The Benefits of Restorative Yoga
If you follow me on Instagram you'll have noticed a lot of posts about yoga recently, specifically #yogaeverydamnday. It's a little experiment I'm doing for We Heart Living (and my own wellbeing), so while I'll save the reasons why I've committed to daily savasana (because that's really why we do yoga) for there I thought I'd share some of the other insights I've had here.
One of the things I've discovered through practicing yoga every day is that there really is a style of yoga for every occasion. In the past I've mostly stuck to sweaty, athletic vinyasa flow, hot bikram classes or the odd stint of hatha if I fancy something more chilled. More recently however I've been drawn to relaxing restorative classes, which are perfect when you feel a little bruised by life.
The primary reason I started restorative yoga was because I was totally burnt out. I'd over trained and succumbed to a fairly frantic lifestyle so needed a rest. Restorative yoga lets you practice when your energy is low, helps you rebuild strength and centres you at an overwhelming time.
This style of yoga is all about slowing down and opening up the body. Your body is supported with all sorts of props as you hold poses for five to 20 minutes so that your muscles relax deeply. Focusing on your breathing draws you in to a gentle meditative state and you emerge from your practice in a fuzzy zen like state that is close to addictive.
So why do you hold poses for a long period of time? Well rather than forcing yourself in to a challenging pose and potentially hurting yourself, restorative yoga advocates a more gradual approach allowing the muscles to open up on their own terms. By holding the poses comfortably but for longer you can increase your flexibility without risking any damage.
I've always been drawn to the idea of meditation, but I've never been able to get past a five minute practice, and even then only sporadically. Restorative yoga feels like a good bridge between yoga and meditation because the poses and breathing techniques are familiar, and the change in pose every so often breaks things up a bit, but it gets you used to the practice of going into yourself that little bit more.
There's something really magical about the calm that comes over you when you practice restorative yoga. We so rarely stop everything and rest, that taking the time to be silent and slow our bodies down is such a welcome break, and it's the perfect antidote for an over stimulated mind. Achieving this calm isn't easy, but the more I practice the deeper I fall in to that lovely moment of calm being.
There are a whole host of restorative yoga classes out there and one of my favourites is Bliss at Good Vibes (thinks a warm, low lit room with whiffs of aromatherapy oils that makes you feel like you're wrapped in a warm hug). YouTube can also be a great resource, particularly if you want to practice before bed (I've found restorative yoga at bedtime really helps me sleep), here's a link to one of my favourite videos.