For some, the anticipation of doing absolutely nothing brings forth a shockwave of unease. For me, on the other hand, any opportunity to turn off is key for my mental well-being. In my recent efforts to do exponentially less, I’ve been dipping my toes into the realm of restorative yoga.
For the newcomer, restorative yoga can best be described as a passive practice incorporating supportive props like blankets, bolsters and blocks. The objective is to help the practitioner ease into relaxing asanas, or poses, designed to relieve the effects of bodily stress.
Restorative poses are held longer than your usual asana. It’s like taking a yoga nap; ideal for calming the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response, leading to a much-welcomed sense of mind, body and emotional-spiritual rejuvenation.
In my recent restorative practice class at NoDa Yoga, I explored the combination of both yoga and reiki, a form of healing based on energy. According to The International Center for Reiki Training, the word reiki is comprised of two Japanese words — “rei,” which means “God’s wisdom or the higher power” and “ki,” which is “life force energy.” Put together, reiki means “spiritually-guided life force energy.”
Similar to restorative yoga, reiki works on all levels of physical, emotional and spiritual elements to help reduce stress, anxiety and other ailments.
Our reiki master introduced herself as Alison Pulito, and followed up by introducing the four other reiki practitioners in the room. Together they would move seamlessly around the room, applying reiki to yogis individually throughout the session. She then lead us through a guided meditation that was so calming, I asked for permission to take a picture of it after class for my own personal practice. She obliged.
She then initiated our hour-and-a-half-long restorative practice by allowing us to rest in supta baddha konasana, also known as reclined bound angle pose. It’s a deeply relaxing yoga position that’s achievable for students of all levels.
Bonus points for being able to use a bolster and pillow, making it feel extra therapeutic. The thought of no texts, emails or student loan spam calls for the next 90 minutes was extra comforting. I settled into my mat ready and willing to be lulled into a yoga reverie.
Once the meditation concluded, I peeked out of one eye as a reiki guide hovered her hands over my neighbor’s ears. She stayed there for about three minutes, then made her way in my direction. Energetically speaking, I’m convinced I could feel her open palms above my head. I know from reading about reiki that the recipient can sometimes feel sensations during a session, which makes me think the soft throbbing I felt was completely normal. It was certainly not unpleasant.
From our reclined position we transitioned into a bolster-supported supine twist. Here they held their hands above the upper portions of our backs. I didn’t feel the throbbing sensation again but my shoulder felt warm. I like to imagine this was the practitioner’s energy radiating through me, bursting through my emotional blockages. Sorry, not sorry, to my baggage. This year I’ve resolved to release all of the burdens I’ve encumbered for good.
We moved through a few more poses, with Mountain Brook being our second-to-last. This pose was new to me, but I immediately fell in love. By placing a blanket under the neck and head, another blanket under the thoracic spine and bolster under the knees, this pose opens up the chest cavity. Considering I sorely suffer from tech neck, any kind of heart opener appeals to me.
Once in Savasana, also known as corpse pose, Alison took it to the next level of new-age wonder by complimenting our final resting pose with Tibetan singing bowls. These beautiful little bowls are not only aesthetically pleasing, their reverberations invoke a deep state of relaxation, healing and chakra balancing.
We concluded our 90 minutes together with a collective “om.” It was suggested that we close our practice with some drinking water to keep things flowing, so it was only logical to wrap up my lazy afternoon with a beer at The Company Store down the street. Beer is 90 to 95 percent water after all, so the math makes sense. Consider me rested, restored and ready for more.