What's The Purpose Of Restorative Yoga?
What’s the purpose of restorative yoga, it looks like you’re just sleeping… There’s more to it than meets the eye when it comes to restorative yoga. Keep reading to learn more about this truly rejuvenating practice.
What is restorative yoga?
To understand the purpose of restorative yoga, we first have to understand what this practice actually is.
Restorative yoga is a type of yoga that uses props to support your body. By props, I mean items such as yoga blocks, blankets, bolsters, and straps.
The poses in this form of yoga are held for a longer duration than in a normal yoga class. Each pose will usually be held for at least 5 minutes.
The props are used so that you can completely relax into each posture. Restorative yoga poses are designed to allow your body to experience prolonged stretching in a comfortable way. So while the body is stretching, you’re also able to deeply relax.
The number one thing you want to look for in your restorative yoga poses is that you feel supported.
While in restorative yoga poses, the goal is to work towards quieting your mind and quieting your thoughts.
As you would in many other yoga practices, you’ll work to keep your focus on your breath. The challenge here is that in restorative yoga, you hold the poses for a longer time, so for many, it may be a little more challenging to keep the mind quiet.
But…this will lead to the benefits that restorative yoga has to offer which we’ll continue to explore in this post.
The Importance Of Taking Time To Rest
In today’s fast-paced world, there’s a prevailing illusion that it’s necessary to be constantly busy.
However, this is far from the truth.
Moments of stillness and slowness are more crucial than ever in these modern times.
Restorative yoga provides an opportunity to pause, reconnect with oneself, and restore a sense of balance that is often lost in the relentless pursuit of ‘doing’.
By embracing the moments of slowness offered in restorative yoga, we can nurture a deeper connection with ourselves and rediscover the true essence of harmony and balance.
The Benefits Of Restorative Yoga
While restorative yoga may not resemble a typical workout, its impact on the body should not be underestimated.
In fact, this gentle practice offers unique benefits that are essential for our well-being.
Restorative yoga allows the body to rest in a more active way than you would find in meditation. You’ll find moments of rest because you’ll be holding poses for a longer time, but I call this a more active rest because you still will be moving your body.
For anyone who says they ‘can’t meditate‘ or ‘can’t relax,’ I suggest giving restorative yoga a try as you may find this to be an easier form of rest.
Restorative yoga not only provides relaxation, it also promotes gentle opening and stretching of the physical body.
In addition to these benefits, it’s also wonderful for calming the nervous system. So many of us live in a constant state of stress which greatly impacts the nervous system. Restorative yoga can help to bring you back into a state of balance. You can learn more about this topic in this post: How Does Constant Stress Affect The Body
So while restorative yoga isn’t necessarily going to replace working out, there are still many benefits that it brings.
Restorative yoga is like charging your battery
I learned this concept in my yoga teacher training. My instructor described meditation as time for us to ‘plug in and recharge’. Restorative yoga can offer the same benefits.
We have to take time for things that recharge and replenish us.
Rest is just as important as activity.
Rest is where you recharge your body and mind. It helps you to create balance within.
Restorative yoga is good for your body, your mind, and your energy
Restorative yoga truly offers benefits to your entire being.
It benefits the mind by allowing for rest and by quieting your thoughts.
It benefits the body by allowing for rest and through gentle stretching.
Beyond the mind and body, it also benefits your energy.
Any activity that works on the mind, body, soul connection will be beneficial for your energy. Restorative yoga in particular can work on balancing different energetic areas by moving your body into specific positions.
There are many ways that you can isolate restorative yoga poses to specific energy centers or chakras.
For example, the pose in the image below, supported fish pose, is opening through the chest and in turn opening through the heart’s energy center known as the heart chakra.
What types of issues can restorative yoga help with?
There are many issues that restorative yoga can help with.
For those who have difficulty sleeping, restorative yoga can be particularly helpful. If you can do this type of practice in the evening, that’s even better. It will help prepare your body and mind for sleep.
Restorative yoga can also be helpful for those dealing with chronic pain. In chronic pain, the sympathetic nervous system is often overactive. This is also true for chronic stress. Restorative yoga helps to relax the nervous system by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system which can be helpful in decreasing stress and decreasing pain.
For chronic pain, restorative yoga also offers a gentle and supportive pathway to explore different movements. The emphasis on providing gentle support and nurturing the body makes restorative yoga an excellent choice for discovering new ways of moving.
This type of yoga can also be helpful for those dealing with anxiety as it helps to decrease the frequency of your brain waves. This lower frequency is associated with feeling more calm and relaxed. When you have anxiety, I’m guessing you don’t feel calm and relaxed so an activity that lowers your brain wave frequency such as meditation or restorative yoga can be helpful.
For more information on the science behind our brain wave changes during activities such as meditation, I talk about that in this post here: When Is The Best Time Of Day To Meditate?
What if I don't have any of those issues, can restorative yoga still help me?
Yes, we all need to take time for rest and relaxation. If you’re go, go, go all the time, you will burn out.
When you practice restorative yoga, you are taking time for your body and mind to rest in a way that’s different from when you sleep. This type of rest helps you to bring your awareness within and connect with your body, mind, and soul in a rejuvenating and healing way.
We all have those days where we feel like we just need to ‘chill’. On the days you feel like this, restorative yoga is a wonderful option. But the key is to try to get ahead of this feeling by incorporating practices such as meditation or restorative yoga into your normal routine.
And remember, this doesn’t mean that you need to do an hour class, even taking 15 minutes for restoration can be greatly beneficial.
And for the individuals out there who have a period, restorative yoga is wonderful for this time of the month. It’s especially great for those days when you’re really feeling those period symptoms but still want to find some movement in your body. There’s a reason menstrual cycles are associated with lunar cycles. This is the time to let ourselves rest. Listen to your body and if it’s telling you it’s not up for going for a run etc, honor that feeling and provide it with a practice for rest and restoration.
For those who struggle to meditate, restorative yoga is a great option.
If you feel like you can’t meditate, I believe you probably can but if you really just don’t enjoy it, restorative yoga can be a great option.
It allows your mind and body to rest like meditation does, but at the same time, there’s more movement so it may be easier than meditation for some people. It offers a little more connection with the physical body which can be a great start to getting into meditative practices.
Some may find this easier than just sitting still so if you struggle with meditation, first read my posts on how to overcome this but also, try restorative yoga!
Allow yourself time for the gift of relaxation
In a world that often glorifies busyness and constant activity, restorative yoga serves as a gentle reminder of the importance of stillness and self-care.
By embracing this practice, we can find refuge from the chaotic external world and reconnect with our inner selves.
So now that you know the purpose of restorative yoga, take a moment to slow down, nourish your body, and restore your spirit through this transformative practice.