Restorative Yoga Basics
Restorative yoga is a practice of conscious relaxation, using props in every posture to support your muscles in gentle, comfortable positions. It is distinctly devoid of poses like Downward Facing Dog and Cobra that are the keystones of other popular styles. In fact, the mainstay of a restorative yoga practice is Basic Relaxation Pose , essentially a supported Corpse Pose ( Savasana ), which you hold for up to 30 minutes at a time. Other poses include gentle reclining backbends, supine twists, and supported forward folds and hip openers. The poses are held for anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes, giving your body plenty of time to relax, so that your mind can enter a quiet, meditative state.
The Origins of Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga is a style of hatha yoga, which historians believe emerged in 10th-century India. It encompasses all practices that use postures to target your physical body as a means to access and transform the inner landscape of energy, mind, and emotions. Meaning “sun-moon,” hatha yoga aims to balance passive “lunar” energy with active “solar” energy, or yin (lunar) with yang (solar) in traditional Chinese medicine terms. As such, you can view restorative yoga as a lunar practice using relaxation to balance the excessive action of modern life. Its roots lie with B. K. S. Iyengar, a pioneer in using props such as blankets, blocks, and straps to avoid straining in poses.
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His student Judith Hanson Lasater became instrumental in popularizing restorative yoga in the United States beginning in the 1970s. She created thoughtful sequences for pregnancy, back pain, headaches, and insomnia outlined in her book Relax and Renew . My restorative yoga teacher, Shannon Paige, studied with Lasater after she found the practice to be vital during her recovery from cancer. And although historically it has not enjoyed the same popularity as movement-based styles such as Ashtanga and vinyasa yoga, restorative yoga is gaining momentum.
An encouraging 2018 study conducted by the website DOYOUYOGA found restorative yoga to be the third most practiced style of yoga. Its growth has no doubt been fueled by our collective awareness of the documented toxic effects of chronic stress and increasing focus on therapeutic wellness practices. Studies increasingly point to the efficacy of yoga, meditation, and relaxation for stress reduction. With its effectiveness and accessibility, restorative yoga has the potential to become a major player in the field of stress management in years to come.