By Sharon R. Ince —
Restorative Yoga is not exotic or sexy. It doesn’t require spandex hugging your bottom or youthful exuberance. It is a practice to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and balance, using the weight of the body with alignment practices in gentle yoga asana, which simply means: pose.
What does this look like in practice and everyday life?
My husband, now 74, has recently been working on our bathroom sink plumbing. I watched him under the sink doing a variety of yoga poses including Cobra, Bridge, modified-Frog, Fish, and finally, Hero’s pose. He was holding each asana with the strength of his body for extended periods of time while he did his work under the sink. Meanwhile, as I leaned over the sink to hold the faucet in place, I was in Chair pose, elongating and stretching my spine in proper alignment to have a moment of traction.
In one yoga class I attended, there was a contractor about 65 years old in a room with about 35 ladies. I wondered what his reason was for being there, so I asked.He explained how he regularly practiced Yoga in order to balance better on a roof, or lift a 65 pound bag of cement, all without hurting his back or knees.
The Restorative Yoga classes I teach focus on improving oxygenation of the body, with lots of deep breathing and gentle movements to get circulation going. Only then do we begin to use select poses from classic Yoga to restore function in the body and prevent harm due to poor alignment. Restorative Yoga is for anyone who wishes improvement of body function for daily living, no matter the age.
I enjoy it to manage everyday aches and pains. Having injured my back and hip while being overstretched by a chiropractor, after already healing my bulging discs solely with Restorative Yoga, I now am strengthening the injured ligament. Anyone who has ever hurt a ligament knows it takes a long time to heal, sometimes years.
With a proper wellness-fitness practice protecting and strengthening the injured body part, Restorative Yoga can be a supportive endeavor. In physical therapy my wonderful therapists worked with me to understand which Yoga poses I could and could not do, and how to modify them to benefit my injured sacroiliac joint and lower back. After three months of twice-weekly therapy sessions, I now do a restorative home-practice along with a healing wellness-fitness practice.
A lack of fitness practice while injured may make matters worse. Modification of my exercise routine enabled me to take my Yoga training to a whole new level, one I now prefer for my 55-year-old body. Every body is different, and Yoga poses must be modified to accommodate the need for individual fitness and healing. Restorative Yoga is perfect after aerobic exercise, or other strenuous workouts, and when you simply desire to learn the art of integrating tension with calm, since we use both in most poses. This translates well into everyday life: being calm in the midst of tension takes focus and practice, so it is also a stress-relieving wellness practice, perfect for beginners and seniors alike.
My specialty in teaching is communicating the nuances of alignment for each Yoga pose, to teach the best pose for each body. Restorative Yoga also prepares the body for Meditation, which is the art of calming and quieting the mind.
Dr. Deepak Chopra, named by Time Magazine among the top 100 people of the 20th century, was one of my primary mind/body medicine teachers. He said, “if you can’t sit still quietly for 30 minutes, then you need Meditation the most.”
I did at the time, so I have practiced earnestly and regularly since 1997. When I first learned Meditation and Yoga, I was hooked on its healing effects, so I became certified by the Chopra Center in 1998, a wellness center at La Costa Resort and Spa, in Carlsbad, California.
Meditation has been scientifically shown to improve the health of our most vital organ: the brain. This is why it is recommended time and again for stress management. There are a myriad of Meditation techniques to enjoy and my Meditation training is extensive. Information overload, according to Dr. Chopra, could be our biggest concern as a cause of disease. Instead, choose to experience the opposite: a quiet focused mind achieved through regular Meditation practice.
Enjoy Restorative Yoga to improve function and quality of life; learn Meditation or refresh your longtime practice with new techniques.
Sharon R. Ince is the owner of Infinite Utopia Wellness Education & Publishing