Long ago, American yoga teacher and writer, Judith Hanson Lasater*, carved out a niche in the world of teaching. She created workshops on the theme of ‘Restorative Yoga’ and her approach to relaxation and renewal has spread across the globe. I teach in this style and was honoured to lead a day long workshop for 20 students at YogaSphere.
This restorative style of practising yoga uses props to support the body in relaxing, so physically, emotionally and mentally the student can move to a state of balance. Because sone students are very mentally and physically active, they find it hard to do restorative yoga. So, Judith throws out a challenge to her workshop students. She says, ‘Do you have the courage to relax?’
It is true that some of us are overachievers, whether our particular domain is being a soccer mum or a CEO. As an example of my own tendencies, I notice that when I make a cake for afternoon tea at our book club, I want it to be better than the previous host’s offering. (She will never know of my competitive nature.) The art of relaxation for busy people can be seen to be at best an indulgence and at worst completely unnecessary. Sometimes we approach yoga practice as another to-do list. It does take courage to undertake yoga as to-be list.
Restorative yoga does help me. By the end of a session, I can find physical stillness, let go of any effort and let my brain become quiet. The use of use of props makes all the difference. Bolsters, blankets, blocks and belts are tools of support.
Just in case you missed out on attending my workshop, here are some tips for restoring your energy and refreshing yourself that you might want to adopt.
1. Make self-care a priority. You can’t give or care for others or do your best if you are exhausted. Often the first thing that gets jettisoned when you are depleted is the ability to love and connect. No achievements are worth losing touch with yourself or others.
2. Find a way to sleep more. Most of our sleep accounts are overdrawn. There’s a lot to be said for napping, too, if possible. If you have sleep difficulties, your life might be somewhat out of balance. Healthy eating, regular exercise, connecting with friends and family are the simple things of life, but any one of these that gets jettisoned because of stress will impact you greatly.
3. Be mindful. The whole world changes when you are in the moment. Think of how much tension you can let go of simply by noticing where you’re gripping muscles unnecessarily or stifling your breath. The instant you bring yourself into the moment, something shifts, whether you’re driving, eating or doing yoga practice.
4. Look for times when you can be more reflective and quiet. If you almost always do a dynamic yoga practice, try some longer timings in restorative poses. When you’re waiting for the bus or train, instead of checking your email or phone messages, just sit and observe. Even better if you can do it without labelling what you are observing.
5. Smile. I know, I know. It sounds corny, but think about this. Sometimes we are actually content in our lives, or even experience moments of happiness. Yet we forget to inform our faces. I have times when my meditation practice is going well and I’m surprised that a smile has crept onto my face. Wouldn’t it be great to just have a smile at the ready all the time? How about waking up into a smile?
For your diary: I’ll be leading a Restorative Workshop on the Mid-north Coast NSW Sunday August 3rd.
*Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, Judith Lasater.