“Life needn’t be all about movement. Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary “to do” nothing.”
There is something about Restorative Yoga that makes me love it more and more as the years go by. So much so that it has become an indispensible part of my daily practice and teaching. Yes, it is less popular than the other contemporary dynamic forms of yoga because of its slow pace. However, when our pace of life is getting busier and crazier by the day, an hour or so of slowing down with some gentle poses is exactly what the body and mind needs.
For the uninitiated, Restorative yoga is exactly that. It helps restore, rejuvenate, reflect and recuperate. It comprises gentle passive stretches, usually with the help of props that helps you relax. Props such as blankets, pillows, bolsters and blocks help in holding poses for a long time without any discomfort. Restorative poses include gentle supine twists and backbends along with forward folds (seated). They need to be held for a minimum of five minutes. Yes, you guessed right. There is very little movement here but the long holds ensure the muscles are allowed to deeply relax.
Restorative yoga can be easily practiced at home if you are familiar with some of the basic postures. It may take some time getting used to it but once you settle into a pose, the experience is very refreshing.
Some major benefits of restorative yoga are:
Tight muscles are not just a sign of a stiff body but also of mental stress. During times of mental or physical distress, the body’s natural instinct is to clench the deep muscles. Constant stress means constantly tight muscles (esp in the hips and shoulders) with no counteractive respite. Restorative yoga helps release muscular, emotional and mental stress.
Sleeping Pigeon Pose: Supported by a bolster and block, this pose is one of the best hip openers
With regular practice, tight areas of the body slowly start opening up making the body more bendy and flexi. In fact, static stretches help improving flexibility faster than dynamic poses.
Yes, the magic words which make everyone sit up and notice. Most of us are under the impression that only dynamic styles of yoga like Ashtanga and Vinyasa can help lose flab. However, restorative poses when held for more than 5 mins help in losing the subcutaneous fat. Also, restorative poses reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone; high levels of this hormone contribute directly towards weight gain especially in the abdomen.
Twisted child’s pose supported by a bolster
Balances the Nervous System
To understand this in depth, it is important to understand the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity. It increases heart rate, cortisol levels, blood pressure, and muscle tension. On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s rest and digest function. It lowers heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, cortisol and blood sugar levels. Thanks to modern life, most of us have an over-active sympathetic nervous system, living under a high level of stress for a long period of time. Restorative yoga helps us relax, balancing our nervous system.
Let to wall pose or Viparitakarani with the help of the wall and a blanket below the back. It’s also a mild inversion.
Healing and Injury Recovery
Last but foremost. Restorative yoga works wonders during recovery from several setbacks such as chronic fatigue, chemotherapy, a bad bout of flu or any sports injury. It creates an ideal from for healing, helping you slow down, take rest and recover. Also, athletes suffering from injuries or burnout can benefit from restorative poses without undergoing any vigorous workouts.
Viparitadandasana supported by a chair and a bolster. You can place a bolster or block under your feet also for greater comfort.
Personally speaking, as someone who is very prone to injuries, the slow and gentle yoga poses have healed me, strengthened me and most importantly, given me hope when all else failed. As a yoga practitioner, it has helped me take mindfulness –body, breath, mind, thoughts, emotions…..to the next level. Effortlessly.
About the Author: Yasmin Remedios is a freelance writer and yoga teacher. After healing a chronic back with yoga, she quit her full-time corporate career and trained for a year to become a yoga teacher at The Yoga Institute, Santacruz. Yoga helped her evolve physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. She’s never looked back since then.