Restore Your Mind (and the rest will follow)

Posted on Feb 15, 2020 by Nicole Thomas

Nicole Thomas Blog

When you think of yoga, what comes to mind?

Flexibility? Handstands? Boring?

Maybe one of the “trendy yogas” that are going viral these days comes to mind such as goat or kitten yoga, or beer yoga?

The type of yoga practiced in the western world is typically the more dynamic styles of vinyasa, ashtanga, or bikram yoga.  These practices focus on the strengthening and stretching of muscles and often consist of a specific sequence or flow of poses. While there are gentler variations of both, they typically have the same or similar look and feel. The breath is sequences with the poses and movements between poses is active and flowing. They have foundations in classical yoga but have moved away from yoga as a it once was and have become more focused on yoga for exercise.

In recent years, however, as western yoga continues to grow and flourish, we are coming back to the roots of yoga more and more, and learning more about the human body, especially in the modern world, we are beginning to see more therapuetic styles of yoga at the forefront.

In this post, I am going to explore a style of yoga that is more therapuetic in nature – Restorative Yoga -  and why it is so important to slow down in our yoga practice (and perhaps our lives). Click here to read my earlier post on Yin Yoga - another great style of yoga that is more passive in nature.

Restore Your Body, Mind and Spirit

Restorative yoga is a wonderful practice that relaxes and rejuvenates the body and mind; it cultivates peace and healing and promotes overall well being.

Unlike the fast moving, active styles of yoga mentioned above, a restorative yoga practice is much slower in nature and individual poses are held for long periods of time. We use props to completely support the body in each pose to allow the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones time tor fully relax, rest, and recharge. When the body is relaxed, we are then given the oppotunity to focus inward and relax and rejuvenate the mind.

Similar to a meditation practice, many students may find it difficult to not only settle their body into stillness but also to quiet the mind. In a culture and society that celebrates business, we sometimes forget that we need time to rest and reset. But we need to make time for a balance - both in a our yoga practice and our day-to-day life - between the doing and the being. We need to give ourselves permission to just be in the present moment and appreciate our life journey just as it is. 

Restorative yoga is often thought of as an "easy practice" but many students actually struggle with this type of practice because of the amount of time spent in silence in each pose. But, as with many things in yoga, the things we dislike or avoid doing, are often what our body (and mind) is in need of. 

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

In addition to the general rest, relaxation, and rejuvination mentioned above, there are many benefits to a restorative yoga practice. 

Physically, restorative yoga is a great practice for someone recovering from injury, trauma or surjery. Easeful and restuful movement is beneficial in the healing processes. Restorative yoga also lowers cortisol levels in the body which can help prevent disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It can also be therapeutic for women's health issues such as pregnancy, menstruation and menopause - not only the hormonoal issues but also the physical discomfort associated. 

Emotionally, restorative yoga is great for people with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Many restorative poses have a calming effect on the body and the mind and can relieve stress and calm the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight centre). Also, by slowing down in our yoga practice (and our life), it allows us the opportunity to tune into our body. 

 

If you're looking to try this practice for yourself, join me for my monthly restorative yoga workshop at Radiant Joy Yoga in Uxbridge, ON. I have two coming up in February and March.

Join me on Saturday, February 21st at 1 pm for Rise and Invigorate Restorative as we focus on shaking off the winter blahs, breaking out of hibernation and invigorating your body, mind and spirit through restorative yoga. 

And, Saturday, March 22nd at 1 pm for Renew and Awaken Restorative as we welcome the arrival of Spring and break out of our winter funk! We will focus on renewing our dormant winter energy and invite in the fresh start of this new season.

Sign up online at radiantjoyyoga.com/upcoming-events.

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