What Is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is a therapeutic style of yoga that revolves around using props in order to get into certain poses in an easier way, thus enabling you to completely surrender to the pose. This practice is not physically challenging and doesn’t require you to switch from one position to another quickly, but rather encourages you to stay in a certain pose for an extended time period.
Staying in a certain pose for as long as you are comfortable will help you achieve a state of relaxation, which will provide you with a number of health benefits. You’ll experience both mental and physical health benefits if you choose to practice restorative yoga.
Like any type of yoga, you can choose to work either your entire body or a specific area. You can achieve restorative yoga poses by using many different props, such as pillows, blankets, chairs, straps, blocks, and bolsters. By using these props, you’ll allow your body to relax and stretch with support.
Short History of Restorative Yoga
The development of the poses in restorative yoga is credited to B. K. S. lyengar, who was considered to be one of the greatest yoga masters in the world. Iyengar used to be a student of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a man who is often referred to as the father of modern yoga. However, Iyengar is the man who is credited for popularizing yoga around the globe.
When Iyengar started teaching yoga, he noticed that some of his students would injure themselves by straining a muscle in a yoga pose from time to time. This encouraged him to start modifying certain poses, so that students could practice yoga without being injured.
Eventually, he developed poses that not only eliminated the chance of suffering from an injury, but that could even help the injured recover faster.
This led to the birth of restorative yoga, a practice that was popularized in the United States by Judith Lasater, a student of Iyengar.
40 Benefits of Restorative Yoga for the Body, Mind and Spirit
1|Enhanced flexibility: As you grow older, you’ll gradually lose your flexibility. Even though all types of yoga will help you improve it, restorative yoga poses might do this faster. However, know that restorative yoga is far from a stretching class. Instead, it focuses on just letting go and seeing what happens after you release the tension from your body.
2| Weight Loss: You may think that you’d be better off doing strenuous workouts to lose weight; however, this may not be true. Even though restorative yoga isn’t based on physically challenging poses, it can still help with weight loss. Namely, this form of yoga will greatly reduce your cortisol levels, which is a hormone that causes stress. Elevated cortisol levels are linked to increased abdominal fat.
3| Breath Awareness: Breathing properly is extremely important. Unfortunately, most people don’t pay much attention to learning proper breathing techniques. In order for all parts of your body to perform their tasks, they need a constant supply of oxygen. By breathing shallowly, you’ll deprive both your body and brain of a sufficient amount of oxygen. By breathing deeply, you’ll release muscular tension, lower your heart rate, enhance immune response, and reduce fatigue. Thankfully, restorative yoga will help you pay more attention to your breathing technique.
4| Reduced Risk Of Alzheimer’s And Dementia: Alzheimer’s disease is currently the most common cause of dementia. Restorative yoga will reduce the risk of both Alzheimer’s and dementia. In a way, restorative yoga is a type of brain exercise, which engages different parts of your brain thanks to the various components of this practice, such as chanting, breathing, postures, concentration, and visualization.
5| Immune System Boost: Considering that this form of yoga isn’t overly taxing on the body, it’s the perfect type of exercise for those who are recovering from an injury or are simply feeling weak. Restorative yoga can help heal your body and make you less vulnerable to certain diseases.
6| Pain Relief: Chronic pain alters your brain structure, by making changes in your gray matter volume. However, restorative yoga has a completely different effect on your brain. It’s important to note that gray matter size in the insular cortex of your brain is linked to pain tolerance, which is why yoga can relieve pain.
7| Emotional Pain Relief: Restorative yoga won’t only help your body heal faster, but it will also help heal all of your emotional injuries. Poses that are part of this practice offer soothing care for when you’re dealing with negative emotions or going through difficult changes in your life.
8| Reduced Risk Of Depression: By practicing restorative yoga, you’ll not only learn to cope with stress, but you’ll change the way you perceive it, and this means that you’ll prevent stress from taking control of your life and causing you harm. Considering that stress can greatly increase the risk of depression, it’s worth noting that restorative yoga will actually reduce the risk of this disorder.
9| Calm Mind: Most people use a big percentage of their day reflecting on the wrong decisions they made in the past or worrying about their future. This can cause your mind to become preoccupied with negative thoughts. Thankfully, restorative yoga will encourage you to seek peace within, and it will teach you to relax properly. This form of yoga revolves around holding poses for a long period of time, thus allowing your muscles to relax, as well as your mind. By holding a certain pose and focusing on your breathing, you’ll let go of all of the negative thoughts that are currently in your mind.
10| It Diffuses Wrinkles: This may not be important as the other health benefits of restorative yoga, but it’s still worth a mention. By practicing this form of yoga, you will diffuse your wrinkles and reduce the size of your eye bags. This is because you’ll go into a state of deep relaxation, thus allowing the tension in the muscles around your cheeks and across your forehead to be released.
