We live in a busy, fast-paced world. We run from one commitment to another, working at our jobs, taking care of children, maintaining relationships with friends and family members, and trying to find time to enjoy our hobbies. In our society, taking time out to take care of ourselves and rest is often seen as lazy, unmotivated behavior. Sometimes it feels like the only time we really get any rest is when we sleep.
Taking time out for a regular yoga practice is a way of honoring our need for rest, and restorative yoga takes that to another level. Restorative yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga that involves using props to hold relaxing poses for an extended period of time. This style of yoga promotes deep relaxation, of both our bodies and minds. In our stressed-out world, taking time out to honor our bodies and their sacred healing powers has never been more crucial to our holistic health.
Restorative yoga works on our parasympathetic nervous system, the system in our body responsible for rest, digestion, energy conservation, and heart rate. When we sent the parasympathetic nervous system signals to relax, it responds by sending calming messages to the rest of our body. As our body returns to balance, we experience less stress, better sleep, and a multitude of other benefits.
At Inspiring Actions, we offer restorative yoga classes at both our Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin studios, as well as a virtual class! In our Flow and Restore class, we’ll start with flowing poses that help warm up the muscles, followed by restorative poses to facilitate deep relaxation and healing. In our Restorative Yoga class, the entire class focuses on relaxing, supported postures. Check out our full class list here, and read on to learn more about the amazing benefits of restorative yoga!
What is Restorative Yoga?
The goal of restorative yoga is complete, deep relaxation, the kind you might experience while meditating or right before falling asleep. Poses are held for several minutes with the aid of props like blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps.
Restorative yoga is similar to yin yoga in that poses are held for longer than in other styles, but in yin yoga the focus is on stretching connective tissues while in restorative, the focus is on allowing the body to relax and heal. From this relaxed state, the body calms down and can return to homeostasis.
In a restorative yoga class, you will be guided through a series of postures that are designed to relax certain parts of the body. With the use of props, you will find a comfortable, sustainable position within the pose and focus on deep breathing.
The idea is to relax as much as possible, maybe even sending your breath toward the area being stretched to stimulate energy flow. With more dynamic movement like in ashtanga yoga or a cardio workout, we are focusing on increasing flexibility through contracting the muscles; the aim in restorative yoga is to release and soften.
When we practice asana, or the poses of yoga, we are typically focusing on ‘doing’ the pose, and this implies effort on our part. With restorative yoga, we focus on ‘receiving’ the pose. We do this by avoiding strain, relaxing into our personal version of the pose, and surrendering. The concept of surrender simply means that we completely let go, of our expectations, our regrets, our plans, our desires. For the time spent in our restorative yoga pose, we focus only on giving our body and mind space and time to heal.
What are the Benefits of Restorative Yoga?
The benefits of restorative yoga stem from the way it relaxes our body and provides a much-needed opportunity for the body to return to a state of equilibrium. One of the ways it does this is through our breath. When we practice restorative yoga, we focus on deep, calming breaths, more so than in any other type of yoga.
Most of the time, we pay no attention to our breath. We breath unconsciously, and often with restriction. When we focus on deep, belly breaths and making both our in and out breaths longer, we are essentially promoting the opposite of the fight or flight response that causes us so much stress and anxiety.
Stress-related illnesses are more prevalent in our society than ever. Heart disease, premature aging, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and many others are either caused or exacerbated by stress.
Stress increases our blood pressure and heart rate, wreaks havoc on our digestive system, causes sleep problems, and takes up a lot of our energy. Restorative yoga addresses this problem in a holistic way, focusing on the root cause of stress rather than individual symptoms.
Here are a few more of the many benefits of restorative yoga:
- Balances the nervous system
- Balances the immune system
- Promotes deep relaxation
- Quiets the mind
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves flexibility
Who is Restorative Yoga Best for?
Restorative yoga is best for those seeking deep relaxation, for people who need to balance out a more physically strenuous exercise routine, and those who experience illness, injury, or physical limitations. Mindful relaxation is something everyone can benefit from; in this way, you can think of restorative yoga as a sort of ‘active’ meditation. It has the added benefit of relaxing certain parts of the body while calming and quieting the mind through the breath.
Having a regular yoga or exercise routine does wonderful things for your health. We might experience focus during our yoga class or out for our daily jog, but the point is that we are active, just like we are in our daily life. In restorative yoga, the focus is passive. We let go of activity, of haste, and of strain. Restorative yoga can help balance our a more dynamic physical routine, while increasing our flexibility and our ability to access deeper states of meditation.
Restorative yoga is also great for beginners. The poses are held for extended periods, so you have a chance to learn it before moving on to the next. Your instructor will introduce each pose as if it were new to everyone in the class, and suggest modifications to help you find the position in which you can fully let go. At Inspiring Actions, you do not need any experience to join our restorative classes; you don’t even need your own mat! Visit our full class list here; we’ll save a spot for you!