left to do is breathe and let go.