As the name suggests, this style of yoga “restores” the body to its parasympathetic nervous system function, which, in turn, helps the body rest, heal, and restore balance.The main focus of Restorative Yoga is that by relaxing in poses, with the aid of props, without strain or pain, we can achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Restorative yoga classes are very relaxing and slow paced.
The beauty of Restorative yoga is that we don’t have to contract our muscles. Though we often believe we have to ‘work’ to increase our flexibility, we can in fact, achieve more opening by softening and relaxing.
Restorative yoga is suitable for practitioners of all levels. By definition, restorative yoga is a restful practice that holds yoga poses (asanas) for a longer duration using props like yoga blocks, blankets, and bolsters. It is a practice of deep relaxation that emphasizes the meditative aspect of yoga—the union of body and mind. Through the use of props for support, many of the postures are held almost effortlessly.
When the body enters a state of relaxation the mind can also consciously relax as tension is released from both body and mind. The only work that’s required on your part during a restorative yoga practice is to pay attention to your breath and become aware of any sensations or thoughts that may arise.
The benefits of restorative yoga are similar to the many benefits of other styles of yoga, including:
- Increased relaxation: Deep breathing calms the nervous system to promote relaxation, and research supports a restorative yoga practice as an effective way to relax. A 2014 study suggests that restorative yoga is more effective at inducing relaxation than regular passive stretching.
- Better sleep: The more relaxed you are, the better your chances are of getting a good night’s rest. A 2020 meta-analysis looked at 19 different studies on how different types of yoga—including restorative yoga—can impact sleep quality. Researchers determined that yoga is an effective intervention for managing sleep problems by increasing melatonin and reducing hyperarousal.
- Improved well-being: Yoga practices, in general, are commonly associated with improved physical and mental well-being in the general population.
- Better mood: Research shows that yoga can help those with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders manage their symptoms.
- Reduced pain: Studies show that different styles of yoga including restorative yoga are helpful interventions for the management of musculoskeletal pain.
- Gentle on the body: Restorative yoga practices are gentle on the joints, and consistent practice can strengthen the connective tissues that surround the bones and joints.
Additionally, clinical research into restorative yoga has found that the practice can be a good resource for those with cancer, noting improvements to psychological well-being.Research shows that restorative yoga can decrease depression in cancer survivors; improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain symptoms in cancer patients; and help patients manage the toxicity of cancer treatments.