The impact restorative yoga has had in releasing stress and tension for me is very personal.
About fourteen years ago I had a bout of serious asthma attacks that were life changing. I was continually in and out of the hospital and put on high levels of cortisone for an extended period that created extreme anxiety and panic attacks.
I started practicing restorative yoga, which was an integral part of my recovery. Restorative calmed my nervous system, relaxed my body and released tension from my breath. The effects of this practice released the fear of future attacks.
No amount of trying to talk myself out of the situation helped because my whole system was stuck in a heightened state of tension and anxiety. I needed to learn to bypass my mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is exactly what restorative yoga does.
Why Restorative is so Powerful
Modern life is fast paced and filled with stressors that contribute to a constant level of low-grade stress that we’re often unaware of.
This continuous state of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) arousal has led to many modern day illnesses such as asthma, cancer, heart decease and stress disorders.
Restorative provides the prefect antidote to stress because it creates “a supported pause.” By completely supporting the body and being still for extended periods the breath, the mind and the nervous system begin to calm.
Different restorative poses can be used for different purposes though they all help to calm and quiet the nervous system. There are poses that open the breath and lift our spirits when we’re feeling depressed, poses that are supportive and nurturing when we’re feeling anxious and poses that target specific parts of the body where tension accumulates.
Restorative releases tensions on physical, mental and emotional levels. Since our bodies store all our past experiences, when we let go of the holding in the physical body we often have strong emotional releases. The suppressed emotions and past experiences locked in the body bubble up to the surface and are then released.
One of the advantages of a restorative practice is that it can be applied universally to everyone. People who aren’t physically able to practice asana, such as the elderly and physically challenged can reap the benefits of deep relaxation and energetic rebalancing.
Four years ago my friend and colleague, Senior ISHTA teacher Gina Menza and I got together to create our own restorative training combining years of restorative experience. We started with a Restorative Level 1 Training and have recently added Module 2 with plans to increase the training to 85 hours, taught in separate modules.
We each bring a different focus to the training. Gina’s is the science behind restorative with a focus on the physical body. Mine has been on the energetic body, with a focus on the koshas, chakras and ayurveda. I’ve also integrated yoga nidra into our restorative training, and Gina has integrated essential oils.
What differentiates our training is the emphasis we place on individualizing the practice for physical, emotional and energetic imbalances, which is a cornerstone of ISHTA Yoga. Not only do we teach students how to sequence and adapt restorative postures for various conditions but we also integrate visualization, kriya, pranayama, mantra, yoga nidra and essential oils into the practice. We teach students to recognize their own imbalances and give them the tools to find balance – to become their own teachers.
A Subtle Body Approach to Restorative Yoga
As an ISHTA Yogiraj, and Senior ISHTA Trainer, my years of study with Yogiraj Alan Finger have shaped my perspective, and teaching approach. This has brought me to integrate the subtle body into teaching Restorative Yoga.
Restorative poses, because of the length of time we stay in each posture, are a powerful way to directly tap into the energetic body. Just like we have the nervous system, the subtle body consists of energetic pathways that run through the body and animate it.
Restorative and the Chakras
There are 72,000 energetic pathways that run through the body that are governed by seven major energetic centers (chakras) that run along the spine and govern different segments of the body. Imbalances in any chakra over an extended period of time can create imbalance in the others and is often responsible for imbalances in our bodies and our lives.
By combining specific subtle body balancing techniques with specific restorative poses we can target chakra imbalances. I’ve developed a method of balancing each of these energetic centers by selecting specific restorative poses along with specific pranayama, visualizations, mantras and kriyas.
Restorative and Ayurveda
Restorative is an excellent way to correct doshic imbalances. When restorative postures are sequenced and adapted for specific imbalances along with specific yoga nidra practices, visualizations and mantras they are even more powerful. I currently teach a three part Restorative / Yoga Nidra Ayurveda Series.
Restorative and Yoga Nidra
I was first introduced to yoga nidra as a teenager in Mumbai, India and the stillness it led me into had a profound impact on my practice and my teaching. When I started teaching restorative classes I found that adding a yoga nidra at the end of the practice was very powerful because the restorative postures led students into a place of deep stillness which when followed by yoga nidra induced an even deeper state of surrender enabling the release of past experiences locked in the sub conscious and unconscious.
I started combining these two disciplines to create my signature Restorative/Yoga Nidra Workshops. I teach two different Restorative / Yoga Nidra Workshop Series, one is a chakra balancing series consisting of seven workshops each focusing on a different chakra and the other is a three part ayurveda series each focusing on a different dosha.