When you think of Restorative Yoga, you might imagine a relaxing yoga class with some meditation thrown in. On the surface, you would be right. But look a little deeper and there is so much more to a Restorative Yoga class than you think.
Restorative Yoga has it’s origins in the B.K.S Iyengar Yoga tradition, with it’s heavy use of props to allow a student to go deeper into an asana (pose) than they normally would. B.K.S Iyengar recognised that students could easily injure themselves physically if they strained or overdid their asana practice. So, props were (and are) a great tool to allow a student to practice without pain and thus delve deeper.
In Restorative Yoga, calming and relaxing asanas are generally used with the aid of props. This allows a student to settle and soften into a pose with comfort and ease. The practice is usually done at a slower pace, and poses are held for longer than a usual class to allow for this settling and softening action. Students are then able to physically go deeper and relax tense and sore muscles, and then after a time are able to settle and relax their mind, thus reducing anxiety and stress.
In a world where we seem to always be on fast forward and where our society rewards ‘busyness’, Restorative Yoga has found a place in forcing us to stop, listen and connect with ourselves. I love this practice so much because it challenges us to shut out the external world and connect within. By slowing down, we can relax and help heal our tired and sore bodies, and give our busy mind a rest.
I often include some Restorative Yoga principles in each of my yoga classes- at the beginning and end of each class. The beginning is important as it allows us to focus and disconnect from the outside world, and at the end to help us centre and balance energy created from the asana practice.
I also love to offer a specific Restorative Yoga and Meditation workshop. I do these several times each year, as we don’t stop enough, we don’t connect or relax enough. I do this for my own benefit too. Restorative Yoga practiced together is a quiet and connecting practice. I always start with a breathing exercise, followed by breath in connection with movement. Poses with plenty of pillows and props to make settling and relaxing easy to do. I often also incorporate some gentle neck and spinal massage to release lingering tension. Gentle movements, gentle words and gentle touch make for a very therapeutic experience.
I encourage my students to keep focussed on their breath and also keep their mind unplugged from the external world, so that they can feel each asana deeply and with care. This gentle and slow yoga class helps set students up for a deeper meditation practice. Most students find that they struggle with meditation, so I like to make it as simple and enjoyable for them as possible. In these workshops, I often use a guided meditation technique and focus on body awareness, then settling on particular images or places in which a student might like to find themselves. Guided meditation is easy to access and provides a focus tool for students. Their mind has something to do and is less distracted. Also after a soft and introspective Restorative Yoga session, students are even more willing to take themselves deeper.