What do I have in my yoga repertoire to restore my energy? In the past I would probably have practised several rounds of sun salutations to give me a buzz. Nowadays I know that tends to be counterproductive when the body systems are weary. They don’t need more sympathetic nervous system stimulation which is what the sun salutation sequences are good at providing. Instead I head towards restorative yoga practice which works on the parasympathetic nervous system.
So what is restorative yoga? Is this some new-fangled yoga fad? Well, it might be more popular these days because of the rising tide of stress and anxiety sweeping through the population however the actual postures have been around for years. They are simply resting yoga postures held for longer and that can mean minutes at a time. The body is placed in a restful position conducive to relaxation allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in.
Take this morning. I went into the yoga hut having not slept much over night. I could feel the weariness as I prepared to do my usual practice which usually includes a few sun salutations. Tuning into my body I knew that a restorative practice would be much more beneficial even if that meant falling asleep (very tempting when so comfortable in a pose though best to keep awake).
So, first of all I simply lay down in the corpse pose and tuned in to how the body felt. Just a few minutes. Enough to scan through each body part and sense what state it was in. Next I put my legs up the wall and stayed still. Must have stayed there for a good ten minutes. A gentle pulse became palpable in my lower back. The body urged me to move on.
For the next pose I lay back on a bolster with a meditation cushion under my head. Buttocks on the floor my legs were stretched out straight and my arms rested by my sides palms facing up. Yummy! Another ten minutes until I felt a slight discomfort in my lower back. Time to move on. Having practiced a chest opening pose it was time to close down in a forward bend. Using the bolster and meditation cushion again I knelt in front of the poster and lay my stomach across the bolster resting my head on one side on the meditation cushion (changing head to the other side to balance the body when the urge to do so arose). Another ten minutes passed. This pose I could have held longer but I decided to keep the practice balanced in terms of timings in backbend/forward bend counterpose stakes. Better for the body.
Finally I relaxed back into the corpse pose – legs outstretched, arms outstretched by my side with palms face up. Head in neutral and not using a pillow and I stayed there for as long as I felt I could. When I next looked at my watch it had been twenty minutes! Might have been shorter if the sun hadn’t been shining in and warming hut and body!
You can do the maths. The whole restorative yoga session took about 50 minutes and I only practised five poses – one of those twice! And wow did I feel good as a result.
What did I do afterwards? Well, that’s for another blogpost! Whatever I did, I floated around in a state of calm and rest. Carry on restorative yoga!