Restorative Yoga


How I fell in love with Restorative Yoga…

The biggest struggle for new restorative students is let go of the “doing” in every pose. As a new students we often attach ourselves to a goal of the pose. Perhaps we will grasp on to finding perfect alignment, a deeper stretch or trying to force ourselves into a quiet state of mind. Luckily, it doesn’t take long to figure out that a restorative class isn’t the best place to feed our ego driven ways… Restorative is a practice of restfulness, a counter to everything else stressful that marks us both physically and mentally. There is simply so much more to be attained by practicing in a way that consciously returns you to your balanced state from a passive, nurturing and self-loving way.

I attended my first restorative yoga class around two years ago at Yoga Tree, back when Jessica Hinkson was teaching weekly there. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to be doing, all I  knew was that this was the class you attended when you needed to seriously un-wind… As it turned out, even though I was in a peaceful room surrounded with soft bolsters, blankets and beautiful music, I was often struggling. For example, Pigeon pose actually made me feel like I was riding some sort of emotional roller coaster. Getting into the pose felt awkward which made my mind restless and disconnected. I remember that I was gently reminded to turn my focus on my breath. With intention flowing in the breath, the pose became a little more tolerable, and very slowly even started to feel good. Once your mind starts to wander and you lose your connection to the breath, agitated feeling re-occur. I  remember feeling restless, irritated and maybe even a little ticked off. I couldn’t stop wondering why anyone would ever want to be in this pose for so long. Then again, just as your stressing, your instructor reminds you to take a slow inhale… and directs your breath back into the hips…and exhale…you focus and release… and the pose fades back to feeling comfortable and eventually relaxing. With practice I have noticed that those periods of restlessness or negative thinking during poses start to happen less which must mean something is going on inside, letting go and moving on.

With pigeon being rather difficult to endure, a pose that really took me by surprise was viparita karani or legs up the wall pose. This pose has become one of my favourite yoga poses ever since my first encounter with it. Legs up the wall is a pose where you sit your bum as close to the wall as possible and send both your legs straight up the wall while relaxing on your back. Your head rests on a folded blanket and you can top the pose off with an eye pillow and sandbag across the abdomen.  This pose is deeply therapeutic for people like me, that work standing on their feet all day. Standing for hours at a time without rest in-between often results in people suffering from variety of physical ailments. The major ones we experience are chronic lower back pain, tired, stiff and sore legs and feet. Often this leads to very tight and achy hips. Poor circulation can also contribute to spider or varicose veins which increase the risk of blood clots. The practice of this pose works wonders on each of these physical ailments. Your tired bones and muscles are comfortably supported against the wall, so that finally the blood can begin to drain from the legs, and with breath, re-circulate through the entire body. This pose has the healing power to offer a full body restoration in just 10 minutes…

Often by the end of class after moving your body though a series of  backbends, forward folds, twists and possibly a supported inversion, savasana never felt so good. Your mind has had nearly an hour to switch from the go-go-go state of mind to activating your para sympathetic nervous system or the “relaxation response” in your body. Now you are able to lay still and experience the beautiful state of contentment and inner peace your practice has given you…

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