Imagine an exercise class where you spend the majority of the time lying on the floor in deep relaxation. You give your body the careful stretches it so desperately needs, and then walk away feeling loose and calm with a smile on your face. Welcome to therapeutic or restorative yoga.
Restorative yoga stretching sessions are often recommended for people recovering from injuries or for those with chronic pain.
However, therapeutic yoga isn’t only for those with lingering body pain. It can benefit anyone who doesn’t stretch as much as they should, and it’s particularly useful for people who sit all day at work, see a chiropractor or feel overstressed and overwhelmed.
In restorative yoga, you’ll spend an hour to an hour and a half taking care of your body, mind and spirit – no downward dogs required. In fact, you don’t need any cute yoga clothes and you probably won’t even break a sweat. This nourishing yoga class is all about initiating deep relaxation and restoring your life force. Many yoga studios, from big cities to small burgs, will offer a weekly session of therapeutic yoga. Most studios hold this soothing class at night, and cost is comparable to standard yoga classes – although you can often try out your first class for free.
Therapeutic yoga uses the force of gravity to stretch your body slowly. You’ll be using numerous pieces of special equipment, such as bolsters (rectangular pillows), blocks, straps, sandbags and blankets. These items are used to support your joints and other body parts, so that you never feel any pressure from the poses.
Begin your class with some mild stretching, or by finding a place of stillness in your heart. Let the worries of the day fade away as you focus on your breath and your choice to nourish your spirit. Many sessions start off with a moment of meditation or the setting of intention, and your instructor will likely go around the room to ask about any recent or lingering injuries. Speak up, even if you think your body issues are mild; perhaps you have mild lower back pain off and on, or you broke an elbow long ago that still pops sometimes.
In class, you’ll hold 5-7 poses for an extended period of time, around 10 minutes each. Each pose is easy to do and requires no special ability or prior knowledge of yoga. Your instructor will explain and demonstrate each pose, showing you how to use the equipment correctly. After you arrange your body, your teacher may walk around and adjust your position slightly.
Each pose in restorative yoga is designed to “open” your body and correct for the hunched-over nature of modern life. You’ll stretch your back, your shoulders, your hips and other body parts that are tight and constricted, all while sinking into a still mental state. Different instructors may also use various techniques to increase your relaxation, including Tibetan bowls, soft music, dimmed lighting or guided visualization. You should never be in pain during class, or even uncomfortable – so if you feel a pinch or your arm starts falling asleep, let your instructor know.
Give therapeutic yoga a try and enjoy a nourishing, relaxing session in the studio. This soothing exercise can help you to reach a deeply relaxed state of mind while resting your joints and stretching your body. Find a still, calm place inside of you and discover just how restorative lying on the floor can be.
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