Updated: Aug 15
Restorative Yoga has made a big splash lately in the yoga world as it becomes super trendy in place of the more active and sweaty yoga forms of the last decades. Hot yoga is OUT and Restorative Yoga is definitely IN. You may be wondering, what exactly IS Restorative Yoga and why is it so beneficial, especially for someone who already follows an active fitness program?
Restorative Yoga is a passive practice with no stretch factor. A trained teacher in Restorative Yoga can help students find optimum resting positions for their unique bodies with support from props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks and pillows to allow the body to release into the supported position. By releasing our control over the body, we basically allow ourselves to get out of our way and let the body do what it instinctively knows how to do by itself: rest, regenerate and heal.
If we have too much cortisol circulating through the system from stress and/or an intense fitness regime, over time, this excess of cortisol can lead to getting stuck in a hyper-vigilant sympathetic nervous system repeat pattern (think flight or fight) leading to memory loss, fatigue as well as hormone imbalances, an abundance of belly fat, feeling wired and tired or insomnia. A regular Restorative Yoga practice can help to turn off the cortisol switch in the brain so that the nervous system can reset back to its natural default of switching back and forth seamlessly between sympathetic and parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems every 80-90 minutes. For the ultimate fine tuning of the endocrine and nervous system, the secret lies in setting aside time for equal rest and physical fitness training. The more the body experiences and recognises relaxation, the more it can efficiently process every day stressors like an over abundance of cortisol production, optimise its performance during a fitness program and relax automatically leading to sounder sleep and better overall energy. The best thing is that the body already knows what to do to restore the natural balance when you give it the right conditions.
Restorative Yoga is accessible to anyone as we are not actively stretching the body. This might sound boring to some, or a waste of time, however, do not underestimate its simplicity as it is complex for the mind! We aren’t “doing” anything during a restorative practice, so there is nothing to anchor the thinking mind and those who are stressed or used to an active "go, go, go" lifestyle might find a restorative practice extremely challenging. Wild thoughts can be distracting and take away the true benefits of a restorative practice so I usually pair a Restorative Yoga practice with Yoga Nidra, a guided meditation that focuses the thinking mind to release repetitive thoughts and opens the doors of the imagination, freeing the energy body, the seat of our consciousness. After a 30 minute Restorative & Yoga Nidra practice, you might feel as though you have slept 8 hours, awakening refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
When we make time to rest and regenerate then the body and mind can deal more efficiently with stress whether it be from an intense cross training session or from an irritating work colleague. Rest will fine tune the nervous system to be less reactive during triggering interactions. It might seem counterintuitive to devote time and importance to rest when our culture seems to value activity and accomplishment at any price, but it is truly one of many undervalued secrets of achieving new levels of fitness as well as combating constant stress and fatigue.
If you are interested in learning more about Restorative Yoga and Yoga Nidra to see the effects for yourself, be sure to register for my series of Inner Sanctuary online mini-retreats included in the 7 Energies 40 Day Challenges. Hurry as doors close on Sept 4!