When you search for Restorative Yoga, Dr Google will point you in a few different directions as to what it is, what you can expect in a class, and images of yogis draped over bolsters, blankets and blocks.
So, this little diddy isn’t so much about what restorative yoga is, per se, but rather what it means to me, and the reason why I love to teach it.
Throughout my teacher training in 2015 at Botannix Yoga, the dualities of yin and yang, sun and moon, day and night, masculine and feminine kept coming up, and every time these qualities were described, I noticed I was much more aligned to the active, firey, rajasic, sun quality.
Yoga shows us the natural dualities that exist in life, and then asks us to find the balance between them. So when I found that the type of energy I was more prone to and attracted to was of a more active nature, the obvious “balancing out” practice for me would be to slow things down. A lot.
We were exposed to a 2.5 hr restorative workshop as part of our teacher training. The space and stillness that comes with a restorative practice can seem challenging, especially when we constantly “fill” our days with things. I started to notice the thoughts, swinging from branch to branch in the monkey mind. But the difference between this practice and my regular practice, was that I was invited to get supremely comfortable, and take all effort out of my physical body… Say what?? How am I going to benefit if I’m not sweating everything out??
The initial precept of a restorative practice that I needed to get used to, and to accept, was that the props were there to support me. I needed to surrender all effort and relax into the earth beneath… but…but… I am used to supporting myself – how can I give that up and open up and relax into the space around me? What I realised was that I was being asked to soften (gulp). I was being asked to remove the layers of the defensive “I’m ok” tactics that I had so meticulously built up around my emotional self. Ah. Emotionality. Therein was the place where the restorative practice really got to me. And once I was supremely comfortable, warm and in a place where I felt safe, I softened. Through that softening came a release. At times it was tears, at other times I could feel a tension dissolve in parts of my body that had been holding on for I don’t know how long. No matter what it was, I was so open to the experience that I let it happen. I stood back and watched. I observed and continued to sink a little deeper as I did so. Huh. So THAT’s what it feels like to relax.
The more I work with restorative practices, the more I learn about what it means to deliver this experience to others. I now realise the feminine, cooling, slowing down process of the practice is not just within the props. It is also the act of allowing the teacher to comfort us. Of allowing another to care and position us in a way that we are able to turn inwards and wander through all parts of SELF. Especially those parts we tend to keep in the darkness, away from the light. They are just as much a part of us as our active, everyday SELF, even if we don’t check in as often.
And so for me, it is in the balancing out of the energies where I feel that return to wholeness. Through taking the time to be still in a nurturing, loving environment, I can let the cooling, feminine energies be the focus and I can embrace the yin, the moon, the night qualities that exist within mySELF.
So, I invite you to reflect on your own energy. In your own practice, notice where you feel safe, what movements you are attracted to, what makes you feel comfortable. And experiment with the opposite energy – to see if you can find that SAME safety, that SAME attraction and if you can be comfortable in both?