What is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is a beautiful practice of deep rest with many benefits for mind and body. Nicole Blyth describes it as ‘the perfect antidote to hectic modern day living’ - which sounds like something we can all use!
At Garden of Yoga we are passionate about sharing yoga in a way that is nurturing, accessible and helpful for all people, so we are very excited to host Nicole’s Restorative Yoga Workshop here on October 20th, and I also wanted to ask her some questions to find out more about this wonderful practice.
How has this practice changed your life?
Wow, that’s a big question. Restorative yoga has changed my life by providing me with a sustainable antidote for living in this fast paced western world, where busyness is all pervasive and considered a badge of honour of sorts. I am someone with an A type personality, who in the past, would get stuck on a treadmill of “doing” until I eventually fell off, exhausted with no sustainable way to manage my energy once I got back on. I discovered restorative yoga during my recovery from my second bout of glandular fever when I was 40 and parenting a 2 year old. It was and still is, a practice that I can turn up for that supports my body and my mind to slow down and where I can experience deep rest. I often emerge from a practice feeling more rejuvenated than after a night’s sleep. It allows me to sustainably manage my energy levels, my mood, my health and how I relate to others. I think that’s pretty life changing☺.
Do people ever tell you they would get bored staying in a gentle posture for a long time?
No one has said that to me, more often than not I get people telling me that the idea of resting, supported by props and having to do nothing actually sounds like something they need…ironically they also tend to tell me that they don’t have time to do it. I don’t think we are very good at prioritising rest, it’s still seen as indulgent or even lazy. Having said that, there are people who do come to class and who may find it a bit challenging to settle and they may become restless or slightly agitated.
What is your response?
I like to remind people that it is a practice and if you’re not familiar with the practice of pausing to rest, sometimes restlessness or agitation can arise – this is normal. It may sound silly but it can take time to learn how to rest. Our world is fast paced and many of us are more familiar with being in a state of low level hyper vigilance than of being in rest. However, for most of us, once the conditions have been created (a safe space, time, warmth, comfort, stillness and an element of darkness) the body knows how to rest and gradually the parasympathetic nervous system can come into dominance. This rest and digest response is where we restore the functioning of our bodies systems and where we can heal. There’s nothing better than when someone tells me after a practice that they had no idea they could experience such a deep level of rest.
Do you have strategies for calming the mind for people who struggle with this aspect of the practice?
Yes. I try to pre-empt restlessness by starting a class or workshop with some gentle, accessible movement and a breathing practice to transition into a slower more interoceptive way of being. All students are encouraged to raise a hand to seek assistance at any time during the practice. They may need assistance with the physical set up of their props so they are super comfy, or perhaps with some guidance to assist them to anchor their mind to a point of subtle focus which is more often than not simply bringing awareness back to the breath. Gentle verbal guidance is given intermittently throughout the practice, however gradually we build up to spending more time unguided. Whilst it can be helpful to be in stillness and to explore aspects of restlessness within a practice, I encourage students to give themselves full permission to move if they need to and to be comfortable, it’s their practice after all.
What health conditions might restorative yoga be helpful for?
Restorative yoga can be helpful for people experiencing stress, insomnia and fatigue, including those managing chronic energy depleting conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), adrenal fatigue and Crohn’s disease. Parents with children of any age who are experiencing postnatal depletion and are tired all the time can find it beneficial and it is wonderful in assisting people to optimise their immune response and to assist in the healing process. I also have a lot of students who attend my workshops and some who have developed their own restorative yoga home practice to manage their anxiety.