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The Simple Science of Restorative Yoga (and 7 reasons why you simply must be doing it)

December 6, 2012

Restorative Yoga should be a federal government mandated practice for everyone.

I’m not joking. In the words of Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, co-authors of Skinny Bitch, a gospel on living vegan written in curse words, “If everyone did yoga, we would have world peace.”

It’s so true. I’m not saying that everyone who does yoga never feels a negative emotion, has a bad day, or wants to toss an annoying co-worker off a balcony, but certain yoga practices done properly (with a good teacher!) has a very specific outcome for its practitioners. A sense of peace.

world peaceSo even though a yogi may want to throw his co-worker off a balcony, he won’t, because instead he’ll take a yoga class and get over it. World peace.

Now what does that mean? A sense of peace is a direct outcome, a tangible result of practicing yoga. I want to explain it very clearly in simple scientific terms in an effort to convert non-believers out there so they will take it up, and we’ll be that much closer to World Peace.

First you need to understand what’s going on inside a “stressed-out body.”

Imagine a car is about to hit you as you cross the street. Your body mobilizes to address the threat by releasing hormones. You get a burst of energy, your heart rate increases, you begin to sweat, your blood pressure rises – all so you can quickly get out of the way. But as you reach safety on the sidewalk, you still feel it. You feel short of breath, scared, sweaty, and your heart is jumping out of your chest. After a few minutes, your body will reach a state of balance again and you will probably feel ok.

The thing is, whether you are narrowly escaping a collision or are dealing with the stress of everyday life, your body reacts by releasing these hormones to produce the “fight or flight response.” That’s why feeling stressed-out feels so awful. It’s like being slowly almost hit by a car for hours, days, or weeks at a time. Yuck.

What happens to a “stressed-out body” over time?

If your stress levels stay elevated over an extended period of time, bad things start to happen. When your “fight or flight” response is kicking for a while it means some other really important functions have slowed down or even shut off. You might experience stomach aches, trouble sleeping, irritability, weight gain or loss, short-temperedness, tight achy muscles…you name it. Double yuck. Working with a coach can help 🙂

If you are suffering from chronic stress, I mean some very serious stuff, for an even longer period of time, then you’re at higher risk for disease.

Why does yoga make a person peaceful instead of stressed-out?

The techniques used in a yoga practice specifically deep breathing, concentration on the present moment, mind and body awareness result in bringing the body back to equilibrium. It’s important for us to have a stress-response, or else that car would hit us and we wouldn’t be able to quickly get out of harm’s way. But generally, to deal with the day to day stuff, we don’t need high levels of stress hormones to deal. We just need a little bit.

There’s another response our bodies produce. It’s called the “relaxation response” or commonly referred to as “rest and digest.” It helps us sleep, fight colds, digest our food, and generally feel balanced and healthy. Practicing yoga, especially Restorative, which focuses specifically on activating the “relaxation response” to bring the body back to balance, results in lower levels of stress hormones in the body.

Not all yoga makes you peaceful.

There are so many styles of yoga out there. There’s super-athletic yoga, devotional-chanting yoga, laughing yoga, and naked-men yoga. And don’t forget of course Business Casual Yoga (especially good for reducing stress!). Some forms are more effective than others at producing this peaceful result. Of course yoga isn’t the only activity out there to help create World Peace. But it’s my favorite and that’s why I teach it.

So here are 7 reasons why you simply must do Restorative Yoga (or another style that’s equally relaxing):

  1. You’ll feel more peaceful.
  2. You’ll sleep better.
  3. You’ll get sick less often, bounce back more quickly from colds, aches, and pains.
  4. People will like you better. Especially your family and co-workers. Because you’ll be nicer.
  5. You’ll roll with the punches more easily.
  6. You’ll have better digestion and poop like a champ.
  7. You’ll have more energy to do what you want to do.

So what are you waiting for? Go find a Restorative Yoga Class today.

Sunday Dec 9th, 2012: Restorative Yoga Workshop at Unwind in Adam’s Morgan. 6pm.
Thursday Dec 13th, 2012: Restorative Yoga and Nutrition for the Holidays. Vida Fitness Verizon Center. 7:30pm.
Sunday Dec 16th, 2012: Restorative Yoga Workshop at The Center in Tenleytown. 6pm.

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