You know the feeling – when you’re not unwell, just a little off. Maybe you’ve been working too many hours, pushing yourself a little too hard, maybe even dealing with some stuff in your personal life. It happens. In life we ebb and flow and sometimes we burn out. The logical solution is a holiday, but sometimes we don’t have the time, the money, the required full time nanny for the children….
For a lot of people yoga is another form of exercise to add to the routine – a vinyasa class provides a hard and tough workout. They gravitate towards styles of yoga where they sweat and move and get their heart rate going. Restorative yoga is the opposite. Its purpose is to take the mindfulness found in all disciplines of yoga to the next level. It’s slow and still, and it’s as much (or even more) about the mind as it is the physical body.
When describing a recent Restorative workshop here at Stretch to a fellow classmate one of our students claimed "You’ll love it, it’s kind of like adult nap time." Adult naptime may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you will spend a lot of time laying down, and there are blankets, cushions and sleepy music. In truth, restorative yoga is simply that - restorative. It is the centering of your body and breath - connecting the body and the mind by practicing stillness or gentle movement for extended periods of time. The props assist in helping you to hold poses longer. No downward dogs or warrior poses where your legs are absolutely burning like they are going to explode. More like holding a stretch by assisting that stretch with a strap around the foot. It’s therapeutic and somewhat relaxing. That doesn’t mean it is easy though.
Stillness is hard. In fact for many of us it’s much, much harder than moving. If the thought of being still for hours makes you feel uncomfortable, but ‘stressed’ is your natural state, then perhaps it’s time to give something new like restorative yoga a try. This is a class for your mind, rather than your body. Being able to sit with discomfort, with stillness, and finding a way to move through it. Perhaps meditative yoga would more accurately describe the practice.
The most interesting thing about restorative yoga is the way people describe the way the feel after the class – that night they sleep like babies, the next day aches and pains are gone, big decisions are easier to make, that feeling of looming burn out seems to have dissipated.
It’s probably a pretty good litmus test to pay attention to our body in the aftermath of how we treat it. We’re so focused on feeling good in the moment that we ironically end up feeling not as not optimal later. Junk food, ‘stress-relieving alcohol’ and even too much intense work or exercise can feel good in the moment, but can leave us with a ‘hangover’ later. Conversely, struggling through a practice where we are out of our comfort zone typically offers us a reward later - peace, serenity, restfulness. In life there is a time to push and a time to grind, a time to ebb and a time to flow. If your body and your mind tell you that burnout is on the horizon, you might give restorative yoga a shot.