The essence of restorative yoga, what it means to be restored, and our top tips on how to get the most out of your props to support your practice
Restorative practice is essentially about using props to support our body in different shapes and in different relationships to gravity, so that the sense of all physical effort diminishes to nothing more than staying awake.
Stimulation of our senses is gradually quietened.
Rest is our goal.
This can be quite a novel experience: being asked to solely focus on our physical comfort and safety, and as such it does not always come easily to us. Our nervous system can crave stimulation and our conditioned reward system might feel frustrated to not be “feeling anything”.
The practice, after all, is asking us to stay well within our range of movement, asking us not to stress any of the connective tissues or to hang in the perimeter of the joint capsules.
I like to imagine that my bones are floating in the synovial fluid spaces, like driftwood, and to stay present to the fluids in the connective tissues rather than the fibres. Any sense of “stretching” means I am missing the target and need to readjust or rethink my props.
On the subject of props, don’t let the absence of a battery of bolsters, blankets, blocks and bricks stop you from exploring this practice.
These are great for ”prop-max” practice, where you might also indulge in the use of bean bags and eye pillows, but my colleague Tiffany Thorne and I are keen exponents of “prop-lite” practice in which we distill a form to its essence and then evoke this with aS few props as possible, seeking out everyday items like a sofa throw, cushions and a scarf.
OUR TOP PROP TIPS
Whatever is in your collection of props, we have the following tips:
1. Treat your props well. Keep them clean, tidy and ready.
2. Keep them tidy when you use them too! Wonky bolsters and wrinkled blankets can be really bothersome.
3. Take your time placing your props, and getting them in just the right place. Don’t assume that a previous set-up is going to work every time.
4. Relaxation is a dynamic process. Be prepared to shift props around as you settle into a shape.
5. Less or subtle is very often more. You don’t need to make big shapes to experience their essence.
Finally, the big question, what is being restored?
Simply being awake requires a certain cocktail of hormones to render us attentive and ready (think sympathetic system, if you’re familiar with this) and this in turn requires sustained metabolic energy production.
Resting constructively means we switch this factory into bank holiday mode (think parasympathetic system) and give everything involved some downtime, open the windows and hear the birds sing.
RESTORATIVE YOGA CLASSES & TRAININGS
Our somatic-based, 5 day Restorative Yoga Teacher Training Course encourages personal exploration of relaxation in the body through prop use, breathing and restorative forms in a small group setting.
Understand the body's physiological stress and relaxation responses
Delve into the historical context of restorative practice and props
Explore forms and breathing techniques with the safe effective use of props
Learn the teaching techniques to structure and deliver effective classes
Get to grips with studio realities with ‘Prop-Lite’ alternatives to common forms