At first glance, this softer side of yoga doesn't really seem like much more than relaxation. Restorative Yoga takes classic yoga asanas (poses) and modifies them with the intention of making them more restful.
Within these more supportive poses is an opportunity to learn more about the pose and yourself than you might get from practicing in an active manner. This insight is crucial to your success as a yoga practitioner and as a developing human being.
Slowing things down can really speed things up! Often, the one piece you're missing in moving forward in yoga and in life, is acute self awareness.
Your body is an indicator of when things are going right or when they're going wrong. The key is having a sharp enough inner eye, to hear your body when it starts to speak up. Sitting meditation is a powerful tool in developing a more keen sense of self awareness. Actually, it's THE tool.
There is nothing slower, quieter, and more focused than sitting completely still and observing yourself as you...sit. This observation is a practice in feeling and acknowledging everything that makes up your entire physical, emotional, and mental landscape.
The practice of meditation gives you insight into all of the many layers of yourself that are, at times, moving through the world as if on autopilot.
Nerves run all throughout our bodies. Head to toe. Core to surface. We have the capacity for incredibly rich and detailed sensory experiences, yet we block most of this out by trying to anticipate and defend ourselves against the ills of life. By allowing deep relaxation into the tissue and making an imprint of that sense of ease, it will become easier for you to access peaceful awareness as you move throughout life.
Here's what you can expect from practicing restorative yoga poses, pranayama (yogic breathing), and meditation:
#1 - Calm your mind. By allowing yourself to stay in the present moment, you are putting an end the the vicious cycle of monkey mind. This is when your mind hops from one thought to another, not consciously, but by conditioning. Many times these rogue thoughts harm us by taking us further away from the present. The present is where you must stay to take conscious action in life.
#2 - Feeling more joy and happiness. When you can stop your mind from spinning and are finally free to be fully present, you have the opportunity to see all of the wonderful things in your life. It sounds cliche, but there really is so much to be happy about. If you can just get out of your own way and notice what you have, you will feel full to the brim with joy and acceptance!
#3 - Deep Relaxation. Because of how busy most of our lives are in this day in age, it takes time and intention to slow down. In order to get through the tasks in front of you your attention is generally not focused on your body. There are layers of tension in the tissues that have accumulated over years, sometimes without being noticed. In order to feel deep relaxation it takes time and practice to begin to unwind through those layers.
#4 - Getting better sleep. Have those nights where your mind just won't turn off? When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, the environment alone (the dark room, comfy bed, silence) are often not enough to make sleep come easy. Having a meditation practice slows down the monkey mind over time. Doing any practice that melts through the layers of tension in your body, will make it much easier to drift off to sleep.
#5 - Boost your immunity. Stress wreaks havoc on the immune system. Not only do restorative yoga practices mitigate the negative effects of stress on the body, but they have the potential to eliminate the onset of unnecessary stress all together. Couple that with the nourishing and detoxifying effects of yogic breathing and your defenses will be primed and ready to go when you most need them.
Learning how to slow down, clear your mind, stretch and soften the tissues in your body, and breathe mindfully can benefit you in very profound ways. These are tools that you can use in all aspects of life. Your body needs more than good food and movement to be healthy; It also needs deep care and attention. Give meditation, deep stretching, and yogic breathing a try. You're sure to find that, if nothing else, they feel amazing!