The Power of Restorative Yoga
The weekend just gone I embarked on a teacher training for a style of Yoga that I have become increasingly interested in the more I understand myself. That style is Restorative Yoga.
Restorative Yoga was first discovered by the renowned Yoga practitioner BKS Iyengar. He first began using this style of Yoga for students who were ill or injured so that they could practice Yoga passively whilst on their road to recovery. Using multiple comfortable props to support the body, students were allowed to stretch incredibly softly in a longer hold position with no movement. After watching these students practice and seeing some of the benefits, he started introducing the practice to all of his students.
So, besides from sounding totally yummy laying around on props for an hour (who doesn’t want to do THAT), why is Restorative Yoga so beneficial?
We live in a world that is constantly stimulated. Stimulated by substances, media, foodstuffs and stressors in work or our personal lives. Our nervous systems were never designed to cope with the level of stimulation we receive in todays world. The Sympathetic Nervous System (the part of our nervous system that was designed to switch on only when we were running away from a bear) remains active most of the time for most people. It has been studied that the affects of long term activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System can be detrimental, triggering high blood pressure and a multitude of other stress related illnesses. The stress we feel in todays society is silent, but deadly.
But there is hope. In the 1960’s, Dr Herbert Benson rediscovered a state that could change the way we treat stress and stress related illnesses. His theory was that if we could switch on The Sympathetic Nervous System through certain activities and stimuli, we could do the same thing with the Parasympathetic Nervous System, or the ‘anti-anxiety’ response. He noticed that practices such as meditation, Restorative Yoga, Tai Chi, even running in a meditative state or any kind of ‘flow state’ activity allowed people to enter what he calls ‘The Relaxation Response’. The Relaxation Response is a term relating to a physical state of deep rest that changes a persons physiological and emotional responses to stress. This state of rest can begin to heal our bodies and minds, physically changing the neuron pathways in the brain and in some cases, our DNA.
The gorgeous, lifechanging practice of Restorative Yoga focuses on low effort and maximum comfort. With generally no more than 3 or 4 poses in an hour class teamed with a peaceful environment that down regulates the nervous system, Restorative Yoga allows practitioners a chance to release their mind and body through breath, mind/body awareness and blissful stillness. Some teachers even bring in gentle sound and other relaxation techniques. I will be sprinkling my classes with Yoga Nidra (Yogic sleep, an altered state of consciousness promoting deep rest). This style of Yoga could also be a lot more accessible for some practitioners, due to it’s slow and steady nature.
I can’t wait to have this medicine woven into workshops and as part of my weekly public and private offerings. I always find restorative Yoga so deeply nourishing and the affects I have felt from being immersed in the practice for a weekend are truly profound.
Have you ever practiced Restorative Yoga? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
This week we have kicked off another block of Yoga classes, and I have certainly been fuelled with inspiration from my training! Drop in spaces are still available for this 6 week block for both Monday and Wednesday classes. Please contact me for me details and to find out if there is a space available.
Private classes are available from your home for both Vinyasa Flow and Restorative. Take the opportunity to work one on one, with a deep dive into your practice and your needs. Private classes also make a beautiful gift voucher treat. With Mothers Day coming up, now is the perfect time to treat your mum to some deep rest.
And finally, I am delighted to say that we have totally SOLD out the ‘Listen’ Retreat this April in Andalucia. Due to popular demand, we have added a second set of dates in October! If you missed your chance for the April retreat, from October the 6th – 10th, you could be in the Andalucian hills, practicing overlooking the mountains of Morocco. See the ‘Listen’ retreat page for more details, and contact me directly to book your space.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead as we step into Spring.