What is Restorative Yoga? Accept the Rest Test
When you think you don’t have time to relax, that’s probably when you need it the most. When you cannot muster up enough energy to go to the gym or you can't stop moving for fear of collapsing physically, mentally or emotionally, this is the perfect tonic.
Often we don't realise how run down we are...until we stop.
Most of us know that a life lived on overload or ongoing chronic stress can affect us in many negative ways. When we are trying to do our best to for everyone else and doing ten things at once, we can end up feeling wired, getting jumpy, irritable and anxious, confused and unable to make wise decisions, feeling overwhelmed, depressed or ill with all the tryiing to hold it all together - sound familiar?
When ongoing stress builds up and the ‘flight, freeze, fight or collapse’ response holds the body in a constant state of danger alert and looking out, the body loses the capacity to heal itself, or recover physically, mentally and emotionally from distressing and traumatic events.
The good news is...you don't have to hold yourself together - relaxation is key!
So how do you 'relax'? When I ask my students and clients, answers are usually somewhere within the range of reading a good book, watching TV, cooking a meal from a recipe, dancing, the night away, having a good laugh with friends, having a glass of wine or two, a walk in nature, being creative. Sounds relaxing just reading the list - yes, of course we know how to switch off from our worries and pressure of time, and move into a different mind set. Remember you know how to do it already!
AND...within those relaxing past times, there is still a lot of 'doing'
Learning to rest well is something we can learn and practice - if you can find 30 minutes in your day
So how can we relax without distraction, do we need to LEARN how to 'take proper REST'?
Do you feel like you're holding yourself together? What would it be like to let go for a little while, find respite, and fall into the arms of trust?
Restorative yoga is here - accept the rest test!
In restorative yoga, yoga props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks and eye pillows are used to place the body in various yoga positions that hug the body like memory foam
You can learn to prop yourself without any experience of 'doing yoga' but it often helps to go to a class or workshop with a trained teacher. AND you can simply find a window of time at home to lie on the floor with your legs swung up the wall or over a sofa, curl up on the floor in a foetus position, or lie on your bed like a lilo - we do all these things naturally anyway so you can't go wrong...
Here are some key principles to help you
1. Stand up, shake your body, jiggle, dance, brush of, throw out, have a good stretch, yawn, sigh, blow, sound - dis-charge anything that is getting on your nerves before you lie down
2. Come close to the ground so you can relax into soft props. This induces a sense of safety in the nervous system, comfort for the bones, and letting go of muscles and physical tension, mental and nervous disturbances - the first steps to inducing a deep state of relaxation.
3. It's important to find a position of complete comfort where the body is cradled and held - you can move if you become uncomfortable and notice any fidgeting and inability to let go - tell yourself this is natural
4. Know that your mind is strong and will keep taking you away from right here to over there so set a timer for 20 minutes - this is ME time! This is tucking yourself up, cocooning yourself in a nourishing safe space, looking after yourself...and not doing anything for anyone else. ..for a change.
5. Give your mind and body a chance to adjust - It may take at least 10-15 minutes to settle all that has been stirred up - turn your attention inwards to your breath or contact with the Earth underneath to focus on what is right here as opposed to out there
6. When you notice your mind has taken you back to your list of things to do, breathe deep on the exhale to unwind, release, let go of the 'should be doing something else'.
6. After a while, the brain starts to slow down and the mind may become quiet - an eye pillow heavy blanket can help you to stay internally focused and relaxed for longer.
As it is a form of ‘yoga’, there is an emphasis on focused present-centred awareness, and inducing an altered state - preferably being deeply settled within your body, mind and in your self but no experience of yoga is needed, just a willingness to take time out for a little space and quiet, to take stress off the body especially the immune and nervous systems. Once you build up a pile of useful props and know how to organise the props, the rest is easy.
You will find more information on how to use a bolster for these practices on our BLOG
You will find all the props you need in the PROPS section on the Yoga United Website
Yoga United Education offer free tasters, restorative yoga workshops, short courses to learn more about physical tension, mental disturbances and difficult relationships to feed your body, mind and soul, and change your life.
Find out more at Yoga United Education