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Restorative yoga is a healing form of hatha yoga that facilitates deep relaxation with gentle poses supported by bolsters, blankets and other props. This practice is often called “active or conscious relaxation.” It helps alleviate the chronic stress that many people face on a daily basis and that adversely affects the mind, body and general health. This modified version of yoga can act as an effective tool to strengthen the immune system, soothe the nervous system, quiet the mind and allow the practitioner to release deep tension and stress.
The foundation of restorative yoga is derived from the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, a world renowned yoga guru from Pune, India. His early teachings and style of yoga, called Iyengar yoga, made use of props to modify poses so students could practice yoga without strain or injury. Modern restorative yoga’s worldwide popularity is credited to its most well-known practitioner and student of Iyengar, Judith Lasater.
Many restorative yoga poses are similar to normal yoga poses, except that they are performed with the support of props. Some of the yoga props used in this type of yoga are bolsters, straps, blankets, balls, towels, chairs, walls, eye bags and pillows. The use of props for support helps the practitioner hold poses without effort or strain.
Restorative yoga uses forward bends, backbends and twists to move the spine in every direction. The pose sequence usually also includes inversions, or poses that are performed basically upside-down, in an effort to reverse the effects of gravity. This improves circulation and enhances heart function.
Each pose is held for at least a few minutes or as long as is comfortable. This allows for time to deeply relax every muscle and tissue in the body along with the mind. At the end of a restorative yoga session, the practitioner should feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
Restorative yoga is appropriate for any fitness level and can be a perfect complement to other styles of yoga and other forms of exercise. Restorative yoga utilizes variations and modifications, so it is a gentler version of the traditional discipline. The reduced intensity of the activity makes it more accessible and a great practice for people who are dealing with injuries, chronic pain or physical illness.