By Faye Martins
Teaching Restorative Yoga classes is unique and challenges your mind. As a yoga instructor, you need to be comfortable teaching a wide range of classes. Not all students come to yoga with the same goals in mind. While some might be intent on engaging their muscles or increasing their flexibility, others are hoping to reduce pain and increase their overall well-being. Students who fall into this last category are perfect candidates for restorative yoga. In order to meet their needs, you should know how to successfully plan and lead a restorative yoga class.
What Is Restorative Yoga?
Restorative yoga is a type of yoga practice that calls for the consistent holding of a few relaxing poses. Rather than switching quickly from one strenuous pose to the next, practitioners will often hold a single pose for 5-20 minutes. This means you’ll only use a handful of poses during a typical session. Props are often utilized to assist practitioners in their longer, gentler poses.
Restorative yoga is often targeted to address a single issue. Certain poses are used to alleviate headaches, while others reduce the physical and emotional effects of fatigue. A good teacher adjusts their plans in accordance with the specific needs of their students.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
Restorative yoga has a number of physical and mental advantages for the practitioner. The deep breathing practiced during the lengthy poses is ideal for relaxation, a benefit that brings about a number of wonderful secondary effects. Practitioners often report healthier sleep patterns, a more pleasant mood, and a general improvement in overall well-being. Restorative yoga is also gentler on the body than other types of yoga, making it ideal for people hoping to reduce physical pain.
Keys to Teaching Restorative Yoga
Preparing and executing a restorative yoga class requires a particular mindset. Although, your lesson plan is short, your class runs at a slow pace and there are many therapeutic details. Here’s what you need to consider when you are teaching restorative yoga classes.
Understanding Student Goals
With any yoga class, it’s important to understand what your students are hoping to get out of the experience. Most restorative yoga students come to class seeking relief from pain or a deeply meditative atmosphere. Have these goals in mind as you prepare your classes. During the early sessions, you can then speak with your students to get a more precise idea of their objectives. From there, you should prepare your classes in accordance with what they’ve told you.
Always Prioritize Safety
Safety comes first for any yoga teacher. You need to make sure nothing in your class could ever put your students in harm’s way. Some people might be attending the class to overcome physical or emotional difficulties, which means they’re particularly vulnerable. Be on the lookout for neck injuries, and avoid assigning inverted poses for students who are menstruating or suffering from a heart condition. You should also advise your students to get permission from a doctor before practicing yoga, especially if they are recovering from an injury. Nobody should ever do yoga against the advice of their physician.
Be Prepared for Emotional Release
During a restorative yoga class, students are bound to undergo significant muscular and stress release. This is inevitable due to the relaxing nature of the practice. Sometimes, this could bring about a subsequent emotional release for your students. Don’t let sudden tears or outbursts catch you by surprise. A professional teacher should meet these emotions with tranquility and compassion.
Encourage At-Home Practice
Weekly or bi-weekly class is rarely enough for students to reap all the benefits of restorative yoga. You should make a point of encouraging your students to continue practicing on a daily basis. Teach them easy poses they can try without assistance, and make yourself available for any questions regarding at-home practice.
Designing the Perfect Class
As with any yoga course, designing the perfect restorative sequence is essential to success. With your students’ goals in mind, you should be able to craft engaging and therapeutic classes. Here are some basic tips to consider.
Use Plenty of Props
Restorative yoga is known for its frequent use of props. Since restorative yoga is meant to be more relaxing and less intensive, it’s important that students never feel too much of a strain. Props are useful for guiding students into the most favorable body positions. As a teacher, you need to make sure props are placed in the correct position before the students begin a particular pose. The probs will set boundaries for the students, who will trust you to ensure those boundaries are where they’re supposed to be. Blocks, bankets, and bolsters are typical props you should have on hand. Everyday objects like chairs, tables, and even towels can also be useful.
Keep Things Slower Paced
By definition, restorative yoga is slower-paced than most yoga styles. Practitioners are meant to enjoy the full mental and physical benefits that come from holding a sustained pose. You need to keep this slower pacing in mind as you prepare your classes. Never try to jam too many poses into a single session. In restorative yoga, quality is always much more important than quantity.
Plan for Slower Transitions
In some types of yoga, practitioners quickly switch from one pose to another. These vigorous transitions have no place in a restorative yoga session. After holding a single pause for over five minutes, your students will need some time before taking on another pose. They’ve likely entered a deeply meditative state, and their muscles have relaxed completely. Make sure you always give them a minute to regain a neutral, centered feeling before directing them to adopt a new pose. Also, always account for these lengthier transitions when planning your class. In general, exercises in a restorative yoga class will take longer than you’ve planned for. When they do, don’t worry that you’re not fitting everything in. A slow-moving session is exactly what you should be aiming for.
Start the Class with Purposeful Relaxation
The first few minutes of every class should be based on relaxation. The subsequent poses will only prove restorative if the students are properly free of tension. For an hour-long class,try to dedicate the first 10-15 minutes to eliminating stress and setting the mood. This might seem excessive, but there can be no overestimating the importance of relaxation.
