While most types of yoga leave us feeling relaxed, restorative yoga is a style of yoga designed purely for relaxation and rejuvenation and is especially beneficial for overcoming and preventing nervous exhaustion. Restorative yoga has already been found to help with the management of and recovery from chronic fatigue conditions and is now being recommended to those suffering from Long Covid.
Though we may not fall into the category of suffering from chronic fatigue, over the past 12 months most of us will have experienced elevated stress levels and may very well be feeling overwhelmed and/or emotionally drained. With that in mind, there’s no better time to explore restorative yoga as a means to re-balance and nourish our battered nervous systems.
Pioneered by BKS Iyengar, restorative yoga is mostly practiced lying down with the body fully supported by props. Physically this yoga is not about stretching or strengthening the muscles, but instead about supporting the structure of the body so that the muscles can completely release and the body feels held by the support. In the feeling of being completely held and in the possibility of our muscles fully releasing and relaxing, the nervous system starts to respond, downregulating and moving into the tone often termed as rest, digest, and heal.
Yoga bolsters, blocks, blankets, eye pillows, and straps allow me to set up my students in fully supported positions, but as my classes are currently online everyone has got creative using cushions, pillows, and folded up towels to allow them to support their bodies fully. Once the body is fully supported in a position, we stay in that supported position anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. If someone becomes uncomfortable they are encouraged to adjust themselves, but the idea is that we set ourselves up in such a way that we can comfortably stay in place, in stillness for an amount of time that allows our nervous system to respond.
Many people find restorative yoga sends them into a state of deep relaxation very quickly, but for some, it’s not initially easy to get their mind around the concept of being still and it may take a few sessions to become familiar enough to let go. For me, restorative yoga feels like a process of undoing.
Although it looks and feels very restful, the practice resets our energy levels leading us to feel refreshed and revitalized, more able to get on with the stuff we need to do, and to feel we can cope more easily. As lockdown begins to lift and we are asked again to adapt to a new situation, what better time than now to explore this nourishing, soothing, reenergizing style of yoga.
If you are interested and want to know more about restorative yoga, please do get in touch. I am always more than happy to talk about yoga 🙂
Take good care of yourself, Clair.