What is the purpose of such a practice?
Restorative poses are supported in a manner that allows practitioners to remain in a relaxed position for an extended period of time. Typically the body is still while the breath is mobilized and the mind is stabilized. Various poses target specific areas, similar to a more active practice, except in this case the body is still.
What are restorative poses?
The simplest answer is to teach one to deeply and profoundly relax and to tone the Sympathetic Nervous System. Once relaxation is learned under optimal conditions and we encounter stressful events, then we are are less likely to have a fully blown over-reaction. Restorative poses replenish energy after a demanding day or week, or can provide a less demanding practice during one’s menstrual cycle. When a variety of poses are used the body will be purified, soothed and refreshed. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclinded Bound Angle Pose) is seen below.
What is the process of such a practice?
The inner work practiced in asana is more easily done when the body is still and “points of the pose” are not demanding one’s attention as they do in a more active practice. The physical body is put at ease. Poses are propped to make them comfortable based on individual differences. The breath is encouraged to move in a rhythmical manner, and the consciousness can then be directed in a specific pathway.
Yoga Philosophy teaches us that the manomyakosa, the mental sheath of our embodiment, is comprised of components with unique functions. The goal is to quiet the mind, manos, which is concerned with the human condition, to quite the ego, asmita, which is absorbed with issues pertaining to “me, my and mine”, and to exist in a witnessing state from the perspective of our discriminating intelligence, buddhi. Once these components are deciphered then one can cultivate a steady state of mental calmness. Stilling the fluctuations of the mind, the goal of yoga, becomes more pronounced as one cultures the manomyakosa.
At Iyengar Yoga Source we practice Restorative Poses once a month for each level of class. Once a student learns the proper set up for the poses, then they can cultivate the art of relaxation.