Restorative Yoga: 4 Principles

Yoga postures Paschimottanasana

Image via Wikipedia

I gave up teaching Restorative Yoga about a year and a half ago. I decided that it just wasn’t my niche; it isn’t what my mind does.  “I’m just too Type A to do that,” is what I told myself. “Let all the fluttery butterfly teachers do that.”

And so, I began receiving intermittent but persistent requests for Restorative Yoga classes. “No, I know where my strength is and that isn’t it, but I’d be happy to give you the name…” I’d reply. Flattered, but decided.

Requests kept coming. I dug my heels in. “Hmmmm….” Self said, “this is beginning to feel like a pattern. Self,” self said, “time to break down some boundaries.”

You see, “Type A,” “what I’m good at,” “my niche” are all labels. All boxes, categories for the ego to grasp. True, when you’re overwhelmed, it’s good to make discerning choices. However, once the basis for those choices is reified, or turned into an inert object, you’ve just created a wall, not a boundary. And so I had done.

And so I practiced. Practiced – gulp! – Restorative Yoga. Not much or often at first, but persistently and over time. Oh, the chatter of the mind! I won’t dignify the script by recording it here, but I don’t have to, do I? You have your own, and the content, while revealing, is less the point than the resistance. And what we resist, persists. Every time.

I could better corral my mind in an upright seated posture, or even walking meditation. But this idea of supported, effortless, breathing being, well, let me tell you, Buster, that never got an hombre anywhere! Yeah, my inner commandant talks like that.

So let me tell you where it got me: right here. And here. And Now. And…. you get the idea. The notion of presence I profess to seek, was, as I also profess to believe, right here all along. Now, I’m not giving up my sweaty practice, or my sitting. But I have added a regular practice of letting go, based on these four seemingly obvious principles:

  1. Allow. Release all muscular effort. One important difference between my morning and my new evening practice is that in the morning I’m engaging my muscles. We say hello, check in, find out how this new day feels in our bones. At night, the practice is to let all that go. I’d call it passive, except that it’s anything but! The application of focused attention to find where I’m holding is the same as the process of releasing it.
  2. Support. In order to release effort more completely, the body must be supported at a productive edge. The edge for restorative practice is very different than the edge in an active asana class. The edge is the place where the shape begins to create muscular tension. Supporting the torso and limbs there, at that very place of opening, creates a supportive feeling throughout the entire being – body and psyche.
  3. Breathe. Breath is especially important in the early moments while the mind is still running like a velo. Once the opening is found through which the chatter can escape its cycling, mind creates less tension. However, sometimes it takes an entire practice to find this. Until then, the breath is your ally. Return to watching the breath. We’re not creating or elongating or anything; only watching. Now, as it watches, mind will commence to commentary: “Isn’t that interesting? I was sure I was breathing from my diaphragm! Jeez, I wonder when I’ll ever rid myself of that pattern?….” Just return to watching the breath. Stay with the moment, not the facsimile of the moment created by the commentary.
  4. Which brings us to Being. This last is more the meal, while the earlier 3 principles are the recipe. You start with support, mix in a heap of allow, and a generous dollop of breathe, and if the temperature and time and stars align, you’ll pull some being out of the oven. It doesn’t matter if the recipe turns out, though, because the sustenance of the meal is there all along. The recipe is just our method of cleaning of the oven.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Emma
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 07:40:49

    i’m type a, too (if i must label it :), but every once and awhile i desperately need a roll around on the floor and never get up practice. because…. i deserve it!


  2. lgosyne
    Mar 27, 2012 @ 16:32:55

    Love this article! It shows how much we resist (pun intended) and how we need to relax into what the universe is telling us.


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