Taking time out each day to relax and renew is essential to living well. Restorative yoga offers nurturing physical postures based on yoga for deep relaxation and rest. Relaxation is the antidote to stress.
Stress begins with a physiological response to what your body-mind perceives as life threatening. Whatever the stressor, the mind alerts the body that danger is present. In response, the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, secrete catecholamine hormones. These adrenaline and noradrenalin hormones act upon the autonomic nervous system, as the body prepares for fight or flight. Heart rate, blood pressure, mental alertness and muscle tension are increased. the adrenal hormones cause metabolic changes that make energy stores available to each cell, and the body begins to sweat. The body also shuts down systems that are not a priority in the immediacy of the moment, including digestion, elimination, growth, repair and reproduction.
These adaptive responses have been positive for the survival of the human race over thousands of years. For our ancestors the fight-flight response was activated for survival for short periods of time. They fought or they ran, and if they survived, everything returned to normal. The hormones were used beneficially, the adrenal glands stopped producing stress hormones and systems that were temporally shut down resumed operation.
The fast pace of modern living does to allow our stress to be resolved so directly, as a result we live chronically stressed. The body's capacity to heal itself is compromised, either inhibiting recovery from an existing illness or injury or creating a new one, including blood pressure, ulcers, back pain, immune dysfunction, reproductive problems and depression. These conditions add stress of their own and the cycle continues.
I repeat the antidote to stress is relaxation. To relax is to rest deeply. This rest is different from sleep. Deep states of sleep include periods of dreaming, which increase muscular tension. Whereas relaxation is a state in which there is no movement, no effort, and the brain is quiet.
Common to all stress reduction techniques is putting the body in a comfortable position, with gentle attention directed toward the breath. Restorative yoga poses are a form of "active relaxation." By supporting the body with props, we alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance. Some poses have overall benefit, others target an individual part, like the lungs or heart. All create specific physiological responses that are beneficial to health and can reduce the effects of stress-related disease. Generally restorative poses are for those times when you feel weak, fatigued, or stressed from your daily activities.
Trained with Judith Lasetar