In a world where we never slow down, it’s no wonder so many people are discovering the healing powers of yoga.
Restorative yoga, which is also growing in popularity, takes the relaxation element of regular practice to the next level.
Within a restorative yoga class you move through a number of key postures much slower, using bolsters and props to fully support your body.
The focus is on your breathing, allowing you to enter a deep state of relaxation. Restorative yoga therefore boasts a number of key benefits:
1: Improves Your Flexibility
When you feel a yoga stretch through your body, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s great for your flexibility, with certain poses in particular helping you become more supple.
The secret lies in the slow movement, as Yogi Esther Ekhart of ExhartYoga explains:
“We believe we have to “work” to increase flexibility, but often we achieve more opening in parts of the body that we perceive as tight by softening and relaxing than through an active asana practice.”
She goes on to explain that:
“During a Restorative yoga sequence, you still stretch, but you relax fully in the stretch so that tension can slowly be released.”
2: Promotes a Healthier Lifestyle
Research conducted at the University of California focused on 26 overweight and inactive adults with metabolic syndrome. They attended 15 restorative yoga classes over a 15 week period.
The thinking was that the restorative asanas would be a gentle form of exercise that could encourage long term, regular exercise.
Results were positive with respondents reporting increased energy levels, as well as an overall improvement in their sense of wellbeing.
3: Encourages the Transition to Regular Mediation
If you keep making resolutions to take up meditation because you’ve heard all the amazing things it can do, but never seem to get round to it then restorative yoga can be a great introduction.
Postures are held for extended periods of time and the body is fully supported by props allowing yogis to go deeper, mentally, in to their practice.
“Restorative yoga is a supported meditation that can be more accessible to some who find traditional seated meditations intimidating…the practitioner can achieve the benefits of the pose while gaining insight into areas of held tension.”
Diamond further clarified the point by explaining…
“With this increased awareness comes the ability to consciously, overtime, surrender the layers of physical and emotional holding.”
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4: Promotes Mindfulness
The very nature of restorative yoga promotes mindful living. It gives you permission to slow down as you support your body with props for true relaxation.
Research looking at the therapeutic benefits of yoga, recognises how restorative asanas encourage you to turn inward, listening to your senses and giving your nervous system a little downtime.
5: Encourages Greater Self-awareness
We know certain yoga ‘power poses’ help to improve your self esteem, but restorative yoga also helps you develop greater self-awareness.
Through the practice you hone a number of skills including dedication, patience, compassion, skill and courage. It also nurtures your insight and spiritual growth.
With a wonderful list like that, we better show you a few restorative postures for beginners:
6: Calms Your Nervous System
Restorative Yoga is so powerful it can even calm your nervous system…
Yoga instructor, Gail Boorstein Grossman explains in her book Restorative Yoga for Life: A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance the concept of the “relaxation response”.
Coined by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, it is essentially the way your mind consciously attempts to relax your body, encouraging it to slow down.
Restorative yoga works on your parasympathetic nervous system, helping to elicit this response.
It is described as having the power to “stimulate what needs to be stimulated, and calm down what needs calmed”.
7: Reduces Stress
We’re a stressed out nation right now.
Luckily yoga, particularly restorative yoga has been shown to help, due to the way it relaxes the body’s nervous system and encourages you to turn inward. Even simply the language of yoga encourages reflection.
Research conducted in Japan in 2019 focused on 20 female nurses experiencing occupational stress while working the night shift.
After one group yoga session they then followed a restorative at-home yoga program for four weeks.
At the end of the program participants were given a questionnaire and reductions were seen in their psychological and physical stress reactions.
Though the sample was small, researchers did conclude that restorative yoga could be a valuable tool for combating stress.
8: Helps to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
A number of different metabolic factors, including high blood sugar and excess body fat, increase your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Scientists recognized that intensive lifestyle changes were needed to try and prevent the condition, so looked to restorative yoga to see if it could impact these metabolic factors.
A group of 180 participants were tested and followed a yoga regime for 48 weeks.
The outcome showed an improved quality of life, and reductions in fast glucose and insulin levels.
It is worth noting, that without continuing the practice though, results were short term.
9: Boosts Your Immune System
Restorative yoga can also be great for boosting your immune system and protecting you from nasty bugs as it encourages you to relax, therefore regulating your inflammatory response.
In the aforementioned book, Restorative Yoga for Life, Gail Boorstein Grossman describes how restorative yoga can be great for treating the common cold:
“If you suffer from a cold, which typically manifests as upper respiratory congestion and coughing, rest is encouraged and restorative yoga is a great practice supporting this.”
This then, in turn, leads to a number of other benefits:
“You can heal faster when you are well rested, which is one of the benefits of restorative yoga, and there are also specific poses that help relieve sinus pressure, increase circulation, and help you breathe more easily”.
10: Supports Women Living with Breast Cancer
Women undergoing breast cancer treatment or survivors living with the disease, face huge challenges to their quality of life.
Following a restorative yoga program, research carried out on a sample of 44 women found that improvements were seen in both fatigue levels and overall emotional wellbeing.
Due to the small sample size, further studies are required, however it was stated that restorative yoga is a gentle exercise with many benefits for cancer patients.
11: Improves Your Sleep
A deep look at the therapeutic benefits of yoga conducted in 2011, identified how restorative postures could help to improve sleep, without the side effects of pharmacological sleep treatments.
We know there are particular postures that are great for sleep…
However the results highlighted the way restorative asanas in particular, gave the nervous system some downtime, which in turn led to a better night’s sleep.
12: Helps with Symptoms of Depression
264 million people across the world suffer from depression, and the number is rising.
Restorative yoga has been shown to help…
In 2018, researchers conducted a study with 33 breast cancer survivors. Participants followed an 8-week restorative yoga program.
At the end of the project they found that depression scores were significantly lower, with the women tested describing the yoga program as very useful.