If I had to choose one kind of asana to be my whole physical practice, I would choose Restorative Yoga without a doubt. I think when I say this to people there are a lot of preconceived judgements that I am not into an active, sweaty and physical class. Anyone who has taken a Vinyasa class with me recently can definitely share that this is not true. I love being physical, working hard and smart with my body, and getting very sweaty while jumping around using my energy in a joyful way. Also, I can think of a million ways to be active. I would miss Vinyasa Yoga very much but I think I could find a way to fill it’s role in my life. There is only one Restorative Yoga.
Okay, yes there are actually many different variations of what Restorative Yoga classes can look like. They all have a few things in common.
A general answer to the question “What is Restorative Yoga?”
- Restorative Yoga postures are held for longer times, 5-30 minutesish
- Restorative Yoga uses props. Blocks, blankets, bolsters, chairs, etc. to support you in a pose so that you don’t have to hold yourself up.
- Restorative Yoga uses archetypal alignment to support the body in poses that encourage the most efficient function of your joints, vital organ, and nervous system.
A more specific answer, if you are taking my Restorative Yoga class or one like it: Restorative Yoga is a relaxation practice which uses supported positions, breathing and meditation techniques to de-escalate your nervous system. In my opinion there is nothing else like it and I love it very much. I also believe with all of my heart that every human needs a relaxation practice to be well and to realize their full potential.
It’s taken me years to come to the phrase “de-escalate your nervous system.” I wouldn’t be surprised if you have no idea what that means because I think I’ve made it up. Imagine that you’re having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Everything feels painful, the world is crashing down around you. Your stress levels are at an all time high, a TEN OUT OF TEN. Stress is not an imaginary thing or all in your head, it’s a state of being in your nervous system.
The chances are that if you are the most stressed that you can be, a Restorative Yoga practice might not take you down to feeling great and at ease and a 0 out of 10 on the stress scale. That’s really a lot to ask and in a lot of circumstances, only time can do that. What practicing relaxation will do for you in this state is settle you down. Help you feel better. When I feel like my stress is a 10, I would be incredibly grateful to feel like I was at a 6 or 7. Your nervous system actually does work as more of a gradient rather than an on/off switch, as you probably experience. You are not either STRESSED or RELAXED, you are constantly mediating and navigating the entire spectrum of human feelings.
You can be stressed and at ease simultaneously in varying degrees. Restorative Yoga has helped me experience relaxation during stressful times of my life. I am still uncomfortable and unhappy in some parts of myself, and I am able to see a larger picture of myself where there exist other parts that feel calm and peaceful. There will always be circumstances I can not control that may make me feel uneasy, and there will always be a peaceful and stable energy inside of myself that I can connect to which helps me feel better.
You need rest. Real rest, which means time without sensory input and stimulation. Still, quiet, dark space where you can process. This is how you digest, your food, your experiences and your emotions. Netflix binging and drinking wine with your friends are a good time but they are not rest. Many of our “unwinding” activities are actually still stimulating, most humans go days or even weeks without any true quiet space. This isn’t healthy, it’s damaging and results in chronic stress and chronic fatigue. Restorative Yoga practice is an antidote for these symptoms and this lack of true rest. It can heal a frazzled nervous system. It has healed me over and over again.
I could continue to elaborate on reasons to practice Restorative Yoga. The physical benefits, psychological, that it’s linked with weight loss, honestly there are books full of benefits. Instead, I really just want to encourage you to practice Restorative Yoga. I currently teach four classes each week that are either 100% Restorative or 50% Restorative practice. If you live in NYC and can not afford one of my classes please reach out to me. If you can not make it to my Restorative classes, that’s okay! Practice wherever and whenever you can. Learn your favorite poses and practice them at home, one time once in a while is not enough to touch the true potential of the practice.
Do you love Restorative Yoga? Are you one of the many humans who struggle with stillness and rest? Let’s talk! Leave a comment or reach out via email to elizabeth [at] love-by-e.com and tell me what Restorative is like for you.