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YD Goes to Yoga School Week 5: Restorative! Meet Me Halfway, Or Sympathy for the Dentist

in YD Goes to Yoga School

Week 5 already! And our group has hit a stride. We seem to have attraversiamo’d from a crew of perfect strangers to a living breathing organism made up of 18 unique constituents and one unified energy. This tends to happen more quickly when you spend every training Sunday sitting in a circle swapping energetic vrttis for an hour or so in group pranayama and meditation. Yogi mind meld! I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of such a kind and intelligent bunch of trainees who are all so eager to learn everything they can. And it’s a good thing because after this week I’m gonna need some smart study buddies! I hardly know where to start, which could have to do with the breadth of information there was to absorb, the depth of the subject matter, or the fact that we spent a good few straight hours Sunday meditating, pranayamaing and propped up into some magnificently relaxing restorative yoga pose. Zonk city!

If you’ve been keeping up you’d know how thrilled I am about the in-class assisting component of the training. The other piece of the mentor/mentee puzzle is bi-monthly meetings where we huddle together with our particular mentor and chew the yoga. This week we (me and the 5 other lovely ladies under the esteemed guidance of the spirited Ms. Paula Lynch) met to discuss sections from BKS Iyengar’s Tree of Yoga (why is this not a more popular book?) and to expound on the ART of assisting. Because what’s the first thing you want to do when you see someone in downdog, weight all in their arms, fighting with their might to straighten elbows, hands all puckered, fingers knitted like mittens? Must fix!

Or what about a plain old poor postured tadasana? Yoga teacher brain swings into action like Mr. Gadget, scanning all the things “wrong” with this picture. Slow down and put that socket wrench away! Turns out, what you could really use is some floss and a good brushing! Er, in other words, this is less about what they aren’t doing and more about working with what they ARE doing. The effort is there. Show compassion, meet them half way.

A perfect segue into proptastic restorative yoga training! A weekend is truly not enough to dig into the profound practice and methods of restorative yoga, but we were lucky enough to have the venerable Jillian Pransky to guide us through this important body of work. And it’s work. Typically, restorative is seen as the sugar on top, the sometimes post-asana class indulgence, or substitute for a more physical practice when we’re just too darn tired. But this is no cake walk! It’s the opportunity to release compression, stress, the place of studying our own holding patterns, svadhyaya, in the physical, psychological and emotional body. This is heavy stuff.

We spent a great deal discussing the nervous system: the sympathetic (fight or flight response) vs. parasympathetic (rest and digest). Habitually residing in the sympathetic causes the thermostat of the brain, the hypothalamus, to administer the release of stress chemicals, which are of course very useful in the chased by a tiger scenario, but not so helpful in other bodily functions like digestion, elimination, immunity, growth, repair and reproduction. You know, just little jobs vital to life. So you might imagine how switching over to the parasympathetic system that allows all these other mechanisms to take care of business could get a bit messy. Again, keep that power drill in the shed, Tool Time, and meet yourself, or your student half way. Every little bit counts.

As I mentioned before, there’s so much to talk about! Adrenal fatigue, the Vagus nerve, the effect of restorative yoga on prevention and/or improvement of conditions due to depression, anxiety, disease. But the clearest and most obvious lesson we can learn: don’t skimp on savasana! Essentially, in a restorative pose when you’re propped up so well that your body can let go on every layer, allowing true relaxation, it’s not that you’re adding the candy, you’re brushing away the plaque! But first, it must be dealt with, and that, like any dentist appointment, can be terrifying, full of uncomfortable instruments prodding you and an agitating voice asking “does this hurt?” Be kind.

To read more about Jillian Pransky and her work check out her website: YogaJillian.com


YD yoga school updates should come pretty regularly on Sundays, at the wrap of each week. Disclosure: Training is with YogaWorks, NYC (I am not being paid to say that, Paula Lynch rocks).

Thanks to everyone who’s donated any amount. I could still really use the support. If you appreciate YD please consider a donation. Thank you!

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