Written by Nora Benian

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 and focuses on relaxing the body in restful postures. Note that ‘rest’ is different than sleep. Rest provides the body an opportunity to renew and heal. Countless studies have proven the physical and emotional benefits of this.

During deep relaxation, all the organ systems of the body are benefited, and a few of the measurable results of deep relaxation are the reduction of blood pressure, serum triglycerides and blood sugar levels in the blood, the increase of the “good cholesterol” levels, as well as improvement in digestion, fertility, elimination, the reduction of muscle tension, insomnia and generalized fatigue.

Restorative yoga, as well as other forms of yoga, help to trigger the Parasympathetic nervous system also known as the PNS. The PNS is responsible for balancing the body and bringing its response system back into equallibrium. Stimulating the PNS helps to lower heart rate, blood pressure; it helps to healthily stimulate the immune system and keep the endocrine system operating healthily. When this system gets out of whack, or when the Sympathetic nervous system, SNS gets over-stimulated, the PNS helps to bring all back in balance. It is believed that is the PNS is tapped out or under-active, illness pervades. Thus, forms of relaxation, such as yoga and meditation, that help to stimulate the PNS are generally beneficial for overall body health.

Restorative Yoga restores, refreshes, relaxes, renews, releases and rejuvenates.

The main thing to understand is that it works holistically, just as the other forms of Yoga do, but in this case it is working holistically with the aim of HEALING. The other yogas are more focused on generating fitness, flexibility and stamina. The way we practice any form of yoga has a beneficial effect on our bodies, and from there it influences our minds and from there to our spirits. The breathing and meditation exercises within yoga practice see to that. As we change our breath so we change our body chemistry; oxygenating muscles more deeply, detoxifying tissues efficiently and bringing control and calmness to our minds which inspires clarity as we think. Our Spirits begin to live in a healthier happier home as the body responds at all levels to the new practice. However in Restorative Yoga all of this is magnified.

In Restorative Yoga we have plenty of time to breath well and really focus on that Essential Breath that breathes us. We also have plenty of time to meditate. Our bodies can deepen their response to the shape of the posture, heart centres can open and effect the heart and lungs as well as the emotions, ajna centre can open and effect a grounding and balancing within the energy systems. These are things that normally our energy body has no chance to do as we move around in our busy lives.

The big areas to benefit from Restorative Yoga are:

Lymphatic system – the lymphatic system drains our bodies of toxins from the tissues and brings biochemical aid to tissues in need of healing. Unlike the cardiac system, it does not have a pump but relies on the movement of muscles and the breath to squeeze and release the tissues and drain them and to move needed biochemicals to the right places. This is why the breathwork or pranayama is so important in Restorative Yoga.

Cardiac system – our hearts are busy workhorses that operate day and night our whole lives. They pull up blood from the tips of our toes to the top of our heads and circulate it right back round again. No wonder the heart gets tired sometimes and it struggles even more if we have any thickening in the arteries which slows the ceaseless pumping of the oxygenated blood around our bodies. Restorative Yoga enables us to go into supported elevated postures that allow the heart to be helped by gravity – such as Legs Up the Wall pose – where any congestion and swelling can be drained from the feet and legs and the heart can rest a little and regain its strength.

Nervous System – our nervous systems are vital for our wellbeing. This system runs everywhere in our body, from receptor cells in our little finger right to the frontal cortex of the brain which is where we plan and create. It is very susceptible to stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and it stops working efficiently if we overload the body with these biochemicals. If our nervous system does not work well our memories are impaired, our immune system is compromised and we get more illnesses, our hearts work over time because we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode most of the time and our ability to think and create is curtailed, leaving us only with habits which may – or may not – serve us well.

Because we have given ourselves permission to have space and time which we dedicate to ourselves and our health and wellness our psychology helps us too. There is no inner fight about other priorities and that frees up yet more energy to heal what needs to be healed and could just be what you are looking for to bring your health and wellness back into balance and harmony.