Written by Ana Davis

Have you noticed that your yoga practice is becoming yet another task on your daily ‘to do’ list? If the answer is yes then yoga may, paradoxically, be adding to your stress levels! As we strive to stretch, strengthen and even contort our bodies into that illusive asana that we aspire towards, we may forget to provide adequate time for rest within our daily practice. When we give ourselves the time and space to balance our active practice with some restorative poses or sequences, we reap the rewards of rejuvenating our nervous system and reviving our depleted energy.

Restorative yoga is a gentle practice that can teach us the almost forgotten art of listening to our body: to work with our energy, not against it. Practicing restoratively can support women during the low energy ebbs associated with the hormonal fluctuations of her menstrual cycle. It can also benefit any body, male or female, undergoing the negative effects of stress, recovering from illness or surgery, or at any time in our lives when we need to slow down and nurture ourselves.

Props like bolsters, blankets and yoga bricks are used to support the body, enabling you to rest and ‘be’ in a yoga posture for relatively long periods of time – anywhere from one to twenty minutes. As you relax, breathe and soften into the support, it feels so blissfully passive that it’s like having yoga done to you!

According to author and yoga teacher Judith Lasater, in her seminal book, Relax & Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, restorative yoga is a kind of “active relaxation”. “By supporting the body with props, we alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance,” says Lasater.

A restorative practice offers us an opportunity to receive the benefits of yoga even at those times when we would usually feel too tired to bother. Just make a start by resting in one supported pose, for example, supta baddha konasana (supported reclining bound angle pose) or supported child pose and before you know it, you’ve been on the mat for 30 – 60 minutes with no effort at all!

This is the first in a series of articles introducing you to the power of restorative yoga. We’ll be looking at various supported versions of some familiar poses that have profound healing benefits for a number of different conditions.

About the author

Ana Davis is a writer and yoga teacher of over 10 years experience, specialising in pre- and postnatal yoga. She teaches the sessions on pregnancy and women’s health in the Byron Yoga Centre’s level one and two teacher training courses. She will be conducting a special prenatal and postnatal Teacher Training workshop on 26 and 27 April. Check our workshops page for more info.

* For more on the therapeutic benefits of Restorative Yoga, look out for Ana’s article, ‘Yoga for Healthy Menstruation‘, in the March edition of Australian Yoga Life magazine.