Many people who practice yoga do so because it’s a great workout, and an excellent compliment to any regular exercise regimen. It’s true that yoga can be “hard.” It takes mental and physical stamina, and it encourages a person to test the limits of both realms. Then we think about restorative yoga, and from the outside, it can seem just like glorified naptime for adults.
After all, all you have to do is roll up some blankets, lay there for an hour and breathe and move around slowly, right? Not exactly. Here are some reasons why restorative yoga can be very challenging, but also why it is totally worthwhile. What we think are “weaknesses” are actually our strengths.
Why Restorative Yoga is the “Hardest” Yoga
Restorative Yoga Takes Patience
To a fly on the wall, restorative yoga might just seem like a bunch of grown-ups lounging around on the floor. It takes a lot of props, a lot of breathing, and sometimes it even begins with savasana. But our tendency is to show up to a fitness class ready to work hard and break a sweat. In this way, restorative yoga can be frustrating at first.
However, just like any workout regimen, restorative yoga takes practice, discipline and effort. Sometimes holding a pose for an extended period of time and convincing the mind to quiet down can be grueling.
A lot of the time, we can often be so focused on feeling good in the moment that we ironically end up feeling less than optimal later. We tend to find short-term fixes for problems that may even exacerbate them later. Restorative yoga will get you feeling good in the moment and later on if you stop trying so hard and just let go. You will sleep better and feel better in general, both mentally and physically.
It Takes Real Introspection
Self-reflection is not an easy task. Many of us balk at the thought of holding a mirror up to ourselves to see how we honestly feel, think and exist. Restorative yoga is as much about the mind as it is the body, and this can be difficult to say the least.
What’s amazing about this type of introspection though, is that it happens gently, slowly and in a safe, nurturing space. When we take time to be patient with ourselves and allow quiet and self-reflection to come bit by bit, it’s a much easier pill to swallow. Restorative yoga also teaches us to do this with love and compassion so that it’s not a punishment or judgment when we encounter things that need improvement. We all deserve kindness, and it’s the best when it comes from within.
It Fosters Body Awareness
This ends up being a very good thing, but it can be hard for people who experience body insecurity or chronic pain. Restorative yoga creates awareness that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, which can be a difficult concept to embrace. But if you allow yourself to settle into the practice and welcome rather than fight this fact, a wonderful sense of enlightenment can be achieved.
Have a good relationship with your body is important, especially if you struggle with body image or regular physical discomfort. During your practice, you will release tension in places you didn’t even realize you were holding it. Restorative yoga can soothe stress. It can lower your blood pressure. It can lower your heart rate. It can allow your body to regulate itself. And it will teach you how to recognize when you’re out of balance and give you the tools to do something about it.
It Makes You Slow Way Down
This can be a very difficult task for anyone these days. We have hectic schedules. We work, we have friends and family, we live in cities that never slow down, we are constantly connected to technology and stimulation. Practicing stillness can be a real chore.
Calming our monkey mind and body is not something that even registers for most of us. But restorative yoga can give you the skills even outside of your practice to make sure you are taking time to slow down throughout your hectic days and weeks. The benefits to your mental and physical health make a restorative yoga practice very worthwhile.
It Is a Precursor to Meditation
It is totally possible to be a person who enjoys yoga, but who does not enjoy meditation. It seems silly, but just sitting for extended periods of time and trying to calm the mind can be both physically taxing and mentally frustrating. However, the true purpose of an asana practice is to prepare the body for meditation.
In this respect, restorative yoga actually combines the two. It gives you the space and support your mind and body need to fully relax into themselves and become quiet. It can actually make separate meditation sessions easier by gently training both mind and body to open and release.
It Fosters Acceptance and Detachment
It can be very difficult to detach from the things we think define us as people: our jobs, our relationships, our thoughts and feelings…the list goes on and on. Detachment can actually seem quite selfish and contrary to being a successful person. The word “detach” can invoke feelings of not caring, not engaging and not wanting to be a part of your world.
But “detachment” and disassociation are two different concepts when it comes to restorative yoga. The truth is, when we practice detachment, we accept that our true self lies at the seat of our soul. Detaching means that we know our true self, and that that true self is always going to be the same no matter what happens externally. This, essentially, is freedom. When we let go of what we think defines us, we are able to approach every aspect of our lives with love and compassion: relationships, jobs, selfless service and self-care all become automatic and lose any negative hold on our souls.
It Fosters Self-Care
When we are constantly encouraged to serve others and we feel that many people depend on us, it can seem counterintuitive to devote time to self-care. But the old adage is true: you can’t care for others if you don’t first care for yourself. Even though taking time for yourself can seem uncomfortable at first, over time it will become an essential part of your routine. You’ll begin to see that you are better at caring and giving of yourself if you dedicate time to being a whole person.
While restorative yoga may seem like the gentlest form of the practice, it definitely comes with its challenges. But just like anything of value, restorative yoga and all its trappings definitely pay off. Regularly taking time to sit or lay quietly so your mind and body can settle and expand has a myriad of benefits when you leave the mat. This is quite possibly the most important adult naptime you’ve ever given yourself!
What is your experience with restorative yoga? Do you prefer a slow practice like this or more vinyasa-style movement when you do yoga? Or maybe you enjoy a combination of both! We’d love to have you come over and try restorative yoga with us at our Rancho Mirage, California facility!