Restorative Yoga for Weight Loss
Restorative Yoga For Weight Loss? Really? Well, I thought it was a catchy title, and I’ve got you reading so far :-) Now first, I didn’t come up with this term. I originally heard it from my dear friend Gina @yoginigina (Insta), and I love it.
So let’s discuss Restorative Yoga: The practice and the benefits.
What is Restorative Yoga?
Many people use the term “Restorative” to describe any Yoga practice that’s on the gentle side. This could include any slower practice, including a deep stretch or Yin-type practice. I’ve even seen some teachers use slow Vinyasa flows as part of their “Restorative” classes. Now I’m more of a traditionalist, so I’m going to discuss the Traditional Practice, first brought to us or popularized by Judith Hanson Lasater.
“Restorative Yoga offers the body a chance to rest deeply and revitalize. Whether you are feeling weak, fatigued, stressed from daily activities, or simply need to slow down and tune into your body, this wonderfully adaptive practice is essential for well-being. Many of the practices are simple and accessible for people of all ages and in all states health, using props that are readily available - like pillows and chairs. These deeply relaxing poses help you: Rebalance your mind and body, create feelings of well-being and counteract the effects of chronic stress, recover from injury or illness, lower blood pressure, elevate and stabilize your mood” - Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, PT
So in a traditional restorative practice, we use props to set ourselves up in the Asanas (poses) so that we can passively settle the body. We’re not looking for any stretch, especially a deep stretch here. We want to be completely effortless in the poses. This is one reason how the practice differs from a traditional Yin practice, where we are actively stretching the body. So why the passive “stretch”? (Many of my students like to call this sleepy Yoga, or naptime) When we can get the body to the effortless place, where we are actively doing no work, we allow the body to settle in to its natural healing state. We allow our bodies self-regulate. Even though the practice is relaxing, we’re gaining much more than just relaxation, or we’re gaining so much more from this relaxation that we might be able to imagine.
What are the benefits?
From my perspective, the main benefit of this practice is that it helps bring the nervous system into the Parasympathetic, or Rest and Digest State. The Parasympathetic Nervous System regulates digestion, slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure (after being in the Fight or Flight, Sympathetic State) Many of us in our lives today remain in a prolonged state of Fight or Flight, which can lead to depressed immunity, prolonged illness, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and hyper-activity. And in this Fight or Flight state, our levels of the hormones Adrenaline and Cortisol increase, which can lead to WEIGHT GAIN. (See? I brought it back to the title)
Additionally, this practice helps to cultivate self-awareness. By remaining in the poses for an extended period of time, there is no option but to be with yourself. We are also practicing conscious relaxation here. So you get to experience the full breadth of relaxation, not just checking out like when you are fully asleep. And lastly, this practice is an excellent way to bring you into the state of Yoga, or union. Bringing together that which is or was once disconnected. Helping to connect you to that state of universal consciousness.
What does the practice actually look like?
In this practice, we use the the support of many props to settle into the poses: bolsters, blocks, blankets, sand bags, etc. We hold the various poses for anywhere from 5-20 minutes. Some teachers will provide guided visualizations, breathing practices, and even poetry (like Katelyn!) to follow along with. This practice may sound like it’s “easy”, and for some that is true. But for many, this practice can be challenging if it’s hard for the mind to settle down. But like all Yoga, this is a practice. So the more you practice, the “easier” it becomes. This practice is suitable for anyone. If you have problems getting up and down from the ground, the poses can be modified with chairs.
How often should I do a Restorative Practice?
It definitely depends on the person. But a full Restorative Practice can be beneficial to everyone at least once or twice a week. Many times, people only come to Restorative Class when they feel they’re at a heightened stress state. But the idea, as with any Yoga practice, is to do it on a consistent basis, to help keep you out of that stressed state. The more we get comfortable with being in our Parasympathetic State, the more the body gets used to it and wants to remain there. (And of course, the body then can figure out when it’s appropriate to go into the Sympathetic State) But this practice should also be a balance or compliment to regular physical activity that our body needs and craves.
If this article has peaked your interest in Restorative Yoga, please join us every Monday at 5:45pm for our Traditional Restorative Yoga/Meditative Relaxation Class. We also offer periodic Restorative Yoga Workshops (extended practices) at the studio.
Like Sunday, August 4th at 3:00pm! Anjali Restorative Yoga: Awakening Your Fire Within
or Saturday, August 24th at 2:00pm Restorative Masterclass: Enhance Your Home Practice