Restorative yoga: coming together to rest deeply was the name of the game this evening; our first opportunity for the Yoga Community to practice together. For those who haven’t practiced a lot of restorative yoga, here’s a definition from Judith Hanson Lasater, who created the practice – it is “the use of props to create positions of ease and comfort that facilitate relaxation and health”. For something that looks and sounds so simple, it is a an enormously rich and rewarding practice.
We often see ‘flow and restore’ classes, which include active asana and restorative poses, which are held for longer, in an hour or 1.5 hour class. It is totally valid to dedicate a practice entirely to restorative yoga though. The basic rule is: support everything, you can’t have too many props! The theory is that a supported body facilitates a sense of emotional support, and allows us to let go into that support. The support allows us to rest, to slow our systems and to allow ourselves to do nothing for a period – to rest, as distinct from sleeping.
In the studio and in an ideal world, we have an unlimited number of bolsters, blankets, eye pillows, and even a chair or two, for this practice. When we practice at home, we make do with what we have – we use pillows and rolled blankets for bolsters and books and cushions for blocks, we find a quiet space, lower the lights and make sure we are warm.
If you would like to explore further, Judith has written a number of books, including Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times (2016) and Restore and Rebalance: Yoga for Deep Relaxation (2017) (which is a detailed and practical guide). Her daughter, Lizzie Lasater, interviews her about her own experience with restorative yoga here.
Judith says “Everything is better when you are rested. One thing being tired, depleted and stressed out does is it narrows our perspective. It is so uncomfortable to be in our body and in our mind in those moments, and so when we are caught up with our own discomfort it is like we have blinders on to everyone else’s. We are not generous of spirit in that moment. We have no energy to do for others, to do for ourselves. What we need to do is notice that, understand its causes and conditions, and then take one small step towards resting. Today I am going to rest when I am tired for 5 minutes. Every step, every change is always small, and then there is the last one which is also small but its effects are huge.” (Parvati Magazine, 6 October 2015).
A rested revolution!