Taking the time to slow down, focus inwards, and give your body and mind the attention it needs is necessary in a world where we are constantly on the go. Stress and tension have become the norm, rather than an occasional affliction, and many of us aren’t doing enough to combat it. Thankfully, restorative yoga allows you to do just that. Yoga that is more movement-centered tends to be more popular in amongst modern day yogis in the West, but restorative yoga touches on techniques that allow you to fully relax—something many of us neglect to do on a regular basis.
Restorative yoga generally includes a majority of seated and reclined postures. It heavily incorporates yoga props, such as blankets, blocks, bolsters, and straps, to make poses accessible and comfortable. The classes are slow paced, generally focusing on just a few postures and holding them for an extended amount of time without force or strain, and very focused on breathing, or pranayama. The combination of slow, gentle stretching and intentional breathing allows for a rejuvenating and healing experience that we so desperately need in this fast-paced world.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
Increases Flexibility: Holding yoga postures for an extended period of time allows you to increase your flexibility, so long as you stay dedicated to a consistent practice. The poses in a restorative yoga class rely on props and gravity to reach the pose, rather than overstretching and potentially causing strain, so you’ll be safely increasing your flexibility.
Balances the Nervous System: Restorative yoga helps to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for feeling calmer and more relaxed. The gentle postures and deep breathing help your heart rate and breathing rate slow down, as well as lower your blood pressure, helping you to reach a healthier and more blissful state. We are often over-stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to an excess in release of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone), so restorative yoga can help to balance out those two sides, leaving you healthier and happier.
Releases Stress and Tension: Restorative yoga not only calms the mind, but also lets you focus on where you are holding physical tension in your body. By doing a practice that brings a high level of awareness to the physical state of your body, you’ll be able to focus in on different areas and see where you need to relax and let go.
Encourages Deep Relaxation: A restorative yoga class allows you to reach a level of relaxation that you may not be able to attain when taking a class that is more physically demanding. The gentle pace and focus on breathing will encourage you to truly let go and relax.
Increases Mindfulness: Mindfulness has become a hot topic in recent times, but regular restorative yoga practitioners have been aware of it for quite some time. The practice allows you to bring awareness to your body and mind, and encourages you to fully focus on the present moment, rather than external factors.
If you find yourself turning towards fast-paced yoga classes or extreme workout routines, you may want to try incorporating restorative yoga into your schedule to complement your more intense physical activity. Adding it to a workout activity that is already strengthening and challenging your body will create a well-rounded physical routine that pushes your physical limits, while also healing and restoring both the body and mind.