A couple of students have enquired about the benefits of a restorative practice - I thought then that it may be helpful to outline a few key benefits of a restorative practice and why I think it's one of the most advanced yoga practices.
Typically, a restorative practice involves only a handful of physical postures ("asana") - maybe as few as 4 - held for an extended period of time. This can be anything from 5mins and there is invariably a reliance on props (e.g. blankets, cushions, blocks, straps) to support the body in the asana. In this way, muscular effort is minimised and the body’s connective tissues are accessed, inviting ease and comfort at the deepest level. By its nature, a restorative practice is therefore introspective and meditative, teaching us to relinquish control and inviting us to explore our thoughts and emotions without judgement. For this reason alone, a restorative practice is generally acknowledged to be one of the most difficult and most advanced commitments a practitioner can make, but at the same time can be one of the most helpful and healing experiences we can invite into our busy lives.
Some benefits of a restorative practice:
- Discovery of where you hold your stress: a restorative practice provides opportunity to acknowledge where tensions are held. Such knowledge empowers, and a student can use his or her discoveries to choose to change a daily routine in order to minimise opportunities for that tension to rebuild. So rather than chasing mastery of a particular asana, a restorative practice is more concerned with how minimise effort, do less and therefore listen to and learn from the body.
- Promotes mindfulness and full experience of the body in relaxation: The stillness of a restorative practice enhances our awareness of the body and our experience of the breath. We can carry this practice in mindfulness over to our daily lives making more deliberate and considered choices and therefore enjoying a richer experience of life.
- Creates the conditions for self-exploration: A restorative practice invites us to release our efforts to control and to allow ourselves to be supported. Stillness enables and invites self-enquiry and self-care. We may, for example, be otherwise conditioned to defining ourselves and our feelings of control through the relentless conquering of “to do” lists and other more tangible barometers of progress. Occupying a space by ourselves, completely free of distractions, might therefore feel uncomfortable or even frighteningly exposing. This is the practice though: to recognise that space as one of safety for a compassionate self-meditation, and to occupy that space fully and mindfully.