Finding Ease and Recovery with Restorative Yoga Practice
What is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is much more akin to meditation practice than yoga asana practice. Props are used to support the body and encourage release without muscular effort. A deep connection with breath awareness and mindfulness is cultivated in the practice which gives us the space to become attuned to subtle feedback from the body which might otherwise go unheeded. We can begin to acknowledge tension or chronic contraction in the body as we recline supported in restorative postures. We can begin to, with practice, understand contraction patterns in our body and begin the process of letting go without effort, force or manipulation of the physical body.
Healing Through Rest
Any yoga is better than no yoga. And yoga is synonymous with "relaxation". But the very nature of the yoga path is set out using asana (posture) work as a developmental tool to cultivate qualities in order to achieve pranayama (breath control) and dhyana (meditation). The nature of our culture does not lend itself to rest, true rest. Watching TV is not rest, we become tamasic or dull. Rest restores our vitality, yet allows us to feel calm and focused. Restorative yoga is a formal way to incorporate proper rest and allow the body and mind to come to a still point.
Restorative Yoga and Weight Loss
Kim Innes is an assistant professor at the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies at the University of Virginia. She studies how yoga affects chronic disease and in her review of Metabolic syndrome has cited relaxing yoga as a means to address this "stress fat" or fat around the middle. Contrary to popular belief, more working out is the last thing you need if affected by this syndrome. She surmises that the practice rebalances the nervous system and in studies has seen even short-term interventions change the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
Restorative Yoga and Recovery
Some cardiologists are recommending restorative yoga to patients in recovery. The benefits of the practice are being adopted by those in the medical sector. Two recent studies show that regular yoga classes can help improve atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and common psychiatric disorders. The mindfulness programs that have swept the west over the last decade are a testament to the great need we have in our culture to slow down. This has its roots in the yogic tradition and is explored in restorative yoga, integrating a deep body, breath, mind connection. According to lead author Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center , yoga appears to have a positive effect on:Mild depression, Sleep problems, Schizophrenia (among patients using medication), ADHD (among patients using medication).
Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy, by influencing neurotransmitters and boosting serotonin. Yoga was also found to reduce levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, blood lipids and growth factors. As reported by Time.
A lot of compelling research findings are interesting, the experience of engaging with the process of your own healing, integration and self realization can only be accessed by the practitioner of restorative yoga. Yes there is commitment involved. If I was to tell you anything other, I would do the process and you a disservice. I call the initial struggle "the white knuckle ride". We want to let go (of the sadness, anxiety, physical tension, stress, exhaustion etc..) and yet how we sabotage our process by avoiding the simple practices which will allow the letting go. Simple, not necessarily easy. It's not always easy to get up and go to a class, to switch the TV off, to move out of the comfort zone. But it is worth it when the transformation begins.
To find out more about Linda and classes offered at Sadhana Yoga, see our timetable here