Thursday, June 20, 2013

Restorative Bliss . . . Just What the Doctor Ordered

Until yesterday I had not been to a yoga class since the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Thus, it had been nearly 7 months. Yes, SEVEN! I cannot believe it either. That is not to say I have not “done yoga,” whatever that means. But I had not attended a yoga class. Nor had I attended a group meditation. I sort of felt like an appendage was missing. 

But my back is at a place, at least for now, where it is safe to move a bit. I asked my doctor and my physical therapist if it would be safe to go to a restorative yoga class. I even showed the physical therapist some ideas of what that might mean. They both said it should be safe as long as I was careful. So, I waited for a class I had wanted to attend for quite some time, taught by a friend of mine, someone who understands my current physical limitations. It felt like a homecoming when I walked in the door, even though I had never been to that particular class before. It was a familiar world, and a world I had greatly missed. 

Restorative yoga is about turning inward and, well, restoring ourselves. It is aptly named. It nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system in a way that no other form of physical asana, except perhaps yin, can do. With props for support, and holding poses for 3-5 minutes, or longer, the body can surrender and open in ways it never feels safe to do when moving too much. It gives our bodies and minds time to move beyond habits and into resetting our nervous systems and brains to actually relax. 

But for me, it was still a place where old habits came up. There were poses I could not do, and others I had to modify a great deal. Of course I know that the point of yoga in general, and restorative yoga in particular is to meet ourselves where we are, wherever that is, but it is difficult to know what my body was once capable of doing and now knowing it cannot do that right now. I was embarrassed that I could not do one of the poses at all. Even the alternative poses seemed scary for my body. It was difficult not to do them, but I knew it was best.

So instead I just simply lay on my back with my knees bent and imagined I was doing what everyone else was doing. I tuned into their energy and their release, and for a brief moment, I felt a bit of my own. We all absorb the energy of those around us. How many times have you noticed when someone came into a room when you did not hear or see them enter? If we are constantly around people in stress, our bodies and energies respond with like stress. But when we are around people who are coming together simply to let go, surrender, and safely allow their bodies and minds to relax, we can do the same. In fact, we automatically do the same, even when we are programmed to hold the stress in.

And yes, that is exactly what my doctor prescribed. She told me to relax. Of course, about an hour before the class when she called me, I reminded her I was going to a yoga class, and her first reaction was, “be careful.” I had to remind her it was a restorative class, and she sort of laughed and said, “then relax and restore.” So, my doctor stopped short of actually prescribing yoga, but she came close.

And it felt amazing to be back in that space, back in a world where people aim to be calm. And it was a wonderful reminder that yoga has so many different facets and ways of being for us. We all move so much in our lives, almost never stopping. Restorative yoga is the antidote to those physical and mental stressors. It cannot cure all ills. I still hurt. But it cracked the way open into a memory of relaxation and restoration of body, mind, and soul. And that should be what every doctor orders.


© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.

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