Usually, a yoga class might consist of a number of active postures, followed by Savasana, a period of ‘active relaxation’.
This active relaxation helps us to bring ourselves back into balance by just being instead of doing. Similarly, restorative yoga is more about just being, and less about doing any active movements. With the support of props such as blankets, bolsters, chairs, walls, and blocks, postures are adapted from supine, prone, or inverted positions. The body can then fully relax, physically and mentally, into the posture for 3-5 minutes or longer. There is no strain, and the body is still being passively stimulated while remaining relaxed.
Our energy and body rhythms vary according to time of day, time of year, and time of life generally. Our practice can therefore reflect, and respect, that energy. For example, if you are suffering from chronic stress, have experienced illness or injury, feel weak or fatigued, then practicing yoga in this way can have enormous benefit. These benefits can include better circulatory and lymphatic circulation, better spinal health, reduced heartrate, slower breathing, improved digestion, and regulated blood pressure. However, you don’t need to wait until you are at that point, to slow down. Practicing once a week, or integrating a couple of restorative poses into an active practice can feel very liberating for the soul. So why not give it a try?
With respect to B.K.S. Iyengar, who is credited to have developed the use of props to modify poses so that students could practice without strain, and to Judith Hanson Lasater, physical therapist, senior yoga teacher and advocate of restorative yoga.