Soak up the Benefits of Restorative Yoga

In a recent post I wrote about practices for cultivating awareness.  My recommendation this week can help you cultivate awareness on many levels.

Photo Credit: amanda vernor, Flickr

Photo Credit: amanda vernor, Flickr

I’ve been practicing restorative yoga for several years and I love it! 

I’m willing to bet that most of you are generally familiar with yoga. For those of you who aren’t, yoga, is a multi-faceted practice (known as the eight limbs of yoga) that promotes unity of body, mind and spirit. In the West, we’re mostly familiar with one facet – the physical practice of yoga. This usually includes various poses or postures, each with their own specific benefit. They can be done in a variety of ways depending on the style & tradition of yoga being practiced and the intended outcome. 

Restorative yoga is one such style. Classes usually begin with gentle stretches followed by the actual restorative poses. These poses are held for several minutes while the practitioner is fully supported by props – blankets, bolsters, etc. This allows the muscles to relax and lengthen gradually. As result, it tends to create increased flexibility, especially in the hips & shoulders and allows for a deeper level of relaxation. It can appear to be a very slow-paced, quiet practice, but there’s a lot going on that you can’t see from the outside.

Being a holistic practice, restorative yoga benefits practitioners on all levels. Over time the body develops a greater feeling of openness & flexibility. The slower pace and deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system – the recovery part of the nervous system that promotes rest, healing, and calm. We need to be in this state far more often than is common in our culture. It feels good because it’s good for you!

The nature of the practice invites a deeper relationship with ourselves – our bodies, minds & spirit. Resting in the poses provides an opportunity for deep awareness that is often absent in our day to day lives. The stillness of the body allows us to observe thoughts, emotions, & physical sensations. It provides an opportunity to explore, in an embodied way, the experience of release and surrender. Restorative yoga can be a soothing, comforting gateway into greater clarity and acceptance.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try out, look for classes in your area. Often yoga studios offer classes in a variety of styles. Don’t be shy about asking questions. It never hurts to observe a class before you take one. But most importantly, remember, you know your body better than anyone. Trust its wisdom & let it guide you.

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