Question: A student recently asked “I love a restorative yoga class because I like to have the space to relax, but how does the restorative class fit in to the rest of what you are teaching?”
This is a great question for me to consider because of my own relationship with restorative yoga. For years, I avoided restorative classes; I preferred the more active standing poses because I felt like I was “doing” more. But over the years, I’ve come to value restorative yoga. I’ve integrated restorative poses into my overall home practice and it really serves me when external and internal forces cause me stress, which can be often! Restorative poses help to bring balance to my physical and mental body.
Restorative yoga triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for balancing the body, by stimulating immune and nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered when we are in the fight or flight situation. Just thinking of something worrisome or scary can trigger the body into a state of stress. When we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the heart rate and blood pressure are lowered. Studies show that cortisol, a hormone that increases when we feel stress, is lowered by a regular practice of restorative postures. And there are many documented studies that show yoga having a direct correlation to lowering blood pressure.
BKS Iyengar is regarded as the creator of restorative yoga. Iyengar popularized the use of props such as blanket, blocks, belts, chairs and the wall to support the body in postures that are held for several minutes. It takes time in these postures to get to that place of deep relaxation and to settle the body and mind into stillness.
Personally, I am thankful to have restorative poses as a part of my wellness toolbox and to have the honor of teaching them to you, my wonderful students.