At Lotus Yoga and Fitness we have several classes on our schedule that are classified as “Gentle Yoga”, “Restorative Yoga” or “Yin Yoga”. Unfortunately, many people who practice yoga choose the faster stronger Vinyasa Flow type classes over the gentle classes because they think they are too boring or too slow, but by doing this, they are missing the amazing benefits of a more gentle practice. We think we have to push ourselves in order to gain anything, but in reality, it is when we back off and are kinder to ourselves that we gain the most physically and mentally. The most active and strength-hungry yogis usually benefit the most from including a more Gentle or Restorative practice into their regular routine.
Restorative or gentle yoga often involves props such as blocks, bolsters, blankets, and straps. These props are used to aid us in getting deeper into the postures.
Here are 5 reasons why people of all ages and all abilities should practice Restorative or Gentle styles of yoga:
1. It increases flexibility.
Gentle styles of yoga generally hold postures for at least two minutes and often even longer. By holding the postures longer, tight muscles stretch and release slowly, allowing you to get deeper into the pose. In my YIN class at my studio in Ormond Beach, we use props to help reduce the risk of straining muscles by rushing into the pose and to aid us in getting more relaxed in the postures.
2. It boosts the immune system.
By calming the mind and body into a deeper sense of relaxation, Gentle yoga style classes also rejuvenate the body and help boost the immune system. Because the postures are not overly taxing on the body, this style of practice is also beneficial for people who are ill, weak, or recovering from an injury. I have worked with several athletes at Lotus Yoga and Fitness who have been able to heal their body from an injury more quickly by focusing on a gentler practice.
3. It calms a restless mind.
This one benefit can actually be one of the hardest for most people who are used to being active all day long. Restorative or Gentle yoga is like a form of meditation done in different positions, most of them done seated or lying on the floor. As you hold the poses longer and allow the muscles to relax, you can create a space to calm the mind, focusing only on the breath—and letting go of the thoughts in your mind. The more you practice this on your mat, the more you can carry it with you off the mat into your daily activities.
4. It heals the body.
Restorative style yoga practices activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). This is the involuntary part of the nervous system that controls the heart rate, intestinal activity and other bodily functions that we don’t think about. When the PNS is engaged through Restorative types of yoga, the heart rate automatically slows down and the organs of the body are able to regulate themselves better than during our normal busy stress filled lives.
5. It allows you to reap the full benefits of each pose.
In a Vinyasa Flow style class, we quickly move from one pose to the next. The body receives benefits from this faster movement, but Restorative style yoga allows those benefits to happen on a deeper level. For example, a Forward Fold can be calming when you hold it for five breaths, so imagine what can happen when you hold it for five minutes. The same can be said for postures that involve a twist because they help to stimulate the internal organs. We normally hold a twist for 30 seconds, so try holding it for longer and see how you feel.
When you plan out the classes you are going to attend each week, consider taking a Gentle or Restorative class as a treat to your body. It’s a time for you to just let everything go, to practice being present, and to be kinder to your body. I invite you to attend our Gentle, Restorative and YIN Yoga Classes at my studio in Ormond Beach. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you!