Through years of experience practicing and teaching yoga, I have concluded that all roads lead to restorative yoga!!
Every December I offer a free Relaxation Workshop as a thank-you to my local yoga students and their families—with a focus on restorative yoga. This is by far my most popular workshop. ’m pretty sure I know why – we seek relaxation. Even more so, we seek permission and instruction in how to do it. I’m so passionate about this subject that it is a large part of my 300 hour Yoga Training.
Today I want to let you in on some of my insights about relaxation. Now is a perfect time as we head into December and the deeply restorative season of winter.
The dictionary defines relaxation as “the state of being free from tension and anxiety.”
Replace stressful habits with nature’s ways of calming the body, mind and spirit. Live one breath at a time, recognizing that the space between inhalation and exhalation is the path to stressless mindful living. In this practice, doing becomes undoing. Acceptance, compassion and empathy grow as you gradually understand your life lessons better.
Three Steps to Relaxation
Relaxation allows us permission to be with the deep emotions that are part of our human existence, and to heal from life’s lessons. Learn to release what no longer serves us. Make space for serenity by doing the following:
- Slow Down
1. Slow Down: Learn to be in the precious moments of your life
Less is often more. Do less to give more the important aspects of our lives. Give to ourselves the gift of stillness, the permission to stop doing and just “Be” for a while. In between achieving outwardly focused goals is a life to live!
From a young age I often explored doing nothing. When my son was young, we could do what seemed like nothing for days and be fully satisfied.I even bought the book called The Art of Doing Nothing by Veronique Vienne.
As I trained as a yogini, savasana became my favorite part of the practice. Doing nothing allows us to hear the whispers of the universe; to discover the messages of our body-mind-soul, and develop inspiration for true creativity. Learn to embrace boredom and stillness. It can be restorative!
2. Unwind: Yoga is the undoing
In my yoga trainings, many students arrive with a desire to learn “advanced postures” and a multitude of sequences. As the days of training unfold, many realize the value of a restorative / yin-based yoga. That breakthrough in understanding is a beautiful moment—one of my personal favorites in yoga teacher trainings. For they learn that – what they thought what they wanted is now changing. In that moment of realization, they see a path for living their lives differently. What happens on the mat is a reflection of our lives off the mat.
All types of yoga practices can incorporate a restorative element. Physiologically, we relax muscles throughout the practice. You must also relax your mind in order to learn. In this moment do the following:
“Soften your gaze. Relax your jaw. Inhale slowly. Exhale completely. Just be.”
Meditation. A meditation practice helps to develop sustainable balance of the brain-nervous-immune systems; and in doing so, heals the circulation, digestion, and elimination systems. Through this physical practice of meditation, the Higher Self is experienced.
Breath Practices (Pranayama). The breath is the single most healing tool we have!! We must learn to feel the breath, for it gives us peaceful energy that rejuvenates our minds into calm presence, and enables our bodies to heal.
Posture Practice (Asana). I believe there are five postures that are the foundation of a restorative yoga practice. They are: Supported Sitting Forward Fold, Supported Reclining Bound Angle, Supported Legs- Up-the-Wall, Supported Bridge, and Supported Pigeon. In this asana approach, props are a must so that the muscles can relax, and not “work.” We must learn proper mind-body alignment and how it leads to calm grounding serenity. Finally, Savasana quiets the mind into a space of deep listening.
Yogic Sleep (Yoga Nidra). Yoga Nidra is a guided practice that is done from within the pose of Savasana. It helps clear the fog of an overstimulated brain and reset our sleep cycle.
Diet. We think of “practice” as asana, but a wellness lifestyle of any kind always includes diet. Remember that the purpose of eating is nutrition and elimination—that’s all. We must be, or become, mindful of foods that cause irritability in the gut or our bodies will never achieve freedom from tension.
I created two very special meditations on my CD “Inward Journey” to help others connect with their natural breath and to help them learn how to let go. These tracks are now available as a download! Perfect for yourself or as gifts.
3. Surrender: Live and let be
This step includes things you can do as part of your yoga lifestyle to help achieve inner surrender: mental, emotional, and spiritual. It’s about attitude and anything that helps you personally develop a surrendered mindset. For some people, this might include moon garden meditations or a hot, relaxing bath—as well as all the practices outlined above.
Cultivate an attitude of listening, love and patience; and releasing attempts to control. All this will ground you to make healthy choices and be mindful even on the busiest of days.
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
courage to change the things I can
and wisdom to know the difference”
For any change to your life, you must make changes in what you do. The ideas here are a great place to start living a life of real relaxation and deep healing. Try mastering one small habit at a time. Before long, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Photo credit to Holly Shankland @hollyshankland