Yoga is a practice that is more accessible than ever these days. There are myriad studios that offer a variety of classes, and online tutorial videos make it possible to perform poses in your own home. Each style or technique incorporates a blend of poses, relaxation, meditation, and breath work. The popularity of dynamic yoga styles often receive the most attention, but restorative yoga may be the healing and rejuvenating experience you crave.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
Suitable for all levels of yoga practitioners, restorative yoga is a gentle practice that involves simple poses to promote deep relaxation. The practice involves holding the poses for longer and typically requires props like yoga blocks, bolsters, or blankets. Props support the body, allowing the person to hold the pose with minimal or no effort. The primary objective of restorative yoga is to focus on the meditative aspect, unifying the mind and body.
As the body slips into a further state of relaxation, it’s much easier for the mind to relax. The poses are not as acrobatic or physically demanding as some other poses that you encounter in vinyasa classes. Additionally, you spend longer periods of time in each pose (sometimes between 5-20 minutes per pose), paying close attention to the breath. Relaxing into the poses may help relieve muscle tension without experiencing discomfort. Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of restorative yoga.
Becoming more aware of the self is one of the primary benefits of restorative yoga. The slower movements and longer time spent in restful poses may cultivate a deeper connection to emotions or feelings that arise during the practice. Being aware of these emotional sensations or thoughts creates a more profound experience. Without getting too deep, restorative yoga helps you notice and feel more present in your body and surroundings.
Soothes The Nervous System
Providing extra support to the nervous system is one of the best ways to reduce overall stress. Holding the poses for longer periods works to strengthen the connection with the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is an extension of the autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate and other involuntary functions. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system helps to put the body in a state of “rest and digest.” A little stress is healthy, as it activates the “fight or flight” response. Too much, however, can result in chronic pain and emotional distress. Restorative yoga works to find a balance between these two states.
As previously mentioned, restorative yoga works to calm and support nervous system function. Allowing the body to enter a deeper state of relaxation increases your chances of a better night’s sleep. According to a 2020 meta-analysis that examined 19 different studies, restorative yoga positively impacts sleep quality. Regularly engaging in this practice may help manage sleep problems by promoting melatonin production and reducing hyperarousal.
Helps You Slow Down
Life can get hectic with the constant on-the-go nature of present day. People don’t often take the time to decompress and slow down. This can ultimately result in higher stress levels that make it difficult to practice mindfulness. Restorative yoga involves slow movements and rest, which puts you in the present moment and helps establish a steady tempo. When you resume life post yoga session, you may carry this tempo with you.
The common thought is that you have to work hard to increase flexibility. The reality is that it’s better to spend more time in poses and relax the body to become more flexible. Restorative yoga doesn’t force a stretch. The gentle relaxation helps soften and relax muscles to fully relieve tension.
Heightens Body Awareness
Most people aren’t in touch with their bodies. Failure to be in touch with the self can inhibit you from becoming more in touch with spirituality, or even a deep human experience. Unfortunately, people are not in touch or even intimate with their own bodies. Practicing restorative yoga helps you embrace the self for all that it is. Deep levels of body awareness can help create more self-love, acceptance, and internal strength.