WHAT IS YOGA?
“Union” Or "To Yoke” Mind, Body, Spirit
Western practice has focused on Hatha Yoga, the physical aspect of moving into and out of challenging positions, for better fitness levels. However, originally yoga had more of a focus on breathing, meditation, and philosophical practices. One theory is that the physical “asanas” or movements were developed later to assist the yogi to better sit in a meditative posture for lengthy periods.
As yoga practice becomes increasingly popular in a culture fraught with competition and achievement, some practitioners are using more restorative techniques, originating with B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the first Indian yogis to teach, write and influence the development of yoga practice in the West.
Restorative yoga practitioners support the practice of focused breathing and gentle movements or held positions to restore self-compassion, and improved health. It is a more internal than external practice. While it doesn’t provide a high intensity workout, it combines meditation and relaxation in such a way that the mind quiets while the body relaxes. As we focus on our breath and body, our mind and feelings change. We become aware in our bodies how temporary our thoughts and emotions really are. Comfort and discomfort come and go.
Bo Forbes, PhD, author, psychologist and yoga teacher/yoga therapist contends that restorative yoga and focused breathing can heal emotionally. Her experience is that, “Conceptual insight is not required to change; in some cases it actually interferes with it. By working in a body-based realm, we can bypass this mental interference. We can feel rather than think the emotional experiences that heal us. The yoga practice can be used as a complement to traditional psychotherapy and medication as prescribed.
An especially refreshing restorative practice is what is called restorative flow. Donna Belk, restorative flow teacher trainer, describes the practice as doing gentle yoga postures one after another in gentle flowing movements rather than holding postures for long periods, using many props, such as bolsters, straps, pillows and blankets. This style of yoga is especially useful for those who want to relax deeply; those with conditions affecting movement such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, or arthritis; athletes who train hard and strain muscles and ligaments on a regular basis; those who have limited range of motion or who are dealing with high stress levels; and those who would benefit from a quiet, contemplative practice.
Compassion Yoga offers a restorative flow practice using gentle movements and breathwork to befriend the body, renew the spirit, and calm the mind.