I have just commenced teaching my first fully restorative yoga class having completed Level 1 training in restorative yoga teaching last year. Since this course I have introduced a few restorative poses into my mainstream classes to stimulate interest and invested in some bolsters with a view to running a group that was dedicated to restorative yoga.
So what is restorative yoga and why do we need it? A restorative yoga class typically has only 5-6 poses which are held for longer periods of time using the support of props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks and even straps. These poses are designed for you to move more deeply into the stretches while your body softens and rests on the supports. They include, forward bends, backbends, twists, lateral stretches and passive inversions and many are based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar. As you are holding poses for longer there is greater capacity to tune into the breath, to explore the effects of breath on the physical body and the mind.
Some of the benefits of restorative yoga include, soothing the nervous system, encouraging mindfulness, cultivating heightened body awareness, creating a sense of acceptance and detachment and feeling safe and nurtured.
At the time when I was looking for a restorative practice myself I was grieving the death of my beloved mum. I felt that I just wanted to be held in a warm and comforting space where my body could release the tensions both physical and mental that had built up during that time. It was about letting go of doing anything in particular and just experiencing the present moment in a safe and comfortable environment.
According to Liz Koch international teacher and author “We need more capacity to endure pleasure…we only do something to get out of pain. We don’t do something because it brings us pleasure; a sense of calm and nourishment. We don’t know how to nourish ourselves with movement as well as food…we need to learn to take care of ourselves and to explore this concept of nourishment.”
Restorative yoga is about that exploration. It is about taking more time to feel into poses, to allow for rest, rejuvenation and not trying to “fix things”. It is about surrender… whether it is to your day, your life, your pain, your grief (as it was and still is on many days in my case), your happiness or joy, and loving and respecting your body. So of course what better time to start a restorative class than in winter when we look for comfort and restoration?