Restorative Yoga

Today we look at restorative yoga: slowing down the practice, going deeper in poses, feeling their restorative power on the body.

I did a 2 hour restorative yoga session with Michael Bridge-Dickson at Ashtanga Yoga Montreal. With lots of props — a wall, a chair, blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets – this particular restorative practice had the intention of deeply opening the chest and shoulders. Many of the postures were set up so that gravity did much of the work. Other postures were set up for intense work, or had partners working together on achieving some angle of shoulder opening.

This is a long way from Michael’s signature vigorous Ashtanga practice. But it did have moments of great intensity. Simply holding a block in the forearms, while lifting the arms, for example, with variations, seemed like very hard work at the time, but left a tremendous feeling of lightness and ease afterwards.

While he has been teaching in the Ashtanga tradition for seven years, Michael began restorative teaching about three years ago. “I had learned a lot of the restorative techniques by working with Hart Lazer and Ramanand Patel,” he said. “I found that I needed this as a complement to my practice, as I was teaching 16 classes per week. I was doing Mysore morning practice at Ashtanga Yoga Montreal, when Allison (Allison Ullan, co-director of AYM) pointed out that my practice was restorative, and invited me to offer it to the students at AYM.“ It began as a workshop, became a regular class, and more recently, Michael has begun a restorative teacher training program at AYM. Michael’s website is www.adaptive-yoga.com

Cathy Cozens, at Shanti Yoga, uses a more gentle approach to restorative yoga, relying on gravity and props. “This is a deeply relaxing practice for mind and body. If it’s 90 minutes, it could include a 20-minute savasana, and a half hour of meditation.” Her classes are structured to open various parts of the body, holding poses for longer than a regular class, but supported by bolsters, blocks, blankets and chairs. Among the teachers she worked with to learn restorative yoga, she mentions Judith Lasater, Hart Lazer, Patricia Walden, Francois Raoult, Fr. Joe Pereira, and Mollie Lawson.

For a list of studios and teachers in Montreal offering restorative yoga, consult the yogamontreal.com Restorative Yoga in Montreal directory at
www.yogamontreal.com/studio_classes_restorative_yoga