My Journey to Restorative Yoga: Slowing Down to “Speed Up”


It’s New Year’s Resolutions time. I’m fairly neutral about resolutions. I think that they’re a great opportunity for the feeling of a fresh start, to let go of things no longer serving you and your family, and building on our strengths. I also understand the feelings behind not loving them because I see that hidden, subtle, undertone of pressure that you need to create a “new you” and that the only way to do that is to do more, more and more more.

First, I need all the experience, hard lessons learned and any grace that I accumulated along the way in my forty something years.  I’m not interested in starting from scratch.

Second, I went down the rabbit hole of doing more, more and more (many times) and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

My Journey to Restorative YogaWhat does this have to do with restorative yoga?

I found the physical practice of yoga when I was an avid distance runner and then later, a triathlete. I viewed yoga as a recovery workout, but I noticed that my stress levels, sleep and overall presence improved on days when I followed a slower, breath and body practice. I thought I needed power yoga because more physically challenging is always better, right? Over time, my perspective about yoga expanded based on my experience working with victims, offenders and practitioners in the Criminal Justice system. I began to learn about the impacts of trauma and stress on the nervous system. I came to the conclusion that many of us are walking around with hijacked nervous systems without even knowing it.

What Is It?

Restorative yoga is a slower practice of yoga and often involves the use of props such as bolsters, blankets and blocks. It’s for yoga students of all levels from the beginner to the seasoned practitioner. Poses are held longer than in most other types of yoga classes. The props support you in the pose to increase relaxation, reduce stress and soothe the nervous system. Poses are guided with slower, deep breathing. It’s less about challenging your physical edge in a pose and more about allowing yourself to be supported and relax into your version of the pose.

The Benefits

There are many cited benefits to this type of yoga practice that include:

  • The ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest/digest/heal component of the nervous system versus the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight/flight side of the nervous system
  • Improves sleep
  • Increased sense of well being
  • Reduced feelings of stress
  • Gentle, passive stretching of the body
  • Safe to practice while pregnant, with simple modifications
  • Improves mood

Restorative yoga is also used as a tool to help with chronic conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety due to its positive benefits on the nervous system.

My Experience with Restorative Yoga

I personally realized that a slower, more gentle physical practice of yoga soothed my nervous system and increased my abilities to be more present in my prayer, family and professional life. At first, slowness and stillness was a challenge for me, but it helped with over stimulation from constant noise while raising small humans. It helped relax my body and mind for prayer. It helped create a tiny distance between a stimulus and my response to it, often resulting in a better version of myself showing up.

After a restorative yoga class, I feel like I took a vacation. I personally find that a one hour, restorative class in a studio leaves me feeling rested and refreshed. I feel like my senses are clearer. I feel like my spine is stretched out. I walk taller and my footsteps are lighter.  I feel like I have a natural pause when I step on a toy dinosaur for the 7th time that day or when my 3 year old takes the dinosaur out of my 1 year old’s hands…even though there are 17 other dinosaurs he could have chosen. I feel like I have a pause when my older children argue about, I’m not even sure what…again. Pause. Breathe.

Now I teach it because I stand behind the science for helping with stress relief and soothing the nervous system.

I envisioned my yoga journey bringing me to a lot of power yoga but it turns out that wasn’t my path. I still love more strength based workouts and yoga, but my greatest challenge is in slowing down and oddly enough, slowing down helps me to “speed up” by handling the important things in life as a better version of me.

So dear momma, please don’t feel pressured to do more, more and more more this year if you don’t feel that it’s your season to do so. You don’t need a “new you.” And may I humbly suggest to take some time to slow down and soothe that nervous system?

My favorite quote about restorative yoga is “Restorative yoga won’t get you abs. It will empower you to your core.” ~Octavia Raheem

Please feel free to contact me with any questions!


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