Monthly Yoga: February, Restorative Yoga

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the second of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

As a regular for breathe’s power vinyasa classes, I never really considered the merits of a restorative class. After all, I figured, why go to something that’s a bunch of breathing and laying down? I go for the exercise—I can relax at home. Yet I find, increasingly, that it’s difficult to relax at home, even if I’m by myself! There is always some type of distraction for me, like seeing something that needs cleaning or fixing or wanting to check something on the computer. (And a word of advice: cats are entertaining but not very helpful during yoga!)

I’ve heard this from many different sources, but power yoga tends to attract Type A personalities. Although I wouldn’t say that I fit firmly into this category at all times, I do tend to keep schedules obsessively (hello Filofax!), have a million different things going on in my head at any given moment, and agonize and worry about something almost all the time. I am not teaching right now, but for most of the past year, I taught college-level English courses and juggled two or three different schedules all at once. (The joys of being an adjunct… but I digress!) Yoga, even in power vinyasa classes, has been my way of unwinding and “sweating it out,” but now that I’ve tried a restorative class, I can easily see the benefits of attending these sessions on an occasional, or even regular, basis.

I took a restorative class after my regular vinyasa class, and I figured I would be okay to continue on since at least I wouldn’t be doing any more sweating than I already had in the early portion of the evening. At the end of my first class, I noticed that I couldn’t really quiet my mind during Savasana—it just went all over the place. Even when I started up the restorative class, I suddenly felt that I had too much to think about just with the class itself. “I’ve never done this before.” “How do I get my mind to be quiet?” “What if I can’t relax?” “What are we doing?” “How many blankets, bolsters, and blocks do we need again?” “What are we doing with all of these props?” “Oh no, do we even have enough blankets and bolsters for everyone?” (Yes, the last thought really did cross my mind, and it didn’t need to. Why I felt I had to worry about that issue, I’m not sure, since I wasn’t the one in charge!)

For class, we used five blankets (!), three bolsters, two blocks, and a strap. Somehow, it was daunting just to grab all the props and then wonder why we were using them. I am used to having a block and maybe, in a really adventurous class, a strap! We started out on our backs with blankets rolled under our ankles, knees, and necks. Pretty comfortable thus far. The instructor went around the room and helped each student to adjust as needed. She was very insistent that we let her do the adjusting for us; the goal of the class, after all, was for us to relax and not have to fidget with our various yoga props. Then we switched to a supported Supta Baddha Konasana with a strap, all while reclining on a bolster supported by blocks. I’m not kidding when I say that I love this pose as we normally do it, as it’s a fantastic hip opener, but that night I just could not get into this modification. It felt just slightly uncomfortable, enough so that I couldn’t stop thinking about when we would change positions. I finally stuck the bolsters underneath my knees, and this alleviated the issue, but by that point I just felt like I was doing something wrong.

Okay, seriously, I thought to myself. How can you relax “wrong”? How could you even be bad at relaxing in the first place?

The next pose was a modified reclining twist with arms laid across blankets and one knee supported on a bolster. This, too, took me a while to get used to. While I’m fine with a twist flat on my mat at the end of a vinyasa class (arms spread open with one knee angled and draped across the opposite leg), for some reason the props just complicated things. Again, I began to feel like I just wasn’t making myself comfortable the right way, or like I should be able to clear my mind completely in these poses. I also couldn’t stop fidgeting. Maybe I can blame the coffee I drank earlier in the day.

Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t exactly rocket science, but I guess this really just speaks to how little time I actually spend trying to make myself comfortable. Think about it: how often do you take the time to relax your body completely? This doesn’t include the times when you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep and anticipating your plans for the next day, or when you’re sitting on the couch, vegging out to something on TV. How often do most of us just sit or lay without some kind of distracting activity an arm’s length away? My guess, if I’m at least remotely average in this, is not too often.

Our final pose was Savasana, again aided by bolsters and blankets. Our instructor led us through a quick guided meditation focused on our breathing. In all, we only did five poses, since they require a fair amount of set-up time, which means we must have held each for about ten to fifteen minutes. Finally, finally, I was able to relax in Savasana. It was almost over too soon. It seemed like in the last five minutes of class, I finally got it. I hadn’t exactly cleared my mind, and I still moved around just a bit, but I left class in a state I can only describe as post-yoga bliss. I get this all the time with regular vinyasa classes, but with the restorative class focused entirely on relaxation, it seemingly amplified tenfold!

Will I do this again? Probably, but I can’t imagine going to breathe only for one of these classes. If I do attend another restorative class, though, it would definitely be after a vinyasa class and not before. I may need something caffeinated for afterward next time, too! On my drive home, I still felt a little bit too relaxed. However, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a restorative class. I had felt a bit off this past week, and after this class, I feel like I hit some sort of cosmic reset button for myself. We all need a way to unwind, and a nice, gentle practice every once in a while may be just the thing for the workaholics and compulsive worriers of the world.

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Monthly Yoga: June, Iyengar-based Hatha « The Novice Yogi

  2. Pingback: I’m Back! + The Year 2012 in Review « The Novice Yogi

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