How does it work?
Unlike Iyengar, Ashtanga or Hatha yoga, restorative yoga is not designed to invigorate the mind whilst improving flexibility and strength. Instead, the focus is on gentle healing and deep, therapeutic relaxation; ‘being’ rather than the ‘doing’ of traditional yoga.
If you’re feeling a little (or quite a bit) burn out, then restorative yoga works to give your body a well earned rest using supportive, specially designed restful and restorative poses. Poses in restorative yoga are supposed to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system (or PSNS), which regulates the body’s response systems. Stimulating the PSNS is thought to lower heart rate and blood pressure, healthily balance the immune system and make sure that the endocrine system is operating properly.
Restorative yoga poses are meant to encourage passive stretching and often involve the use of props to support your weight and to help you hold them for longer. Typically, postures are adapted from supine or seated yoga poses which gently stretch the spine and the props used can include: yoga blocks (made from soft yet supportive foam) yoga straps (or ‘belts’ that help you to extend your reach when your arms can’t quite manage on their own e.g. when poses demand that you hold your feet) blankets (to provide height and support under your head and shoulders) yoga bolsters (for more substantial shoulder support) *chairs ...and even walls!
Restorative classes are led in the same way as regular yoga classes, with the teacher positioned at the front of the room, showing the class how to perform each posture before guiding them through the series of moves slowly. The mood is very relaxed, with the lights often dimmed and blankets provided for warmth (as you are not testing your body and producing heat like during normal yoga sessions). One everyone has successfully adopted the chosen pose with the help of props, it is often held for between ten and twenty minutes to allow your body to slowly stretch and relax.
Is it for me?
Restorative yoga is especially beneficial if you feel fatigued or stressed out as a result of everyday life and are looking for a way to add balance and calm to your body as well as your routine. The healing elements and lack of strenuous movement also make it ideal for those who are sick, recovering from childbirth or are nursing a minor injury.
Those with spinal problems or more severe injuries should avoid restorative yoga poses that may put pressure on damaged areas, worsening their condition. Pregnant women should also be aware that many restorative postures will be difficult or uncomfortable for them to reach (especially those which involve lying on your back as they are known to cause nausea in expectant mothers).
Good to know...
The creation of restorative yoga and the incorporation of props is credited to B.K.S. Iyengar from Pune, India, a yoga teacher who has been practicing for over sixty years and is still going strong.