Sunday, January 6, 2013

Secret Wellness Weapon: Restorative Yoga

Posted By on Sun, Jan 6, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Our culture doesn't reward us for being still. Blame it on our Puritan roots: Idleness was the devil's playground, and a deep suspicion of downtime prevails to this day. Yet our modern go-go lifestyle takes its toll with stress, a known killer and accomplice to countless ailments, from heart disease to the common cold. For health's sake, most of us need more rest than we are willing to admit.

Enter a secret wellness weapon: restorative yoga. With its goal of creating a state of deep, healing relaxation, this style of yoga usually involves arranging the body over props for a series of passive yet rejuvenating stretches - each held for a long meditative interval. Some of the poses, like Viparita Karani, or Legs Up the Wall (pictured), are relatively simple, using only a wall as a prop or perhaps a blanket or bolster to support the hips. Other poses might involve five or six props such as neck rolls, blocks, or sandbags - all strategically placed for total-body release and delicious tranquility.

"Restorative yoga is the practice of stillness - something we don't get enough of," says Kate Hagerman, a yoga teacher based in Woodstock. "When our nervous system is taxed, our immune system becomes compromised. That's why people get sick. Restorative yoga pacifies the sympathetic nervous system [the fight-or-flight response] and revitalizes the parasympathetic nervous system, which is involved in healing." Practitioners often report better sleep and a calm mind. Hagerman has even seen restorative yoga help to resolve health issues such as infertility. "It balances the endocrine system, which regulates the hormones," she says.

Ready to recharge body, mind, and spirit? Try Hagerman's Gentle Restorative Yoga class, held Sundays at 5pm at Photosensualis Gallery, 15 Rock City Rd., Woodstock ($5 suggested donation). Or ask your local yoga studio about restorative classes.

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