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Rejuvenating Mind and Body: A Deep Dive into Restorative Yoga


yoga student in butterfly pose holding her feet together

Throughout my time as a yoga student and teacher, I've always been drawn more to the more relaxing forms of yoga. As a world and society, we are constantly busy, cramming everything that we can into each and every day. We're trying to be as productive as possible. Productivity is amazing, but our bodies need rest. We need to recharge so that we can wake up the next day, ready to be productive. In our Western, modern world, we collectively need to start seeing the importance on rest on productivity. Major companies like Google even recognize the importance of rest, which is why they have rest pods at the Google facility.


My intention with this blog post is to introduce you to restorative yoga and to give you some guiding principles on how you can incorporate this into your everyday practice.


Introduction to Restorative Yoga: Exploring the Basics


a yoga student in restorative yoga practicing supported bound angle pose

Restorative yoga offers a sanctuary of calm in today's hectic world. Unlike vigorous yoga styles, restorative yoga focuses on relaxation and rejuvenation through gentle poses supported by props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks. By encouraging deep relaxation, restorative yoga helps release tension in the body and quiet the mind. This introduction will explore the fundamentals of restorative yoga and how it can benefit practitioners of all levels.


Restorative yoga originated from the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, a renowned yoga teacher known for his emphasis on alignment and the use of props to support the body in various poses. Over time, restorative yoga has evolved into a distinct practice focused on relaxation and healing. Today, it is widely recognized for its accessibility and effectiveness in promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being.


The History of Restorative Yoga: Tracing its Origins and Evolution


female yoga student practicing supported half split pose for stretching in restorative yoga

The roots of restorative yoga can be traced back to B.K.S. Iyengar's teachings in the mid-20th century. Iyengar's innovative approach to yoga emphasized the use of props to support the body in asanas, or poses, allowing practitioners to experience the benefits of each posture more fully. Iyengar's teachings laid the foundation for restorative yoga as we know it today, emphasizing the importance of relaxation, introspection, and self-care in the practice of yoga.


In the 1970s, Judith Hanson Lasater, a student of Iyengar, further developed the principles of restorative yoga, drawing inspiration from Iyengar's teachings and other healing modalities. Lasater's approach to restorative yoga focused on creating a nurturing environment for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. Her work helped popularize restorative yoga in the West and paved the way for its integration into mainstream yoga practices.


Who Can Benefit from Restorative Yoga: Understanding its Accessibility


yoga teacher in yoga studio in beaverton assisting yoga student with child's pose in restorative yoga class

One of the most beautiful aspects of restorative yoga is its accessibility. Unlike more active styles of yoga, restorative yoga can be practiced by virtually anyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or physical condition. Because poses are supported by props, there is no need to strain or exert effort, making it an ideal practice for those recovering from injury or illness, seniors, pregnant women, and anyone seeking gentle relaxation.


In addition to its physical benefits, restorative yoga offers profound mental and emotional benefits, making it an excellent practice for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. By encouraging deep relaxation and mindfulness, restorative yoga helps practitioners cultivate a sense of inner peace and resilience, enabling them to navigate life's challenges with grace and equanimity.


Conditions Restorative Yoga Can Alleviate: Promoting Healing and Well-being



yoga class in child's pose with arms extended in yoga studio in beaverton restorative yoga class

Restorative yoga has been shown to be highly effective in alleviating a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. From chronic pain and fatigue to insomnia and digestive issues, restorative yoga offers relief from a myriad of ailments by promoting relaxation, reducing inflammation, and supporting the body's natural healing processes.


One of the key benefits of restorative yoga is its ability to activate the body's parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the "rest and digest" response. This physiological state promotes relaxation, reduces stress hormones, and enhances the body's ability to heal and regenerate. As a result, restorative yoga is often recommended as a complementary therapy for conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, PTSD, and more.


Exploring the Benefits of Restorative Yoga for Stress Reduction and Mental Health


yoga student meditating in lotus pose in beaverton yoga studio

In today's fast-paced world, stress has become a pervasive and widespread problem, contributing to a host of physical and mental health issues. Fortunately, restorative yoga offers a powerful antidote to stress, helping to calm the mind, soothe the nervous system, and promote a sense of deep relaxation and well-being.


Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of restorative yoga in reducing stress and anxiety levels, improving mood, and enhancing overall mental health. By incorporating gentle movement, breathwork, and meditation, restorative yoga provides practitioners with powerful tools for managing stress and cultivating inner peace.


Incorporating Breathwork and Meditation into Restorative Yoga Practices


yoga teacher praciticing breathwork and meditation with hands on heart and belly for restorative yoga class in beaverton oregon

Breathwork and meditation are integral components of restorative yoga, helping to deepen relaxation, quiet the mind, and cultivate mindfulness. During a restorative yoga practice, practitioners are encouraged to focus on their breath, using slow, deep breathing techniques to calm the nervous system and quiet the mind.


In addition to breathwork, restorative yoga often incorporates meditation and mindfulness practices to promote mental clarity and inner peace. By cultivating present-moment awareness and non-judgmental acceptance, meditation helps practitioners connect more deeply with themselves and experience a profound sense of tranquility and equanimity.


Popular Restorative Yoga Poses: Gentle Asanas for Deep Relaxation


Restorative yoga poses are designed to gently stretch and release tension in the body, promoting relaxation and rejuvenation. Some of the most popular restorative yoga poses include:


Supported Child's Pose (Balasana):

This soothing pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and lower back, promoting relaxation and stress relief.


yoga student in child's pose with arms extended in beaverton yoga studio in restorative yoga class

Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana):

This gentle backbend opens the chest and heart, counteracting the effects of prolonged sitting and improving posture. In this posture, you can choose to keep both knees up.


yoga teacher showing supported bridge pose with arms overhead for restorative yoga in beaverton oregon

You can also choose to extend one leg out to lengthen out through the front of the body and into the psoas muscle.

earth breath yoga restorative yoga teacher showing supported bridge pose with one leg extended in beaverton oregon

If it's within your practice, you can also extend both legs out straight. This can cause some discomfort, however, in the lower back. If you experience this, I suggest going back to only one leg extended or both knees up.

restorative yoga class teacher showing supported bridge pose with both legs extended in beaverton yoga studio


Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani):

This restorative inversion promotes circulation, relieves swelling in the legs and feet, and calms the nervous system.


legs up the wall for restorative yoga class in beaverton oregon yoga studio


Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana):

This deeply relaxing pose opens the hips and groin, relieves tension in the lower back, and promotes a sense of inner peace.



Incorporating Restorative Yoga into Daily Life: Bringing Peace and Balance off the Mat


While restorative yoga is often practiced on the mat, its benefits can be extended off the mat and into daily life. By incorporating mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and self-care practices into our daily routines, we can cultivate a greater sense of peace, balance, and well-being in our lives.

One way to incorporate restorative yoga into daily life is to carve out time each day for relaxation and self-care. Whether it's taking a few moments to practice deep breathing, enjoying a warm bath, or simply sitting quietly and savoring a cup of tea, finding moments of stillness and serenity can have a profound impact on our overall well-being.

To sum it all up, restorative yoga offers a sanctuary of calm in today's hectic world, promoting relaxation, healing, and inner peace. By exploring the basics of restorative yoga, understanding its accessibility, and experiencing its myriad benefits, we can cultivate a greater sense of balance, tranquility, and well-being in our lives. So why not roll out your mat, grab some props, and begin a journey of deep relaxation and rejuvenation with restorative yoga? Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you for it.


Sources:

  1. Lasater, Judith Hanson. "Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times." Rodmell Press, 2011.

  2. Iyengar, B.K.S. "Light on Yoga." HarperCollins, 1979.

  3. Khalsa, Sat Bir S. "Your Brain on Yoga: The Journal of Clinical Hypertension." National Institutes of Health, 2012.

  4. Smith, Caroline A., Hancock, Nicola. "Effects of Yoga on Symptoms, Physical Function, and Psychosocial Outcomes in Adults with Osteoarthritis: A Focused Review." American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 2017.

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