Rasa Restorative Yoga

The last few days have been sunny,  which in the dead of winter somehow symbolizes hope that spring is on its way.  this winter has been a little much,  probably because we have already been lulled and bought by the last few mild winters barely getting any snow or wearing our huge furry hats.  its been cold,  its snowed,  ive been pelted in the face by horizontal ice all while trying to bypass lines outside of  Greenwich village grocery and liquor stores.  my body has ached,  my skin has been dry and i haven't wanted to move at all.  Yoga practices change like the seasons and so a few weeks ago I decided the most amazing gift for myself in the middle of winter was a weekend long Rasa Restorative Teacher Training.  Its a kind of yoga that reflects winter.  Its soft, supported and quieting and it deeply nourishes  us when we are depleted from the season.  In theory(if we were bears) we would be sleeping through all this nonsense,  but the adrenaline from the holidays and its sugar and cocktail parties and champagne have left us a little broke,  a little frazzled and definitely a little tired.  Restorative yoga keeps the mind and body connected while bringing  the body back to its natural state.  Restorative postures are done lying passively over props like bolsters and blocks.  Its deeply perceptive of where you hold tension and how long it takes you to really truly relax.  Each pose is held for 5-30 minutes so that your body has a chance to fully let go of the places in your body where you constantly hold tension.  

What drew me to the practice initially was that it brings your body back into natural alignment when habits and injuries may have pulled it one way or the other. It also works with your nervous system and enlists the parasympathitc  impulses that help us "rest and digest" It lowers blood pressure,  decreases respiration and improves immunity in the body. I figured it would be easy,  8 hours a day laying around in poses that will help me bring myself back into balance,  but underneath it was a lot harder for me than expected.  

We would start with a little pranayama(breathing exercises) and a little bit of movement before settling into a pose.  It was usually a pose opening the heart or the hips and there you are,  laying there. After you find your comfort,  you put lots of blankets over yourself to stay warm and safe.  But then,  usually five minutes or so into the pose when I thought I was really starting to relax,  I would notice a space in between my shoulders or running down my back where I was still holding.  I hadnt even noticed it,  and it would send my mind spiraling into thoughts about why I hadn't relaxed that yet or where it was coming from. Other times,  once I had settled into a pose,  a rush of emotion would come over me and i would realize how truly tired I was or how hard this pose really was to sink into.  

Relaxing isn't something that you can just go do like pick it up at the store or walk into it like a movie.  It takes some time and dedication and its not as easy as you'd think.  I used to think i was an amazing relaxer,  but there is a difference between relaxing and intentionally turning your mind off.  When you sit with yourself, you really sit with yourself.  Things come up,  thoughts that you shouldn't have to attempt to deal with because you are relaxing.  But as your body relaxes and your muscles ease up,  problems and unresolved emotions release out of them into your brain.  If you refuse to process them and acknowledge that you are feeling them,  they take a walk of shame back into your hips flexors or your quads and tense back up,  living unwanted like a hobo in your muscles.  I have a strong yoga practice,  but its a form of Vinyasa Yoga where most poses you flow through without giving yourself time to sit with how you feel about them,  These poses are the Yin to my Yang style yoga practice.   

The real truth is embracing your truth, your muscle hobos and meeting them heading on,  experiencing them and letting them go.  As your muscles let go,  so does your mind and only then can you truly relax.  Restorative Yoga is a form of physical meditation and just like when you meditate,  look at your thoughts,  see them and let them go.  I love the analogy of sitting on a river bank watching your thoughts float buy without jumping in the river to grab one.  

As i delve deeper into this practice I would love to share info and poses about them.  Embracing your truth involves going into the inner self and exploring your Koshas which will be for another time.  meanwhile,  the sun is a light but the winter remains.  Restorative poses recharge your body like a battery and if you would like to experience that without all the blankets and blocks,  you can always try out the simplest of restorative poses without them.  

Lying on the ground with your legs up the wall reduces stress,  quiets the mind and rejuvenates the blood flow through the entire body,  although not recommended for women on their moon,  all other times are a go,  just 5 minutes oer day can relax you while it relieves pains in the lower back and legs.  
Another great restorative pose,  Savasana.  The ultimate in yoga poses the one everyone waits for at the end of your practice.  Corpse pose,  the practice of being dead,  truly letting go,  and then resurrecting yourself.  Put a blanket under your head to support your neck and cover your eyes with a nice eye pillow if you have it.  Add some support under your knees to keep your low back comfortable and lay on the floor and be quiet for 10 minutes.  Breathe.  See what comes up.  Face it head on and fall deep into relaxation.