Life has a way of getting in the way, we have lost the habit and ability to relax. Our brains have become wired to the constant stimulation of the senses. We use false ways to relax such as Alcohol, drugs, sex, Television, Social Media and addictions to anything that gives us a High. There is a false sense that the more you do the more energy you have and the more you can achieve. Even if you decide to take a step towards finding more balance you can become consumed with all the different "ways" there are to relax and find balance, and it becomes a stress within itself, or you find that you are not recovering quick enough or when you feel that first top up of the relaxation response you stop, only to find you are right back where you started from again.
With the popularity of Yoga as a source of finding, physical health, mental and emotional stability, the modern classes and training very rarely include the use of practices that actually bring a full spectrum of health benefits for the nervous system.
What most people are unaware of, is the System of Yoga as a tool for better health is based on a good balance of the autonomic nervous system which has three branches: the sympathetic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system: and the enteric nervous system.
These systems interweave and work together constantly through the intelligence of the body and brain and chemical system. When we continue to activate the stress response through any immediate threat or fear (or past conditioning/experience) the Sympathetic switches on and you either want to fight or run for your life or freeze. When your Para Sympathetic automatically activates you calm down eventually back to a state of peace and relaxed awareness.
The scary thing is that most people have become so accustomed to the stress response their body and brain have lost the natural ability to turn it off and return to the Relaxation response.
Once this happens to someone they can no longer think clearly, respond appropriately, they become confused and on constant overwhelm, they become irritated, tired, fatigued, loose interest in life. Some of this might already sound familiar. I know, I have been there and gone there several times, I still struggle to keep the balance and you might too. The reason for this is that it has become a "collective" way of living intertwined in our collective consciousness and it is an epidemic.
What Really is A Restorative Yoga Practice:-
How can we save ourselves, our family and friends our community from this ongoing downward spiral?
As a PTSD survivor and Yoga & Meditation practitioner of 25years and a teacher of 21years, I can share with you that I have approached healing stress, from all areas, by addressing the physical, mental and emotional and energetic aspects.
I know for a fact that until you learn how to consciously relax, breathe correctly and learn to say no , understand your stress responses and the senses, there is no therapy or person that can bring you back to life.
That's where a commitment to learning and practicing the basic therapeutic foundations of a Restorative practice will be of most benefit to you if you are ready to relax.
A restorative practice is not just lying around on the floor or over a bolster, block or blanket, hoping your fairy godmother will come along while you lie there with your eyes closed and make it better.
It will require you to approach it with intention to detail and outcome, of practicing it with some/full awareness and knowledge of what it is you are initiating, and carrying it through in the most efficient and effective way.
That leads us to the application of a Restorative practice :-
Positioning the body correctly using appropriate basic foundations of support, so the body and mind will easily and effortlessly relax without any added stimulation through the senses or brain patterns.
The way to achieve this is through a quiet space where the senses will not be stimulated, the body comfortable & warm and a feeling sense of being safe and secure. And most importantly, approached in a Therapeutic Way.
Why is it important to Learn and practice it Therapeutically? If it is approached this way it will ensure you will fall into the Relaxation Response effectively and efficiently. You will be responding from your body to your brain that you feel safe and the threat is over. In other words, it will happen faster.
Shavasana/Supine position the first practice:-
If you look at this picture of my daughter, you will see that every part of her body is supported, nothing has been left out. The Key points to remember when you begin the process of Relaxation is:-
1) your lower back is resting back towards the floor. This can be achieved in several ways, here we have used a bolster and blanket roll. (this may not always be necessary)
2) the shoulders/ elbows and arms are supported
3) the neck is positioned so the forehead is slightly higher than the chin.
4) not shown here, but however a necessary benefit, is the use of an eye cover or pillow and a blanket to keep the body warm, safe.
The reason for the above is that when your forehead is slightly higher it relaxes and slows the brain activity this has a domino effect on the mental thoughts and physically the back of the neck and shoulders. Supporting the arms elbows and wrists communicate to the body to stop holding on and releases the chest & upper back allowing for a more spontaneous breath to arise.
Supporting the lower back accesses the para sympathetic nerves located in the groin area thus bringing a deeper breath into the lower lung thus relaxing the abdomen.
Once arrived the spontaneous wisdom of the soul has space to come out and reveal itself, this is the source of healing.
My Restorative Wisdom Mission:
When I arrived at my worst darkest of moments, those moments of not wanting to be here, not liking myself, I had to pull it together for I was now a mother and had someone else to answer too, to care for. So I changed my personal Yoga practice and went back to the first practice that lifted me out of my constant anxiety and personal condemnation, Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga's Childs Position (Humble Feotus as I call it in my training program) to commence healing.
It gave me the courage and insight to move forward and begin to educate others on learning and striving to be more relaxed. It has become such an important part of my own ongoing healing. It is my wish that eventually there will be a house on every street where the immediate community can join together once a week and practice relaxation, when this happens the "world will be at peace". It is the only solution.
If you want to learn more and experience Restorative Yoga Wisdom practices, you can join a specific class, workshop or the training. You will only learn and heal this by practicing it, there is no other way to understand Restorative practice, it's true nature, it doesn't come in a book or on a CD it is deep within you, it is you.
