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What is Restorative Yoga?

Restorative yoga is a practice that brings the energy of the body into balance, releases deeply held tension and calms the nervous system.  In this yoga practice, there are gentle movements, breathing exercises and physical poses that are held for five-minutes or longer with the support of blankets, pillows and other props.  These longer held poses allow the body to release into the pose with support so there is no physical strain or effort.  In this way, the practitioner receives the full benefit of the pose without creating any additional stress in the body or on the nervous system.

This type of practice is counter-intuitive to adults who have come to think that more effort, more work, more sweat and more pain means more and better results.  One of the greatest challenges of restorative yoga is accepting the fact that doing less brings the most significant transformation in the body and mind.  This is not a gentle, wimpy or easy practice!  Restorative yoga is a gentle unfolding of the damage we do to our bodies each and every day through emotional stress, through our repetitive actions and by ignoring the signs of exhaustion, un-ease and chronic pain.  Athletes will find that restorative yoga is the most excellent compliment to their activity as it eases the joints and can help heal chronic and minor injuries that would otherwise prevent a quick return to a favorite sport or activity.  If you tend to enjoy a more athletic yoga practice, such as Ashtanga Vinyasa or power flow practices, then restorative yoga can help deepen your practice.  Yogis of all styles will find that their endurance and strength actually improves through a regular practice of restorative yoga.

At Yoga Matrika, our restorative yoga classes are a combination of mindfulness meditation, healing movement and stretching.  No experience with yoga or meditation in any tradition or style is required.   Beginners are always welcome to this safe, supportive and non-competitive environment.  This is a practice that is equally as wonderful for students with injuries or chronic illness as it is for the healthiest and most robust athlete.   The “results” of a regular practice can’t be predicted, but they will be positive and significant.  It may be that you have had shoulder pain for most of your adult life and, after two months of restorative yoga practices, you find that your pain is diminished and your range of motion increased.  Or, you may genuinely believe that you are a very balanced person without pain, but slowly realize that, with a regular restorative yoga practice, that you lose your temper less often and feel more compassionate towards others—-you might just find that you are happier!

We provide all of the equipment that you need for your practice, but encourage all students in all classes to bring their own yoga mat.  We have mats for you to use if you need one, but mats are really a personal use item.   Try not to practice yoga on a full stomach, but it is fine to have a small snack (banana and yogurt, a bowl of cereal, etc.) an hour or so before practice if you are very hungry.  Wear comfortable, stretchy clothing in layers so that you can wear less when you are moving and put on a layer or two when you are going to relax into a pose for a longer period of time.  You may want to bring a water bottle with you.

Join us at 6:00pm on Mondays, starting January 10, 2011, at Yoga Matrika for this unique yoga practice for all levels.  Your instructor is Sharon Fennimore Rudyk.  If you have questions about this practice or would like more information, please call Sharon directly at (412) 855-5692 or see our New Student FAQ.

This post was written by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the owner and director of Yoga Matrika, an intimate, community-based yoga studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:   For information on prenatal and postnatal programs, please see:

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