The Magic of Restorative Yoga

Written By Natalie McGreal

When Maile asked me to write a blog post about 'Restorative Yoga' my initial thought was that I wouldn't know where to begin. Restorative yoga and gentle practices take up a lot of space in my brain and my relationship with them runs deep.  

Restorative yoga has healed me in more ways that I can count.

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Physically, it was like finally locating the missing piece to a puzzle I had been working on for years.

I grew up dancing and studied a pretty strict style of ballet. I remember when I was 16 begging my mom to let me get a 'sports massage' to help with my chronic shin splints and foot and knee pain. When I was in my training to become a yoga teacher I was working as a full time massage therapist, and had been one for a while. I worked in a busy spa in an international hotel downtown where we were booked 90 minute massage after 90 minute massage.  By the time I made it to teacher training my body was overused, tired and it hurt. I would wake up in the morning with my arms and hands totally numb. There were days when I couldn't turn my head an inch in either direction. Committing to a regular yoga practice slowly started to heal and re-strengthen my body, but there were many days that I simply didn't have the energy or strength to do much more than child's pose.

It was during teacher training that I took my first Restorative class. I walked into the dimly lit classroom with candles lining the altar and I thought,

this is exactly what I need right now.

During the class we were shown how to structure our props to support healing, long held poses. When we did any sort of movements they were slow and gentle. My body was much more receptive to the practice than my mind was at first. The mental practice of 'letting go' was a challenge at times (it still can be!), and often my mind would get really chatty and loud the second I hit the bolster. Ironically, the longer we stayed in postures the easier it became for me to let go. Eventually, with a period of sustained and quiet physical stillness, the mind follows suit.

After that first class I started to incorporate Restorative Yoga postures into my regular practice, and so they naturally made their way into the classes I taught as well. It is incredible to see how people respond to Restorative Yoga the first time they practice it. 

Often they express feeling surprised at the unexpected power of such a subtle practice.

It can seem so counter-intuitive - doing less to inspire change. It is pretty magical though, what can happen when we slow down and get quiet. In the stillness of these powerful poses everything softens, and in this softness we become more receptive to physical, mental and spiritual evolution. The body slowly readjusts becoming more spacious. When the body is still the mind can relax, and when that happens a healing process begins.

Restorative yoga is not flashy.

In it's quiet simplicity it is nearly impossible to compete with oneself or others, and so it offers a retreat from the over stimulation we are bombarded with in daily life. If only for a short while there is an opportunity to feel free from expectations, pressure, competition and comparison. There is even freedom from effort since these poses are so self sufficient.

To gain the benefits of a Restorative practice, all that is asked of us is to show up, become still, and practice letting go.


Natalie teaches Restorative Yoga, at TULA, each Sunday at 9am.