Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Restorative Yoga: doing it/teaching it, even with my injury!

Since I have been nursing my poor sad shoulder for the past few months, I haven't been able to go to a yoga class in ages.  I've been avoiding them because I'm not able to comfortably do Downward Facing Dog or to raise both of my arms above my head without pain.  While I am content to respect my injury and avoid any excess physical exertion, the rest of my body (and soul) is suffering because of the lack of yoga.  My back is in knots and I long to feel a good deep stretch in all of my muscles.  While I am certainly immersed in many areas of yoga right now by way of teaching, reading, studying and blogging, I miss my practice!
Lately, since I've been doing acupuncture and really lightening up on the usage of my right arm/shoulder, I have had some pain-free days and I see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of recovery.  Last night I went to a restorative yoga class at Shambhala, taught by Alex Phelan.  I went partially to experience the yummy goodness that is restorative yoga for myself, and partially to refresh myself since that is the style of class I will be teaching starting next week.
If you aren't familiar with restorative yoga, it is a gentle, relaxing style of practice that uses props such as bolsters, blankets and blocks for support in passive stretching and release of muscles and tension.  It calms the nervous system and results in very deep relaxation.  Most of the poses are supine (laying down) or seated, and they are held for much longer than in most typical yoga classes of any style.  Basically, when you do restorative asanas, you are letting gravity do the work for you, allowing your muscles to sink into the props, instead of using effort working against gravity to maintain a pose.  It's extremely calming and beneficial for your nervous system (and all of your systems) to counteract all of the effort and stimulation we encounter on a day to day basis, buzzing around in a hyper-aroused state...and not in a good sexy way!
So, Sunday night restorative class...I was so ready for this!  I arrived early for the class and grabbed my props and lay on the mat, easing myself into yoga mode.  We started class seated and closed our eyes,  focusing on the breath for what felt like about 10 minutes.  Then, moving to a supine pose, we rested on our backs with a block placed below the shoulder blades and one supporting the back of the head. You know that feeling you sometimes get at the end of a yoga class, while resting in savasana, ...where you feel so relaxed and calm that you're kind of asleep, but you're not asleep, but you're not thinking about anything and you're perhaps kind of dreaming a little bit but you don't realize it until you hear the teacher's voice bringing you back out?  (yah, I love that feeling) I got to that place in our first pose, and contentedly rode that wave for every pose in the class.  75 minutes flew by in a flash as I melted away.  If the class would have been 5 hours long, you wouldn't have heard me complain.  It was dreamy.
The Art of Teaching Restorative Yoga with Minimal Props with Jillian Pransky

I was familiar with all of the poses that Alex had set up for us.  I wondered if she had trained with Jillian Pransky, who teaches restorative yoga teacher trainings in the city and at Kripalu.  I had the pleasure of taking one of her teacher training workshops at Kripalu in the spring- (The Art of Teaching Restorative Yoga with Minimal Props) and was planning on applying what I'd learned in my own restorative classes coming up in July and August.  My hunch was right, and Alex had studied with Jillian...it's funny that I could tell that...and is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much.  We had that connection.
Anyway, the moral of the story is: I highly recommend restorative yoga!  If you find yourself in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Mondays and you're seeking tranquility, please come to my class at Shambhala Yoga and Dance Center.  I promise you'll leave feeling more relaxed than you were when you walked through the door.

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