As a newer yoga teacher, I often am critical of the classes I teach. Did people like it? Was it challenging enough? Will they come back for another class with me? More often than not I find myself battling with the question of whether or not what I did was enough.
A few weeks ago I taught a class when I wasn’t feeling my best. I had recently found out my grandmother was going on hospice, and I wasn’t feeling very present or “zen”. So, instead of a vigorous and flowing vinyasa class, I taught a slow, restorative class for a group of people who usually come to class looking for a good workout.
It was a very different class from what this particular group was used to. At the end of class I was expecting people to look disappointed, but almost all of them came up and thanked me after the practice. One person told me “I feel like I just got a massage, that was incredible!” Another said, “I haven’t been able to relax like that EVER!” What this made me realize is that in our busy, stressful lives, practices like yin, restorative yoga, and Yoga Nidra are a true gift.
In this day and age, a lot of people feel like they need permission to relax, to rest, and to slow down. Everything is about doing more, being more, better, faster, stronger, and then on to the next thing. Restorative yoga practices help give our minds a vacation from this kind of lifestyle.
An important benefit of restorative yoga is that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system, which slows the body down and allows us to rest and be nourished. A lot of us are walking around with the other part of our nervous system activated: the sympathetic system (fight or flight); we are often on high alert all day, and some people don't know how to "turn off".
So, I encourage all the hard core, hot yoga, acro and power yogis to maybe switch up your classes a bit. There’s a time and place for everything, but some restorative yoga time would certainly be a treat for your mind and body, on occasion.
Have you ever gone to a yoga class that wasn’t what you expected but turned out to be what you needed?
Contributed by guest author, Lauren Villegas, Yoga Teacher Training Alum