BY TRISHA CURLING
I have heard a lot of people say things like, “I’m not flexible enough for yoga”, “It’s too slow”, and/or “It’s just too hard and not for me.”
I’m sure you’ve probably heard other people say things like that, or maybe you have said one or all of those things yourself. However, there is a really accessible way to practice yoga, especially if you are hesitant to try it for the first time.
It’s Restorative Yoga and it is a definite game changer. It is a fairly newer style of yoga; however, it is said to have been developed out of the Iyengar tradition (using props to facilitate better alignment and support without straining in a particular pose). B.K.S. Iyengar (also known as “the father of modern yoga”) had a desire to create a practice that would lend more to therapeutics. Restorative is a wonderful access point into the world of yoga. In Gail Boorstein Grossman’s Book Restorative Yoga for Life, she says “We are not human ‘doings’, we are human ‘beings.” In our increasingly fast paced society, restorative yoga is something so many of us really need to deeply look into in order for us to take the time to just “be”.
In my personal journey, I was introduced to this amazing way to practice. Initially, I thought yoga had to be active and athletic. I believed that this was the only way I would achieve benefits like weight loss, flexibility and strength. I didn’t know that there were additional ways to tap into the systems in my body that would actually support those goals without having to do an “active” practice and/or an intense workout all the time. It’s true, restorative yoga is passive, with more subtle movements and/or no movement in a given pose, due to the fact that many poses are executed with the support of bolsters, blocks, blankets and/or straps. Generally, poses are held anywhere from 5-10 minutes while completely relaxed and this is exactly why it is so beneficial.
Yoga as a whole, really allows you to look inward. Restorative yoga, in my opinion has a powerful ability to do so, due to the fact that it gives you the time to be still. It gives you time to pay attention to your breathing, pay attention to your thoughts. How does it do this? Because we are taking the time to be still and more present, our bodies and our minds can actually get an opportunity to relax. Restorative yoga taps into the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and relaxation response). Our bodies perform and function more optimally when we are in a state of reduced stress and tension. This is how it can directly have a positive impact on something as important as weight loss. When we are stressed our levels of cortisol are increased in the body, which leads to the increase of glucose, which in turn causes an increase in fat. Isn’t it nice to be told to be still and relax in order to create more balance with the other healthy ways we must utilize in order to do something as important as achieving a healthy body weight? There are so many other benefits to restorative yoga, both physical and psychological. Restorative yoga can help to relieve sciatica, provide relief from headaches, reduce stress and increase energy. I do not only recommend this practice to my clients, I prescribe it to myself whenever I am feeling out of balance and overstressed. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to take the time to be present, to breath, to be still.