Costa Rica Yoga JournalMark Goldstein

Restorative Yoga

Legs up the wallBy Mark Goldstein 

If there is anything close to “winter” here in Costa Rica, it is this time of year. It is our rainiest, muddiest, and least busy time of the year. You can find us making more soups, and baking and roasting more of our foods. This is partially because it is our cooler and stormier season, and also because we have more time on our hands. This is also the time when we can get the things done that we didn’t have time for during our busier season. As well, this is our greenest time of the year, and the plants seem to grow right before our eyes. If we decide to, we can take this time to restore ourselves, bringing back our equilibrium, our balance. 

This article is about restorative yoga. You can see in the photos that restorative yoga poses look very easy to do. Well they are. They are also very powerful when approached correctly. 

Playa Yoga

My first experience with restorative yoga came after I sustained a pretty serious lower back injury. I went from going to a vigorous vinyassa flow class 4-5 times per week, to being laid up in bed for a couple of weeks. When it was time to begin stretching again, I could barely touch my fingers to my knees while standing. So, I went to my first restorative yoga class. It was the same class that I walked by many times before and thought looked like the opposite of what I wanted from a yoga class. Wow! Was I wrong. 

What I had always considered a very laid-back, superficial and non-dynamic class was very much the opposite. Well ok, it was very laid-back. There is a lot of stillness in restorative poses, a lot, but the shifts that can occur in your body can be very dramatic and curative. 

Restorative yoga is meant to bring our bodies and minds back to a place of balance. The term “balanced body” may not seem to carry all that much weight, but it should. By a balanced body, we mean that the body is perfect, it is not fighting, it is producing the things that we need it to, and it is getting rid of those things that we do not want. A balanced body is healthy, strong and vibrant. 

A body out of balance can be stressed, weak, and vulnerable to illness and injury. Am I saying that lying on your back with your legs up the wall (fancy yoga name Viparita Karani) will do all of this? No, not all by itself, but it is a great way to help you get there. 

back stretchIn restorative yoga we use props like pillows, bolsters and straps, and we also utilize the wall and floor much more than in other types of yoga. These props help us to be effortless in the poses so that we can really just hone in on the pose. 

Many restorative poses involve deep opening stretches and twists, and these poses last much longer than other styles. Sometimes 5-10 minutes, or even more then a half hour in some cases. 

In our stillness, we are putting most of our focus into our breath. It is tempting to allow ourselves to fall to sleep, but when we anchor our experience in our breath we can go extremely deep into the pose as well as profoundly calm our minds. 

Restorative yoga poses can be the focus of an entire class, or a pose can be integrated into a more active class, perhaps just before we finish the class with Shivasana.

 I offer private yoga classes here at our PranaVida retreat in the rainforest here in Manuel Antonio. I have individual and group sessions available. Whether you live here year round and would like to come every week, or if you are visiting and would like to set something up for while you are here, I would live to work with you. We also offer various types of massage therapy for couples and individual session, including deep tissue, and Thai Yoga Massage. Yoga can be a wonderful part of your life, and I hope that I get a chance to be a part of your journey.