Slowing down in this fast-paced society can be hard, if not impossible. If you're not "doing" something, you're wasting time.
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In steps the enigma of Restorative yoga. At first practice, it seems you're not doing much but lying on your mat in what feels like a supervised naptime. However, doing nothing in this way provides essential healing to your muscles, your nervous system and your psyche.
Restorative yoga balances out a high-energy lifestyle and helps prevent over-stimulation, which can lead to burn out and health problems.
What is Restorative Practice?
No regulations exist for Restorative yoga, but it generally describes a practice that focuses mostly on seated and reclined postures supported with props, such as bolsters (yoga pillows), blankets and blocks. The intention is for you, as a practitioner, to feel completely comfortable and not distracted by physical sensations. You'll focus on breathing, mild stretching and completely surrendering to downtime. In an hour-long practice, you'll visit only a few postures — holding the ones you do perform for several minutes at a time.
Read More: What is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga offers a way to increase your flexibility without the risk of overstretching or overexerting yourself. You usually surrender to gravity instead of manually reaching and manipulating your muscles to stretch.
This also makes the practice highly inviting to all bodies. Even the stiffest of participants can find success in a Restorative practice. The goal isn't to look a certain way or reach a certain level of flexibility; rather, you're there to work on your body as it is.
The quiet, noncompetitive nature of Restorative yoga allows you to relax more deeply than you might in a flowing, physical practice. It helps balance out a fast-paced lifestyle that can keep your nervous system and mind stimulated and reluctant to relax.
This type of relaxation can foster better sleep, ward off depression and improve your mental health, showed a review of the research published in a 2012 issue of the North American Journal of Medical Science.
The benefits of Restorative yoga are particularly impactful for people in all stages of cancer. Restorative yoga also helped cancer patients tolerate the toxicity of chemotherapy, resist DNA damage and enhance immunity in a number of the reviewed studies.
Normalizing Your Nervous System
Your central nervous system has two sides: the sympathetic, or fight or flight system, and the parasympathetic, or calmer side. A busy, stressed-out lifestyle with work deadlines, financial stresses, family pressure and relationship challenges keeps the sympathetic system on overdrive. This can lead to an excessive release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and mental and physical exhaustion.
Restorative yoga balances your central nervous system by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing and calming postures mean your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and emotions slow down, putting your body in a healthier state.
Often, weight loss is equated with vigorous, calorie-burning exercise. Restorative yoga is anything but a big calorie-burner, as most of it is spent in a near sleep-like state.
However, researchers have found that by reducing stress and calming your bodily system, restorative practices help reset your metabolic engine to drive weight loss. A 2008 issue of Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders published a small study showing that Restorative yoga was an "acceptable and feasible" treatment for people diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including elevated blood pressure, high fat levels and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Addressing the symptoms of metabolic syndrome can help you normalize your weight and protect yourself from heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Restorative yoga has also been shown to help women lose subcutaneous fat more effectively than a simple stretching program, reported a study published by the American Journal of Managed Care in 2013. After 6 months of regular practice, the approximately 44 women who participated in yoga, versus 44 participating in basic stretching, experienced significantly greater weight loss and fat loss. Researchers suggest that the Restorative practice helped moderate production of stress hormones that encourage weight gain.
Read More: What Type of Yoga is Best for Weight Loss?