Stress, Restorative Yoga & the Relaxation Response

Supported Cobblers Pose
Supported Cobblers Pose

Restorative Yoga is a cooling practice that soothes and quiets the nervous system and can restore hormonal balance. It is a practice of moderate versions of classical yoga poses predominantly done on the floor, supported by props such as bolsters, blocks, straps, and the wall.  The poses are held from 3 – 10 minutes while maintaining an awareness of easy breathing. The support of the props allows the body to stay in the intelligent forms of the poses for longer durations in order to receive the therapeutic benefits of the poses without spending precious energy to hold them. Often, eye coverings are used to encourage a deeper relaxation experience.

Stress is the body’s auto, physiological reaction to circumstances that require change. The stress response is referred to as the fight-or-flight response. Healthy stress is vital as it is the response mechanism that activates in emergencies and was critical to the survival of primitive humankind, our ancestors.

The modern world is ceaselessly fast paced, complicated, and stressful. Human instinctual nature does not differentiate between modern mental stress (brought about by family-care, finances, constant media bombardment, etc.) with the ancient stress of survival in the wild or the useful stress elicited in emergency situations.

Constant mental anxiety and worry  flood the body with adrenaline and stress hormones. Adrenaline is vital for us to keep up with active lifestyles. But without breaks for rejuvenation,  our adrenaline production never shuts down causing the adrenal glands to ‘blow out’ due to overwork.  The result is a stress induced state of fatigue that can become chronic and can lead to a compromised  immune system.

Common warning signals that your nervous and hormonal systems may be in need of restoration are constant fatigue, workouts being a drag instead of uplifting, and increased susceptibility to bugs and illnesses. If any of this this  sounds familiar you, try Restorative Yoga.

Supported Bridge Pose

The best medicine to combat stress is to consistently practice awakening the opposite response in the body/mind eco-system — the relaxation response. Regular practice and  elicitation of the relaxation response has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. In fact, to the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, the relaxation response can help.

The practice and components of Restorative Yoga make it a perfect method for deep, therapeutic relaxation, for medicinal or preventative purposes.  Supported yoga poses allow for our muscles to let go of deep unconscious holding and bring us to a state of well deserved ease. A focus on easy breathing helps to redirect our awareness to the present moment without distraction, which is utterly calming.  The poses and props can and should be customized and adjusted for each individual to achieve maximum release and relaxation which yields healthy restoration of the body, mind, and breath.

Disclaimer: Obviously consult with your healthcare provider as your main source of guidance in health and wellness.

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