By Brigid Brennan, Summersalt yoga teacher
There is a soft underbelly to yoga, which remains less explored than the flowing vinyasa style found in studios worldwide. Restorative yoga is the yin to the yang, the soft and subtle versus the active and dynamic. This practice calms the body, the mind and the spirit. Developing restorative yoga as a practice leads one to a place of greater peace, clarity, and acceptance of life as it is.
Restorative yoga is the slow and steady, sweet surrender that comes with holding poses for a prolonged period while grounded and supported on the mat. Props such as blankets, blocks, bolsters, and straps are used to allow the body to fully relax – something we don’t often give ourselves permission to do. The sense of release that occurs in each posture is similar to the feelings of contentedness and bliss experienced during savasana at the end of any style of class.
Within the restorative practice, compared to vinyasa or power yoga, there is a slowing down of the senses that occurs. Pausing in each position, we are able to take into account our true feelings in the present moment, instead of trying to escape them. The key is to sit with any thoughts or feelings that arise. Staying connected to the breath and slowing down the thoughts enough to analyze and release them is the inner working of restorative yoga.
While the body remains still, the steady flow of air in and out of the body becomes the main focus of attention. This slows the heart rate, which creates a shift into a state of processing and healing. The body is given a chance to recuperate, relaxing the sympathetic nervous system to allow for more ease of digestion, respiration, cellular regeneration, and other bodily functions.
This state of relaxation provides an opportunity for healing as well, whether from an injury, trauma, or intense emotional experience. We shift into harmony with ourselves and come to terms with exactly what is happening in the body, mind, and spirit. Fully supported by props on the mat, we enter into a state of acceptance of everything as it is.
Simply being, rather than doing, is the aim and purpose of this practice. In this space of ease and comfort, something magical happens. We let go of thinking we need to go somewhere, do something, or be someone. We simply allow ourselves to BE exactly as we are – magnificent in and of ourselves.
Don’t be afraid to dive deep into your darkness and explore unknown corridors of your soul. Many people avoid slowing down because then true thoughts and feelings surface and make themselves known. However, this is the only way to gain clarity on your life’s situation- by fully realizing what the body stores, and finding ways to release.
Letting go of what no longer serves you brings greater clarity and presence into your daily life. Developing a regular practice will help you feel content within your body, more at peace, less reactive, and more able to take on challenges as they come your way. Taking time to slow down is the best way to benefit your health, and truly be the best version of yourself. Restorative yoga is an ideal practice to incorporate these benefits into your whole being- body, mind and spirit.