Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Deep Resonance: A Gift Of Restorative Practice
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Wisdom Gate/Chimon, 16"x32, 2004
A YOGA PRACTICE session that is completely restorative tends to be a very occasional, special practice, often on a weekend, and possibly lasting longer than a routine yoga class. It may have the feeling of being like an occasional brief retreat or it may be a strong part of a full weekend retreat.
Regular, ongoing restorative practice is a rarity. It may be a multi-week class that is oriented toward a specific population with medical concerns. And such a program can show self-reports of improvement and an ability following the program for participants to self-regulate physiological responses to some degree.
Regular, ongoing restorative practice that occurs in yoga studios offers a regular practice of calmness that is more active than meditation. And participants are attracted to it for the opportunity for a deeper relaxation that comes to have value in one’s health routine.
But regular, ongoing restorative practice can offer something deeper and transformative. Restorative practice is a very internal practice. It can calm the constant internal chatter [chittavritti: vritti—chattering, chitta—mind]. Initially, it attends to the conscious chattering of more everyday concerns [e. g., “What I need to do,” “What happened today”]. And calming this chatter is almost universally reported by participants to be beneficial. And because this experience of calmness can feel extraordinary, the benefits derived from restorative practice may be sensed to have been achieved. However, this can miss one of the real opportunities of restorative practice.
When restorative practice becomes a regular discipline, it can go beyond softening the “daily” chatter to can attend to subliminal chatter. This “chatter” involves admonitions from deep indelible memories that have become “scripts” that guide our everyday actions. When we try to change, try as hard as we may, we seem to soon return to old patterns. These patterns can be beneficial, but they may contain “scars” [samskara] that not only keep us from optimal health, but continually reinforce old habits and lead us away from health altogether. Traditional fitness exercise and body-mind practices increase awareness of routine responses that we desire to change. The calmness and quietness of restorative practice offers the opportunity to also listen for underlying guides that erroneously validate these habitual responses, to then modify them.
Modification of one’s core “life script” to be optimally healthy and thriving rather than surviving can come from regular calm practice. Authentic “needs”—that which we really need to optimize--are increasingly heard and we respond to these needs rather than to acting out a memory. We begin to develop a resonance between what we experience that we need and that which we begin to do.
Rather than just enjoy calming down and taking a good, long, occasional respite, regular restorative practice offers us a method for self-directed deep change that is experienced as tranquil freedom, expansive connection and identity, authentic kindness, and compassion.