Yoga has the ability to create bliss on many levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The key to this state can come from a variety of practices, but one form seems to stand out when it comes to relaxation. Restorative yoga uses long, supported holds to relax the body and restore the nervous system, which has the ability to open doors to the subconscious mind. We look to answer a few questions you may have about restorative yoga and how you are able to benefit from this healing practice.
How is restorative yoga different?
There are different styles of restorative yoga, but generally they all have the same intention. Restorative yoga uses props to support the body, meaning there is no physical effort or strain in maintaining a pose. In fact, it is encouraged to be in complete relaxation. If there’s any intensity, sensitivity or pain then it’s important to ease out or provide more support using props. If the pose is not supported, the body unconsciously holds tension to protect your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. This can prevent the nervous system from entering it’s relaxation phase, known as the parasympathetic response.
In a deep restorative yoga practice, you may relax in a pose for 10 minutes or longer. Moving quickly from one pose to another can disrupt the relaxation response, which makes patience and timing essential to a restorative yoga practice.
How does restorative yoga affect the nervous system?
During everyday life, we are constantly bombarded with stimuli from our environment. For most of us, we’re operating with a fight-or-flight response, a.k.a. the stress response which is part of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is an automatic division of the nervous system that responds to the world around us: our emotions, diet, exercise and anything else that we’re exposed to. It has the potential to effect many of the body’s processes including heart rate, blood pressure, pupil size, and digestion, just to name a few. The fight-or-flight response can be useful in some situations; it encourages us to complete our tasks, to know when threat is present and will give us strength in emergency situations. However, this response is commonly overactive; with time, it can damage the body even on a cellular level. Luckily, restorative yoga can slow or even reverse the effects of an overactive stress response. Through conscious relaxation, one can achieve homeostasis – the body’s natural equilibrium.
How is the unconscious mind affected?
Sigmund Freud believed the unconscious mind has a will and purpose that is independent and unknown to the conscious mind. This means that your true wishes and desires could be lying in this unconscious space, without your knowledge. Finding bliss involves peeling back the layers to find that deeper knowledge. Conscious relaxation gives us the key to access this territory, even if we aren’t fully aware of its presence.
The meditative and supportive aspects of restorative yoga work cohesively to create an inclusive, healing practice. If you’d like to experience for yourself, we offer restorative yoga at 7pm on Tuesdays, and 8:30am on Saturdays. Please view our upcoming schedule for more information.