Bliss Yoga recently hosted Leeann Carey for the Yapana BEING: Restorative Yoga Therapy training. This was such a great opportunity to learn about developing a supportive practice, and I am eager to share about the experience.
A year or so ago I became more interested in taking up a more restorative practice. I had always practiced a pretty vigorous ashtanga or power yoga vinyasa style, but that type of yoga wasn't working for me any more. Instead of giving me energy and strength, it was draining me and stressing my body. I was a new (and frazzled-feeling) mother, and my life was hard enough already. I needed a type of yoga that was more supportive and nourishing to my body and spirit. And a type of yoga that was a little more intelligent about the function of yoga postures and cultivating a mindful, healing practice.
I began to seek information and books on restorative yoga. Leeann's book The Yapana Way: Restorative Yoga Therapy and the Art of Being caught my eye--reviews were very good--and I downloaded the free sample of the e-book.
I found myself nodding my head to so much of what I was reading in the early pages of the sample. I had to buy the e-book just so I could highlight and make notes on all the points Leeann was making. Once I had access to the entire book, I began to see the creative and insightful ways that Leeann would bring yoga poses to different bodies, safely and with enough support that students could relax.
After I read the book, I visited Leeann's website to see if I could learn more about the style of yoga she had developed, Yapana Yoga. I was excited to see that she offered lots of training modules, and I contacted her to see if she'd consider visiting Evansville to teach a workshop. She suggested starting with the Being: Restorative Yoga Therapy workshop.
At first, I was a little uncertain that there would be enough content to make a 24-hour workshop on restorative yoga worthwhile--after all, I already had the book, and restorative yoga seemed pretty foolproof. But as I began teaching more Restore classes based on the book, I realized I had a lot of questions.
I could see misalignment for students in some of the poses, and some students seemed uncomfortable in certain positions no matter how I propped them (they were very fidgety or tense instead of soft and relaxed), and I didn't know how to address those issues. I relied almost wholly on the sequences at the back of Leeann's book because I wasn't very comfortable sequencing my own--while her sequences were very good, I wanted to be able to tailor a class more to the individual needs of the students coming to my classes. As the date for the training event neared, I was growing more and more aware of how useful it would be.
On day one of the training, we learned how to tell the difference between when bodies were yielding to the pose because they were well supported (in either restorative or traditional asana), and when they were stiff with tension from holding on or collapsing and placing strain on the joints. We covered concepts in anatomy and biomechanics as we practiced various postures from the book and training manual and learned how to make restorative postures accessible and beneficial for different bodies.
On day two, Leeann showed us some great warm-up techniques for restorative sessions. My favorites used a wooden dowel. I am looking forward to incorporating more of them into Restore classes, especially in the morning class as it will help relieve stiffness and prepare the students for restful positioning.
We continued learning more of the restorative postures, and we held a special class with volunteer students to practice supporting new bodies in the postures we had learned in a sequence that would beneficial for their particular challenges. One of the things we discussed was the subtle nature of this practice--that sometimes the most profound and powerful shifts would happen gently and slowly, and this was a practice that requires the student to wait and receive, rather than hurriedly strain to achieve.
On day three we finished up the poses from the manual and book, and we covered sequencing. We practiced creating sequences in increasingly challenging scenarios: designing an effective sequence to lead to--and wind down from--a selected pose; working around particular limitations or injuries; and panning a class without having access to a specific prop. This was where I began to really have a feel for how to put restorative sequences together intelligently and effectively. I've even used the sequences my group worked on, and they've been very well received by students.
The final portion of the training was learning how to meditate and savasana in enough comfort to make the practice sustainable. We sampled various ways of propping the body for seated meditation so that the legs and arms were supported and not hanging on the spine. We also learned several ways to position and prop savasana so that it could be a restful, supported position for a full twenty-minute relaxation practice. For me personally, this was the high point of the training. Actually taking time to set up the best savasana for my body and spending a full twenty minutes in it. I could feel myself falling deeper and deeper into a more complete state of relaxation, and I had beautiful peaceful moment of pure awareness. It was so refreshing, and so inspiring. As a yoga teacher (and student), I tell myself that there isn't time for a twenty minute savasana, but after actually experiencing the benefits, I am working toward incorporating it into regular classes and my home practice.
I am so thankful Leeann visited our studio to offer this training. I have been so inspired about restorative yoga, especially for its therapeutic benefits and accessibility to students. I am looking forward to taking more of Leeann's training modules in the future--she was an excellent trainer. Very knowledgeable, insightful, engaging and organized. If you are curious about her training opportunities, please visit her website. Feel free to email me if you have specific questions about my experience at this training or with restorative yoga--I'd love to share :)