Friday, August 31, 2012
RESTORATIVE YOGA AS FOUNDATIONAL / CORE YOGA PRACTICE
Copyright Lance Kinseth, 48”x48, 2011
RATHER THAN BEING an adjunct practice for individuals that can’t do “regular yoga,” restorative yoga may be the foundational or core practice upon which other yoga practices are built.
In restorative yoga, the permission to be quiet and calm and gentle and slow paced provides a structure for the deep grace of yoga practice to flower. In restorative yoga, body-mind can open spirit.
Freedom for the body rather than control of the body, and kindness to oneself can be practiced in restorative yoga in a way that may be alien to modern yoga. Restorative yoga may be the cutting edge of yoga and that which we will come to describe as “health.” Rather than fitness or even more comprehensive wellness, restorative yoga may open the gate of thriving.
Quiet and calmness and stillness of the body,
Reducing the cycle of respiration,
Directing the mind to listen to the body (listening especially to the place(s) of tension that is generated by the pose),
Inhaling and reaching, and exhaling and relaxing, and
Stretching like a cat rather than pushing:
These are the actions of restorative yoga that might then outspread to the practice of the vaster repertoire of asanas [poses].
Following a grounding in restorative practice, the vast array of yoga asanas can then be practiced with an emphasis upon being quiet, holding poses, and relaxing into the poses [releasing spindles in muscles and Golgi reflex in tendons] to amplify flexibility/suppleness. And even though the practice may become physically “easier,” increases in flexibility may outperform a more physically intensive yoga practice.
By beginning with calmness and quietness, a foundation is laid that can be applied to other poses. All asanas serve a larger yoga that is far more than the poses per se.
The calmness and quietness—central to restorative yoga—demands adherence to and integration of the practices of yoga such as the yamas and niyamas [e.g., contentment/santosha]. Historically, yoga was perhaps centered on “stillness” and meditation as methods for spiritual insight. Attention gradually outspread to techniques to free the body to assist in this goal.
Yoga has become popularized in a time when fitness is the core body practice. But fitness is often far more body than mind and is even injurious, and further, often proscribes attention to “spirit.” A more active, fast flow of poses [i. e., sequences of “Sun Salutations”] make up the primary approach to popular, modern yoga that is dominated by a fitness orientation.
Yoga is likely to be optimized by slowing down. Aerobic fitness is better served by amping up time and pace on a treadmill or “step machine” than by doing yoga, as has been well demonstrated by fitness research.
It is possible to do more difficult poses and to end practice feeling “grogged” or deeply relaxed, so that yoga becomes a deeply enjoyable process of being kind to oneself, and freeing and listening intuitively to the body-mind rather than becoming an effort to control the body.