Restorative Yoga- A Foundational Practice for Trauma

This transformative style of yoga is a healing and rejuvenating practice for everyone. 

From those experiencing everyday stress and anxiety to those who are going through more intense times, restorative yoga is powerful because it assists the body in switching from the sympathetic nervous system (the flight, fight, freeze, fawn response- FEAR) to the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest, relax, & digest response- CALM). 

It is not only beneficial in relieving pain, suffering, physical illness, trauma and muscle tension, it also deepens emotional awareness and softens our inner critic. It promotes better sleep (an hour session is equal to 3 hours of deep sleep), increases immunity, and resets the digestive system.

You can practice restorative yoga at home, at a yoga studio, or even take private lessons or workshops. I offer a free restorative yoga e-class -here- that you can do right from your bed. 

Restorative Yoga was really the first step for me on going deeper with my yoga practice. Even though I had been practicing yoga on and off for over 10 years, it wasn't until I took my first restorative yoga class that I gave myself permission to rest in a pose. 

At the beginning, I had a lot of anger come up in the restorative poses. Sometimes, I wanted to run right off the mat and out of the studio because it was so uncomfortable. 

While others around me would talk about how relaxed and blissful they felt, I would feel discomfort and pain. 

However, I did notice that I would feel more in touch with myself and I had an inner knowing that I was allowing healing in every time I practiced. 

Doing restorative yoga was where I started building from the ground up with releasing tension from my body. 

Instead of forcing myself to release tension through quick paced classes that prevented me from feeling the sensations, following my breath and easily allowed me to distract from my own inner compass, I started to really slow down and listen to what I truly needed. 

Interestingly, I recognized I wanted to take a yoga teacher training after taking these restorative yoga classes. Little did I know that I was going to have to slow down even more after the training because of all of the trauma that was coming up in my body. 

Unfortunately, I was not able to verbalize what I was going through very much since there was not much space to talk about emotional growth in our training. I do feel this is a missed opportunity but so often I think this is left out in many places in our culture and world. 

All I knew was that instead of wanting to teach yoga when I was finished with training, I felt like I could barely move because my body was so heavy. It felt like it was made of lead and the thought of yoga just made me want to cry. This is where my restorative yoga foundation truly benefited me. 

After judging and criticizing myself for quite some time, questioning what was wrong with me for not being like all the other teachers, I started going to some Y12SR meetings. These meetings are for anyone who considers themselves to be in recovery and often attracts people from 12 step meetings of all kinds. 

This became a safe place for me to share the feelings that were coming up in yoga and I noticed that just getting the feelings and being able to talk, trust, and feel was helping a shift. The movements in the class were very slow and gentle as well and it felt safe having a group of people and a teacher who has been in recovery to guide us. 

After several months (and almost a year and a half after I finished my training), things clicked and I finally surrendered. I recognized that my body was trying to tell me something. I heard it saying...slow down.......just be here now.......start where you are. I heard it say, "this is coming up for a reason, you haven't been able to look at this for so long, now it's time." 

So I did. 

I remember how painful it was to just stand in a forward fold or to lift my leg a few inches. I really had to let go of my ego and feel humble in order to take out self judgment or question or blame myself for how "limited" my practice would seem to an outside observer. 

Yet, I was gaining extreme benefit from moving so slowly. I was honoring the pain in my body and not rushing through it. I was letting go of needing to be a certain type of "yoga teacher" with a certain type of experience that had to look and do a poses a certain way. I dropped all of the identity and just was with myself. 

And you know what happened? Over time I started to incorporate more movements. Did this mean all of the trauma and tension went away?

Quite the contrary. It actually brought more up. My tissues had remembered everything and were finally being listened to. Which led me into the hip and shoulder opening that I will leave for another post :)