Restorative yoga is known for its relaxing, calming and healing effects. It has its roots in the yoga of BKS Iyengar, who developed Iyengar yoga - which allows students to practice without any strain or pain and is considered ideal for those recovering from injuries or illnesses. It is also believed to boost the immune system and accelerate the body's natural healing process.
As well as being popular with students who are recovering from illness or injury, Restorative yoga is considered an ideal balance to our hectic and stressful modern lifestyles. This is because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, regulates the blood pressure and relaxes the body. As such, Restorative yoga is considered particularly beneficial for those suffering from anxiety, insomnia or headaches, as well as other stress-related conditions.
Restorative yoga aims to relax as far as possible into the postures without putting any strain or pain in the body. The body needs to use minimal physical effort, and the best way possible is by using props like bolsters, blankets, belts or blocks. As a yoga teacher and a practitioner, my favourite prop is the buckwheat yoga bolsters because of the weight and support they give me - allowing me to relax deeper into each pose. It moulds into my body shape - supporting my joints. Bolsters are designed to enhance the capacity to let go. To allow our bodies to be as comfortable and supported as possible.
Once you let the body trust the support of the bolster, your mind starts to focus on the breath, and you begin to cultivate mindfulness and release tension from the body. Most of us don't realise the tension and stress that we carry with us, so the importance of stepping back and observing our bodies in a very relaxing way is something that I suggest everyone tries a few times a week. It's like learning to ride a bike; at first, you are reluctant or scared, or you are thinking about everything else.
But once you pass through that and start going with the flow, you start seeing the benefits on your body and mind. After a while, it will feel so natural that you become your own flow (you see that freedom, that enjoyment, you already feel it in you), which allows you to understand the importance of relaxing and giving your body and mind a break.
That's why the material, weight, and size of the bolsters you rely on are essential. I suggest using the most natural props possible. They need to feel nice on the skin and give firm support to take your body weight. If a bolster is too soft, it ends up changing shape so your body cannot reach the relaxing point.
I always recommend organic cotton buckwheat bolsters to my students where you cannot feel the zipped inner and outer covers. It is also essential that covers are machine washable to feel that freshness. The bolster should enhance a challenging practice - because we are not used to relaxing, letting go and relying on something else. So for that very reason, you need to make this journey the most comfortable experience possible.
What are you waiting for? Go and try the benefit of Restorative or Yin Yoga. Trust me when I say that you won't regret it. Remind yourself to give yourself all the TLC that you deserve. Remember that you are worthy of it.
Remember to explore yourself in each pose and find a way that works for you. Usually, the teacher will suggest the most common ways to use the bolster, but that doesn't mean it will work for you, so remember to listen to you as you are the "rider on that bike" of your journey to relax and heal.
Later in the week, I will post some simple poses that you may not have seen before - where I am working intuitively. There is more than one way of doing things. Explore and be playful as you learn how to let go. And who knows, maybe what was uncomfortable one day becomes your comfort on another new day.