The practice of restorative yoga has been around for centuries. Yogis far and wide connect with their inner wisdom in an effort to develop a mind-body-spirit connection that strengthens all aspects of the self.
Diligent students of this practice cite benefits to all aspects of their lives, urging us to stop the hustle and bustle of daily life. They encourage people to once again find that stillness that breeds unity and strength.
Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual wisdom of the ages passed down from generation to generation. It blends intention with the practice of self-love and self-care to improve all aspects of life.
While some may view yoga as a practice virtually impossible to undertake for physical reasons, some types of yoga can bring benefits to the body without twisting it into a pretzel.
Restorative yoga is a kinder, gentler form of yoga. It often involves assistive props such as blocks, straps, and blankets for comfort. While restorative yoga may at first look boring or too slow for some, even the most active person can benefit from slowing down and reflecting on a restorative practice from time to time.
Whether you are a seasoned athlete or someone just looking to start a fitness regime, here are some solid reasons you need to consider incorporating this unique type of yoga into your health and fitness routine: (1)
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
1. It increases flexibility
Practicing yoga on a regular basis calls for holding postures for two minutes or longer. This static stretching elongates muscles and increases your flexibility, leaving you more toned and less prone to injury.
The use of props such as blocks and straps to hold positions more comfortably for longer periods of time only deepens stretches, making them more effective.
2. It reduces muscle tension
Over time, muscles store up tension and negative energy within its fibers. Without a way to work out this tension, it can wreak havoc on your muscles, tendons, and bones. Eventually, it may pull everything out of alignment and cause imbalances that lead to illness and disease.
Through the practice of yoga, muscles are stretched to the point where they can release tension and stored energy that otherwise make you ill. You’ll experience an incredible release of tension as your muscles relax and energy can flow freely once more.
3. It calms the restless, wandering mind
When done correctly, restorative yoga proves as mentally invigorating as certain forms of meditation. Holding positions for a longer period of time forces you to concentrate on your physical posture, your breathing, and eventually … nothing at all, as you find that space of calm that reveals your inner zen.
The more you practice this focusing on the breath, the more effectively you can carry this place of newfound calm with you off the mat.
4. It heals the body
Thanks to its traditions that span thousands of years, restorative yoga activates the PNS, or parasympathetic nervous system. Your subconscious nervous system is responsible for controlling heart rate, respiration, intestinal and digestive activity, and other body functions that you hopefully don’t have to do much thinking about.
When your PNS comes into balance through restorative yoga, your heart rate slows, your cortisol levels lower, and all organs and systems of the body can find their optimal function in a calmer environment. Yoga calms mind and body, bringing all systems of the body back into a state of balance that restores and promotes healing from within.
5. Yoga helps to heal emotional wounds
Through the practice of yoga, the mind calms itself down and a place for acceptance opens up. At times, uncomfortable and seemingly negative emotions and experiences come up for review. The intention is for them to be released through the practice.
If you do what you can to get your “ego” out of the way and accept these uncomfortable emotions with the intent of experiencing and releasing them, you’ll find emotional healing through your practice as well. While you may be surprised at the occasional strong emotional response to physical activity, don’t fight it. On the other side of this experience is a relief like you’ve not experienced before.
6. It boosts the immune system
When the mind and body are soothed, calmed, and restored, the immune system has a chance to restore and repair itself once more. It grows more effective at fighting off infection and illness. Through the use of gentle, adaptive postures, even those who are weak or physically unable to perform other types of exercise learn to hold certain postures. This makes emotional and physical progress possible.
7. It will help you to trim fat and lose weight
Studies from as recently as 2013 indicate that people can benefit from fat loss and weight loss through the practice of restorative yoga. When compared to active stretching programs over a longer period of time, the studies revealed that those practicing yoga as part of a fitness regime reduced their weight and overall body fat percentages more consistently than those who did not practice yoga.
One possible reason for this decrease in body fat percentage could be due to the decreased levels of the fat-storage hormone cortisol, which can sabotage weight loss efforts.
8. It helps you to recover faster from illness
We all need a little rest from time to time; whether recovering from a cold, flu, or even broken bones and strained muscles, restorative yoga can help speed up the healing process.
A yoga asana does not need to be “active” in order for it to be effective; yoga allows you to reap the benefits of yoga with lower energy while building strength.
9. It is a bridge to mindfulness and meditation
Perhaps you long for the benefits of meditation but don’t know how to begin; you can try this type of gentle yoga to help you attain inner peace.
Restorative yoga supports calmness of mind and promotes more focused concentration. These two skills also improve and heighten with meditation. Yoga prepares both mind and body to enter a place of peace, allowing you to find the balance and health that you seek.
10. It balances your nervous system
Restorative yoga benefits also include bringing balance to the central nervous system, the hub of all nervous system activity that drives your body’s functions. With this newfound balance comes a sense of renewal and rejuvenation, allowing for a free flow of communication between the brain and all systems of the body.
As a result, all systems of your body work more efficiently, improving all aspects of your health.
11. It improves your circulation
One of the most significant restorative yoga benefits includes increased blood flow and increased circulation. Yoga frees up energy in muscles and blood vessels, allowing circulation to improve. Your body will thank you as your skin is glowing, your energy is flowing, and you experience improved health and vitality.
12. It improves lung function
People with asthma, chronic pulmonary issues, and reduced lung capacity have found that practicing yoga on a regular basis improves overall lung function. Breathing becomes easier, anxiety is reduced, and a greater sense of calm is experienced as you find the strength within your breath once more. (2)
13. It allows you to reap the full benefits of each pose
The incredible science behind yoga is that each pose is designed to improve form and function somewhere in the body. Additionally, every post works in tandem with other poses to promote balance, restoration, and healing.
Restorative yoga benefits include experiencing the full effect of each pose that you undertake. While a forward fold may be calming if held for five breaths, think of the benefits that your body will assimilate if you hold this relaxing pose for up to five minutes!
The organ activating benefits of a spinal twist increase as you hold the pose longer and longer each time you practice. This makes the time spent even more effective. The longer you hold each pose and study the science behind its benefits, the more you will be motivated to see and feel results with each session that you undertake.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis is making an investment in yourself, your health, and your quality of life. Do yourself a favor and undertake a bit of research into how and why each pose was developed, what areas of the body it is intended to be used for, and how it improves your health as you practice. (3)
Closing Thoughts on Restorative Yoga Benefits
It’s time to invest in yourself and your health. Regardless of what stage of health and fitness you are currently in, you can practice yoga to improve your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Consider yoga a treat for yourself; it’s time to let everything go and give yourself the love and respect that your body deserves. Your body works tirelessly for you every day; it’s time to give back through the process of restorative, gentle yoga.