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4 things a restorative yoga practice will teach you

Supported child's pose
Supported child's pose

Stress. It’s a buzzword these days. In our frantically paced lives, we barely have the time to exercise, let alone be still. But medical research now shows how important it is to find time for stillness.

Restorative yoga uses props to promote passive stretching in a sequence of poses that last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes or more. It is about cultivating space, compassion, and a sense of ease in the mind and body. It allows the practitioner to be still and present, while easing muscle tension and promoting relaxation that can be difficult to achieve during a regular meditation practice.

Restorative Yoga can be nourishing for anyone–you do not have to be injured or ill to reap the benefits of a Restorative Yoga practice. Here are just some of the lessons you will learn by practicing Restorative Yoga:

1. Trust your intuition

I like to call this your “inner guidance system.” So often in exercise classes, we are encouraged to fight through pain, performing actions to achieve a specific physical goal, rather than listening to our bodies. Restorative Yoga creates a safe space to be in your body and to honor your individual anatomy and what you truly need out of this time. Learning to listen to your body can prevent injury, better your methods of self care, and encourage peace of mind.

2. Sometimes less is more

Many of us only have a few hours each week to practice self-care. We get trapped in the idea that we have to maximize our workouts during that time—it’s all we have. But sometimes less is more. Restorative Yoga reduces cortisol levels, which promotes better quality, sleep, facilitates digestion, and improves overall health and wellness. Taking the time to slow down can be extremely beneficial, sometimes more so than a fast-paced workout.

3. How to relieve chronic pain

Restorative Yoga allows us to shift from the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) to the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). SNS allows us to respond to stress, commonly known as the “flight-or-fight” response, by shutting down and tensing any bodily function unnecessary to immediate survival.

When we practice Restorative Yoga,
we induce a physiologic state of deep rest, which shifts us to the PNS. We allow our fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, the chance to stretch and relax. In doing so, we are able to ease and relieve chronic pain and inflammation associated with connective tissue and joint disorders.

4. Let it be

So often we hear the phrase “let it go,” but as my yoga teacher Lauren Eckstrom says, sometimes it’s better to “let it be.” We cannot always release certain emotions if we are not yet be ready. When we put undue pressure on ourselves to let go of something we may not be ready to release, we cause ourselves unnecessary stress.

Instead, we can practice self-compassion and awareness. In Restorative Yoga, as we lie still in our bodies for longer periods of time, we learn to acknowledge our emotions, sensations, prejudices, and nasty habits. We can cultivate ease in these moments by learning not to let them take control of our lives or push them away. Instead, we can just let it be.

Many yoga studios now offer Restorative Yoga once a week on Friday or Sunday evenings. If not, talk to your yoga studio about how it would benefit their community.

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