Benefits of Restorative Yoga
Our modern lives can be pretty hectic. I personally really enjoy the intensity and energy of my life. I'm drawn to big cities and buzzing atmospheres. I have many hobbies and am involved with some awesome communities. I prefer to be challenged by work and enjoy an abundance of social interactions. Sound familiar? Many of us lead very busy and full lives, which is why it is so important to cultivate balance through a restorative yoga practice.
I find that my practice of yoga sometimes mirrors the fast pace of life; I like classes that are dynamic and stimulating that make me move and sweat. However, nothing feels as good as Savasana aka Corpse pose. Savasana is considered to be one of the most, if not the most important pose in our practice. When we have enough time to be in the pose, we have the opportunity to enter a state of Yogic sleep, a state of deep relaxation and dis-identification with the monkey-mind.
I like to think of Restorative Yoga as a practice of different variations of Savasana. The poses are completely supported with props so that we don’t have to strain to be in or stay in them, allowing us to drop into a deep Yogic sleep. When we take an active asana practice, we intentionally put our bodies into intense situations in order to find release. In the practice of restorative yoga we do the opposite; we fully support the body and try to be as passive as possible in order to release. In other words, two different methods of getting to the same goal – entering into a space in which we can let go of all the layers of who we aren’t in order to drop deep into who we are.
The benefits of an active asana practice are evident, not only do you get to have really profound experiences, but you get a workout as well. So what are the benefits of a passive practice?
- Restorative Yoga is healing for the body and mind.
It engages our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which takes the body into the “rest and digest” state. This state is incredibly healing. This is why after an injury or surgery it’s so important to rest; we heal when we rest, not when we run around. In this state our tissues renew and rejuvenate themselves, our cells and tissues and organs get to live out their purpose and prosper. Our active Yoga practice helps to discipline our Sympathetic Nervous System, in charge of the “fight or flight” response, which is very important for our health, but we need to engage our PNS in order to heal.
- Long supported holds of poses allow us to really engage in the benefits of the poses.
In an active practice we don’t spend much time in each pose. For example, we can only be in a deep backbend for a few breaths before it becomes fatiguing. But in a restorative practice, the body is supported and we can stay in the poses for long periods of time and really let them do their magic. In that way the poses enhance flexibility, nourish fertility, balance our hormonal activity and lymphatic system and aid our immune and digestive systems as well.
- Reduce stress.
In our fast paced lives it’s crucial for us to find time and space to be still. It’s incredibly beneficial to create space to physically let go of the hold of our muscles, release the muscle tonus, and relieve our body from chronic strain. That’s why we use props, to create a base of support that encourages us to let go.
- Create space for emotional healing.
In a way, we hold our emotional issues in our bodies. By physically toning down, deep seeded issues can come up and wash out of our systems. That’s why we may find ourselves experiencing joy, confusion, frustration, or fear during our practice, or even weeping in Savasana. This means feelings are coming up and cycling through.
These are just a few benefits of a Restorative Yoga practice. Just like any other method of Yoga, when we continually show up and nourish our relationship with our practice and with ourselves, it can be profoundly transformative.