"We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep, we rarely take time to relax. Restorative yoga poses help us learn to rest deeply and completely."
Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., PT
WHAT TO EXPECT
I often explain at the beginning of a class that Restorative Yoga is yoga is not yoga for the body per-se, but for the nervous system. When the pace of life is fast, our minds move fast too, and when we are also attracted exclusively to strong, fast-moving yoga practices, we can easily overstimulate ourselves — and our nervous system bears the brunt. We may end up compounding our stress-related symptoms, feeling easily overwhelmed and even more tired.
A typical Restorative Yoga class with me uses ambient music and dimmed lighting, we usually only do a few poses and hold each one for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Instead of actively stretching your muscles (like in a Yin Yoga class), we use props — blankets, straps, blocks and bolsters — to support your weight and allow your muscles to fully relax and release. We do this because stretching is an irritant to the nervous system, so if our muscles are even a little bit engaged then our nervous system is aroused, and we want the opposite; to enter parasympathetic response and find deep rest and relaxation. Then we simply lie there not doing anything; just being. Something many of us feel too guilty or stressed out to do on our own.
Many people find their first class challenging, not physically, but mentally. They notice that their mind runs on despite their body being still and often blame the class as the cause for this. I encourage these people to persevere; often it is not the class that is causing your busy mind; it is allowing you the space and the opportunity to experience the present moment as it actually is - busy mind and all - something we rarely allow ourselves to do.
As with everything; practice is key; a consistent Restorative Yoga practice can be a buffer to stress; all the organ systems of the body are benefited during deep relaxation and stress-related symptoms fade away. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and digestion, as well as reduce muscle tension and general fatigue, and over time you will also notice that the mind quietens to match the body.
“Everything is better when you are rested. One thing being tired, depleted and stressed out does is it narrows our perspective. It is so uncomfortable to be in our body and in our mind in those moments, and so when we are caught up with our own discomfort it is like we have blinders on to everyone else’s. We are not generous of spirit in that moment. We have no energy to do for others, to do for ourselves. What we need to do is notice that, understand its causes and conditions, and then take one small step towards resting.”
Judith Hanson Lasater