Let’s face it, with the fast paced uncertainties of our days everyone could use some relaxation in their lives and we all seek it and find it in different ways. Many yogis (that’s someone who does any yoga practice) choose yoga asana classes that are more yang, high energy workout oriented classes, while neglecting the yin side of things. We continue the go-go-go flow. While classes that are more high energy like a vinyasa flow or hatha are beneficial, it may be time to consider incorporating a restorative yoga practice in your schedule.
In restorative yoga we aim for relaxation — deep rest, where there is no effort, no movement or tension. In a restorative yoga practice we use props* to support the body and to eliminate the element of effort. To many, this feels counterintuitive but it can be so important. We keep still and hold these poses for extended periods of time and use the breath to ease the discomfort and release tension in the body. Think of restorative yoga as a state of being rather than of doing. For those dedicated to the gym, think of restorative yoga as that “rest day” that is so important to achieving your goals.
Restorative yoga affects the body, mind and energy. It allows for muscular release, with an aim for a release of tension and opening rather than a deep stretch or strengthening. We may experience a quieter, more peaceful mind. By quieting the mind and the muscles, the nervous system sends fewer messages and the whole system can become quieter. Through regular practice, we cultivate a habit of attention and learn to work with our bodies. We identify where we may commonly hold tension and can consciously release that tension through the practice.
The last piece speaks to the self-love aspect. We are all deserving of time for ourselves and we sometimes lose that with the demands of our lives. Taking on a restorative practice carves out time to be, to rest and to endure all that we do more sustainably. So give youtube a search, or check out your closest studio and try out some restorative yoga. It may surprise you, it definitely surprised me.
*No bolsters and blocks at home? Get creative! In the pandemic, soup cans became our light weights, could a folded bed pillow become our new bolster?
Vera Bednar, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and certified in dialectical behavioral therapy (C-DBT). A Lesley University graduate, Vera earned a bachelor's in counseling and art therapy and a master's in clinical mental health counseling with a specialization in trauma.
Prior to joining Looking Glass Counseling, Vera worked in a wide variety of clinical settings including inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient and an assisted living center with an art therapy focus. She also worked in partial hospitalization programs specializing in trauma, LGBTQIA+ individuals and young adult transitions as well as substance use.