Restorative yoga is a conscious mind-body practice best described as active relaxation. Restorative asanas (postures) have wonderful healing properties for those recovering from injuries, depression and life in general.
We all live such stressful lives that increase the rate at which our sympathetic nervous system is triggered. The sympathetic nervous system manages our response to dire circumstances when we have to choose between ‘fight or flight’ — whether we protect ourselves or try to run away. The sympathetic nervous system sends blood to the extremities to prepare the body to attack or escape. A continued state of ‘fight or flight’ can lead to high levels of stress and cause illness and disease. Yoga can help counteract this increasing trend in our society and promote a balanced life.
Yoga, and especially Restorative Yoga, helps to teach the body to cultivate the parasympathetic nervous system — the ‘relaxation response’. This system helps to regulate our breathing, decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion, because the blood flows to the organs that specifically need it and not only to the extremities.
The restorative nature of the asanas relaxes the body so it can open up to release tension and toxins that can cause illness. Benefits you receive from Restorative Yoga are plentiful. At times when you feel week, fatigued, or stressed, they can calm and sooth your body and mind. Restorative postures can also be beneficial for difficult times in your life like the death of a loved one, change of job or residence, marriage, divorce, vacations, major holidays, or when you are ill or recovering from an injury.
This gentle approach to yoga can be wearisome for beginners, as it is difficult to quiet the mind. If this is you, it is important to focus on being in the asanas rather than doing them. There are many props used in order to make you comfortable enough to stay in the postures for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. The idea is to use the props (blankets, blocks, eye pillow, etc.) to your advantage so there is no strain in your practice.