Restorative Yoga: The Benefits of Being Still
"My yoga practice started with a yang style when I was 18. I fell in love with the physicality of movement and the meditation for my mind. It wasn’t until I started working at Trika a decade later that I discovered restorative yoga, at a time when I was keen to broaden my experience of the different styles we had on offer.
To be totally honest, during the first half of my very first restorative class I was wondering what the point of it was. It felt incredibly slow, too slow for my liking; after 30 minutes we’d only held 2 positions!! I found it really difficult to switch off my mind and surrender to the stillness.
The wonderful teacher Claire was leading the class. Through the combination of her considered cues and soothing voice my thoughts were steered to kindly focus on the stillness, and to actively choose to embrace it.
For the first time in a long time I was able to really listen and really notice the subtleties of my body. By the end of the class and after the most beautiful shavasana I’d ever experienced, the following day I noticed how my energy levels felt topped up. I felt refreshed and revitalised - more capable to take on tasks, with a much clearer and focused headspace and a soft afterglow simmering within me.
These beautiful observations while resting made me curious to learn more about this underrated style of yoga. After many more restorative classes with Claire, these remarkable recognitions of myself led me to study on an intensive restorative yoga course. Since then I continue to delve deeper into the practice and learnings of what this delightfully quiet yoga practice has to offer our often over-stimulated minds and over-stressed bodies. And it really is a privilege to be able to share the practice with so many people in our community.
I believe the power of stillness is overlooked and yet it can be such an effective tool when we take the time for ourselves to rest and restore. It may feel completely counterintuitive to lie down to rest when you feel overwhelmed by to-do lists or the countless other stressors that life throws at us. It’s not really in our conditioning to stop when we feel overwhelmed; we feel like we must keep doing. When I feel that strong resistance to the idea of settling down for some restorative yoga, it’s usually at a time when I need it the most. I can guarantee that the things that were stressing me out prior to rest will still always be there waiting for me afterwards, yet the difference is they always seem so much more manageable - my coping mechanisms are recharged.
And like anything worth doing, indeed, any yoga style, mastering the art of restorative takes time, patience and practise. I believe shavasana is the remedy to our busy selves; it has the power to be an extremely humbling and healing experience. Go gently. Honour yourself with the most important gift there is. Relax, refuel and reconnect.
Here's a little more about Restorative Yoga, its benefits, and what to expect in a class!
What is restorative yoga?
Restorative yoga is a very passive approach to yoga, where postures are held comfortably for a longer time to enable deeper relaxation of the body and the mind. The idea isn't to stretch, but to open.
Why is it beneficial?
It creates space physically, mentally and emotionally for you to relax fully. In a state of relaxation, we are choosing to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress in the body, slows your heart rate and increases the flow of blood around your body and to your organs.
Physically, restorative yoga lives up to its namesake, returning the body to its most replenishing state. You may leave a restorative session feeling not only rested but with your cup more full and a renewed sense of energy for the day or week ahead.
Restorative yoga has a lot to do with the mind as well. In the silence of a restorative yoga class, you may reflect on anything that may be occupying your thoughts and finding new space to welcome fresh ideas or perspectives.
You may also take this as an opportunity to surrender completely, switching off from the day and anything that might be holding your attention - whether positive or not. It offers space in yourself to find some distance, where you can lay down your burdens and simply be.
Why is it important?
In today’s society, many of us rarely make time for moments of complete stillness. Many of us are always on the move, thinking about what’s next... but rest is just as important, as it fills up our energy reserves for these more active moments. In restorative yoga, we are consciously choosing to switch into a state of rest and digest, so we can support and balance out other areas of our lives.
Why can it be challenging?
Relaxation can also feel like a vulnerable state. You may encounter emotions, tension and thoughts that you didn’t realise you were holding on to. All is welcome during this time to release what is no longer serving you.
What can you expect in a restorative yoga class?
A restorative yoga class usually includes a lot of props to support you in your surrender, time for stillness and silence, and guidance from the teacher to remind you to come home to yourself.
If you need to purchase some props to assist you in your practice at home, or you want to bring your own along when we reopen as a studio, then do check out our yoga shop, where we sell everything from cork blocks, foam blocks and yoga straps to bolsters, blankets and eye pillows. All the goods you need to get cosy in your restorative practice.
Join us for one of our regular Restorative Classes:
• Gentle Restorative Flow, every Thursday, 7.30-8.30pm
• Gentle Restorative Flow, every Friday, 6-7pm
• Restorative Yoga, every Sunday, 6-7pm