What You Need to Know About Restorative Yoga
Written by AYC Instructor Paige Gilchrist
Okay, so we’ve got a little irony right off the bat. Striving to get the best results in restorative yoga? As in powering up your dreaming or asking your bubble bath to multi-task? Restorative yoga is, after all, the art of undoing. But let’s be honest, that’s not so easy in a full-throttle culture that encourages us to make the most of all things. Here are some simple suggestions to calm the impulse to accomplish, and instead just be. You might find this will lead you quietly toward the peace and restoration your body really needs.
Talk About Yourself
Arrive a little early and share with your teacher anything you’re dealing with physically or energetically. If you’ve recently had a medical procedure, that’s especially important to communicate. Simply mentioning the chronic ache in your low back, or the fact that you overdid it the day before at the gym, can also be helpful. We teachers are grateful when you take the time to let us know! We can then spend a couple of minutes together before class to customize pose modifications and prop configurations, if necessary, to make you feel supported and safe.
Speaking of props, restorative yoga poses typically involve a lot of them. Props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks, straps, sandbags and eye pillows are all available at the Studio for you to use as you see fit. They’re meant to support you fully as you sink into comfortable shapes for long, luxurious amounts of time. They allow your physical body, and then all of your other layers, to release tension habits and holding patterns. Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of props you may accumulate, or the blanket folding, bolster stacking or other ways to assemble and rearrange your props as class moves along. You can think of it as part of a self-care ritual and know that the more restorative yoga you practice, the more familiar the props will become. You’ll start to determine a better feel for how they can best support you.
Be really and truly comfortable. In other styles of yoga, there may be a benefit to sticking with something that feels challenging or even uncomfortable. However, this is not the case with restorative yoga. The whole idea is to allow your nervous system, which probably spends much of its time on high alert, to shift into deep relaxation mode. It can’t do that if you’re enduring a sensation that’s too strong. Tuck a bolster under the place that’s feeling overstretched. Cover your body with a blanket. Don’t worry about fidgeting, adjusting and re-adjusting the props. Don’t worry about adding or subtracting layers of clothing or coming out of a pose entirely. Take your time and experiment with props to settle into each pose so it feels nurturing and restful.
Look to your instructor if a pose setup is unclear. You may want to modify a pose but feel unsure about how to approach it. Maybe you need an extra prop. Don’t hesitate to let your teacher know so that they can assist you during your practice. Our main job, especially in restorative yoga, is to support you, so don’t be shy about inviting us to do that.
This is the most overused cliché in the yoga world, but this “letting go” business you hear about so often has its roots in restorative yoga. As we gradually drop the need to constantly be busy, it offers the opportunity to enjoy sinking into rest, support and deep relaxation. Our breathing, blood pressure and heart rate slow, releasing stress and tension. We then start to replenish, repair and heal on every level. Restorative classes take practice and gentle intention. They’re often a lot easier with group support and the guidance of a teacher, which is why this type of yoga can be so magical.
Try a restorative class. Your body will thank you for it.
See our class schedule for upcoming restorative yoga classes.
Sign up for AYC’s holiday class challenge! Take 10 restorative yoga classes in December and receive a free eye pillow! The word “restorative” must be in the name of the class for it to count.