Ten years ago, if you’d told me I would fall in love with restorative yoga, I probably would have laughed. Me? Restorative yoga? The tennis player who trained 6 hours a day? Who even post injuries became a workout fanatic and spin and boot camp instructor? No way. Slowly but surely though (and helped along by one too many injuries) I decided to give yoga a try. And then I tried my first restorative yoga class. And that was that. When I decided to do my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I knew I wanted to focus on the gentler side of yoga. In a world of western power and hot yoga, I wanted more restorative yoga and mindful self-compassion. To help create a space where even for just an hour (or 20min) you can let your mind, body and soul settle and find ease. To truly relax. To heal. To just be. Still not sold? Here are a couple more reasons why – whether you are an athlete like me or coach or anything in between – you might want to give restorative yoga a try.
1) Your body will thank you. These days, in light of our busy technology-filled lives, we hardly notice when we have been holding our breath all day, when our fists are unconsciously clenched, or a layer of tension has spread over our bodies. Maybe it’s been more than all day, maybe all week, all month, all year, our whole lives. So why not give it a try. Sink into a restorative yoga practice and at first your body may resist a little (well, more like your mind). I’m supposed to stay in this same position for five minutes, you argue? Then, gradually, after three minutes of slow, easy breathing, as your mind relaxes so will your body … it will melt. Tension and anxiety ease. You let out a sigh of relief and release the stress you may not even have realized you were carrying.
As an athlete, a tennis player, I was used to beating my body up and these days I see other players and coaches doing the same grind, pushing through the aches and pains, ignoring the nagging injuries, never giving their bodies that time to recuperate and rejuvenate. I used to think this slow gentle yoga practice was a waste of time, but now I realize how it has infused my body with healing power; how the day after a restorative practice, I feel stronger and fresher, can move lighter on the court.
2) Your mind will thank you. That tension in your body? It’s really coming from your mind. At least a large part of it. When you hear that catch phrase “muscle memory,” what it really means is the signal your mind sends your body. Chances are your body is really used to receiving signals of stress from your mind, of fight or flight, of ignoring those aches you would be wise to attend to. And your mind is probably tired even if you don’t realize it. We weren’t designed to be in a state of constantly elevated cortisol levels. To be in a state of chronic underlying stress without reprieve. That’s where restorative yoga comes in. With meditation, the goal may be to calm the mind. With restorative yoga, the quieting of the mind happens naturally as the body relaxes and the mind and body relax together in harmony. What are you waiting for? Give it a try. Here is a short 20-minute restorative yoga practice for beginners you can try free below. And if you’re interested, join me and my good friend Margit April 19-23 for a restorative yoga challenge. You can check out it out and learn more on our social channels – @foldableyogamat, @oncourtoffcourt and @playtennispracticeyoga. See you on the mat.