Restorative yoga ... those delicious (usually) 90 minutes of mostly floor-based postures--supported with a variety of props--that ask no more of us than complete surrender. Who wouldn't relish the idea of lolling around on a bolster with eyes closed, with nothing more to do than, well, nothing? Those of us who have trouble quieting our own minds.
Many who find yoga come for the muscle-lengthening, balance challenges, and (if they frequent a hot power studio) a brisk, sweaty flow. But given that our lives revolve around our mobile phones and have-it-your-way NOW expectations, a restorative practice provides a counter that's hard to find in a vinyasa class.
Ah, but there's the rub--restorative yoga provides the stillness, silence and support the body desires--craves, even. But many of us find it impossible to stop do-ing, and just be. Thoughts swirl, limbs fidget and frustrations surface. But when you turn your attention to physical sensations and the rise and fall of your own breath, you'll soon find your body responding by softening into the blankets and cushions, and releasing in a way that's as satisfying as a full night's sleep.
I've written about both slow flow and yin yoga here before, but restorative yoga is different. Most slow flow classes are stripped-down vinyasa classes, where we move through standing and other postures with intention and an extra focus on breath. While mostly floor-based and slow like restorative classes, yin sessions instead ask us to move into postures to our own depth, then remain still and hold for several minutes. By contrast, Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, PT defines the restorative practice as "the use of props to create positions of ease and comfort that facilitate relaxation and health." As a result, she explains in her new book Restore and Rebalance: Yoga for Deep Relaxation, it's "a practice ... for people of all ages, at all levels of yoga experience, and in all states of health." J. Brown doesn't call her the "restorative yoga queen" for nothing!
Want to give it a try? Check out Judith's book, or look for a restorative class at your local studio. I have two restorative classes coming up this month--both feature optional essential oils, hands-on support, and reiki:
I'd love to hear about your restorative yoga experience!