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What is Restorative Yoga?

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We have had several questions about whether or not Restorative Yoga is actually yoga, and the answer to that question is – yes!

Restorative yoga (RY) is only different from traditional yoga in the number of sequences/poses that take place during the class. In the case of RY, only a few poses are used and are held for sometimes 10-20 minutes with "props," such as those shown in the above image, used to keep the body in the correct position.

From the descriptions that I've read, meditation may or may not be a big part of this practice (although some studios substitute music instead).

As this site explains, “Restorative yoga can be an excellent way to relieve stress and enjoy long, meditative stretches.”

Because the kind of meditation typically associated with yoga is Hindu and, therefore, not compatible with the Christian practice of yoga, this could be problematic.

Even if one attempts to substitute Christian prayer, it could still be a problem because, as is the case with all yoga poses, some of the positions used in restorative yoga have deeper meanings which make them more than “just stretches.”

For example, a common restorative yoga pose is viparita karani (or “legs up the wall”) which Hindus say is used to reverse the downward flow of the life-giving substance known as amrita (immortal life).

As Yogapedia explains: “The higher chakras, like the third eye (ajna) and crown (sahasrara), are stimulated in this pose. Spiritual energy is redirected upward toward these energy centers, preparing the individual's mind for dharana, or concentration. This pose is often done as a final posture before beginning pranayama and dharana.”

As I have learned in my research into the practice of yoga, it’s never as simple as “just exercise.” There's a much deeper meaning to everything about it, from the poses, to the breathing, meditation, and mudras, simply because this is a religious practice which is considered sacred and precious to Hindus.

Sadly, too many Americans have shamefully appropriated the practice of yoga, trying to reduce it to mere exercise-for-profit, much to the chagrin of millions of Hindus.

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