Summer is here and things are moving! I want to bike, hike, jump, climb, skip, frolic, kick up into handstands every chance I get. All at the same time! Yes, summer surely is here. How do we celebrate the abundant energy of long days while finding balance? How do we maintain vibrant health without spinning out? Oh, those people “just lying around” on bolsters, they might be on to something...
Here are five (out of countless) reasons why restorative yoga, a practice that has served me wonderfully through many and varied seasons, is especially useful at this time of year.
1. Restorative yoga restores and renews the body, giving us more fuel to play outdoors and tend to the full gardens of these light-filled days. This one is simple: when we’re well rested, we can move with greater ease. Restorative yoga is an effective way to recharge the tank so we have energy to get outside and take on summer in all its beautiful bounty.
2. Ayurveda, the ancient sister science to yoga, actually recommends lighter exercise during the summer. It calls for activities and rest that promote cooling and grounding energy to balance the naturally dominant heat, internal fire, and fast-moving energy of summer. Well, since restorative yoga consists of long-held poses in which all musculature is totally at ease, it fits the bill.
3. This is a season of fullness, not depletion. The sun provides energy that excites and inspires, but this fiery globe can also burn. We can play and dance and sing in abundance, but we also more easily experience burn-out as we overextend ourselves. The last couple of summers, a few friends as well as my partner have experienced injury that resulted from overdoing it in one way or another. Summer is fun, but it can also be the season of acute injury, repetitive stress injury flare-up, or emotional fieriness. Slowing down, the core of restorative yoga, helps prevent burning out.
4. Restorative yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is in charge of the body’s rest and digest response. While the PNS is activated, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for flight or flight response, is soothed. In our bustling world we are over-stimulated and on-guard, which can lead to heightened stress, nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia. Additionally, most of us sleep less at this time of year as compared with winter months, and so it’s crucial that we get enough rest so that our nervous system finds balance and our immunity stays strong. Restorative yoga directs energy into maintenance, digesting, and processing, rather than feeding modes of anxiety and stress.
5. Summer is about joy. Where is joy, how can we cultivate it? Restorative yoga allows us room to just be, to find the wonder in our inherent wholeness. As Thuy Nguyen, founder of Berkeley Community Acupuncture, believes: “There is no greater expression of health than joy.” If we create space for self-care, for practices that feel good and allow us to surrender, for treating ourselves with compassion, then joy has a chance of shining through. Restorative yoga feels good, and feeling good can go a long way.
Yes, this season surely calls for some restorative yoga. What are your reasons for practicing restorative yoga this summer? Whatever your intention, find time to slow down, to give the body and mind space to rejuvenate, to sink into relaxation. All we have to do is show up for restorative yoga and allow our bodies to do the rest.