Restorative Yoga: The Exercise You’ve Been Waiting For?

I was recently leafing through a magazine when I came across an article for restorative yoga. We’ve all heard of yoga by now, but restorative yoga? It’s different than the yoga you’re thinking of — there are no “flows” or series of moves or awkward positions held while sweat drips into your eyes.

What is restorative yoga?

Restorative yoga is all about getting your muscles to relax. You only do a handful of positions per class, and props like yoga blocks and folded up blankets are used while you’re in each position. This helps you to relax completely, as opposed to feeling as if you’re being stretched like a rubber band. You stay in positions for a long time, too, more like five or even seven minutes.

The experience is intended to help you get into a super relaxed state, and this type of yoga has even been described as comatose yoga. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.

Health benefits of restorative yoga

Why would I suggest taking up such a low-key exercise? Well, the reason I wanted to share this with you is because, despite the fact you’re hardly moving, restorative yoga has health benefits! Ones you might actually care about!

The article I read mentioned that recent research showed practicing this type of yoga three times a week for at least 30 minutes for a year (the duration of the study) caused the blood sugar level of those with pre-diabetes to drop an average of 6 points. Lowering blood sugar by chilling out? Sounds pretty good.

I wanted to know more, so I looked for further research on this form of yoga, and guess what? One study showed that practicing restorative yoga helped obese women (those with a body mass index over 30) lose significantly more subcutaneous fat than another group of women who took part in a regular old stretching program for the same amount of time.

How to start restorative yoga

Research into this type of yoga seems to be a pretty new thing, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more about its health benefits down the road, and there doesn’t appear to be a downside to this practice. So, if you’re looking for a complementary exercise to go with your aerobics and strength training, you might want to give restorative yoga a try. Here’s how to get started:

  • As always, check with your doctor before starting any new program, even one that mostly involves you lying on the floor.
  • Look for a class in your area. Make sure you’re looking for restorative yoga. “Gentle yoga” and “beginner’s yoga” aren’t the same thing. A quick search on the internet is probably all you need to find something close to you; the town I live in didn’t seem to have this specific class, but the smallish city nearby had a number of studios offering restorative yoga classes.
  • No classes available in your neck of the woods? There are classes online that you can follow to get your fix. Make sure you look specifically for restorative yoga, and keep in mind you might need some props to get into positions that are the most comfortable and relaxing (things like pillows or folded up blankets).
  • Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move and provide you with the coverage level that makes you good. You won’t be doing lots of bending over or putting yourself in compromising positions, but you’ll still be stretching out.
  • Enlist a friend to go with you. It will give you motivation to keep up a regular practice and give you some social support time, which is also good for your health.

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