Are you looking for a way to reduce your anxiety? Perhaps you're suffering from poor sleep and you want a way to help you drift off or stay asleep throughout the night? Maybe you want a gentle yoga practice that focuses on relaxation and the tangible reduction of stress?
Restorative yoga is an opportunity to regenerate your energy while giving yourself the permission to relax. It can help minimise the effects of stress, and help you develop greater mental robustness. It's an opportunity to build your resistance to the trials of everyday living.
In this article, I'm going to explain the principle benefits of Restorative Yoga, while providing some insight into why I I decided to diversify my own practice.
From Iyengar to Yin Yoga
My original teacher training was in Iyengar yoga. Iyengar is a method that still heavily influences the classes I teach every morning; it's a method that focuses on alignment, directionality, breath integration, and the interconnectivity between classical yoga asanas.
I gave up my official Iyengar certification back in 2017 because - although I love the method - I wanted to find new ways to approach my teaching and my own practice. I was interested in yin yoga, and wanted to integrate the yang of Iyengar practice with the yin of more gentle approaches.
So, I explored yin yoga as a way of balancing my own practice, and I found that there were some really pleasant and enjoyable approaches to intense stretching and extension, with more gentle intention.
But, in some ways, I found yin yoga still quite intense; just in a different way. The challenge is in holding fairly complex poses for a long time, and while it offers a more gentle insight into some asanas, I felt like it wasn't entirely what I was looking for.
That's not to say that yin yoga isn't a lovely, energising practice. It just wasn't the answer I was hoping for.
My Journey into Restorative Yoga?
Continuing my search for a complementary approach to the yang of my morning classes, I stumbled upon Restorative Yoga through Yoga Glo. The practice makes use of props in a similar way to Iyengar, but with a significant difference: it requires "surrender" into relaxation rather than the physical and mental exertion of my usual asana/pranayama work.
After a couple of sessions, I found that I could substitute my habitual daily siesta with a 15-20 minute session of Restorative. Often, I find that a powernap in the afternoon makes me groggy for the rest of the day, while I discovered that I felt totally refreshed, re-energised, and mentally sharp after Restorative.
And that - I realised - was what I'd been looking for.
So, what is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative Yoga uses adaptations of classical yoga poses, but uses props such as bolsters and blankets to make the work as gentle and refreshing as possible.
Rather than physically "holding" the pose, we use strategically-placed equipment to open the body's energy; ensuring total immersion and guaranteeing ultimate comfort.
The focus of the practice is about finding comfort - not pushing the body to find extension and alignment. The challenge isn't physical particularly; we challenge ourselves to relax. Effectively, it gives us time on the mat dedicated entirely to relaxing.
Through breathwork and meditative visualisation, we learn to let go of the stresses that batter the body throughout the working day, and we learn to release. It's time for ourselves; a rare occasion where you focus on YOU.
Isn't this just lazy yoga?
Because it's far more gentle than most other styles of yoga, the calorie-burn is minimal. But this is about self-care and wellbeing; there's more to exercise than just the burn.
I see Restorative yoga as the perfect antidote to daily life where we're constantly doing things for other people. Regardless of our role in society, the vast majority of us spend most of our time pandering to the needs of other people: our bosses, our family, our friends. And - eventually - that weighs heavily on us and depletes our energy.
Many of us feel guilty about giving ourselves an hour of the day just doing something that makes US feel good. But think about how much more you can give if you spend a little time every day focusing on building up your mental tenacity.
Time on the mat isn't a luxury; it's an essential coping mechanism that builds our strength for everything that's required of us during the day.
So, Restorative isn't lazy. Lazy is eating a Mars Bar and avoiding responsibility. Restorative - for me - is a way to make sure we have the energy to give.
Restorative Yoga for Better Sleep
While Restorative Yoga is the ideal way to regenerate our energy, it also helps to quieten us down in preparation for sleep.
Difficulty getting to sleep at night or waking up in the middle of the night (and not getting back to sleep) are classic symptoms of stress. And sleeplessness only goes to contribute to your stress.
I've suffered from stress in the past. I used to wake up at 2am every night without fail, and I'd lay in bed staring at the ceiling for the rest of the night. And I'd have to go and face my stressful, distressing day with minimal energy; and that just made it all worse.
I felt unable to make good decisions at work, and I found that being exhausted just depleted my mental stamina.
So, if you're experiencing poor sleep due to stress, give my new Restorative Yoga for Better Sleep programme every night for a week, and see how it can help.
Get your first week free
If you're looking for a way to improve your sleep, give my new programme a go for free for one week. And see how your sleep becomes deeper, calmer, and more refreshing.
Restorative Yoga is suitable for most people but if you have health conditions or injuries, it's a good idea to let me know about them before you start. And - of course - if you're unsure, you should consult your GP.
Give it a go for a week, and see how things change.