Join the Restorative Wisdom Yoga Facebook Group:
The state of peace is the foundation of spiritual experience. Where inner-peace does not exist there can be no spiritual growth, development or improvement. Modern life presents very little peace, human beings are effected by stress every day, this leads to anxiety, depression, illness, competition, disassociation, addictions, relationship breakdowns and suicide. It is becoming a desperate situation, there is no time but the present to find peace in your life daily.
Surrender is the ultimate state required to develop peace and the purpose of Restorative Yoga Practices is to create peaceful states which involve rest, meditation, inner listening & reflection which lead to peace. The awakening of peace has to happen at various levels of our nature, personality and mind. There fore including mindful rituals that involve the body (restful postures), emotions (breath techniques), Mind (progressive relaxation and meditation) are essential to developing peace.
As the quote above says "to give in, give Up". Now that doesn't suggest you just allow others to swallow you up or that you stop making an effort. Quite the opposite. Surrender takes effort, conviction and practice. We have developed a habit of doing, we keep going and we can't switch off.
When you stop and sit still you will notice how tense you feel, how much you are thinking, this tension & thinking increases the more you push yourself. The state of Distraction is a real experience, it is this constant distraction that has replaced the natural tendency to surrender humans are "wired" more to what is outside than inside.
Why is this? Your body is a wired system and that wiring starts in your brain and branches out. Every time you are stimulated in some way your brain receives this and sends it out and down into your body.
It is your brain that is controlling your body & your body controlling your brain, as this is a 2 way circuit. All of the information is being perceived through the 5 senses most of the time. The sixth sense your intuitive guidance system is very rarely heard.
I remember a few years ago, a couple of days before we flew out to Hawaii my vacuum broke, it needed to be replaced for our house guests. I quickly got into town with the directive that I will go straight in buy the vacuum and come home. Within moments of entering the store I was distracted by the pretty dresses hanging up, the perfumes etc. that I began to forget the purpose of my visit. In the middle of looking at all the "nice things" I woke up to the fact why I was there. I finally made it to the top floor where my destination was by saying this mantra to myself over & over "don't be distracted". It was from this experience I realised how easily it is to set yourself up for stress, time limits can be our greatest stressors, we can eliminate some of that by not being distracted. This distraction leads eventually to more stress.
To begin to develop peace and move towards the habit of surrender you need to find an anchor, a point of reference. Below are the steps followed by some practices. Don't hesitate, the time is Now, you are reading this in the here & now. The sooner you take your body, your mind your emotions your life back, learn to surrender, peace will become the driving force.
Stress like any habit becomes familiar, start recognising how tired you are, anxious you are, are you sleeping really well? Is your digestion good? Honestly are you Happy?
Be true to yourself you are worth the effort, more effort than everything else outside of you. Each day choose one of the simple practices below, this is the starting point then build on it by saying no to the things that create stress in your life once you recognise what they are, attend a group or class.
An anchor is something you can bring into the moment as a reminder to slow down and surrender. If you are a physical person try using a body part such as the feet or abdomen, drop your attention down into your feet, focus on surrender. If you are more logical analytical try a symbol like a geometric shape or object to focus on to remind you of surrender. If you are more emotional, try your breath or focus on an uplifting feeling or think of a beautiful memory. Use the same anchor every time make it your new habit.
Practice relaxation and grounding yourself this will direct you more to your body. When we get stressed it feels like our body stands out more, however this is not the case it is the stress that stands out, the nervousness, the tension, this is not the natural state of the body. The body is dense our physical layer is like the earth, rocks, trees. It is meant to be steady, fixed and in control of its environment, being able to withstand anything that nature throws at it and if it is effected can rejuvenate very efficiently within the right environment. When you relax or ground yourself you are creating that dense environment where you "know" what is effecting you at given moment. Until you know, you will struggle trying to change anything.
I liken either of these positions to switching off your car engine, at first the car still makes some noises or creaks then it eventually goes quiet. Either of the above interted positions will instantly drop your blood pressure so your body perceives no threats, your circulation begins to increase in a healthy way and your digestion relaxes, your brain receives the message to relax the body and the body responds. You can modify by removing the supports under the body. The important aspect is to have your neck and head supported so your forehead is higher than your chin this will ease the brain and your legs higher than your heart.
Finding a few moments to sit with no distractions with an upright comfortable position with your hands in your lap with the thumb and first finger together is another reliable and efficient easy surrender practice. The Yoga Mudra's or gestures are linked to the science of the breath and brain. When you hold Gyan Mudra (above) the lungs will receive the breath more in the lower portion thus encouraging tension in the diaphragm to release and the abdominal region to relax and move more. Combined with concentration of your natural inhalation and exhalation will leave you feeling peaceful, refreshed. You can also add a word or Mantra like Peace, calm, or the breath Mantra So Hum.
There are many relaxation scripts out there that you can purchase online or make your own. I have attached a simple basic script that is used in our Restorative Training Course for you to record if needed. You can add pleasant scenery at the end and visualise yourself peaceful. You can either make a special daily practice of this or use it at night before you fall off to sleep, guide your awareness down through your body and consciously relax, "learn the feeling", it leads to surrender. Eventually leaving you to gaze into your inner space which is expansive spacious. This is where your sixth sense becomes more apparent. Basic Relaxation script
Ultimately it is up to you, if you would like to learn more about Restoring your body and learning to relax, Cathie runs two weekend courses on Restorative Yoga Wisdom practices anyone can learn this, it is preferable that you are familiar with Yoga and meditation. See More Here