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Monthly Inspiration: June 2014

Restorative Yoga

By Roey Ficaro

Restorative Yoga in East HamptonAs I began thinking about writing this focus piece on Restorative Yoga, a memory of a time many years ago surfaced. It was a time when I had a passion for collecting primitive antiques. It may have been a small piece of furniture, a chair, a butter churn or a primitive water bucket carrier; some I still have others have found new homes. I was drawn to each item for different reasons but most of all it was about their history and uniqueness. Each one gave me a glimpse into another time, another era. Some were damaged or difficult to recognize due to years of neglect and improper care. Once the layers of time and neglect were removed the uniqueness, craftsmanship and beauty would shine through. That is where I flashed to over the word restored.

Ok, so what does this have to do with restorative yoga? Of course it’s a metaphor.  In order to bring a piece that has been neglected or damaged back to its original condition, careful attention, patience and time are needed to “restore” its unique qualities and beauty. The same is true for our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Restoration Yoga can be the catalyst to release our layers of stress and tension accumulated over time. When was the last time you took at least 20 minutes to completely relax without stimulation or any other distraction while the body is put into a specific yoga pose held by blankets, blocks, straps and bolsters? This is Restorative Yoga.

According to an article in Psychology Today, the stress hormone cortisol is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels: interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease... The list goes on and on. The truth is every one of us could benefit from a passive practice. In this country we are not taught to value relaxation. Any activity that causes stimulation is not true relaxation. 2 hours on the couch watching TV with all the suspense and snippets of constant interruption projected over unnatural blue light is highly activating. I will be the first to admit to multitasking while watching TV and scrolling through Facebook.

BKS Iyengar founded restorative Yoga. He has been teaching and practicing yoga for more than 75 years and is the author of 19 yoga books including, YOGA: The Path To Holistic Health, which includes asana sequence, both traditional and restorative for physical, mental and emotional conditions. A must have to develop a restorative practice.

Judith Lasater, a world-renowned yoga teacher, physical therapist and PH.D, who I have had the privilege to train with, expanded this unique approach in the West through her teachings and books.  In her trainings she is adamant that there are four components of deep rest. Warmth, Darkness, Stillness, and Quiet for at least 20 minutes to elicit the famous Relaxation Response. The part of our NS wired to digest food, repair injuries and release the hormone cocktail for well-being, peace of mind and happiness. She also defines Restorative practice as anything that isn’t heating or active.
Recently a good friend and teacher of mine Sue Flamm (Puja) released a new book called Restorative Yoga with Assists: A manual for Teachers and Students of Yoga. An invaluable tool to learn more about this practice.

In her book Sue Flamm defines Restorative Yoga as; “An exploration of the capacity of individual students to relax deeply, to understand their bodies and minds more intimately and to open their hearts more fully to love.”

When musculature is fully and safely supported by the props and all the other variables are in place the body/mind is given the message that it is ok to let go of the deeply held tension. This is where the healing takes place, in the parasympathetic nervous system.

BENEFITS of RY include increased concentration and mental clarity, improved memory, supports immune function, release of stress, regulates blood pressure relieves headaches, reduces depression and anxiety, supports recovery from illness, regulates blood pressure, reduces fatigue and more.

For myself this practice has taught me how to regulate my nervous system. To find a resource state in order to deactivate whenever I need to especially when life gets challenging. Being still without distractions has never been an easy task for my ADD mind. Restlessness and boredom can sneak in. Underneath maybe unwanted emotions are lurking around that we do not want to feel or face. Especially today with so many devices to service our need for distraction. Digital addiction is now a reality. How do we to give ourselves the opportunity and the permission to unplug, to pause and move from doing into just being our true unfettered selves. Not easy, there will be resistance. What we resist the most is usually what we need the most... I can’t remember who said that but it’s so true. How do we touch the essence of who we are without our roles, responsibilities and struggles? Like anything else it takes practice. Of course I value my active yoga practice and other exercise but there are days I decide a passive practice is needed. Maybe 30 minutes in 2 poses on props. Less is more as my teacher used to say. I do feel the radical difference when I take this pause for myself. I become much more present and receptive to myself which then transfers to those around me.

In addition, learning the “Art of Relaxation” is like working a muscle. We can relax more easily when we have paved the way for the relaxation to enter.

Restorative Yoga and working with the mind through techniques taught in the class will give you the tools you will need to facilitate your own transformation and healing.

To be restored back to our original greatness, just like my antiques!


Roey FicaroRoey Ficaro LCSW-R, CHT, RYT-500 has been a certified yoga/meditation instructor for the past 15 years, as well as a practicing licensed psychotherapist for over 20 years. Her extensive training is based on Iyengar & Anusara systems of alignment. As a Reiki practitioner and advanced certified hypnotherapist Roey specializes in addiction, trauma and stress reduction techniques to facilitate emotional and physical release.

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