Peek through the door of my home studio on any given evening, and chances are you will find me on the floor, my body supported by blankets and bolsters, and a strap binding my legs in a deep hip opening pose. For me, this is the stuff that sweet dreams are made of, as I surrender into one of my many favorite restorative yoga poses. At a time when the superficial remains of my day are stubbornly beginning to take over, I turn to the grounding energy of this practice to dissolve my burdens, physical and otherwise.
If it sounds luxurious, you’re right; it’s downright heavenly! And its compelling benefits have been researched many times over. From easing the symptoms of chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety to improving cognitive functions and sleep, restorative practices are now being integrated into many therapeutic regimens as part of a more holistic approach to treatment. Western medicine is confirming what ancient yogis have known all along; that restorative practice changes your brain on a cellular level and helps it to communicate more effectively with your body.
How exactly does restorative yoga do that?
By bringing the nervous system back to its resting state, which is a tall order in today’s pressure-cooker world (which is taking a toll, even on our kids!). Most of today’s common health problems are either caused or exacerbated by stress and the body’s reaction to living under the daily control of the ‘fight or flight’ response. It’s true; stress causes dis-ease.
Most of us have a tough time getting our brains to shut off the stress response. When stress becomes chronic, our bodies continue to produce stress hormones, even when we “think” we are resting. In a restorative yoga practice, we support the body for optimal levels of relaxation while shutting out external stimuli and employing the breath to slowly ease the brain back to its parasympathetic (rest and digest) functions. Once those happy chemicals are flowing, the benefits are astounding!
Here’s a list of a few:
- Improved sleep (the body’s great healer)
- Stabilized mood
- Pain relief
- Balanced energy
- Improved digestion
- Increase in circulation and detoxification
- Improved muscle tone and posture
- Increased breath capacity
- Relief and management of disease symptoms
- Quickens recovery time after surgery, illness or injury
- An overall sense of wellbeing
It’s amazing how much one can benefit by doing nothing more than laying on the ground. (There are a few other benefits too, which I’ll leave it to your imaginations!)
So, how much restorative yoga does one need to do?
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to switch back to its rest and digest state. A weekly hour-long restorative yoga practice is a terrific way to get yourself back to feeling fantastic. Why not make a date with yourself and check out a class for a little self-love?
Your body and brain (and probably your significant other) will thank you!