Leave Time for an Extended Savasana at the End
While guided relaxation, which occurs during savasana, is important with any type of yoga, it’s especially vital during restorative sessions. Inspiring students to “let go” is a crucial component of restorative practice, and savasana is where this spiritual and emotional release is most likely to occur. Never make the mistake of cutting savasana short in the interest of squeezing in some additional poses. These final moments of relaxation are always worth the time.
Typical Restorative Yoga Poses
There are a number of simple poses that could represent the core of teaching restorative yoga classes. Here are a few you should consider.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
There’s a reason this pose is considered the most important resting posture in yoga. It effectively stretches the hips, alleviates back pain, and encourages students to listen to their inner voices. Use rolled blankets to provide additional support for the torso, and tell your students to turn their head to the other side half way through the pose.
Reclined Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
With the right supports, this pose can be wonderfully relaxing for practitioners. Make sure you have your students place rolled blankets between their knees in order to support their bodies. Additional supports behind the neck can make it even easier to relax.
Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
With a yoga block under the back, this pose is as useful as it is relaxing. It can help students overcome back pain and strengthen the abdominal muscles. Just make sure everyone takes care when coming out of the pose, as it requires a little getting used to.
Supported Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This is a fun, relaxing pose that your beginner students are sure to enjoy. It’s known for increasing blood flow in the body and resting the feet. Make sure your students have a yoga mat beneath them before they begin. They should also use rolled blankets to help support their backs, thereby ensuring the position is comfortable for the duration of the pose.
Make a Difference – Teach Restorative Yoga
Successfully teaching restorative yoga classes is all about understanding the nature of the practice, planning excellent classes, and doing everything you can to assist your students during the sessions. Having absorbed the information outlined above, you should have no problem inspiring your students. By serving as an excellent teacher, you will play a big part in helping countless students improve their physical and emotional well-being.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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By Julie Ann Martin
Once we have journeyed on our path of yoga for a few years we can start to wonder if teaching yoga may be the next stage for us. Experiencing our own transformation naturally leads to a desire to share this feeling.
The ancient yogis handed down their teachings and traditions in a Guru/Disciple relationship that often lasted decades before the student was released to become a teacher to others. However, modern lifestyles rarely can accommodate this kind of lengthy immersion. Imagine telling your spouse “I’m off to India to train as a yoga teacher. I’ll be back in 20 years.” Not a viable option for the average person although without a doubt the most thorough way to train.
Currently there are two main options when choosing to embark on a yoga teacher training program. A long term training spread out over a year or more consisting of a monthly weekend session, or an intensive program whereby you immerse yourself daily for a period of a month or two usually in a location other than your local yoga center.
Both options serve as great trainings but not always suitable to your lifestyle. If embarking on a long term training, the up side is that it will allow you to continue your usual daily routine, working and earning a living along side your course. Classes usually are scheduled for weekends, once a month with homework and/or a mandatory public class attendance in between meetings. This can be a useful way to manage a training without much disturbance to your daily life. It is a good way to focus on the process in smaller modules. However, one of the problems with this method is that there is a tendency not to absorb the information fully. This is especially true when maintaining other commitments and family responsibilities. Through our own yoga practice we learn that experience itself is the greatest of teachers. If we are “dipping in” to our training and perhaps letting our daily yoga practice slide due to pressures of family or work we can feel the experience we gain on those weekends slips between the cracks of the rest of our lives.
It may be that you are the type of person who needs to eliminate distractions in order to fully focus. Perhaps you are looking for a complete life change or have been made redundant from your job. In these cases a yoga teacher training that completely immerses you in the process of practice, training and theory can be a better option. With an intensive, full time course you would be working everyday for 6-8 hours developing your skills as a practitioner as well as learning how to teach and the general theories of yoga philosophy. This kind of course is usually separate from your local yoga school and tends to happen in places that surround you with a peaceful more yoga “authentic” environment. For many people looking to immerse themselves in a yoga teacher training in India and other places in Asia are common options. The advantage to this is that your daily focus is fully on the course itself. This can allow each student to absorb the information as the repetition of a daily yoga routine embeds itself in the consciousness.
Whatever your motivation for deciding to teach, it is a good idea to look into all the options available in yoga teacher training courses. There are a lot of trainings on the market so the choice is pretty big. Think about what will suit your lifestyle and needs before choosing. Being able to manage a family and work may be more important to you while you are training, as teaching may be just something you want to add to your current abilities. Or perhaps stepping out of your usual surroundings and daily habits and immersing yourself in the entire process of yoga is what you need to take you to the next stage on your path. Whatever option you choose yoga teacher training can be a very rewarding and life changing experience.
Julie Martin is Director of https://www.brahmaniyoga.com
Julie Martin is Director of Brahmani Yoga in Goa, India and runs yoga teacher training programs, workshops and classes at Brahmani as well as around the world.