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Restorative Yoga – the hidden gem and treasured medicine for (mostly) everyone

by | Sep 9, 2019 | Yoga

How & why I became a restorative geek……..by Gila Shire

After practicing Yoga for a while, I took my first Teacher Training in 2002. Saturday was always a full day of lecture, practice and classes till 4.00pm. And the last class on the studio schedule was restorative at 4.30pm. So some of us would just stay after training and ‘dissolve’ ourselves into the magical & mystical art of restorative yoga. I was instantly hooked, at the same time my respect & admiration for teaching Restorative, grew from class to class. I had amazing releases, emotional shifts and healing on so many different levels and balancing my full week, including my YTT hours with this incredible practice was the perfect thing to do!

I had just started to work as a massage therapist & new teacher at a sweet studio on the west valley. The owner & I had spoken about me teaching kids yoga, so when she called me in for a meeting, I was expecting a conversation about the day and time to start the class. Instead she told me straight away, that she wanted me to teach restorative yoga ! I gasped for air and started to come up with all these reasons, why I wouldn’t be adequately equipped enough to teach this style. But there was no way out – by the time I left the studio, she had set the starting date for several weeks down the road.

My stomach was tight…..I was afraid of what was coming my way……

I started to shadow and observe some of my favorite teachers, took as many different restorative classes with different people as i could. In one of the studios, i found a flyer with an announcement for a restorative YTT coming to town – my prayers had been miraculously answered.  What a relief!  I was signed up the next day and took the week long training with Judith Lasater, the Godmother of Restorative Yoga!  What an amount of information, insight & wisdom poured out.

Being a senior student of B.K.S. Iyengar, she took Master Iyengar’s strong approach to therapeutic, prop supporting gentle, yet deeeeeeep poses to a new level, started teaching and calling it Restorative Yoga. She started teacher trainings and built a huge community with her powerful and beneficial style.

So if you’ve never taken a restorative class before or your one experience didn’t really thrill you, I invite you come to one of our wonderful restorative classes at Ironwood Yoga!

Here are 10 reasons why this is a much needed practice, listed by the Chopra Center’s teacher Adam Brady – I could not have expressed it better and it resonates completely with me! I’ve added some additional thoughts in this and color……enjoy!

 Slows Down the Pace of Life – Restorative yoga is an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the frenetic activity of daily life and let your speedometer return to 0 mph. It offers a welcome respite among all the turbulence of life and helps to prepare the mind and body for the inward stroke of meditation and deepened awareness. Moving slowly through the poses allows you to explore your mind and body at a steady and natural tempo.No matter, how many yoga classes you are taking per week, if you exercise, run, swim, hike, or if you don’t do much of this at all (which is fine) – you need some ‘kinda thing’ to balance all of this out – including your work life, family life, free time, friends, etc……

2.  Soothing to the Nervous System – The slower pace and deep breathing that you get in a restorative yoga class triggers the parasympathetic nervous system from the very first pose. This activation helps to mitigate the effects of the regular fight-or- flight stress response that can be damaging to your physiology and well-being. The overall calming effect on the nervous system sets a deeply relaxing tone for the class that comforts your mind and body down to the cellular level.  Your body will learn and experience how to get out of the ‘hypertension state. 

3.  Encourages Mindfulness – Restorative yoga could just as easily be called “mindful yoga” due to the expanded awareness of self and body that comes through the practice. Slower movements cultivate space for a deeper experience of the poses and the breath. Awareness of the physical sensations, the thoughts or emotions that arise, or sounds in the environment, can all take on a much more profound significance in the depth of the restorative practice. Simply put, you’re able to notice and feel more of the world through your yoga experience.  It invites you to connect and listen to your inner voice. 

4.  Fosters Transcendence – On the whole, many forms of Hatha yoga are considered a precursor to extended periods of meditation. Through the practice, muscles, joints, and subtle energy centers are enlivened to help facilitate a deeper and more comfortable experience of meditation. However, the practice of restorative yoga in and of itself often leads to a transcendent experience of deep oneness with the universal level of consciousness. Each pose and each breath serves to lead you further up the ladder of expanded awareness. As the practice expands, the vehicle of yoga carries you from the waking state of consciousness into the silent space between your thoughts—the space from where you’re able to glimpse the soul and awaken the divinity within.  To experience this, is the most wonderful and uplifting feeling and can also bring you to a deep place of peace !

