Living in the Canadian mountains as a young ski bum, I was fascinated that when days became shorter and colder, the rodents and bears hibernated. And when, many years later, we would stay in a hut on Kawau Island that had no electricity, I had a first-hand experience of going to bed when it was dark and awaking when it was light. That was in winter and it got dark at 5.30pm and light at 7.30am! This experience of complete rest during the winter months made sense on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. And as Brian McLaughlin puts it in Winter Revival – Haiku:
The bear hibernates
The trees rest from feeding leaves
Winter is for rest
However, this is not possible in the modern age, where life demands that we provide for ourselves and mortgages, rates and insurance premiums reign! In our hyper-scheduled lifestyles we need recovery time, we need to rest, relax and let go, otherwise we don’t recover fully from all the tension and stress. The tension builds and the normal functions of the body-mind are impaired. And in the worst case scenario, chronic disease and mental unease is the pre-determined outcome. In our city life where the tempo of living is much accelerated, it becomes essential to take time out in temporary hibernation – to simply be still and quiet, to breathe, relax and let go.
Restorative yoga is the answer for overworked, overstimulated and stressed humans who find themselves feeling like “human doings” rather than humans with time to be human beings.
What are restorative poses?
They are typically held longer – about 5 to 20 minutes. They are poses which are supported by belts, blankets, blocks, bolsters, and other props, so that comfort is maximized and this triggers students to fully let go. They are also arranged with the head below or near the same level as the heart, which helps to stimulate reflexes that quiet the brain and heart. There are real benefits to what may seem like doing very little:
- Unwinds a tight tense body
- Calms and centers the mind
- Increases concentration and focus of the mind
- Balances the nervous system
- Boosts the immune system
- Enhances the potential for healing and balancing
- Develops qualities of compassion and understanding toward others and self
- Cultivates positivity and improves mood states
- Increases flexibility