The story goes that when Yoga Master B.K.S. Iyengar was a young man, he was quite sickly and emaciated. His brother-in-law, Krishnamacharya, offered him food and daily yoga instruction. Because Iyengar was weak, he could not sustain yoga positions for long. As he was walking home one day, he spotted a steamroller in the street. He draped his body over the roller to simulate a back bend. Much to his delight, Iyengar found that he could stay in this modified pose much longer than if, say, he was lying on the floor with his hands pressing his body up in a more traditional backbend. Even more, he found that he could release effort in the posture, allowing his breathing to deepen and relax.
Mr. Iyengar went on to study in depth the affects of yoga postures and breathing techniques on not only physical anatomy including the organs and glands, but on the state of the mind as well. Many yogis recognize that it was Mr. Iyengar that introduced the use of props in yoga to modify postures for each student and to allow them to rest deeply while in a posture. This is not to say that all of Iyengar yoga is restorative and restful, as Iyengar, through yoga, rebuilt his strength and health. Iyengar yoga is actually a form of yoga that is very precise and physically challenging.
In restorative yoga, props are positioned specifically to put pressure on various organs and glands. The yoga practitioner drapes his or her body over the prop and comes into specific alignment. Initially, the feeling is one of pressure and resistance, and as the body relaxes into the posture, there is a feeling of letting go of effort, and experiencing deep release.
With the pace and pressure of today’s world, restorative yoga can be extremely beneficial. Sometimes we forget to slow down, and other times we forget how to slow down. Restorative yoga is like restoring the normal clock instead of always racing against the clock.
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