What is Restorative Yoga?

restorative yogaRestorative yoga is designed to restore your body and mind. In a class, you will only do a handful of postures, but you will hold them for five or more minutes per side. With the slow pace, you are able to focus on the present moment, your form, and releasing tension.

Many props support you to help you stay comfortable. These props can include blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, and eye pillows. Even chairs or the wall can be props when doing Restorative yoga.

According to Yoga Journal, Restorative yoga is based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and include gentle twists, supported backbends, and supported forward folds. The key is that you get into your yoga posture, use props to make you feel comfortable and supported, then let your body and mind relax.

Softening into the stillness is often the tricky part of this style of yoga practice. If you’re not sure what I mean, take a comfortable seat, completely clear your mind so that you think of nothing (literally), and then keep doing that for the next 5 minutes. For many people, the mind will wander and the body will fidget. The trick is to keep reigning yourself back in. Return to the present moment and your practice.

For people who are extremely active, Restorative yoga’s slow pace can be a particular challenge. It’s good to have variety and do things that we would not normally do. If you’re wondering what it is like to be an active person going to a Restorative yoga class, here is an article by Eric C. Stevens. His observations about the difficulty of being still and staying in the present moment are very real, even for people who would not describe themselves as active.

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

The benefits associated with Restorative yoga practice are:

  • Restorative yoga helps you slow down.
  • Breathing in a supported, comfortable position will lead to relaxation.
  • As you stay in the present moment on your mat, you will experience an increase in mind/body awareness.
  • This slow pace and deep breathing is soothing to the nervous system.
  • Through the class, you will experience increased mindfulness as you remind yourself to stay present on your mat.
  • The support of the props helps you feel safe and nurtured.
  • As you practice, you will be able to acknowledge and move on. Sure, you’re feeling tightness or like you need to squirm, but those feelings don’t serve you here. Let them go.
  • After your practice, you should sleep better. Many people report that they sleep very soundly after practicing Restorative yoga.

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What is your favorite Restorative yoga pose? Let us know in the comments below.

For those who would like to give Restorative yoga a try, here is a video from Anita Goa.

Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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