What Is Restorative Yoga?


There are many different branches in the yoga tree and many kinds of yoga. 

This is great because that means there is a little something for everyone.

But the various names and options can also get confusing and complicated.

Simply Put

Restorative yoga is a type of yin practice. 

(‘Yin’ as in yin and yang. Yin is cooling and relaxing, and yang is more active like the power classes.)

It supports the body in various poses to relax. The goal isn’t to stretch but to expand. 

Usually, many props are used in this style, and the props help take away the stimulus of stretching to relax deeply. Muscles should be able to let go and relax in these poses fully.

Poses can typically be held for 2-10 minutes.

To me, it can feel like a long and juicy savasana. Or a cozy meditation.

There is no striving or doing in this style. You can just be. 

The body, mind, and soul can rest, rejuvenate, and promote healing.

When Should You Do It?

It’s good to do it at night, when you’re stressed, or when you have low energy. (I find my energy more replenished when doing restorative yoga for 30 minutes rather than a 30-minute catnap).

It’s so beneficial even doing 1 or 2 poses for 5 minutes a day, such as legs up the wall before bed.

Why Should you do it?

The parasympathetic nervous system is often called our ‘rest and digest’ state. Being in our other state, the sympathetic, fight or flight, is not necessarily bad, but most of us spend the majority of our days in that system which causes an imbalance.

And we want to find balance, which is why there are so many different types of relaxation techniques and programs gaining popularity. 

It helps to counteract our stressful lives.

If you want to dive deeper into the benefits, click here.

Tips and Tricks

There are 4 circumstances for the body to relax – it needs to be warm, to feel safe, and to be in a dark and quiet space.

One of the ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to have relaxed muscles. This sends feedback to alarm centers in our brain that all is well. 

Diaphragmatic breathing, lengthening the exhale, and deep pressure like sandbags or a weighted blanket also helps to activate this system.

Having your mind focus on one task can help to decrease stress. 

One-point focus like your breath, a specific head position, a scent, music, etc. 

Asymmetry can be stimulating to the nervous system, so try to find symmetry in your poses.

There are so many different ‘tricks’ or ‘hacks’ to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. These are just a few.

Working Through the Discomfort 

Sometimes it’s uncomfortable for us to be still in our bodies, whether that stems from constantly moving, trauma, or something else. 

Try the practice without judgments or expectations. 

You hold the power. You hold it in your subjective experience. 

Feel small, controllable sensations that you can safely surrender into. There is no attempt to make any meaning, any agenda, digging for emotions, or interpreting during this practice.

Try to experience it directly instead of thinking about it. Living in the moment instead of trying to figure out all the answers.

Trying to understand and interpret sensations, thoughts, and feelings can bring us out of our parasympathetic nervous system. It takes us away from just being and having direct awareness.

If you notice frustration, can you just see or observe it without trying to analyze it or getting caught up in it?

Can you be aware that you are feeling and experiencing frustration, but you are not that emotion?

Try It Out!

Everyone can benefit from a restorative yoga practice. Whether you’re constantly moving and live with stress regularly, someone who’s low energy and has low levels of stress, or someone in between. Your restorative practice can provide nourishment for whatever your mind and body need. 

So now that you know a little more about it, try it out!

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