What if we concentrated on lowering our heart rate? Mindfully taking it lower than a resting heart rate by relaxing all our muscles and consciously releasing everything we’re holding onto especially yesterday’s mistakes and tomorrows anxieties.
All living things pulsate in cycles of stress and recovery, stress and recovery. Look at EKGs or EEGs, healthy ones go up and down, up and down. Unfortunately for many of us, the stress in our days make these lines more linear with longer stretches of stress between recovery periods.
With aerobic exercise we work on hitting an increased target heart rate often by pushing harder, speeding up the treadmill. The more fit we are the quicker our heart rate recovers or returns to its resting rate.
With restorative yoga, we practice stillness, relaxing the muscles and creating slower, more rhythmic breathing to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to lower heart rate. We position the body in passive poses supported with props (blankets, blocks and bolsters) to relax the muscles completely. We hold the poses for anywhere from eight to 24 minutes moving into a peaceful state of deep relaxation. This kind of practice is an anecdote to the constant connectedness in our lives. It soothes our nervous system and calms our minds.
At a recent restorative yoga workshop with Roger Cole, a sleep research scientist and Iyengar, a Yoga teacher in Del Mar, California, he noted, “teaching deep relaxation means helping students find physical and mental ease: extraordinarily relaxed muscles and a profoundly quiet mind.” The mental, physical and emotional benefits are numerous. A deep practice gives many of us a chance to catch up on sleep and helps treat adrenal exhaustion and fatigue that’s caused by relentless stress without sufficient recovery. But Roger also recommends taking yoga off the mat and practicing it in your daily life. It’s important to look at your life circumstances, the underlying causes of stress. What can you change and what if part of your practice is changing those circumstances for the better.