While western society places a lot of emphasis on balls-to-the-wall yoga, with power yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Bikram yoga and other practices, which can often lead to strain and fatigue when not practiced mindfully, restorative yoga is often overlooked as a vital part of a well-rounded yoga practice. It isn’t surprising that some restorative classes are often filled with older populations or people who are recovering from injuries. The truth of the matter, though, is that restorative yoga isn’t just for those with minimal mobility and who are too old to move so vigorously. Following are three important aspects of restorative yoga that are often overlooked:
In More Cardiovascular Yoga ‘Workouts’ True Yoga is Never Really Accessed
The original purpose of asana was to make the body strong and limber enough to sit still in meditation without getting excessive aches and pains. The physical workout was just a precursor to the expected mental workout which was assumed would be undertaken by any true yoga practitioner. Since sitting still is a difficult task for many people, restorative yoga can be a stop-gap between a rigorous practice and an eventual, consistent meditation practice because it forces you to slow down and take inventory of your body and mind on a deeper level than you are probably accessing trying to rush through more than two dozen poses in an hour long class.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System Needs a Break
Did you know that ‘exercise’ including rigorous yoga workouts, can actually add more stress to the body? Stress, or perceived stress is what causes the body to break down. It forces our hormonal system to go into ‘fatigue,’ thus the adrenal-fatigue syndrome that many people face in modern society, not to mention heart disease ad high-blood pressure, all attributable to high levels of stress. When we are stressed out, we make more cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones, which most of us don’t need any more of. Conversely, a restorative yoga class calms the body down, giving it great support and gentle movement and breath to create stress—relieving hormones instead of stress-creating hormones. You start to churn out more seratonin and melatonin instead, which help you stay happy and calm.
Many People Injure Themselves in Yoga Trying to Do Too Much Too Fast
This is a secret of many yoga professionals. They know that you can push too hard, because they have often done it themselves. Be ‘nice’ to you for once, and give yourself a break. Learn how to do some gentle asana, even if you can put both legs behind your head already, and definitely if you cannot. Restorative yoga classes are like cradling the inner child, that often gets neglected and pushed around by the ego, which is all-too-often over-supported in modern society.
Do you have restorative practices aside from yoga that you like to practice, like staying in bed longer on a Saturday, or taking your dogs for a leisurely walk? You are invited to share some of your restoration practices below.