05 Sep The Importance of Restorative Yoga
In our modern world, it is all too easy to lose sight of our need for rest and relaxation and we also under-estimate just how difficult it is to truly relax. The audio visual age, with media, social net-working and technology ever present, means we are constantly bombarded with information and images, often worrying, or distressing news from around the world, or promotion and advertising of products, tapping into pre-existing insecurities and beliefs that we are somehow lacking and need something more to be the person we ‘should’ be.
This constant stimulation of the mind can easily create an underlying discomfort and anxiety, a low level feeling of threat, which activates the body’s fight or flight response, creating disruption to the body’s natural rhythms, upsetting the homeostatic functioning of the endocrine system, weakening the immune system and disturbing the digestive system and circadian rhythms. It can result in chronic stress within the body and this state of chronic stress underlies many of the health conditions on the increase in the West, not to mention the high levels of anxiety and depression. Yet, more importantly, the relaxation response counteracts this excitatory activity in the sympathetic nervous system and allows the body and mind to slow down. And more than that, it restores balance.
Restorative yoga allows the body to enter into a deep state of relaxation, activating the healing para-sympathetic nervous system. The passive, soothing postures of restorative yoga, where the body is supported by bolsters, blankets and cushions, evoke the sensation of yielding to the flow of the body’s natural rhythms. The supportive props ensure the body is able to completely release into postures, so there is no holding, stretching or striving to deepen a pose, only a total release and a sense of letting go. As postures are held for long periods, this is a sustained respite, allowing the body to achieve a deep state of physiological rest, and tension and tightness simply melts away. The areas of the body which are opened in the posture allow increased blood flow and the organs in the area are nourished, space is created and energy can flow freely through the energy channels. In this resting state, the systems of the body can come into balance and the body’s innate wisdom can begin to heal and regenerate, restoring energy and health.
Restorative yoga is suitable for the complete beginner and the experienced yogi alike. Perfect for anyone who is experiencing stress, recovering from illness or injury or for those with a full, busy schedule or a strong yoga practice who find it hard to make time to unwind, rebalance and relax. It brings more openness and flexibility to the body and a calmness and steadiness to the mind, and is just what we need in this fast paced world.
By Claire Rodgers