I’ll admit it now. I used to be a hot yoga junkie. As an Australian living many years through cold European winters, I left my practice at the Iyengar Institute in my twenties to find the hottest yang style yoga classes I could find.
This style of yoga suited me at the time – it helped me work through an eating disorder, kept me out of the wine bars, left me feeling elated and was my inspiration to do my first yoga teacher training. However then babies came along, and whilst I went back to this yang form of practice postnatally, I found it didn’t sit as well with my tired mama body.
Running around after toddlers began to deplete me, and I found the commitment to a strong practice wasn’t supporting me emotionally or physically. While I squeezed a vinyasa class in here and there, as I grew older I started to question what I really needed. With the pressures of being a mother and maintaining a work life balance, I was finding that I needed more time to slow down, more time to nourish, more time to breathe out.
And so somehow, through my teachings of pre and post-natal yoga, Restorative Yoga found me. Restorative Yoga offered me deep rest in a way that sleep didn’t, an opening into the body that was about surrendering and letting go. Very different from a yin yoga practice – I wasn’t trying to find a deeply challenging pose to hold for a very long time. Instead in each asana, I wanted to feel completely supported so that I could potentially breathe out through such a pose forever.
It was through this tuning into my body and recognising the balance required, that led me to offer Restorative Yoga workshops for mothers. As women we rarely allow ourselves the time to slow down, especially when we have young children. So hence there really is a greater need for this type of practice.
The health of our children lies with the health of mothers, the two are so intrinsically linked. We know that taking the time to nourish mums, especially in the early years, can help postpartum depression and depletion, and help balance the “mother load”. Dr Oscar Serralach in his book “The Postnatal Depletion Cure” advocates for a Restorative Yoga practice. He suggests it’s an extremely effective way to reduce your tension and stress, and rebuild energy postpartum.
Upon leaving a Restorative Yoga workshop, I found women were so very grateful. Many of them had never allowed themselves to take such rest! I even began to offer these as Mother’s Day workshops, encouraging women to bring their own mothers. It was such a beautiful thing for them to share and for some it became a yearly tradition.
I began to imagine that the concept of balance and restoration as a woman might become part of our red thread, the foundations of a way to live that we hand down to our children. To model this for our children becomes a gift in itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do a vinyasa practice regularly, especially on the waxing or full moon, but I also allow more balance, more time for going inward and deep rest. I believe that many of us feel we need to “kill ourselves” in a strong yoga class for weight loss. Interestingly, we now know that the more stressed we are, the higher our cortisol levels and hence the more likely we are to gain weight. So, incorporating restorative yoga as a part of your weekly asana practice can actually help you lose weight by reducing cortisol levels.
Even if I’ve had a stronger practice, incorporating at least a couple of restorative poses at the end invites a sense of balance and leaves me feeling rested. There is nothing better than surrendering into a supported child’s pose, wrapping my arms around the bolster and allowing the full weight of my body to let go into the bolster. Similarly, the ease of resting back in a reclined Baddha Konasana with the blanket wrapped around my feet and under my knees, and an eye pillow can feel heavenly.
Of course, teaching Restorative Yoga in these post COVID-19 times can mean we need to get a little more creative. It may mean that you ask students to bring cloths to cover the bolsters and their own blankets and eye pillows. Perhaps you even include the cost of the eye pillow in the workshop price (I’ve made them for retreats, they are very cheap to make and easy to sew!). Yet, continuing to bring these teachings to women (and men!) just might be the way we gradually help change a world that is moving too fast. Just as the movement known as Slow Food has gained momentum, perhaps there might be a future known as Slow Yoga that brings about a significant change to our approach to asana practice.
So the next time you hop on your mat or book into your next yoga class, first ask yourself “What do I need today”? Notice where you are in your cycle, what phase the moon might be in, what your week has demanded of you. This also forms the basis of what is known as Feminine Yoga – practicing according to where you are and what you need in your world today.
And if you find that inviting deep relaxation and a sense of surrender is what you need, Restorative Yoga is the perfect vehicle.
Through audio and video lectures, video sample practices and posture demonstrations, as well as comprehensive and beautifully illustrated course manuals, our Bliss Baby Yoga Online Level 1 + Level 2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training Courses will give you all the tools, knowledge and skills you need to launch you with confidence as a Restorative Yoga teacher. You will enrich your own personal practice, while adding nourishing postures to your yoga teaching repertoire.
Nadine O’Mara is an experienced prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher, doula, and our Bliss Baby Yoga Co-Director and Online Course Content Manager, who also runs her own business, Conscious Birth. Nadine shares her wealth of knowledge through contributing and editing content for our Bliss Baby Yoga online courses and social media, including being a co-facilitator of our Online Level 2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training course and Online Level 2 Fertility Yoga Teacher Training course. Nadine provides doula support, birth education and yoga for women and their partners in and around Bellingen on NSW’s mid north coast, as well as offering self care and restorative yoga workshops.
Illustrations by Sophie Duncan www.deerdaisy.com
Further Reading related to this topic:
- Restorative Yoga: Powerful Medicine by Ana Davis
- Restore Your Immune System by Ana Davis
- Yoga for Exhaustion by Ana Davis
- Restorative Yoga for Busy Women by Star Despres
- Restoring Balance: Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga – What’s the Difference? by Jennifer Allen
- Feel-good Mama: Restorative Yoga for Mums-to-Be by Ana Davis