While it’s a meditative exercise, yoga is still fairly active. The practitioner moves through various poses designed to increase strength and flexibility. Many people practice yoga with athletic goals in mind, and sometimes it can be taken to extremes, e.g. hot yoga.
Restorative yoga goes in the opposite direction. This form of yoga slows the exercise down even further to deeply relax the muscles. Through the use of props and passive stretching, restorative yoga opens up the body and highlights the meditative benefits of this Eastern tradition!
What Is Restorative Yoga?
Most restorative yoga postures are seated or supine positions. These are held in place for ten to twenty minutes at a time, meaning a practitioner may only do four or five poses throughout an entire session. While this makes the class quite slow, the practitioner will still feel the stretches work to relax the muscles.
A teacher will guide the class through the poses, creating a relaxing atmosphere and helping practitioners focus on breathing and meditation. The atmosphere can be different based on the teacher, and they’ll create a relaxing atmosphere by playing music, dimming the lighting, or turning the room temperature high or low.
Besides the speed, the main difference between “normal” yoga and restorative yoga is the regular use of props. Blankets, blocks, and pillow-like bolsters help the restorative yoga practitioners hold their poses for longer without straining the muscles. These long holds help the muscles relax more deeply, and as a result, the practitioner gets a more meditative experience.
The support provided by the props is quite simple. For example, one can place a folded blanket on their legs for support while doing the seated forward bend. This pose sees the practitioner bending forward and allowing their entire torso to rest on the blanket. The blanket prop makes it easier to hold the pose for ten to twenty minutes.
What Is Passive Stretching?
One of the key elements of restorative yoga is passive stretching, sometimes referred to as “gentle yoga.” Passive stretching is assuming a position and holding it with the support of another body part or a prop. It’s what makes restorative yoga so restorative!
In using passive stretching, the practitioner makes no effort to affect the body’s range of motion while holding the pose. The muscles are held in one position, allowing them to settle in and relax. Passive stretching provides many of the benefits one can experience from a restorative yoga class.
What Are The Benefits Of Restorative Yoga?
There are many reasons to practice restorative yoga:
- Meditation: Restorative yoga can effectively calm the mind and reduce stress. The slowness of the routine makes it easier to focus and meditate.
- Healing: Restorative yoga is an effective cool-down routine after strenuous workouts. It slows down the body and helps the muscles recover from the strain. Passive stretching also relieves the soreness and spasming that affects healing muscles.
It Can Help With Battling Illness: Restorative yoga has been shown to have many positive effects for those battling cancer. Clinical studies have shown that it can decrease depression and anxiety while making it easier to deal with the pain. Cancer patients can manage the side effects of their treatments positively.