I was always one of those type-A, go-go-go people. I enjoyed only the most powerful and challenging yoga flows. Otherwise, you´d find me weightlifting, running or swimming laps until my muscles couldn´t take it any longer. This meant that I sustained many injuries throughout my life. It also meant that I missed out on the benefits of slowing down.
When I first heard of restorative yoga and even when I took my first class, I felt I was wasting my time. My brain ran through to-do lists, and sometimes my heart pounded. I didn´t think it was any fun. Thankfully, because I’m hard-headed, I stuck with it. I read all about the benefits of easing into supported asana poses and I was determined to figure this out!
Restorative yoga has since become a regular part of my asana practice, especially in the evenings, when I´m traveling, or when I´m stressed out. I still gravitate towards sweaty challenging asana flows, but restorative yoga plays a vital role in my physical, mental and emotional recovery.
While some may think (as I did) of restorative yoga as something akin to taking a nap (it isn´t), as a waste of time and energy or something reserved only for people with severe physical limitations or the very elderly, restorative yoga has benefits for each and every one of us.
When you enter a pose where muscles and joints are supported by props – bolsters, pillows, blocks, blankets – and you allow yourself to relax and surrender, focusing on your breath, your body and mind acquire the rest and digest response. This is the complete opposite to fight or flight mode, which is where we seem to spend most of our time in!
I´m sharing only a couple of poses here. One is a heart opener, meaning it will help improve posture, breathe more easily and improve your mood while helping you relax. The other is a forward fold, which has a calming and nurturing effect. The more supported your body is, the better.
Play some relaxing music while enjoying these poses. Count your breaths, focus on a mantra or simply be. Maybe diffuse some calming essential oils, like lavender, or apply them to your wrist. Now I stay in each pose for as long as I am comfortable, but at first I used to use a timer. I would set it for around 5 minutes to start with. I made sure the sound was a soothing chime so I wouldn´t be jostled out of my serene state.
Read more about restorative yoga on Yoga Journal.