BKS Iyengar is credited with developing Restorative Yoga.  Iyengar’s early teaching experience showed him how pain or injury can result from a student straining in a yoga pose. He experimented with “props,” modifying poses until the student could practice without strain. Iyengar also explored how these modified poses could help people recover from illness or injury.  Judith Lasater, an Iyengar teacher, further established and developed the practice of Restorative Yoga.  She is one of the leading Restorative Yoga Instructors today and is the author of Relax and Renew, a great book on Restorative Yoga.

Conscious relaxation, Deep Rest.  The guiding principle of restorative yoga is that support creates release.  The most obvious feature of a restorative yoga practice is the array of props: blankets, bolsters and blocks support the body to release muscular tension.  Restorative Yoga Poses belong to almost all classes of poses: backbends, forward bends, twists, inversions.  Each pose has a different flavor, quality, and benefit but the aim of each pose is the same: relaxation.

Deep Rest or Conscious Relaxation is considered to be different from sleep in its effects on the body than sleep.  When we are sleeping, we are often in a dream state, where the nervous and muscular systems are still active.  In Deep Rest, the nervous and muscular systems are able to slow down, allowing the body to restore its vital energies that much more completely.

Restorative Yoga allows the Parasympathetic Nervous System to be more fully activated.  Stimulating the PNS (not to be confused with peripheral nervous system, although it is a component of it) helps to lower heart rate and blood pressure; it helps to healthily stimulate the immune system and keep the endocrine system operating healthily.  The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are equally important, however the sympathetic nervous system often gets more play in our busy, stressed-out lifestyles.  It is believed that if the PNS is tapped out or under-active, illness pervades.  Thus, forms of relaxation, such as yoga and meditation, that help to stimulate the PNS are generally beneficial for overall body health.

The more the body releases and relaxes, the deeper the breathing can become.  The breath is the vehicle on which prana, or vital life force, moves into the body.  Also, depending on the pose, Restorative Yoga opens up certain areas of the body, allowing more circulation of blood, lymph, and prana to create healing and vitality in those specific areas and throughout.


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