Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On Why I Teach Restorative Yoga: Lengthening the Exhale

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the honor of sharing a yoga asana practice the morning of a college friend's wedding in Tahoe. Eleven souls moved through a flowing practice on a ski lodge deck, drinking in the moment and simply being in the present before moving on with the day, or in the case of the bride and groom, their journey ahead. Congratulations, Catherine & Chris!
Because of the morning chill, savasana was brief. Short savasanas make me sad. 

* * *

Earlier this year, someone asked me whether I had an agenda when teaching yoga. In retrospect (and by "retrospect," I really mean "in the course of writing this post"), I think she likely meant, "Do you plan out a sequence ahead of time and have a theme prepared?" Anyway, at the time that I heard this question, I interpreted "agenda" to mean "ulterior motive." Whoops.

Anyway, yes, I have an "ulterior motive" when I teach yoga: I sneak in restorative yoga.

If I had my way, every class that I taught would be 90% restorative (with 10% movement to get out those jitters) and be replete with bolsters, blankets, sand bags, and eye pillows.
As it is, I don't regularly teach a full-length flow or vinyasa class anymore. The closest is a flow + restorative class that I teach on Friday evenings, which features ~30 minutes of flow and 45 minutes of restorative yoga, including a 15-minute savasana. Through the flow + restorative class, I discovered that flow yoga is the carrot for the restorative practice in this town because so many people feel like they need to "earn" a restorative practice.

Friends, you don't need to "earn" a restorative practice. To paraphrase a wonderful and brilliant yoga teacher I met last summer, Francesca Cervero, I know you're a hard core [fill in the blank with that hard core thing you do – and if you're living in D.C., you probably have at least 3 things that you're super hard core about], but right now we're going to be really hard core about taking a deep full inhale and lengthening our exhale.

I'm drawn to teaching restorative yoga because it is physically accessible to everyone, and a student open to the practice can begin to experience its effects after just one class, simply because he's taken the time to press "pause." Restorative yoga is a practice of supported rest, of surrender, and of allowing oneself to be nourished. There are no edges in restorative yoga, only softness.

So much of our day-to-day experience consists of pushing, seeking the edge, or doing what it takes to stay afloat. Take time to dial it back and nourish yourself. Long savasanas – and a restorative practice – are the bee's knees.

2 comments:

  1. I had the pleasure of taking a restorative yoga class at my mom's yoga studio in Florida. When we left, we both felt as relaxed as if we'd had a couple glasses of wine but as alert as if we'd had a couple shots of espresso. Unfortunately, I, like the rest of the world, feel it's hard to make time for something that feels so indulgent. Thanks for the reminder that it's so, so worth it!

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