As I explain in We Got Soul; We Can Heal, restorative yoga gave me a place to heal, to restore myself. It allowed me to find stillness so I could rest and renew. It allowed me to quiet my mind and begin to hear my own heart and soul and spirit. Restorative yoga allowed me to find my breath so I could feel calm and relaxed.
Put another way, restorative yoga is my jam. In fact, it is a part of every heritage and healing experience we offer. We include restorative yoga because as Black people we do enough high-effort coping as we navigate race-based stress and trauma, which our teacher Dr. Gail Parker reminds us is “ongoing, recurrent and cumulative.”
A restorative yoga practice is one that is consists a short series of poses where you are fully supported by props, including blankets, blocks and bolsters. With the support of yoga props along with the “gentle pressure of gravity every tissue in your body can receive movement from the breath”. Restorative yoga can be healing because the poses in the practice allow the breath to reach and the body to relax and open in places that for many of us are often “unreached, blocked, constricted, tight, closed and tightly-held”.
Restorative Yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system,which is the part of our nervous system that allows us to rest and allows us to feel safe. In our resting when people are under chronic stress like race-based stress resting, does not feel safe. When your nervous system is on high alert, whether you know it or not, when it’s on high alert, most of the time, it doesn’t feel comfortable to come to rest. But when you are in fight flight mode, most of the time, whether you know it or not, that’s your, that’s your comfort zone. That’s where you feel safest. It’s not healthy, though. And that becomes problematic. And so these restorative practices support people who are not used to feeling comfortable in their own vulnerability, who are not used to feeling uncomfortable in and safe during rest, in getting the rest, the restoration, the growth, that they deserve, the reparation and the good, the repair, and the growth they deserve. So that’s how this particular practice can supports us individually and collectively. make up the community.
Restorative yoga [is] soothing, as relaxing as massage, and more restful than a nap. It helps [us] learn to rest deeply, relax completely, & rejuvenate physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually.
Parker, Gail. Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma. London: Singing Dragon, 2020.
Burke, Amber. Yoga International.