"I'm coming to get restored," Amanda F. said good-naturedly, waving as she entered the Restorative Yoga class on a Tuesday evening at Holly's Pilates Village.
An hour later, Amanda and the other students emerged from the yoga room with blissful smiles and lighter moods. Each of them did indeed seem renewed.
What is Restorative Yoga and why do you need it in your life? Restorative Yoga Teacher Shannon Fitzgerald describes it as "a well-deserved hour of blissful relaxation. At first, it can be challenging to soften, but working with the breath through poses supported by soft blankets and cushions, we find softness and release in the bodies and minds."
Shannon notes that "everyone can practice this style of yoga. There is no pain allowed, and there are always positions available when a certain shape doesn’t work in that specific moment—we show up differently every day. My goal is to guide you to a place where the body relaxes, the mind becomes quiet, and we breathe through the mindful moments of that time on our mats."
Most of us lead busy, stressful lives, and this constant activity often produces tension and sometimes dis-ease in the body. The Restorative Yoga class at Holly’s Pilates Village consists of well-supported poses that are relaxed in for several deep breaths in order to release the body's muscles, specifically focusing on maintaining a neutral spine, and gentle opening into the hips.
“Restoration is as important as activation,” Shannon says. "We spend so much time activating our bodies, minds, and emotional energy. Restorative yoga is a practice that reminds us to soften, to return to center, and let go of what we no longer need."
A restorative yoga sequence often involves just a few poses, which are supported by props such as blankets, bolsters, and blocks. Students may hold the poses for five minutes or more, and the teacher makes small adjustments for each student as she walks around the room, observing any discomfort or unease. Restorative poses can include light twists, seated forward folds, gentle backbends, and some poses supported by the wall.
Monica A., an elementary school teacher, joined the Restorative Yoga class in late summer because she was determined to start the school year with a different plan for easing the many tensions in her life.
"Refresh, clear your mind, RELAX! I hear this and I want my body and mind to do these things but, unfortunately, I’m running a minimarathon most days," she say. "There is laundry, cooking, teaching 24 six-year-olds, errands, being a mom, being a wife and so much more--all in one day.
"My friend and I were then introduced to Shannon, who teaches Restorative Yoga. I feel like a new woman after every class. My mind is cleared, my body is relaxed, and I truly feel like my week goes more smoothly. Shannon will meet the needs of each individual. I have learned some breathing techniques, which have added a comforting feeling within. The class is amazing."
Having trouble sleeping? The Restorative Yoga class offers a wonderful opportunity to prepare for restful sleep and is intentionally scheduled later in the evening for this purpose. You can sink into softness and allow the breath to move freely through places that might hold tension.
Mike D., who comes to Restorative Yoga nearly every week, says that when he arrives at class, he’s “generally a little stressed. Tuesdays are usually one of my busier days and I reward myself by letting Shannon's creamy, lilting voice and the quiet music and lighting take me away from everything that's been done and left to do. Each pose is tailored to my body and made comfortable with as many adjustments and supports as I need; there is always a workable option.
"My body listens to me in the absence of distraction and I'm somehow able to direct my mind and my breath to the areas of tightness and discomfort and to let my exhale release them. Sometimes Shannon offers to cover me with a blanket as we near the end of the practice! What could be better than that?"
Join us for Restorative Yoga, Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. All levels are welcome. The studio is located at 201 Meridian Avenue in Louisville. Visit www.pilatesvillage.com for more information. Or call us at 502-409-4200.