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What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is a practice that holds yoga poses, or asanas, for a longer duration of time than usual, through the use of props such as yoga blocks. Restorative yoga emphasizes deep relaxation and as such I would suggest this practice to anyone who wants to focus on the meditative aspect of Yoga. As this practice is less physically intense it is often confused with Yin Yoga. Although both practices aim to release deep tension, restorage yoga works by releasing this tension passively whereas Yin Yoga works by active stretching. Restorative Yoga emphasizes complete relaxation of the body as it is based off of the principle that complete bodily relaxation allows the mind to relax which allows tension to be released from both the body and the mind.

Although Restorative Yoga is physically effortless, it is not without effort. In this practice, poses are often held for ten to twenty minutes and during which you are expected to focus on release, relaxing, and your breath. This sounds easy, and I thought it was, until I realized that because of our fast-paced lives we never really stop to focus on our bodies and minds in the present. As such I was surprised to find it quite difficult to be able to focus on relaxing and breathing. However, achieving this skill has really helped me in my daily life as it grounds me to the present. Another benefit I found from practicing Restorative Yoga was instantly a noticeably much better sleep as it helped me to really relax. I still engage in Restorative Yoga, especially when I feel exhausted, and I know my body would benefit from some spiritual selfcare.

From a scientific basis, Restorative Yoga is a good way to destress as this activity is able to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the “rest and digest,” as opposed to the “fight or flight” part of your nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, your body is no longer receiving “fight or flight” signals, and it starts channeling energy towards relaxing and recovering the body. Because daily life is often stressful, Restorative Yoga can help decrease stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system while also strengthening the parasympathetic nervous system by initiating its activation more often. This is extremely important as many individuals fail to realize that chronic stress, which is extremely common, can lead to mental and physical illnesses. As such Restorative Yoga really demonstrated to me the importance of the mind body connection – in order to successfully heal and strengthen our body we must also release tension in our mind, and vice versa. I therefore suggest everyone to try Restorative Yoga and commit to including the practice in their Yoga routines as the mental benefits reaped from this practice will surely assist you with more physically vigorous Yoga practices.

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