How does restorative yoga promote relaxation?

Q:

How does restorative yoga promote relaxation?

A:

All day long we’re active in one way or another. We tend to forget that there’s support under bodies. We tend to forget that we don’t have to engage in physically holding ourselves together.

So on a physical level, restorative yoga provides support in the form of bringing your attention to where you meet props or the ground, where you meet a blanket, a bolster, a block, or the floor, a chair or a bed; to allowing whatever’s underneath our body to hold our weight, to hold our effort, to hold our bones and our muscles.

What happens is as we begin to partner with support, as we begin to acknowledge that it’s there to hold us up, we start to relax the way we stay so tight and active in our body or tense in our body.

As soon as we start to soften our muscular body, our body gets the message: “Oh, I must be in a safer environment. Things must be okay.”

And it starts this series of events. Once our body starts to relax, we also have more room for our breath.

Our diaphragm starts to move more fully as the breath grows more deep. That is the number one way our brain gets the message that we’re safe. We only relax when we’re safe.

Feeling safe is a pre-requisite for relaxation. These first two steps of letting our body start to rest on support and allowing our breath to be deep, full and rhythmic helps our brain get the message that we’re safe.

We don’t have to be racing and running. The stress starts to reduce.

We start to initiate what’s called the relaxation response. Our mind then begins to quiet and over the course of that particular pose—it’s said between five to 20 minutes, you can be in a pose like this. We start to create a sense of safety in our nervous system.

We start to create a safe space in our body.

This is something we don’t tune into on a regular basis. It’s not something that we do all day long while we’re moving around and getting things done. But, when we consciously learn to create that response through a restorative pose, it’s a skill that we then develop and we’re able to bring back out into our lives.

Learn more in Jillian Pransky's episode of The Yogapedia Podcast.

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Written by Jillian Pransky
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Jillian Pransky, E-RYT 500, is the author of Deep Listening, an international presenter, mindfulness teacher, and certified yoga therapist. She created and leads Yoga Journal's Restorative Yoga 101 and Everyday Restorative and Yoga Anytime's Yoga For Anxiety show.

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