Restorative yoga is a passive practice that uses props to hold our body in a comfortable shape, giving it permission to let go. I've referred to restorative yoga as "adult nap time" and "floating on a cloud."
In a world that is go go go all the time, restorative yoga is an extremely refreshing and valuable practice. It can also be challenging - at first, much harder than a flow-style class. Whereas a vinyasa-style class can distract our mind because we are focused on the physical aspect, restorative yoga (where postures are very passive and there is much less movement) brings us up close and personal with the mind.
I remember when I first started doing restorative yoga. My mind chattered uncontrollably. My thoughts were rampant. I felt unsettled and just wanted to fidget. I remember thinking that these feelings and urges I was experiencing were a result of all the things I am so used to - doing, working, being on my device and living in a time of constant stimulation. I realized in that moment that I wasn't actually used to this kind of stillness, silence and receptivity.
But, during those first few practices, even when I felt fidgety and scattered, there was a glimmer of profound depth that lingered after the practice. I would transition out of savasana with a glaze over my eyes, layers of tension dissolving from me.
I felt at ease.
For me, that is the power of restorative yoga. It gradually reveals to us what is real and what is rooted in ego; what really matters and what doesn't. The practice exposes those parts of our life that we don't really need to stress about. Through the practice of stilling the body and moving into a quieter space, we strip away the layers of unnecessary information. We extract more truth and expel more bullshit.
Here are 5 benefits I've gained from my restorative practice:
The more time I dedicate to my restorative practice, the more mindful I become. My attention (to the people I'm with, the work I'm doing, the places I visit) is heightened. I absorb more of my present experience. I also notice I am more mindful about how much time I spend on my device, and instead, spend a little bit more time outside in nature.
When I take time out, first thing in the morning, to do something nourishing for myself (cook myself breakfast, meditate, do a little art, go for a walk) I am much more focused and efficient when I sit down to do my work. I think it is because I feel satisfied that I have cared for myself first and so my mind is more at ease, more clear, and more ready to work.
3. Sustained Inspiration
The restorative practice triggers our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our 'rest & digest' response. This lowers our stress levels and clears the mind. Because of this, I've noticed my hunger for creativity has gone up and I have a greater desire to carve out space for my creative/play practices, like writing, yoga and art. This only does wonders for other areas of my life. It makes life feel fresh, exciting and inspiring. Feeding our creativity lights an internal fire that propels us toward our passions. It also coaxes out our inner child and imagination.
Ease. Ahhh. Doesn't that feel good. To feel a sense of contentment that we can ride, like a wave, throughout our day. To feel stress melting off of us to instill this 'everything will fall into place as it should' feeling. I've felt this many times during or after a restorative practice and those small moments of ease are carried out in big ways off the mat.
5. Truth + Authenticity
Without the distraction of movement, the truth of the mind is revealed to us. In restorative yoga we observe the patterns of the mind and we become more intimate with our physical sensations. This can be the tough part. Perhaps it is the first time we are seeing these patterns and that can be scary. But the more time we dedicate to listening to these patterns, the more truth is revealed to us. We can observe our thoughts and patterns rather than feel tied to them. We remember that thoughts are what we have, not who we are. And this alone is wildly liberating and refreshing.
Of course, with anything, these qualities rise and fall like a wave. But, the positives become more constant and we better know how to find them. At the end of the day, it's nice to know I have a practice I can turn to that offers me these qualities and each time, brings me closer to my truth.
I think that is the work we must do. Find a practice (or practices) that ground us in our truth, where we catch glimmers of our greatness and potential. Perhaps that's restorative yoga. Perhaps it's something else like a creative hobby or meditation. Maybe that's spending more time with a person that lights you up. Going on spontaneous adventures. If you catch a glimpse of that profound depth, like I did (and still do) during restorative yoga, don't look away. You'll know when you've caught sight of it. Follow it and see where it takes you. The answer will most likely be: back to your self.