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What is restorative yoga?
Stop. Relax. Release. Support. That’s the purpose of restorative yoga. By practising gentle, supported poses we’ll relieve the body and mind of excessive stress and tension.
The aim of restorative yoga is to eliminate the impact of stress on both the body and mind to the minimum. You could say it is a form of yoga therapy.
Each pose is held for several minutes during which we switch our nervous system from the sympathetic (fight-flight-freeze) to the parasympathetic (rest-digest) mode.
More info about the sympathetic and parasympathetic system in the dedicated blog post “Yoga, stress & nervous system”
“The name comes from the word restore – to bring back, to re-establish balance, to heal. Unlike the dynamic and often physically demanding practices of hatha or Ashtanga yoga, restorative asanas are held for much longer and are designed to help us rest and relax.
In restorative yoga we use pillows, bolsters, blocks, blankets and chairs etc. to support the body.”Restorativní jóga by Cail Boorstein Grossman.
Learning to BE – the passive practice
The main difference between restorative and other types of yoga is that this practice is completely passive.
We use bolsters, pillows, blankets, blocks and sometimes chairs to support the body as much as possible. Each pose is then held for a substantial amount of time – from 5 to 20 minutes which allows to body to truly relax.
Despite being a completely passive practice in terms of muscle involvement, restorative yoga can be very challenging for many. For quieting down the mind is no easy deed, especially in today’s busy world.
We often forget we are human beings and not machines. We need to rest. We need to re-charge. We need to release. And that is what restorative yoga can teach us. To be here and now. To be in our body. It teaches us to slow down and listen to our inner voice.
The science of restorative yoga
We already know that science look keenly on yoga. By practicing especially the slow and more meditative practices like restorative, we can help our nervous system to switch from the sympathetic (fight-flight-freeze) to the parasympathetic (rest-digest) mode.
You can find out more on this topic in the dedicated blog post Yoga, stress & nervous system”.
My path to restorative yoga
I first tried restorative yoga in 2019. It was after I came back to Czech after 3 yrs of undergraduate Film Production course in the UK. I discovered it at a time when I needed it most – after achieving my greatest dream to that day – studying university abroad. What a paradox, right?
My mental health has been up and down since high school but by the end of uni I was aiming to a place so dark and deep I wasn’t sure I’d be able to climb back up.
I finished the semester on autopilot. I handed in my last coursework, sat through the final crit of our films, the next day I packed all my stuff in boxes and the day after I sat on a plane to Brno. I didn’t celebrate. I barely said goodbye. I needed out. Fast!
You might think: “She got home and rested for a while.”
No. I didn’t.
I got home, said hi to my family, took stuff out of boxes and a week later I was starting my first season as a wedding photographer. I jumped into entrepreneurship head first.
Surprise, surprise. Burnout!
And then my mum discovered a new class in her favourite studio. Some restorative yoga thing. It should be relaxing, she said. Let’s try it…
I knew I had some tension stored up in my body, but that much? That’s what I realised during the first class. I don’t think I’ve been that relaxed since I was a kid. And the feeling after! I wanted to cry… But I saved that for when I got home.
That was the beginning… Restorative practice opened the doors for me to completely new ways of thinking and to much deeper inner work. It opened the door to myself.
So I have a lot to thank for restorative yoga.
Would you like to give restorative yoga a go?
Download my short “taster class” for free!