The Benefits and Significance of Restorative Yoga

Learning to Receive and Restore

By Jillian Pransky


Restorative practice by nature is a receptive practice, and in that receptivity you can guide yourself toward a more healthy state of being. Restorative yoga is much more like meditation or relaxation or yoga nidra than it is like hatha yoga. When you are in passive postures supported by props, using no muscular effort, the focus is on relieving the grip of muscular and inner tension, and you can be more spacious and receptive. There’s no goal of stretching or strengthening. You’re exploring what happens when you slowly release your habitual way of holding—what are you left with?

An incredible system to heal the body, Restoratives help the kick in relaxation response, balancing the nervous system and optimizing energy flow to the organs. They lift immune function and enhance the process of digestion. Basically they set the whole body up for deep healing, growth and repair. Beyond these incredible physiological health benefits, restoratives create the opportunity to see where you hold habitual tension.

When I was a kid would go to the dentist and they would give out these little packets that you would bite, and the color would adhere to whatever plaque was left in your mouth. Restorative yoga is like that—it shows where the condensed areas of your body and mind are.

Little by little you start to create more space in those places that are holding tension, putting awareness on them so they begin to change or loosen in ways they haven’t for months or years. But, because we’re so used to holding ourselves together to create solidity in ways that make us feel safe that when we first start to let go we begin to feel anxious and uncomfortable.

Restorative yoga is typically known as the yummy practice, the luxurious practice, the one you do every now and then because you need a treat, like having a massage. But much more can happen in a restorative class. Really, it’s a very advanced practice.

And because people can release very deep tension, it’s very important that the poses have a real integrity in the way they’re set up, so that when someone lets go they feel a sense of support, a cocooning or swaddling. The architecture of building a pose needs to be very skillful. It’s a real science, down to what texture the props are, how soft or hard depending on the results you want.

Another great benefit for hatha yogis, is that restorative yoga a great segue between active practice and meditative practice. When I started teaching yoga, most people found yoga through their gyms, and eventually they would make it to a yoga studio, because once you start practicing you can’t help but want to go deeper. Restorative yoga is the back door to meditation the same way gym yoga was the back door to a deeper hatha yoga practice.

via Yoga Dork