5.  Cultivates Heightened Body Awareness – The comfortable pace of restorative yoga opens the doorway to a deeper understanding of your own body, letting you actually feel what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience. Sadly, many people aren’t intimate with their own bodies. Through a restorative yoga practice, however, such intimacy can be explored and embraced. Deeper levels of bodily strengths can be integrated and owned and a more profound sense of self-love and acceptance can emerge.  You are befriending yourself and getting to know yourself brand-new! 

6.  Deepens Self-Awareness and Introspection – The subdued quality of a restorative yoga class often helps you draw attention inward and away from external events and situations of the world. With your awareness directed within, the practice becomes a sanctuary for the mind and spirit from which you can take a deeper look at who you are, what you want, and how you can serve the world. Restorative yoga opens us up to new levels of self-exploration and contemplation, allowing your inner being to shine forth.  It supports creating creative & sacred space.

7.  Creates Deliberateness of Action – Through the mindfulness of the practice, you become increasingly aware of your actions or karmas, and how they influence your level of comfort or discomfort. You can see the direct cause and effect relationship between your poses, breathing, and overall level of well-being. As this experience continues to deepen, you begin to make more deliberate and attentive choices, both on and off the mat.  You are aware, connected and authentic.

8.  Strengthens Acceptance and Detachment – By its very nature, the restorative yoga practice is the antithesis of the “no-pain- no-gain” mentality. You receive the greatest benefits from your practice not through forcing yourself into a pose, but by releasing and surrendering to it. This mentality helps to cultivate acceptance of your body and its inherent limitations. Further, it strengthens your ability to let go of preconceived notions of your body and how you think it should look or feel, both in and out of a pose. When increased ease and comfort are the theme of your yoga practice, acceptance and detachment naturally emerge as a result.  Less is more. You learn to integrate this principle into your life. 

9.  Helps You Feel Safe and Nurtured – In daily life it’s easy to get pulled into the insecurity that is a byproduct of the modern world. Many people move through their days haunted by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Restorative yoga provides you with a safe harbor wherein you can reconnect with your true nature, which is immortal, invincible, pure, and nourishing. Making that connection through your poses, breathing, and deep relaxation restores the memory of who you are and helps you to reclaim the fearless nature of your soul. From this refuge, you emerge feeling secure in the inherent goodness within your heart and in the world.  Restorative teachers hold safe and sacred space for you, while you dive deeper in class. They set the stage for a different way of Self Exploration.

10.  Connects You to the Divine and Establishes You in Pure Being – The ultimate goal of yoga is union with the divine. Therefore, your practice should be a means to that end. Luckily, restorative yoga is the perfect vehicle to help you reconnect with the divinity within. Through the techniques of the practice, you awaken grace, poise, flexibility, balance, strength, and present moment awareness. This combination creates a mind and body ideally suited for seamlessly merging into the non- local field of awareness, or pure being.  As a tool for self-transformation, restorative yoga facilitates the integration of all the layers of life – environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual – culminating in the goal of all goals, awakening to your own divine nature.  The benefits listed here may not be isolated solely to restorative yoga, but they are some of the most defining benefits to this type of practice. If you’ve never explored this style of yoga, this is your open invitation.
YES!!! Many of my most life impacting moments – releases, insights, epiphanies – happened during Restorative Yoga classes. Sometimes they would blossom even some days later or clarity set in in a most grounding and calming way.

My hope is, that I am reaching something inside of you, which makes you curious enough to come and check out a Restorative Class.

What’s a restorative class like?  All poses happen on the floor, using a variety of bolsters, blankets, blocks, sandbag, strap, eye pillow, sometimes chairs or a yoga wheel.  The length of holding a pose ( and being supported by the props) varies between 5-15min.; sometimes there can even be longer holding times. Once you’ve experienced the unlimited space for change, insights, connection, healing and so much more, your body will have a knowing and recognition about how important this practice is for you and everybody!

As a teacher, Restorative Yoga has taught me very much on so many different levels and is still teaching me daily.  When i was recovering form a herniated disk, it was pretty much the only yoga i could do and defined me and my teaching style in a new way.  I learn and discover, witness and support a part of a human being’s journey, I see people get in touch with themselves – to recognize their change and blossoming, work through and restore body, mind and soul is a rewarding and fulfilling joy!

Thank you to all the teacher and people I’ve met on this incredible journey of discovering the art of Restorative Yoga – you’ve inspired, influenced, challenged and supported me greatly! Without you, it would not have been possible.

I would be honored to introduce and/or guide you through a class! Tuesdays 7.30pm

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