Restorative Yoga consists of a very few postures, all using maximum support. In a restorative class you use lots of bolsters, blankets, eye pillows and create a shape that supports your body for maximum relaxation. The difference between restorative & any other style of yoga is both intensity of effort and duration in poses. Rather than working with muscular opposition, hugging in, radiating out, spirals, loops, etc you create a space for your body to melt into the pose. The time spent in both preparation and melting can more greatly emphasize the already meditative possibilities in asana practice. It’s useful to warm the body up to the practice with chandra namaskar, aka moon salutations.
At least one practice a week should be restorative. The effects of restorative practice are hormonally supportive, metabolically positive, meditative, stress relieving, rejuvenating and can supercharge your regular practice.
- Allow. Release all muscular effort. One important difference between my morning and my new evening practice is that in the morning I’m engaging my muscles. We say hello, check in, find out how this new day feels in our bones. At night, the practice is to let all that go. I’d call it passive, except that it’s anything but! The application of focused attention to find where I’m holding is the same as the process of releasing it.
- Support. In order to release effort more completely, the body must be supported at a productive edge. The edge for restorative practice is very different than the edge in an active asana class. The edge is the place where the shape begins to create muscular tension. Supporting the torso and limbs there, at that very place of opening, creates a supportive feeling throughout the entire being – body and psyche.
- Breathe. Breath is especially important in the early moments while the mind is still running like a velo. Once the opening is found through which the chatter can escape its cycling, mind creates less tension. However, sometimes it takes an entire practice to find this. Until then, the breath is your ally. Return towatching the breath. We’re not creating or elongating or anything; only watching. Now, as it watches, mind will commence to commentary: “Isn’t that interesting? I was sure I was breathing from my diaphragm! Jeez, I wonder when I’ll ever rid myself of that pattern?….” Just return to watching the breath. Stay with the moment, not the facsimile of the moment created by the commentary.
- Which brings us to Being. This last is more the meal, while the earlier 3 principles are the recipe. You start with support, mix in a heap of allow, and a generous dollop of breathe, and if the temperature and time and stars align, you’ll pull some being out of the oven. It doesn’t matter if the recipe turns out, though, because the sustenance of the meal is there all along.