Like so many others, Suzanne Taylor was first drawn to yoga as a meditative practice.
“I was at a very low point in my life,” said Taylor. “I felt like I needed somebody to help me navigate the emotional, tumultuous waters.”
Taylor sought out a therapist, who suggested she take up yoga as part of her exercise routine. It was advice that ended up changing the direction of her life. After three years of practice, she became an instructor. Now, 24 years later, she’s been able to witness her clients gain the same mental health benefits that she did by taking up yoga.
But just as notable, she’s witnessed clients have some unexpected physical health benefits through the practice of restorative yoga, a passive form of yoga.
Restorative yoga, Taylor said, is a cross between deeper relaxation and guided meditation. Props such as bolsters, blocks and blankets are used to support the body while its being held in different poses. But these poses, Taylor said, are much simpler than one might do during an active yoga class. The practitioner might be lying on their back with their feet propped up by bolsters or lying on their side, slightly twisting their torso. Each pose is held anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes; and in a 90-minute class, only about five poses are held.
“It’s about opening up the body and helping the body re-learn how to relax,” said Taylor. “So many of us are just wound way too tight.”
This practice, Taylor said, has positive effects for each of the organs and systems that the body needs to function.
“If someone who's laying on their back and they have their legs elevated with blocks and bolsters, that affects the circulatory system,” said Taylor. “So it helps to get fluid away from the legs and your legs get a chance to rest, the heart gets a chance to rest. Oxygenated blood flows up to the head, which helps to renew healthy cells in brain.”
Accessible to All Ages
One client, who has high blood pressure, told Taylor that after a class, they would test their blood pressure and it would be at a normal level without having taken medication. Another client, who is diabetic, told Taylor that their blood sugar drops dramatically after practicing restorative yoga.
“And you think, ‘How the heck can that happen?’” Taylor said. “But I think it really does help to normalize the body.”
She said the practice can positively affect the digestive system as some of the poses engage the colon. Additionally, she said it boosts the immune system because the body is less stressed.
“So many different components from the body really benefit from the practice,” said Taylor. “Everything just felt so much more calm and peaceful and at ease.”
Another benefit, Taylor said, is that restorative yoga is accessible to all ages. She has clients who are students and clients who are in their 70s. Prospective clients shouldn’t feel nervous or intimidated either, Taylor said. This class, compared to active practices, is really about relaxing and resetting the body.
“Restorative yoga is just an opportunity to replenish the depleted resources that help us to navigate daily life.”