Over the weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a wonderful Restorative Yoga class. Restorative yoga is a practice comprised of poses that are supported by bolsters, blankets, blocks, and any other props, in which you allow your body to rest deeply for several minutes. The idea of restorative yoga is to allow your body to rest in a pose, without effort, so that the musculoskeletal system can release tension. These poses also encourage the mind to release habitual thoughts, and the nervous system to find it’s way into “rest and digest” mode rather than “fight or flight” which is often caused by everyday stressors.
Restorative yoga sounds easy and great right? Absolutely, it can be. But restorative yoga can also present challenges all it’s own. For me the challenge in restorative poses has always been getting perfectly comfortable, and then being still. It can be difficult to resist the urge to adjust one last thing, or scratch one last itch. It can also be difficult to release the thoughts that come whizzing by the moment the body finally does settle. However my experience with this practice, like any other, is that the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the benefits to body, mind and soul increase exponentially.
This weekend the class I was in was no different. For the first few postures I just couldn’t relax, couldn’t let my body settle, let alone my mind. I fidgeted with props, adjusted clothing, and gave in to thoughts. But as the class continued to progress deeper and deeper into postures, so did my body, and mind. In each new posture I let go of something. I focused on the sound of my breath, and the sensation of release. Then the instructor did a magical thing. She gave each student a hot stone, to place somewhere on their body. I placed my stone (once it had cooled a bit) on the back of my neck, tucked in right up close to my head. The heat radiated through my neck and upper back, instantly I felt calmer, more grounded, ahhh sweet release. 🙂 For the rest of the class I enjoyed deep rest. My body so desperately needed this rest that once it surrendered I soaked in the postures like shredded wheat soaking in warm milk (yum). I lay in a supported savasana (corpse pose) straight through the ending meditation, and it was not until I felt the other students exiting around me that I stirred.
The rest offered by restorative yoga is so profound. It is a practice that is appropriate for every body, every age, every ability level. If you have never tried it before, it may be challenging, even if you are a seasoned yogi, it still may be challenging. The aim of this practice, like all yoga practice is to move through the challenge with grace and steady focus, moving into a space of deeper knowing, deeper feeling, and deep deep restoration.