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Restorative Yoga
by Elizabeth Morris



Restorative Yoga is a very adaptable form of yoga. You can use it a little bit when you are feeling tired yet still want to do your normal yoga practice or you can use it a lot if you want to help yourself recover from illness or support yourself during a stressful time in your life.


So what is Restorative Yoga and how does it differ from ‘normal’ yoga?


Restorative Yoga is the term used to describe a way of doing yoga postures which enables your body to be totally supported as you practise. It differs from ‘normal’ yoga in that when we do Restorative Yoga we pay attention to ‘letting go’; to giving the supports we have in place around our body our total weight so that our muscles can utterly relax. In ‘normal’ yoga we are ‘holding’ postures by contracting our muscles to hold our body in certain shapes. We may use a prop to help us gain a greater stretch or more comfort (like using a strap to help us lift a leg up) but we are not focusing on giving our whole body weight over to the support so that we can let go of as much muscle tension as possible. Judith Lasater, a well known Restorative Yoga expert, calls Restorative Yoga ‘active relaxation’ referring to the activity in our minds as we give our attention to achieving that complete relaxation in the various postures.


The Relaxation Response


The great benefit that Restorative Yoga brings us is that it enables our body to quickly move out of the control of the part of our Nervous System that controls our ‘flight or fight’ response to life and into another part of our nervous system which controls our resting response to life. This has huge benefits as it helps overcharged biochemicals full of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, drain from our systems, rests our over worked adrenal glands and strengthens our body’s immune system. In our fast paced lives we have far too few opportunities to rest and return to a balanced place in our body. If we don’t rest we cannot heal well and our bodies find it harder and harder to get well and stay well.


How much Restorative Yoga do you need?


Take a moment to think of your life and health. Are you in a very stressful period? Have you recently been ill or suffered a loss or are coping with an ongoing emotionally difficult situation? If the answer is yes than you could help yourself enormously by making over 75% of your yoga practice Restorative in its focus. Do fewer postures/class (typically about 5/6) and stay in these well supported postures for much longer – let your body really let go. Give it 5-10 minutes in each posture as you soak up the support from the floor and the props. For example, rather than doing a headstand just go to the wall and do Waterfall where you have your legs up resting on the wall and your pelvis supported by a pillow to elevate it. Stay in this posture for 5 minutes while you breathe steadily and quietly before you come down. Have a 20 minute relaxation at the end of the session rather than 10-15mins.


If you are feeling a bit tired at the moment or the season is changing make Restorative Yoga about 10 – 20% of your practice. Give yourself a longer relaxation than normal and do 1 or 2 postures in a supported fashion as you do your yoga class. If you give yourself this treat for a couple of weeks you will quickly come into balance and fight off any pending colds or flu symptoms and move into each new season well prepared.



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About the Author


Elizabeth Morris is a trained Classical Hatha Yoga teacher with specialities in Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga. She is passionate about the use of this form of yoga for recovering full health again after anything major and traumatic in a person’s life. She often says that there is a time in everyone’s life when the challenge is to go back to learning how to just ‘Be’ – be still, be the you that you really are, be at ease.


Elizabeth is particularly passionate about Restorative Yoga’s benefits for recovering from burnout and all major stress induced illnesses where she has seen its gentle power bringing about transformations in people. She has a background in psychology and is a very experienced Integrative Psychotherapist. She has been practicing Yoga for thirty years and brings a wealth of knowledge to her workshops and classes.


Currently she is writing a book on Recovering from Burnout through Restorative Yoga and running workshops internationally on the topic.


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