Restorative Teacher Training
by Lillian Zahra
I recently completed my restorative teacher training at the beautiful Nilaya House.
It had been a year since my last course, and I’m forever looking to learn more as a teacher and be able to teach a wider range of classes (while also balancing my income from teaching and not spending it all on more courses – although in reality I think this is what does happen). This course was taught by Joanne Smallwood; one of the first yoga classes I wandered into in Dubai almost five years ago was her class and I immediately loved her teaching, her style and her energy as a teacher, for the last two years I have wanted to do a training with her and I’m so glad that the timing of this course worked out perfectly!
I think we can all agree, the last two years, but also just life as a human in an era of constant technological change, societal expectations, being expected to operate at 100% all of the freaking time (spoiler alert: not possible and nor are we meant to), has been a RIDE.
So for me, and for my students, restorative yoga is really what we need. Even if we also want to “progress” our practice, nail our arm balances and love coming off of the mat dripping with sweat. We can, and we really need, both the effort and the ease in our personal practice and in our own teaching.
This is what I learned:
1. We don’t need to do an hour of practice for it to make a difference
While a 60-90 minute restorative practice, both as a self practice and for students would be amazing, we don’t need to set aside an entire hour. As a teacher, even five minutes of restorative practice at the end of a “regular” yoga class can have huge benefits. As a self practice, ten minutes at lunchtime or before bed can reap huge rewards in stress reduction and improved sleep. Life, and our practice is not an all or nothing endeavour. A little really can go a long way.
2. Restorative yoga is NOT the same as yin yoga
I think there can be some confusion among students and even within the yoga community. While a yin class can 100% feel restorative, and indeed have this effect, yin is not restorative yoga. A true yin class will incorporate poses which do require some effort, for example, frog pose (a deep inner thigh stretch) is “yin” but it requires muscular and mental effort to remain in the post for three minutes. Poses in restorative yoga require zero physical or mental effort.
The two practices also have very different origins and philosophies. Yin yoga has origins in Chinese medicine and works in line with meridians of the body to stretch the fascia and muscles deeply. Restorative yoga has its roots in the BKY Iyengar lineage, taking advantage of props to support the body as in an Iyengar practice. For Ashtanga yogis, restorative practices are sometimes done on full moon days and also during the moon cycle when a strong physical practice is not recommended.
I have also done a yin training – I love both but can now see how very different they are!
3. Restorative yoga is not about the “doing”
Students attend yoga classes for many reasons, from weight loss (I used to teach yoga for a chain of gyms and while it can be disheartening to hear this reason as teachers it is not for us to judge but to show students that yoga is a spiritual practice and not just a way to “burn calories”), to increasing flexibility, strength, mind-body connection or just a way of carving out me-time.
My experience as a student of many, many hours of taking classes is that yoga doesn’t always feel mentally like a break – as someone with an “advanced” practice I can, and sometimes do, feel disappointed in myself for not being able to do something and sometimes I feel the pressure to “perform” in class because I still have an ego and that’s ok. Sometimes another student’s phone disturbs savasana, sometimes the music is loud or jarring, sometimes a student comes in late and puts their mat almost touching mine – and really, it’s not the end of the world, but not every vinyasa class will leave us with that blissful feeling.
The practice is perfect but as practitioners were are anything but. The joy of restorative yoga is that it is just about letting go and being comfortable, no “breathing through discomfort” or “the pose you are avoiding is the post you need to do” here. Restorative yoga is definitely not exercise in any shape or form but that doesn’t make it any less valid, sometimes it is exactly what we need.
4. Restorative yoga has real mind & body benefits
Restorative yoga triggers the “relaxation response” in the body and the more we practice restorative you, the quicker we can go from a “fight or flight” stress response to a relaxation response. Given how many aspects of modern life push us into a stress response it is very important that we can also access the relaxation response.
Restorative yoga can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve sleep and alleviate anxiety. The more we practice relaxing, the better at relaxing we get. As odd as it sounds, relaxing is a skill and many of us, teachers included, need to hone that skill. Restorative yoga is also a suitable practice to do during your moon cycle, during pregnancy and can also be done in a chair for those with limited mobility.
5. You don’t need to spend money on all the props
While restorative yoga does make use of props aplenty, you don’t need to rush out and purchase a bolster, blocks, blankets and a strap. Most of us will already have items around the home that we can repurpose, firm cushions from the sofa can make good bolsters for sliding under the knees, most of us will have blankets or beach towels which can be rolled or folded, and a dressing gown belt is a great strap stand-in. The prop which actually makes restorative yoga super relaxing is having an eye pillow and while there are some beautiful ones for sale, a face cloth folded into thirds is just as good!
I am so excited to teach restorative yoga in group classes and in private sessions, it is such a wonderful practice that can bring about a huge change in our students from the start to the end of class.
This blog was reposted from www.lillianzahra.com
To read more about this the Restorative Yoga Teacher Training here
To register for this training visit www.nilayahouse.com
Many thanks to Lily for these insightful words on the training!