In our busy lives, there is a lot of focus on high-energy activities, leading us rushing from college or work to Insanity classes whilst trying to squeeze in a hundred tasks inbetween. Although pushing ourselves can be good mentally and physically -see here for some key benefits of HIIT workouts -all that yang energy can leave us imbalanced or even injured. This is where restorative yoga comes in.
Often advertised towards those with injuries or health problems, restorative yoga is a gentle practice focusing on long, slow stretches that are well-supported and aim to bring practitioners back to full health. With many of us suffering from niggles -ranging from post-workout DOMS to chronic injury -adding in a restorative yoga session can reap real benefits. In Om Yoga Magazine, Carole Mortiz explains the four main points of restorative yoga’s approach to practice:
- Aligning the bones so as to draw in towards the body’s core.
- Simple postures held for prolonged periods to achieve deep relaxation.
- The use of props to protect and correctly align the body comfortably.
- Focus upon the breath to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and relax.
Sounds great; but what if you’re in good health and still want a restorative-style class? That’s where Yin yoga comes in. There is a fair bit of overlap and confusion between the two forms, with both being focused on holding postures for extended periods. In essence, (according to YinYoga.com) restorative yoga helps to make an unhealthy body healthy, whereas Yin yoga takes a healthy body and provides it with the tools to achieve optimum health. Yin yoga is also more of a general practice, whereas restorative is likely to focus on specific issues based on the class.
In each case, the slower practice can activate deep connective tissue, promoting greater flexibility. Compared to the larger muscle groups, which break down and grow following short duration, high intensity exercise such as weights, the deep muscle needs to be held before it can relax and change. Particularly if you are already doing high intensity exercise classes, a restorative or Yin class once a week instead of a flowing Vinyasa can aid in improving performance.
Mentally, taking the time out just to be still brings it’s own rewards. As your muscles can’t relax properly without steady breathing, concentrating on your breath and subsequently your Pranayama really slows the mind. In fact, Yin classes are jokingly said to leave students “yoga stoned” because of the deep sense of relaxation. I have to say; I agree! Coming out of a Pigeon pose after a few minutes can be almost a surreal experience as your heart rate falls to resting rate and you relax.
That being said, Mortiz warns of restorative yoga bringing emotions to the mat, with unexpected tears falling, or feelings of elation emerge. It goes to show how much our brains and bodies can connect!
For the benefits of restorative yoga with less emphasis on asanas, lighting a candle and laying in Shavasana or massaging in a soothing body oil (or moisturiser) will allow the mental quietness to surface. Either way, it is your practice, and your chance to offer up some self love and healing.
Disclaimer: I am an Affiliated Blogger with Om Yoga Magazine. Each issue I will write a post on an article from the magazine and share it with you. Have a look here to find about the other lovely affiliated bloggers. All photos in this post taken from the Om Yoga magazine.