Even if the last time you stepped on the mat was to simply satisfy the demands of a (now ex-) girlfriend, there’s reason to believe that restorative yoga may save your life — or at least chill you out. No balance or flexibility required.
Unlike the numerous strains of popular yoga like hot and power, restorative yoga focuses on relaxing the body in restful postures. This “rest” is different than sleep according to natural health expert, Dr. John Dempster of The Dempster Clinic. “Rest provides the body with an opportunity to renew and heal,” says Dempster. “During deep relaxation, all of the organ systems of the body benefit. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are reduced which is helpful to propel us into a healing state. We lead busy, stress-filled lives, and rarely do we get the rest we need.”
Positions, or “poses,” are heavily supported by a myriad of props like blankets, blocks and cushions. Your job is to relax, breathe deeply and just go with it.
“Most restorative classes span 1.5 – 2 hours,” explains Laurie Campbell, director of Roots Yoga. “It’s no quick fix, so best to think of it as a tune-up for your mind and body, like you would your car. Given that stress is one of the leading causes of disease, it’s the least we can do for our busy bodies, even if just once in a while.”
Studies show a few of the measurable results of deep relaxation include the reduction of blood pressure and glucose levels in the blood, an increase of good cholesterol levels, as well as improvements in digestion, fertility, elimination, reduced muscle tension, insomnia and general fatigue. Indeed, even the Food and Drug Administration is on board issuing a report recommending such relaxation-based, non-drug approaches as the treatment of choice for milder forms of hypertension.
Consider coaxing an open-minded friend, significant other (bonus points), or just go it alone and take some time to be stress-free.
Most yoga studios will offer restorative classes. Check schedules for a class near you.
With all those props, a restorative practice can be intimidating to beginners. A few tips to get started:
Take the time to get comfortable – if you’re not completely comfortable, you’re not doing it right. Ask for help.
Be patient – if you’re feeling anxious or in a hurry, you’ll miss out on the best benefits.
When in doubt, sneak a peek at the person next to you and follow their lead.
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Image courtesy of racheldragonfly.