When is the last time you felt completely relaxed? Not a fleeting, surface relaxation, but a deep, centered, calm, sustained, peaceful relaxation?
There is a tool out there you can use to attain that level of relaxation and healing. It’s called Restorative yoga.
What is Restorative yoga?
Restorative yoga is series of yoga poses, done while lying down. During the poses, you are completely supported by props (blankets, bolsters & blocks). This support allows your body to truly relax & restore as you are held in the pose for a sustained period. Listening to and being led through an uplifting & calming guided meditation enhances the deep relaxation. Here’s one I enjoy.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
The benefits of restorative yoga take place at physical, mental and emotional levels.
Restorative yoga calms and balances the nervous system. It decreases the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response) while enhancing the parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for rebuilding and rejuvenating). When this happens, what Dr. Herbert Benson, M.D, calls “the relaxation response” is induced and you enter a state of deep relaxation and healing, reducing and reversing the effects of chronic stress.
Additional physical benefits of restorative yoga include:
- Increased digestion & resistance to infection
- Increased circulation to non-vital organs
- A Release of endorphins
- A decrease in stress hormones
- A decrease in your body’s oxygen consumption (known as hypometabolism).
- Here, less fuel is needed to maintain your body so your heart can beat slower, your breathing can be slower and deeper & your muscles relax b/c they require less blood flow.
- The organs in your body can rest and recuperate in this decreased need for their normal requirements.
- What’s really interesting is that oxygen consumption decreases faster when eliciting the relaxation response, then when we sleep.
- During sleep, oxygen consumption gradually decreases over 4-5 hours until it reaches an 8% decrease.
- With the relaxation response, oxygen consumption decreases 10-17% within the first 3 minutes!
Now, let’s talk about the mental benefits of restorative yoga. The relaxation response induced during restorative yoga combined with guided meditation changes your brain waves, activating alpha & theta waves. These are the slower brain waves seen in meditation, deep rest, daydreaming and free-flow creativity. They are often linked to feelings of pleasure and healthy brain chemistry. Your brain gets the benefits of relaxing too!
During restorative yoga practice, your body is held in poses that allow physical relaxation, and your mind is resting in alpha & theta states of meditation, creating a safe space for any bound emotions held in the body to release and heal. This combination results in pure presence in the moment and connection to the deepest parts of Self.
Who Is Restorative Yoga For?
It’s for everyone! From the young to elderly, someone with a chronic illness or at their physical peak. It’s for anyone wanting to find a place of deep, peaceful, healing relaxation.
How Do I Practice Restorative Yoga?
Check out my post on Basic Restorative Yoga Poses for Beginners.