Restorative yoga is a very slow paced form of yoga that gets you feeling relaxed. In a typical class of 60 to 75 minutes there’s no more than 8 or 10 poses total. That might not sound like much, but you hold each pose for minutes at a time.
A restorative class isn’t meant to show off your most complicated balancing pose. It’s about letting your mind and body restore themselves. There are usually lots of props used – bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets. The props help you to hold the poses for longer than usual without putting any stress on your body. It’s not about getting sweaty and stretchy, but instead about letting yourself relax.
The Mental Aspect
This might sound funny, but I like doing restorative yoga for what it does for my head, not necessarily my body. Like most people, the thoughts in my head are going non-stop most of the time. Half the time I don’t even notice it because I’m so used to it. My first couple restorative classes my teacher kept asking us to clear our minds. I couldn’t figure out what she meant.
Eventually I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about the big test I had coming up next week, or work the next day, or even what I was going to be making for dinner. The whole point of taking an hour for myself was to also let those thoughts go. I could go back to worrying about all that other stuff once class was over, but while I was in that room on my mat, I had permission not to think about any of it.
For the most part you slow down your breathing. The most relaxed you become, the longer your breaths stretch out. You also breathe more deeply. It’s amazing how much fully I breathe when I’m actually thinking about breathing. An added bonus to focusing on my breath is that it keeps my mind from wandering.
If you’re healing from any injuries, a restorative class might be just what you need. Of course you need to discuss your specific situation with your teacher before class, but if the teacher is aware of your injuries, they’ll most likely be able to offer you some modifications.
I talked my dad into doing a restorative class with me last winter. He has a stiff back, and was worried that he wouldn’t be able to do the class. He never had a problem with any of the poses. Once we were done the 10 weeks he said his back was feeling substantially better than it was before yoga.
Have you ever gone to a restorative yoga class? Leave me a comment telling me about it.