11| Mindfulness: Restorative yoga is a practice that encourages mindfulness. Being mindful refers to a mental state that you can achieve by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while acknowledging your thoughts, bodily sensations, and feeling without judgment.
12| Enhanced Endurance: Although it probably goes against common sense for those who don’t practice it, restorative yoga is known for enhancing your endurance. Despite the poses in this form of exercise being non-challenging, they will help you do other, more difficult workouts, for extended periods of time. This is primarily because restorative yoga will make you focus on proper breathing, which is extremely important when engaging in any type of exercise.
13| Patience: Impatience is one of the most common problems today. We’ve gotten so used to getting all the information we seek, buying whatever we want, and making transactions almost instantly thanks to the Internet, so we immediately get frustrated and annoyed when we have to wait for something. Thankfully, restorative yoga will teach you to appreciate every moment of your life, which will also make you more patient.
14| Segue To Meditation: If you want to start practicing meditation, then restorative yoga may be the perfect place to start learning about the art of meditating.
15| Say Goodbye To Toxins: There’s no reason for you to go on a detox regime if you practice restorative yoga. This form of yoga will enable your body to detox naturally and more efficiently.
16| Increased Longevity: People who practice restorative yoga live longer than the ones who don’t. The reason behind this is that it helps slow down your nervous system and gently activates every part of your body.
17| Improved Sleep Quality: Getting enough quality sleep is much more important than most people think. Sleep is crucial to both physiological repair and memory. If you don’t rest properly at night, then you won’t have the energy and motivation to get through the day properly. Lack of sleep can also cause hormonal changes and mood swings. By practicing restorative yoga, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep at night, and you’ll almost always wake up refreshed.
18| You’ll Reap The Benefits Of Each Pose: In some forms of yoga, you quickly move from one pose to another. However, restorative yoga encourages holding the poses for a longer period of time, so you can fully reap the benefits of each one.
19| Effects On The Parasympathetic Nervous System: The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the involuntary part of the nervous system that is tasked with controlling your intestinal activity, heart rate, and other bodily functions. By practicing restorative yoga, you will activate the PNS, thus automatically slowing down your heart rate and allowing your organs to regulate themselves much better than when you’re not exercising.
20| A Deep Sense Of Love And Peace: Restorative yoga will help you connect with yourself on a much deeper level. It will help you achieve a deep sense of love and peace, and will encourage you to start feeling comfortable in your own skin.
21| It’s Important To Slow Down: Most people are accustomed to living a fast life, which can cause a lot of stress, anxiety, and frustration. Restorative yoga will teach you how to slow down and explore your mind-body connection at a steady pace.
22| Muscle Tension Relief: One of the most common reasons why people practice yoga is to relieve muscle tension. The poses that you’ll practice in restorative yoga can help you even if you’re suffering from chronic muscle tension.
23| Balanced Nervous System: The only way for your nervous system to be balanced is if your body is fully relaxed. By placing your body in a state of deep relaxation, restorative yoga will help balance your nervous system.
24| Recovery From Illnesses: Even if you’ve caught a flu virus, you can still practice restorative yoga. In fact, performing restorative yoga poses will actually aid in your recovery.
25| Reduced Stress: Stress is often referred to as the ‘silent killer,’ since people don’t pay too much attention to it, even though it is one of the most common causes of health problems on a global scale. Stress is known for causing high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and can even lead to addictions. By stretching your muscles, you will release the stress in your body, which will instantly make you feel better. On top of that, restorative yoga will also encourage you to calm your mind, which can help prevent you from being stressed out in the future.
26| Improved Focus: Considering that restorative yoga revolves around focusing on the poses you’re doing as well as your breathing, it’s only logical that it will improve your overall focus as well. A lot of people lack concentration nowadays, which is the result of us getting used to processing a huge amount of different information on a daily basis, due to the content on the news sites and social media websites that we visit.
27| Humbleness: By slowing down and learning to enjoy each moment of your life, you’ll also become more humble. Restorative yoga will help you appreciate all the things you have and all the relationships that you’re a part of.
28| Effectiveness: Since restorative yoga will increase your overall focus, you’ll also become more effective in doing certain tasks. Whether you’re swamped at work or at school, you can greatly benefit by taking some time out of your day to practice restorative yoga.
29| It Will Make You Feel Refreshed: Restorative yoga is an excellent practice to do when you’re mentally, emotionally, or physically tired. If you’re feeling worn out, then you shouldn’t skip a session, as you’ll probably feel refreshed by the end of it.
30| It Is For Everyone: The great thing about restorative yoga is that it isn’t physically challenging. In other words, everyone can do it, including older people and people who are suffering from illnesses or injuries.
