Restorative yoga is a gentle form of yoga that uses props to encourage a deep state of relaxation. By supporting various parts of your body with bolsters, blocks or blankets, you can fully surrender to the pose and relax every part of your body. Restorative yoga helps relieve the effects of chronic stress and move the spine in all directions to promote greater well-being. Poses used in restorative yoga include forward bends, backbends, twists and even inverted postures, which help reverse the effects of gravity and return fluids to the upper body.
A study conducted at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, discovered that restorative yoga gave cancer patients a greater sense of well-being and an improved outlook on life. Cancer patients who participated in restorative yoga classes for 10 weeks reported a 50 percent decrease in depression, a 12 percent increase in feelings of peace and meaning and a significant improvement in fatigue. "Given the high levels of stress and distress that many women with breast cancer experience, the opportunity to experience feeling more peaceful and calm in the midst of breast cancer is a significant benefit," reports the British news source the Telegraph. Women who began the study with lower levels of emotional well-being and greater negative emotions received more benefit from the yoga classes. The university also conducted a similar study that included ovarian cancer patients, which yielded similar results: Participants demonstrated significant improvements in depression, anxiety, mental health and overall quality of life.
Resolves Metabolic Syndrome
Restorative yoga may also help overweight adults with metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. A study at Department of General Internal Medicine at the University of California San Francisco examined the effects of restorative yoga on 26 underactive, overweight adults who exhibited signs of metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess body fat around the midsection. The participants, who attended 15 yoga sessions lasting 90 minutes each a 10-week period, demonstrated reduced blood pressure, a significant increase in energy levels, lower stress levels and an overall improvement in wellbeing. Study authors concluded that restorative yoga is a "feasible and acceptable intervention" in overweight adults with metabolic syndrome.
Improves Quality of Sleep
Restorative yoga can also improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue, according to a study conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center from May 2010, the largest study of its kind thus far. The study involved 410 early-stage cancer survivors, a group that often struggles with sleep problems and fatigue. Lead study investigator Dr. Karen Mustian notes that very few treatment programs can alleviate these conditions in cancer survivors, and sleep aids are usually ineffective. The participants attended a twice-weekly specialized yoga class for cancer survivors, which incorporated breathing exercises, restorative yoga postures and mindfulness exercises. After four weeks, they reported sleeping better, feeling less fatigued, and experiencing a better quality of life. The control group demonstrated increased use of sleep aids, greater fatigue and poorer sleep quality.