Often when we think of Yoga, we picture model-thin, athletic women in trendy, expensive Yoga clothes, doing a vigorous physical practice designed to burn calories, increase muscle, and create the body beautiful. And, certainly, Yoga can give you that ideal, if that’s where you want to go with it. It’s not what the ancient yogis had in mind, who practiced the physical postures of yoga to increase flexibility and ease in the body in order to sit in meditation for long periods of time. 5,000 (or so) years ago, Yoga was about self-realization.
Today’s Yoga is all over the physical and psychological spectrum. There are classes to burn calories, sweat out toxins, pre-natal classes for young mothers, chair yoga for old folks, Yoga Nidra classes, pranayama classes, aqua yoga, chanting and meditation, Yoga philosophy and stress management. There are even classes in laughing! Whatever type of yoga class you choose to take, it will make you feel better, that’s the good news.
Restorative Yoga came out of B.K.S. Iyengar’s need to adapt traditional postures for his students who were challenged by extra weight, stiffness, injury or physical neglect. Naturally, the Americans took his use of props—bolsters, eye pillows, blankets, blocks, even chairs or a wall—and created a Yoga practice that ANYONE can do comfortably and branded it! The body is placed on the props to allow complete rest in each of the poses. Rather than being about a deep stretch, restorative yoga is about opening and releasing into the pose, to allow the body to effortlessly come back to balance. The poses are held for long periods of time, some 5 minutes and others up to 15 or 20 minutes. The focus is on breath awareness or mantra repetition. Because of its immediate effect of turning on the relaxation response, Restorative Yoga is the ultimate stress relief!
At Satya Yoga in Saugatuck, we have restorative classes on Fridays, at the end of the week when you might need it the most. The 5:45pm class is 75 minutes of gentle movement, and deep inquiry into the body and mind as we rest comfortably on our bolsters and blankets. It’s the perfect antidote to a busy day. We do a series of forward bends, backward bends, twists, inversions as well as pranayama and Yoga nidra. The entire sequence helps to open and restore energy to the energy channels, or chakras.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, suffering from backaches, sciatica, headaches, anxiety, or problems with your digestion, these gentle poses will help bring your body back to ease. Restorative Yoga is also helpful after surgery, when a more vigorous practice isn’t recommended. Other benefits include improving immunity to disease, and quicker recovery from colds and flu. Resting is underrated in our culture. Won’t you join us for some tranquil self-care?
Meera Kerr B.A., E-RYT