Developed by the ancient yogis in India, yoga is one of the most promising ways to keep us healthy and fit physically and mentally. It has become one of the most popular fitness routines.
Contemporary disciples include executives who are trying to cope with their fast paced lives and keep their hearts healthy to Hollywood celebrities looking to maintain their splendid physiques. It is even being adopted by athletes to remain fit and injury free.
Yoga seeks complete physical, psychological and emotional control of one’s body, leading to a peaceful and comfortable lifestyle.
Restorative yoga allows to handle the pressures of modern life with ease and helps deal with issues such as anxiety and depression.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is one of the forms of yoga that aims at accomplishing physical, emotional and mental composure by using props. The significance of using props is that it is simpler to be balanced when one is relaxing and stimulating one’s body.
Restorative yoga is so comforting and relaxing that calling it a “mini vacation” for the mind and the body would not be an exaggeration. It is a technique that stresses more on just “being,” rather than “doing” something.
Restorative yoga comprises of calming and well-supported postures that offer us the opportunity to let go of our fast paced lives and revel in the simplicity and beauty of life.
Props play a huge role in this form of yoga and everything from towels, eye bags, blocks, pillows, and chairs to straps, blankets, and balls are used in supporting oneself.
The idea behind this is that people can hold their bodies in a position for a longer amount of time and thus enable the body to open up through static stretching.
It is safe to say that restorative yoga is as much about the mind as it is about the body. It aims at allying the mental and physical aspects of your being, and this is simply by being still and practicing peaceful movements for prolonged amount of time.
Quite simply put, restorative yoga is just what the name suggests- restorative.
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Restorative Yoga: Origin
One of the most celebrated yoga masters of the world, B.K.S. Iyengar, developed a yoga form where he directed his disciples to use props to steady their poses while practicing yoga. This is what forms the basis of the modern day restorative yoga style.
Afterward, Judith Lasater, a student of Iyengar, popularized restorative yoga all over the world. Her book, “Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times” is based on restorative yoga and its significance in modern times.
Restorative Yoga: Medically Explained
Why exactly should one practice restorative yoga? Well, the answer can be medically explained. When we in stress, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) becomes dominant.
It is linked with the “fight or flight” aspect of our bodies, and it causes the body to divert all the blood and oxygen away from our internal organs and diverts it towards our limbs so that we are better equipped to either run or fight.
Since all our resources go toward this defensive situation, little is left to support other vital processes as cellular division, sleep cycles, fertility, digestion, and elimination, etc.
Restorative yoga helps our to body relax and brings the other aspect of our nervous system, known as the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) into play.
It is the “rest and digest” part and it has an astonishing number of benefits including improved immunity, better moods, sleep and digestion, increased fertility and a profound sense of tranquility. It provides us with an antidote for stress and aids in combating chronic stress illnesses.
Why had Restorative Yoga? The Innumerable Benefits
Restorative yoga is a healing process, both for the body as well as the mind. The benefits may be enlisted in these forms:
1. Relieves chronic stress
Restorative yoga helps in eliminating exhaustion and stress that originates from the daily activities of our fast paced lives as well as may help us recover from injury and ailments.
It also helps us overcome emotional stress, anxiety and depression that results from harrowing incidents in life such as the death of a dearly loved person in life.
It helps us cope with chronic stress by simulating the PSNS that enables us to be in control of our body.
2. Healthy spine
Many of the restorative poses are designed such that the spine is moved in almost all directions. It is possible as some of the postures are forward bent, while others are back bent. Other poses twist the spine both left and right. A healthy spine is an essential for a healthy body.
3. Optimal health
Restorative sequences also include inverted poses. This reversing effect of gravity provides many benefits. We sit or stand for most of the day and consequently the blood and lymph fluid tend to accumulate in the lower region of the body.
The reverse effect of gravity helps to restore the fluids to the upper part of the body and also enhances the heart function.
Inverted poses also change hormone levels and thus reduce blood pressure, fluid retention and brain arousal. The science behind this is that restorative yoga slows down the heart rate and dilates the blood vessels in the upper region of the body.
4. Healthy organs: Simulation and Relaxation
Restorative yoga balances aspects of energy such that one is neither overstimulated nor exhausted
The organs of the body are alternately stimulated and soothed. For instance, if one is to practice alternate forward bends and backbends, the blood is first forced out from the organs and then is returned to them.
It contributes in better and more efficient exchange of oxygen and waste materials through the cell membrane. Some of the poses are beneficial for the entire body while others may target specific organs such as the lungs or the heart.
Many of the postures are similar to those of normal yoga, except that restorative yoga is done with the aid of props.
A warm up precedes the session, and the warm up may consist of sun salutation as well as vinyasa. Each restorative pose is supposed to be held for a certain amount of time, ranging from 5 to 15 minutes. Some of the standard poses are:
- Legs supported against the wall- a bolster is placed beneath the legs, back or hip.
- Child’s pose- the heels are tucked beneath the hips, and a pillow is cradled in the upper body.
- Reclining bound angle- props under arms, head or legs are used.
- Savasana (Relaxation Pose) – resting pose where the head is placed on a pillow and legs on a bolster.
A dim lighting is provided in restorative yoga classes along with blanket if you feel cold.
Restorative yoga for beginners: recommendations
This form of yoga may be a little intimidating for beginners with the presence of an overwhelming amount of props. A few minutes of not so aggressive movements is recommended before settling into a restorative posture.
Stretching is essential as it warms up the muscles and prepares the body for relaxation. This action also enables the body to shed its inherent restlessness before subsiding into stillness.
One must also make sure to make full use of props, as the more one’s body is supported, the greater the sense of relaxation will be. The necessary adjustments must be done according to one’s personal comfort as in forms as restorative yoga, a minor shift in position or a small change in a prop may be the difference between agony and pure bliss.
Restorative yoga may also lead some people to feel motionlessness and shapelessness and an eye pillow or some other prop might be the best way to make oneself more comfortable.
Though it looks easy, restorative yoga might be a bit challenging. The real challenge is getting the mind to settle along with the body.
Be prepared to battle days when every cell of your brain rebel against it. However, with time and practice, one will reach a broad level of contentment and will be able to achieve what yoga is about- calming our incoherent minds and restless bodies so that we may be able to revel in the peace that exists within us.
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