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Why Restorative Yoga? 

Yoga has tremendous benefits for both body and soul, but when the pace is fast, we may feel our minds and bodies speeding up to match it. We may feel overwhelmed, and drained if we're also drawn to a strong dynamic yoga practice or other intense exercise. Our nerves then take a pounding.

Making sure we take a little time each week to do restorative yoga can help us to relax and unwind after a hectic day. We use props such as cushions, blankets and blocks to support ourselves in poses and we stay in them for about ten minutes per pose. Restorative yoga doesn’t require any muscle strength so it can be useful if you are sick or injured.

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

The major benefit of restorative yoga is that we don't have to tighten our muscles. Although we often feel that we need to "work" to improve our flexibility, we can actually achieve more opening by softening and relaxing than by practicing through vigorous and dynamic asanas.

The main difference is the approach. During a restorative yoga sequence we will still be stretching, but we are encouraged to use props to really relax during the stretch so that we can release tension and focus on the breath. It helps us activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us fight the feeling of "tiredness" we often experience.

When our bodies and minds soften, it means we can also make room to connect with our natural qualities of compassion and understanding for others and ourselves.

Restorative Yoga Benefits

  • Relaxes the body

  • Stills a busy mind

  • Releases muscular tension, improving mobility and flexibility

  • Improves capacity for healing and balancing

  • Balances the nervous system

  • Boosts the immune system

  • Develops qualities of compassion and understanding toward others and self.

Restorative Yoga & Your Nervous System

Restorative yoga is very beneficial for our nervous system and overall stress levels. This exercise helps us strengthen our connection with the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is a branch of our autonomic nervous system, the system that controls involuntary functions in the body such as our heartbeat. When we are in a state of stress, or what is often referred to as "fight or flight", we are in a state of heightened empathy. Instead, we are in an elevated parasympathetic state during periods of rest and recovery.

It is important to have access to both states. Certain levels of stress can be healthy and accompany very rewarding tasks, such as applying for a new job, asking someone out on a date, or speaking in public. However, when stress becomes chronic, we experience an imbalance in our body which can affect our overall health with various problems like poor digestion, hormonal imbalance, fertility problems or sleep problems.

Restorative yoga can help us reconnect with our parasympathetic nervous system and increase our ability to transition more easily between stressful and rested states. By helping us to relax, restorative yoga can also reduce the production of stress hormones, improve the function of our immune system, reduce muscle tension, help with insomnia, and many other important benefits.

Tips for a Restorative Yoga Practice

Our ability to relax deeply depends on feeling safe and supported. Here are some tips for getting ready for your workout:

  1. Find a quiet place. Loud or sudden noises can startle you, which can take you out of relaxation into a compassionate state.

  2. Have layers or blankets to keep warm. As you relax more deeply, your body begins to cool. Very often you need more layers or blankets the longer you practice.

  3. Use an eye pillow or scarf to cover your eyes. Darkness can be calming.

  4. Try experimenting with weights. Sometimes adding weight can help us feel more secure. If you have a sand bag, you can try placing it on your heart, stomach, or pelvis. You can also place heavier folding blankets in each of these areas.

  5. Set the timer. On average, it takes 10-15 minutes to evoke a relaxation response.

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