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What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is my favourite paradox.

It’s easy, by which I mean of all the diverse expressions of practices we label as “yoga,” restorative requires the least physical effort & accommodates the body with as much support as possible. Our focus is not even on stretching, but on “opening” the body by releasing tension into spacious comfort. And yet, I have witnessed many individuals who move with ease through vinyasa flow, but really struggle to access that same state of being in relaxation.

By entering directly into a state of ease, our dis-ease & tensions come to light. As we soften, we might discover the harder edges we didn’t anticipate meeting. As we grow more spacious, we might notice the parts of ourselves that are contracted & confined. As we open, we do our best to release the impulse to close off.

Yet if we stay, we breath & surrender whatever tensions arise in the support & comfort of the pose. We trust in the safety of the moment & let the little feelings of stress or uncertainty visit until they dissolve in their own time. Our physical tensions also dissolve with time & awareness and after shavasana the body might feel as if its been satisfyingly stretched, however we never lengthened muscle or overly extended our joints. We just allowed the recalibration of the nervous system to shift from our dull but constant states of stress (our sympathetic or fight/flight/freeze responses), towards a new healing & integrating space (our parasympathetic or rest & digest response).

The subtle vibrations of stress below the walls of our skin grow gradually more quiet as our breath & heart rate re-regulate & calm. The down-regulation supports our digestive & immune systems as the whole body rebalances in rest. The support is not just experienced on the level of physicality, but mentally & emotionally that support is felt as well. We become whole.

Restorative Yoga is a practice that uses an obnoxious amount of props (blocks, bolsters, blankets & more) to create a pose where we shift from thinking & doing, to feeling & being. From strain & stress, to balance & rest. And I love it.

Practice some restorative goodness with me now in the comfort of your own home:

Photography by Kristine Doiron

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