Originally published on StartAgain Media
I began practicing yoga several years into my career as a helping professional. When I started getting involved at a studio near my home, I noticed a poster for a class that just spoke to me and captured everything I needed: Restorative Yoga. Usually described as a gentle yoga practice that helps its practitioners to deeply relax, Restorative Yoga is spectacular for helping all people to find a deep core of balance and total peace. When I found Restorative Yoga many years ago, I knew that I needed the help to relax. After all, helping people to relax was such an important part of my job as a therapist, but who was helping me?
People who practice yoga primarily for physical fitness may judge Restorative Yoga with as a wimpy practice that makes use of all of those props. As one person I know would be likely to say, “Well it’s not very challenging.” For me, a recovering workaholic who is always on the go, my mind always moving, Restorative Yoga provides a tremendous challenge. Anytime a recovering workaholic and co-dependent can earmark a couple of hours for herself to not only relax, but receive assistance to relax in the form of a Restorative Yoga teacher or facilitator, it is a challenge. Speaking for myself, long affected by old messages that I must being “doing” something in order to be worthy of taking up space, any time I can enjoy just “being” is a major point of progress in my recovery.
Dr. Judith Hanson Lasater is typically credited as the founding mother of Restorative Yoga as a practice. As shared on her website, “We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep, we rarely take time to rest. Restorative yoga poses help us learn to relax and rest deeply and completely.” As a helping professional, I need this practice! Although I’ve taken Restorative Yoga classes from a variety of teachers over the years, and have even learned to self-practice, my most recent experience with Restorative Yoga has been the most impacting. My yoga teacher and mentor, Maureen Lauer-Gatta, E-RYT-500 recently teamed up with two other talented people at our studio, Teresa Lisum, a retired educator/Dancing Mindfulness facilitator and Ethical Massage Practitioner, and Anthony Ellis, a singing bowl player. They offer monthly events called Retune and Recharge in which Maureen leads the participants through a restorative yoga class as Anthony plays; Teresa circulates the room assisting Maureen with deepening relaxation through appropriate physical touch.
This past weekend, on my much-needed day off, I made my way to my home studio not to teach or to lead, but simply to receive. The whole practice, as promised, helped to retune and recharge me after a very stressful couple of weeks. There was a point in the class where I was lying there in a reclined, supported bound angle pose, completely relaxed in my breath, noticing the flow of the singing bowls’ vibrations moving through my body. The sonic vibrations were literally healing my insides energetically, and with every tone, my breath quality just continued to deepen. I was completely relaxed, and ultimately, completely grateful. Grateful for the practice and the event, grateful to Maureen, Teresa, and Anthony for their service, grateful for the studio, grateful for the resources I have to take such a class, and most importantly, grateful to myself for recognizing the importance of nurturing myself in this way!
Wherever you’re at in the country or in the world, I encourage you to look up where Restorative Yoga may be offered in your community. Even if you have a very active, physically challenging yoga practice and experience the benefits of such a practice, consider giving Restorative Yoga a try; you might be surprised at the results, especially if you work as a helper or healer. For more information online, you can go to www.restorativeyogateachers.com, and there are a variety of home practice DVDs that you can access.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity