Restorative Yoga -- What is it and how does it work?

What is Restorative Yoga? The creation of restorative yoga came out of the teachings of BKS Iyengar, of Pune, India (Dec 14, 1918 - August 20, 2014). The author of the classic yoga text "Light on Yoga" and many other books, Iyengar taught for most of his life and was widely recognized for his style of alignment within yoga asana practice utilizing various props. Iyengar's early teaching experience allowed him to see in his students how pain and/or injury can result from straining in a yoga pose. So, he experimented with props to modifying a pose until a student could practice without strain. Iyengar also explored how these modified poses could help people recover from illness or injury. It was because of his creativity that the restorative poses found in this class now offered at Maya Yoga in Kansas City, Missouri -- most of which have been developed or directly inspired by him -- are such powerful tools to reduce stress and restore health. 

In the Iyengar tradition, restorative yoga is thought of as active relaxation. So by supporting the body with props, a student alternatively relaxes and stimulates the body to move toward balance. Some poses have an overall benefit, whereas others may focus on an individual part, such as the neck, the heart or the lower back. All poses in a restorative yoga class create specific physiological responses that are beneficial to health and can help reduce the effects of stress-related disease and discomfort. 

How does Restorative Yoga work? Restorative poses help relieve the effects of chronic stress by using props, sequences designed to move the spine in all directions, and a variation of an inversion is included. Using props facilitates the body and allows for complete relaxation in each pose. The movements of the spine are important as the spine needs to move to stay healthy. So in restorative class, the spine will be supported laterally, in extension (back bend variations), in flexion (forward bend variations) and in twists. We finish with a variation of an inversion that reverses the effects of gravity. This can be as simple as putting the legs up the wall, on bolsters or even a chair. By changing the relationship of the legs to gravity, fluids are returned to the upper body and heart function is enhanced. The supported poses in a restorative class create more blood flow and breath enhancing and soothing the internal organs. 

The poses in a Restorative Yoga class are taught in a specific order and the effects of this kind of practice are cumulative. All yoga practitioners, whether their daily practice is ashtanga, vinyasa or any other style of yoga, will benefit from a restorative class in their weekly regimen of yoga. 

I always tell people, live happily and die majestically. 
BKS Iyengar