slipping over the edge

What is it about “restorative yoga” that gets me so agitated?

I wrote here about my experience with restorative yoga at my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock. I definitely was not the only person who had a strong reaction (aversion) to the practice and I believe it was because of what we were doing — sitting for many hours every day — that made a restorative yoga practice inappropriate for our situation.

I know that there are many people who love this style of yoga and I also understand how it is very beneficial for some and in certain situations, recovering from an illness for example. Some people think yin yoga is a “restorative” practice but I believe that is a huge misunderstanding. I can easily stay in supta virasana for 15 minutes in a yin class with no agitation whatsoever — my mind is as still as a placid pond. Yin yoga is not restorative yoga, different concepts are involved.

But once you add three blankets, two bolsters, a strap, two blocks, and shoulderstand on a chair, I start grinding my teeth. There is something about fiddling around with all those props that puts me over the edge.

I went to a class this morning that is taught in the style of Rod Stryker. The teacher announced “because of the time change and the full moon” (huh? I don’t even pay attention to the moon phases) “this will be a restorative class.” I almost walked out, but out of respect for the teacher, I did not. I’m not dissing the teacher — she’s an excellent teacher and I’ve known her a long time…it was the yoga. And my reaction to it.

I was on edge throughout the entire class. Nothing restorative about it. Fold the blanket, buckle the strap, adjust the bolster, hang over a chair. Faggedaboutit. Shoulderstand in a chair made me very nauseous and I normally stay in shoulderstand for a minimum of 5 minutes. The only part I liked was savasana because I was done messing around with all those damn props.

I’m a vipassana person who is very accustomed to watching whatever comes up, all physical and emotional sensations. I don’t run from them. So I keenly observed what came up during class: “agitation is like this. examine it. where is it? it’s temporary, let it go, things will always change.” I have to admit that the class was good mind training.

My yoga behind closed doors is like this:

I play some cool music and start moving, flowing, feeling. Maybe I drop into yin asanas, maybe not. For me, there is stillness in motion and I treat the asanas as mere shapes and forms that are constantly changing and evolving.

So I think maybe that because I’m a meditator, because I treat my movement as a meditation, that I’m already there. That I don’t need to force myself to slow down for 90 minutes in a restorative class as some people do because…I’m already there.

My other thought is maybe just like there are certain pranayama techniques that affect each dosha differently (I was told at KYM that I should not do much kapalabhati), maybe restorative yoga affects some people adversely. Why not? Even good medicine can kill you if not taken in the correct way.

Or maybe it’s just because I’m a rebel yoga grrl who doesn’t like being told to fold that, tie the strap here, put that bolster there, now rest — even if it is not appropriate for your physical, mental, and energetic bodies to rest at that particular time. It offends my free spirit and it stifles me.

I’m going now. I have to meditatively move.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510’;

11 thoughts on “slipping over the edge

  1. I totally agree with you my friend! My practice is like a slow dance, inside my heart. Can't wait to be your student here in Brazil!

    (Great video, who is this teacher?)




  2. Why does a 'restorative' class have to include props? For me, restorative yoga means relaxation and inner peace. And I agree, messing around with props is anything but.

    I've had the experience of some lovely restorative yoga that is simply about encouraging a meditative state of mind along with slow, fluid movements and breath. Which is much more enjoyable from my perspective!


  3. hummmm this restorative class sounds a lot like an Iyengar class, lots of time spent arranging the body on props. Maybe there calling it “restorative” b/c if I'm not mistaken you have to train for 5 years to be and Iyengar teacher. I understand your frustration I took Iyenger Yoga for 4 years, I enjoyed it for a while but uhggg, the props!


  4. Linda, your sediments echo *exactly* what I experience in a “restorative” session. The futziness, the agitation, the irritation with the props. I thought it was just me being unable to accept “where I'm at”. I see now that “where I'm at” in a restorative makes me all the above.

    Loved these statements: “For me, there is stillness in motion and I treat the asanas as mere shapes and forms that are constantly changing and evolving…because I treat my movement as a meditation…”

    Thank you!


  5. I've never tried props, and I probably never will. I have a strong preference for simplicity.

    My Yoga routines tend to be more pose and less movement, but that's just because I get all the movement I need from tennis and weights. Yoga is a relatively static compliment to those.

    Could you please clarify the Rod Stryker reference. Is he into props? He's one of my Yoga philosophy favorites, and he's so traditional that it would surprise me if he liked props.

    Great video, too. Thanks.

    Bob Weisenberg


  6. the class is entitled Tantra Yoga in the style of Rod Stryker because that's who the teacher studies with. the teacher decided to do a restorative class instead, hence all the props.


  7. I can understand how fussing and bossing would be very irritating..especially if you prefer a more dynamic class.

    But I gotta defend the props, a bit. My background is Iyengar–altho I'm not a trained Iyengar teacher–and I find that the majority of my students couldn't do many of the poses in my classes without a little help. Forward bends, especially. Using belts and blocks gives support to the hands or help draw the torso forward without rounding the back. I think it gives student “permission” to come to the pose as much as they are able, rather than trying to force themselves forwards in order to grab their toes.

    Even for me, a modification with props sometimes makes the pose “easier” and I can deepen into the opening and then release the prop.

    Of couse, props can get in the way of something more movement-oriented and there are plenty of teachers who get a bit too wrapped up in their use. Still, I think they have their places…


  8. thanks, Brenda! I understand the use of props in an Iyengar class — I've done Iyengar classes and my own teacher is both Iyengar Institute trained and astanga trained in Mysore 3X. and I always tell my students who can't touch the floor in forward fold to use a block or blanket under sit bones, etc….

    but this was a “restorative” class, so prop use is a bit different from a pure Iyengar yoga class.


  9. in other words….TOO MANY props for me! and the only place I want to have a blanket over me is on the couch or in bed….

    as my friend told me this morning about why restorative yoga agitates me…”maybe you don't need to be restored.”



  10. Linda-Sama,

    I love, love, love your posts! I remember my first restorative class and I hated all the fidgeting with props too. I also remember my first restorative class that I “got”. Just letting that agitation with prop fidgetry roll right off me and actually resting…for me it was super powerful. With that said, I can't do a prop laden restorative class all the time. But, with my hectic, busy schedule, when I do find time to finaggle my way into a viparita karani with a bolster under my sacrum and a folded blanket under my neck, I cry tears of pure joy. 😀


Satya is balanced with Ahimsa - No Trolls Allowed

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