31| Learn Where You’re Holding Your Stress: By practicing restorative yoga poses, you’ll have a chance to find out where you hold the most tension. Thanks to this, you’ll be able to make changes to your everyday life that will help reduce the amount of tension and stress that can build up in your body.
32| Introspection: Restorative yoga will help you look at your life from another perspective. This practice will make you learn more about yourself and how to change your lifestyle in order to achieve happiness.
33| Increased Motivation: By learning how to surrender to a pose and achieve true relaxation, you will see that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. This will increase your motivation, and make you realize that every goal is attainable.
34| Feeling Of Safety: Most people constantly get haunted by feelings of fear and uncertainty. Restorative yoga will help you experience the feeling of safety, since it will help your reconnect with your true nature, and forget about all the problems in your life. This practice will make you look at the obstacles in front of you from a different perspective, which will provide you with fearlessness.
35| Type 2 Diabetes Prevention: Restorative yoga encourages insulin production in the pancreas, which is why it is a great preventative for type 2 diabetes.
36| Improved Memory: Memory loss is often caused by poor blood supply to the brain. Thankfully, restorative yoga will improve your blood circulation, which will result in better memory.
37| Reduced Hostility: If you’re dealing with anger or hostility issues, then you might want to try practicing restorative yoga. This practice has a calming effect on your nervous system. In other words, it will reduce the amount of hostility you feel, and will give you a sense of control whenever you get angry.
38| Balanced Metabolism: Having a balanced metabolism means that you’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight and control your hunger. Consistent restorative yoga practice will help you maintain a balanced metabolism.
39| Improved Social Skills: By learning more about yourself through the practice of restorative yoga, you will feel more comfortable in your skin. This means that you’ll also improve your confidence levels, which will make you more likeable. As the end result of all this, you’ll notice an improvement when it comes to your social skills.
40| Connected To The Divine: The main goal of almost any form of yoga is to connect you to the divine and restorative yoga will help you reach the divinity within. You’ll increase your mindfulness, flexibility, strength, endurance, balance, awareness, patience, effectiveness, and humbleness, all of which will transform you into a pure being.
How To Get Started
If you’ve ever practiced yoga, then you know that some poses can be quite challenging. However, this isn’t the case with restorative yoga. Thanks to the fact that you’ll be using props to achieve certain poses, you’ll see that this form of yoga is far from physically challenging. In fact, it can be practiced even if you’re old or are suffering from an injury or illness.
Restorative yoga is more focused on making sure that you’re relaxed. You’ll easily achieve peace of mind during a restorative yoga class, since you’ll hold each pose for several minutes. Some beginners find the use of many different props intimidating, but you shouldn’t worry about it. A yoga teacher will provide you with all the necessary guidance needed in order to practice restorative yoga on your own.
Before you settle into a restorative pose or practice, you’ll need to take a few minutes to move gently and stretch in order to warm the muscles and prepare your body for relaxation. This warm-up movement will give you a chance to shed your restlessness before entering a pose that requires stillness.
Remember to always use props. Some of the most commonly used props in restorative yoga include blankets, blocks, sandbags, towels, balls, straps, chairs, and pillows. They will make sure your body is completely supported, which will allow you to fully relax and surrender to the pose. Before settling in, make all the necessary adjustments you need to make in order to feel comfortable. Moving as little as a half an inch to the left or right can make a huge difference when it comes to restorative poses.
The great thing about restorative yoga poses is that you can practically do them anywhere you want. Apart from doing them at home, you can also take a 10-minute break in your office in order to practice a certain pose and relax. Know that even though restorative yoga may look incredibly easy, some beginners find them challenging.
Nevertheless, it’s not that the poses are physically challenging. Instead, it may be hard for you to clear your mind in the beginning. Just because your body will achieve stillness doesn’t mean that your mind will. However, you shouldn’t worry too much about this, as you’ll learn how to become calm and relaxed as time passes.
If you don’t feel like signing up for a restorative yoga class, or simply want to expand your knowledge on this practice, then you should consider getting Judith Lasater’s (like we previously mentioned, this is the woman that popularized restorative yoga in the United States) famous yoga book, titled “Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times.”
Restorative yoga is a therapeutic type of yoga that differs from certain yoga styles, seeing as how it’s not physically challenging, but rather focuses only on achieving a state of relaxation and maintaining poses for several minutes each. In order to practice these poses, you’ll be encouraged to use certain props, such as blankets, blocks, towels, chairs, and pillows.
The development of restorative poses is credited to one of the greatest yoga teachers of all time, B. K. S. Iyengar. He developed these poses with the goal of eliminating the chances of students being injured while practicing yoga. Not only did he manage to achieve this goal, but he also created a form of exercise for those suffering from injury or illness.
Restorative yoga offers a number of benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Some of the most notable benefits include increased flexibility, reduced stress, breath awareness, weight loss, improved immune system, enhanced endurance, and a balanced nervous system.