Restorative Yoga: What your body needs.

In “Yoga for Wellness”, Gary Kraftsow describes Yoga Therapy (Yoga Cikitsa) as:

“a remedial tradition, founded on a recognition that our physical condition, emotional states, attitudes, dietary and behavioral patterns, lifestyle and personal associations, and the environment in which we live and work are all intimately linked to each other and to the state of our health.”

We live in a constant state of fluctuation and change in all these areas of our lives. Year to year, month to month, day to day, minute by minute our body is adjusting to both internal and external forces. The good news is that because nothing is static, our condition will (and has to) change. The question then becomes will it change for better or worse?
One of my yoga mentors Judith Lasater challenges her classes to ask the question this way…

”Is what I’m doing in the present moment healing or harmful to me right now?”

That’s a great question! Sometimes our body doesn’t need another mile on the treadmill or a late night TV show, or beating ourselves into a submissive exhaustion to feel effectively “worked out”. Sometimes the body just needs to be still & quiet. What I’m talking about is true Restorative Yoga.

What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative Yoga = The Antidote to Stress

Photo: Lululemon Athletica

True Restorative Yoga is the practice of relaxing deeply. It is being propped up, supported, held, and nurtured in a pose for a sustained period of time, typically from 5-30 minutes.

The power of quieting the mind and stilling the body is that it creates a state of rest that is different from sleep, one in which the body can heal and recover from deep states of chronic stress. It is a state where there is no effort, no movement, and the brain is quiet.

I introduce three poses in this restorative practice.

When practiced regularly, these quiet soothing poses allow (and help) our own internal healing processes to work—healing processes that can be overwhelmed by stress and disease. Just as it takes a repetitious lifting of heavy weight to build muscle, so to it takes allowing oneself to deeply relax in order to let the repair and healing process take place.

To experience a practice for yourself, follow the yoga practice in the video above.

Taking time out each day to relax and renew is essential to living well. The postures I share in the video above, when practiced regularly, will help heal the effects of chronic stress. They can be practiced individually in as little as 5 minutes to accommodate busy schedules or grouped together in a sequence simmering 5-30 minutes in each posture for a more complete 60-90 minute practice.

According to Judith Lasater in her book “Relax & Renew”, restorative poses work well for those times when you feel weak, fatigued, or stressed from your daily activities. They are especially beneficial for the times before, during, and after major life events: death of a loved one, change of job or residence, marriage, divorce, major holidays, and vacations. They are also helpful when recovering from an illness or injury.

Are you in a constant state of going from one thing to the next and always trying to “catch up” or “stay on top of it”? You could be on overload. The need to take time to repair and replenish is just as great as the need for us to move and be active. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. A good active practice alternating with a restorative practice at the right times can bring balance into our lives. Stress levels go down and tasks that once seemed difficult are suddenly more doable.

Because I’m a “doer” as in, I like to bike, hike, run, do yoga, and generally be active, I cherish the times I get to practice restoration. My body eats it up. I usually treat it once a week for 15-30 minutes to bring my body back into balance. Twice a year (usually around the holiday season and mid summer) I include a deeper practice of restore that comprises a daily 30-60 minute practice for an entire week. I feel like I’m plugging into a reservoir of energy juice. Like the Energizer Bunny, I’m renewed and feel like I can take on the world.