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  • Writer's pictureDana LaPointe

What Is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative Yoga is active relaxation. It makes use of props to create positions of ease and comfort that facilitate relaxation and health. ~ Judith Hanson Lasater, grande dame of yoga in the United States, and pioneer of restorative yoga - and my Restorative Yoga trainer.

Yoga Poses & Focus of the Classes

Typically, in a traditional Western Yoga Class, we focus on the poses, or the physical aspects of the practice of yoga, called "asana." Most yoga classes cue your body through a series of active yoga asanas (poses), then they may wrap up by adding a restorative pose or two at the end of class, in the lying or seated position. You probably know Savasana, or corpse pose.

In Restorative Yoga, we focus the entire class on those restorative poses, first taught by BKS Iyengar, of Pune, India, who believed yoga should be accessible to all bodies, and who pioneered using props to bring the pose to the body of the individual no matter what their ability or shape. This helps the body practice yoga without strain and with much lower risk of injury.

BKS Iyengar demonstrated, over his career, how restorative poses could help people recover from injury and illness. Judith Hanson Lasater's book, Relax & Renew®, with whom I am training as a Relax & Renew® teacher, from which much of this information comes, notes that restorative yoga is particularly helpful in times of chaos and stress in your life, after "big" things happen. I have learned from her and in her other writings and classes, that restorative yoga is something that you can benefit from practicing, even just a little, every day.

Restorative yoga helps minimize the effects of cumulative daily stress. It aids your body in turning on your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps with immune function, digestion, and rest. Savasana is a familiar pose to most. It usually happens at the end of a yoga class. You lie on your mat comfortably, breathe normally, and just relax with your eyes closed for a few minutes or longer. That is a taste of restorative yoga. For the most benefit, our bodies generally take at least 15 or 20 minutes to relax into a pose, so holding them for that long is more beneficial than the typical 3-5 minute savasana most classes offer.

The use of props helps to fully support your body and aid in full relaxation. Most classes that are long enough aim to move the spine in all directions - back bends, forward bends, gentle twists or side bends. A healthy spine is a healthy body. The sequence usually also includes an inversion (a pose with the head lower than the heart or the lower body elevated) to circulate fluids through the body evenly and away from where they have accumulated all day. They reduce brain arousal, blood pressure, and fluid retention. (Roger Cole, Ph.D., UC- San Diego - from Restore & Renew p 7). It is believed in Eastern Yoga that the opening and closing or squeezing of organs, such as in forward and then back bends or twists, that the body squeezes the blood out of the organs and brings fresh blood in with increased circulation to those organs, improving oxygenation and detoxing them. (Id.) Eastern Yoga also believes that the body contains energy and that masculine and feminine energies are balanced by the practice of yoga to avoid depletion or overstimulation. (Id.)

How My Restorative Yoga Classes Work

I start my Restorative Yoga classes right away in a restorative pose, usually seated or lying down. They are currently 30 minute classes for my members because many people have a hard time finding 60 minutes in their weekday schedule to devote to rest. If that's you, you probably need restorative yoga the most. 20 minutes of restorative yoga gives you the benefits you need in quick sessions. I will likely be offering longer classes on a monthly or quarterly basis in the future. In a 30 minute class, I have reduced poses to one or two. I generally want my students to hold an enjoy relaxing in a pose for 15+ minutes.

My students need some props to participate in classes at home via zoom: Pillows or a bolster or two. Blankets. Blocks or thick, hardcover books Washcloth. Towels. D strap or belt or a scarf.

Access to a wall/door or a piece of furniture like a chair/sofa.

For restorative yoga to be fully beneficial, in that you fully relax into your poses, it's recommended that you darken the room you're practicing in, and that you have warm clothing on or use a blanket, or both, in the poses to keep warm. Covering your eyes with a light material like a washcloth or light eye cover is recommended. I recommend practicing in quiet, as music can pull you away from relaxation and the most benefit from the pose. For this reason, I don't play music in my restorative classes. I want you to be aware of your body, breath and mind during my class, and not distracted by music, even though it's a lovely distraction. Most of us have very few quiet moments in our day. Restorative yoga provides a short time when we can give ourselves the gift of quiet time our bodies and minds so desperately crave. My students generally feel like they've had a nap or are ready for bed after they practice restorative yoga in my class, and they keep coming back. Personally, restorative yoga aligns deeply with my values and what my body craves. I am a very active person with lots of active energy in my body, and to balance and counter that, I need restorative yoga and quiet time. I find that I feel better than I did before practicing. It benefits me- body and mind. To participate in my Restorative Yoga classes on Mondays at 7:30pm CT, you can become a member at for just $12 a month, and you get that class every week, plus the recording is available on the site, as well as another yoga class currently on Fridays, and much more. I provide content related to cooking, recipes, meal plans, plant care and gardening, coaching and more on my ko-fi site for members. You can also support me with a one-time donation of $12 or more and get access to classes for a 30 day period. I give access to classes on my membership site to one-time contributors for that time. For a longer, more in-depth Restorative Yoga session, you can purchase 1:1 lessons with me for yourself or your group. Currently, they are virtual. I may offer outdoor sessions when the weather permits. Contact me at 262-412-0806 or to set up private sessions to meet your needs. After the pandemic ends, I will begin offering indoor classes and sessions, also. Looking to 2022, most likely. There's a class tonight! Go here to sign up:


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