One day back in 2004 I arrived at my yoga teacher's house in London for a one-to-one lesson.
'Ah' she said when she saw me. 'Restorative yoga today I think'.
Once inside, she helped set me up in a restorative savasana. The eye pillow went on.
I woke up one hour later. That was my lesson.
Someone I once shared this story with was shocked that I had 'done nothing' that lesson, and that it hadn't been 'value for money'.
It was one of the most valuable lessons of my life.
Like many, I was exhausted. Working part-time, teaching yoga part-time, practising/studying and living in busy London.
So, I more than welcomed the profound rest of restorative yoga and began to integrate it into my practice. At the time, this was predominantly dynamic, while including pranayama and meditation. I had been a fan of meditation for some time already by then, and always curious about the experience of silence and stillness and what lay beyond the mind.
It wasn't until some years later, married and living outside London, that I came to know restorative yoga in a deeper way. This is when I caught a glimpse of its true potency and significance in everyday life.
I practised restorative yoga through an intense period of grief, scattered with a number of unexpected bereavements.
It was the only yoga practice I felt called to (and could manage) during that time. An accepting, loving, caring refuge. Deeply healing, all-seeing.
Since then, restorative yoga continues to be a steady companion in my practice and life. I feel honoured and a responsibility to share it wisely. It is a powerful and much needed practice for our time.
For theory buffs, restorative yoga creates fully supported versions of classical yoga poses through the extensive use of props. There is a sense of being safely 'held' and an experience of deep comfort and ease. External stimulation is absent. The nervous system is calmed.
The practice has its origins in the therapeutic work of B.K.S. Iyengar. Modern practice has largely been developed by the wonderful Judith Hanson Lasater, with whom I have trained and continue to assist and study with.
Restorative yoga creates space on all levels of our being and nourishes our organs. We move into the parasympathetic response of the autonomic nervous system i.e. from the stress reaction/fight or flight to the relaxation response/rest and digest. The body/mind has the opportunity to recalibrate and return to homeostasis, our optimal physiological functioning. Restorative yoga promotes the body's natural healing process and is beneficial for the many stress-related conditions that are so common these days.
Our awareness and experience travel through the koshas, the layers of our being: our physical, mental, emotional, energetic, subtle and bliss bodies. We return to a felt-sense of integration, connection and compassion. The impact of this extends to all those with whom we are in contact and relationship, and through them to many others in turn whom we do not even know.
If we look at our levels of consciousness, restorative yoga provides us with a helpful step towards meditation practice. It is meditative in quality. Some immediately adore this, but like meditation, restorative yoga can be challenging and take a while to settle in to. This gradual settling in reflects a greater ease as we settle in to life generally.
More important than theory though, is to experience and know restorative yoga oneself. Like all yoga practices, this really is the only way. Through this process we find our own personal 'why'.
You are welcome to join me for one-to-one restorative yoga in north Hertfordshire, either through on-going sessions and/or a six-week personalised course. If you would like to know more, please contact me here.
Specialist restorative training for teachers is available annually in Cambridge, UK in February/March.