Restorative yoga in Holland Park

Gaining a Deeper Understanding of Restorative Yoga

Although I’ve been practicing and teaching Restorative Yoga in Holland Park for over a decade, in recent years, through studying with Lizzie Lasater (daughter of Restorative Yoga Queen Judith Lasater), I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for the art and science behind creating a Restorative Yoga practice. Judith has been teaching for nearly 50 years, has written several books on yoga and is credited with popularizing Restorative Yoga, which she learned by studying directly with its creator, BKS Iyengar.

Judith explains how every subtle detail of the prop arrangement, the way a particular person’s body arranges itself in the pose, and the environment of the room plays a role in facilitating the experience of deep relaxation that can stimulate healing. And the proof is in the profound experience of the practice when guided in this way (hence why I am so OCD about the blanket folding 😉).

The Goal of Restorative Yoga

Judith explains that Restorative Yoga is “the use of props to support the body in positions of comfort and ease in order to facilitate health and relaxation”. It is not a practice about experiencing your edge in a stretch and in fact, we precisely don’t want to feel the stretch in Restorative as stretching still involves the muscles being active and the goal in Restorative is to let go of muscular effort in order to reach the physiological state of relaxation.

A Counter-Cultural Approach to Good Health

In our society taking time for relaxation is counter-cultural. We are a society of do-ers, always do-ing, rarely taking any time for reflection, non-doing, or simply be-ing. While our society doesn’t tend to prioritize time for relaxation, our biology actually requires it for us to maintain good health.

Our sympathetic nervous system, sometimes referenced as being responsible for the ‘fight or flight or freeze’ response, is responsible for keeping us alert and active during daily activities and is also responsible for quickly bringing us to an alert and ready state (to fight or escape) when we are faced with situations we perceive as threats. This is our stress response and these days, we frequently activate it for non-life-threatening situations we perceive as stressful. This perceived stress causes heightened activity in the sympathetic nervous system, and if this heightened activity is prolonged through continual stress, it can lead to undesirable impacts for blood pressure, immune function, digestion, sleep cycles, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and even gene expression (through epigenetics).

Don’t get me wrong; we need our sympathetic nervous system. We need to be alert when driving, solving complicated problems, and a whole array of other important responsibilities. In cardiovascular sports, it is also the sympathetic nervous system that is dominant.

However, we have this whole other part of our nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system. It controls actions necessary for tissue regeneration (growth and repair), digestion, and reproduction. It maintains homeostasis. While the sympathetic nervous system when activated will cause the heart rate to increase, blood pressure to go up, and breathing rate to increase, the exact opposite happens when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. They kind of inhibit each other. So when we live a life of go, go, go, or do, do, do, we may be spending the majority of our time in sympathetic dominance, and this can have long-term consequences on our overall health.

Activating the Parasympathetic Response

Enter Relaxation. Ahhhhhh. Take a moment to pause here and just let the feeling of that word sink in. Relaxation.

Finding relaxation is the ticket to activating the parasympathetic response and practicing relaxation regularly can help you switch back to parasympathetic dominance more quickly after being in a more alert state.

Savasana or Corpse pose at the end of any yoga class is the opportunity to relax and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Many people dislike Savasana, feel that it is a waste of time, or find that they have trouble letting go in it. Sometimes there is significant mental resistance to the idea of taking 10-20 minutes to relax. Restorative Yoga has tricks to help with that.

In Restorative Yoga, we use the props to manipulate the nervous system. To basically set up the body in such a way that the nervous system can’t help but relax (switch to parasympathetic dominance). Even the most relax-averse person can experience that state when set up well. And once someone has really experienced that deep relaxation and the peace of mind and calm it brings, they usually don’t need convincing to want to try it again. That is the magic of Restorative yoga. And that is why the details matter. There is an art and a science to it.

Learn More About Restorative Yoga

If you would like to more about the art and science to practicing Restorative Yoga to maintain health or manage injury or illness, or teaching Restorative Yoga, or perhaps you would like to learn more to help a loved one suffering from illness or injury, then enrol in our Restorative Yoga Teacher Training.

Places are limited for quality of training.

WHEN: November, 7, 8, 14
All training days are Saturday 9:30am – 5:30pm, Sunday 8:30am – 4:30pm (times and dates may be subject to change)

COST: OFYF Members just $750, Non-Members $850
Payment plans are available to suit the individual.

For more information please contact Lainie or see our information about Restorative Yoga Teacher Training.

About Restorative Yoga Teacher Training

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