Introduction to Restorative Yoga: Basic Relaxation Posture
Restorative yoga is a safe, quiet and gentle practice that can help you learn to relax and recharge. You also cultivate the essential skills of self-awareness. More and more research continues to be published about the benefits of ‘stress reduction’ techniques like yoga, and meditation. Taking some time for yourself to let go of tension, to breathe and to focus your attention can be a welcome (and sometime rare) respite from the faster pace of modern life.
A central theme of yoga is the experience of balance between effort and ease. In restorative yoga we balance the luxury of dwelling in stillness and relaxation with a sustained, vivid and focused attention. These two elements work together to create an experience that is enjoyable and engaging.
Typically a restorative class centers around spending extended time relaxing and breathing in restful yoga postures, although a practice could include some gentle movements. Restorative yoga is safe and accessible to more people because of the use of ‘props’ for supporting yourself in the postures. You can use blankets, bolsters (large cushions), blocks and straps to help you feel effortless in a variety of postures. (More on props in a bit.)
Some general guidelines are:
- Even though most of these postures are gentle, if you have any physical concerns, talk to your doctor about integrating yoga into your lifestyle.
- Give yourself enough time in the posture to feel good. Make yourself comfortable so that you can rest in each position at least five minutes, longer if it feels right.
- Also take your time emerging from the postures. Don't be in a hurry to move or get back on your feet. Be present for the contrasting feelings of stillness and gentle movement.
- Keep it simple. As you relax, you may find that your attention wanders. Continue to relax, and breathe, bringing your attention back to sensations of letting go and the subtle movements of your breath.
I am excited to share my restorative practice with you. Each week, I get to observe how this gentle practice can change the way a person feels – not just physically, but on the level of intellect, emotion, psyche/spirit as well. There is a shift in attitude and perspective. I encourage anyone reading this to experience for yourself these videos or some classes in your area and notice how you feel before, during and after. Enjoy yourself and feel good.
Śavāsana, or corpse pose, might be familiar to you if you’ve taken yoga classes at a studio or gym. This ‘final relaxation pose,’ usually lasts five - fifteen minutes and involves resting on your back, consciously relaxing tension and effort in yourself and gently breathing. I always begin and end my restorative class with this pose.
It is the simple, unadorned experience of giving attention to yourself for a period of time, noticing how you feel any tension and how much you can let it go.
In the video I also show a supported version, with a blanket under my head and a large bolster behind my knees.
I encourage you to spend at least ten minutes in śavāsana. Give yourself time to truly feel relaxed and centered on your breath. Be patient and enjoy just being with yourself, noticing.
Take a long time to transition out of the posture: remember how much time and care you took entering into softness and stillness. Retain those gentle qualities even as you begin to slowly move, beginning with your fingers and toes, gradually expanding the movements to include all your joints, your whole self. Be present and enjoy the feeling of ‘bringing life back’ into your bones and muscles. Roll to your side and enjoy a few more easy breaths before slowly rolling up to spend some time sitting.
Practicing yoga can be like having a conversation with yourself: noticing, responding, questioning, learning. I hope we can begin our own conversation, using these videos and your experiences to dialogue. I am always open to feedback, questions, and descriptions of how you experience yourself doing these practices.
Enjoy and be well – Namasté.