What Is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga focuses on restoration and achieving calmness through passive postures and positions. The practice of this discipline involves a lot of stretching with very few movements. In fact, you may discover that you are barely moving at all during a restorative class. Restorative yoga is drastically different from many other disciplines and incorporates stillness and relaxation.
BUT don't be fooled into thinking restorative yoga is NOT challenging, as these classes are designed to test the mind and body in equal measure. The real challenge in restorative yoga lies in allowing yourself to just simply relax and remain still.
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Restorative yoga puts emphasis on holding postures for extended lengths of time. To reduce the strain of holding these poses, classes don't rely as heavily on having your body to do the work of staying in place. Instead, many different props and accessories are incorporated into the class to help support the body, and many of these poses are performed on the floor.
Since the focus of this discipline is its restorative qualities, these classes are low-impact so the body is at rest more often than it's moving. Even though the postures are held longer, you're not asking your body to exert a lot of energy during this class. This is because the props are placed accordingly to provide balance and support, and to alleviate pressure and strain.
Related: What is Kundalini Yoga?
The most important purpose of restorative yoga is to allow the body and mind to heal through relaxation and rest. No one goes to a yoga class simply to sit in silence - there is generally another component that goes along the meditative aspect of the class. With restorative yoga, the poses aren't intended to build strength or increase flexibility, but instead to stimulate the parasympathetic division of the nervous system. Each posture is designed to restore the body by focusing on the so-called rest and digest attributes of your nervous system, AKA the area that promotes rest and healing. This is why the poses are held longer and the breaths are deeper and more drawn out.
People from all walks of life will participate in restorative yoga for the following benefits as well as other advantages such as pain management and exercise. These are some of the reasons why you should try restorative yoga too:1. Improves Your Flexibility
Stretching promotes the body's flexibility. Since restorative yoga is all about stretching the body, you can expect an increase in flexibility and a wider range of motion. There's a mistaken belief that in order to become more flexible, the body has to work hard and be put under more stress. This is not always the case, and through restorative yoga you can achieve flexibility by opening up certain parts of the body that are tight and restricted.2. Encourages The Practice Of Routine Meditation
We've all gone through it - the inability to shut your mind off and find peace and calm. It’s one of the biggest obstacles for many people when they begin practicing yoga. They can't clear the mind properly and enter a deep meditation. But with its focus on extended postures and using props to support the body, restorative yoga can be a great way to take the burden off your body and encourage meditation.3. Promotes A Healthier Lifestyle
We've already talked about the positive benefits of calm and stillness on the mind and body. But restorative yoga also brings about healthful benefits as a form of exercise. Low-impact and gentle as it may be, this light workout can act as a gateway towards more strenuous and high-impact exercise, much in the same way it can lead one to pursue meditation with more consistency.4. Reduces Stress
Anything that can take your mind off the stressors of the day is something you would participate in, right? The resting poses and low-impact nature of restorative yoga not only stimulates restful healing in the nervous system, but trains the mind to become less focused on daily stressors and promotes calm and stillness.5. Improves Your Sleep
When the body feels relaxed and the mind at ease, it's much easier to get a good night's sleep. Restorative yoga promotes calm and relaxation, which helps the brain shut down quicker once your head hits the pillow.6. Boosts Your Immune System
Yes, restorative yoga can also do wonders for your immune system. That's because a well-rested body is better equipped to fight off germs and bacteria that can easily make you sick. So if you wake up one morning and feel a little off, or you've got a tickle in your throat, restorative yoga can help boost your immune response.7. Calms Your Nervous System
Restorative yoga works to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and, as a result, this discipline affects the mind and body at the same time. The two work in concert to relax and calm your mind, your nerves, and your body throughout. When you are able to successfully decompress from all the pressures of your daily life, you can start to heal and recover. This goes for your muscles, internal organs, and other vital systems.8. Helps With Symptoms Of Depression
Studies have shown that “resetting” the body's parasympathetic state is beneficial for reducing blood pressure, calming the mind, and fighting symptoms of anxiety and depression while also promoting health and well-being.9. Promotes Mindfulness
When you are in tune with your body, you are able to listen to it more readily. Restorative yoga is all about turning your conscious mind inward and paying heed to what your senses are saying. Through this awareness, you are better able to understand what your body needs to succeed and allow your nervous system to be fully restored.10. Helps To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is developed through metabolic incongruities. People with excess body fat and high blood sugar rates are more likely to suffer the effects of type 2 diabetes which can negatively impact your quality of life. But with restorative yoga, you can fight back against these metabolic factors, as a steady practice will help reduce your insulin and glucose rates.
Restorative yoga may be just the thing you need to help reduce stress and give your body a nice rest from other, faster-paced styles of yoga you may currently practice. For those who have never tried yoga before and remain curious as to what style you should try first, you might consider restorative as an entry point. Though just remember, poses are held for much longer and the class is intended to bring calm and stillness, so your level of patience for such an introduction may vary. But if you are seeking a way to be more present in the moment and leave all other considerations behind, this could be perfect for you.
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