Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, is the definitive guide to restorative yoga and restorative yoga postures. Written by Judith Lasater, a physical therapist with a doctorate in east/west psychology who has been teaching yoga since 1971 and authored several yoga books, Relax and Renew is designed to help you de-stress with supported passive yoga poses.
Those who have an active yoga practice will find the poses featured in Relax and Renew a significant departure from what they are used to. In traditional yoga the focus is on active poses followed a brief restorative pose (savasana). If you find that savasana is your favorite part of your yoga class, Relax and Renew may be just what you are looking for since its entirely restorative yoga based poses.
Lasater credits her restorative yoga based poses to BKS Iyengar, a worldwide yoga authority who experimented with props to modify yoga poses so students could experience their benefits without strain. In Relax and Renew, Lasater expands upon this concept to create yoga based poses and pose sequences designed to evoke the relaxation response and heal the effects of chronic stress. She calls restorative yoga “active relaxation.”
The first part of Relax and Renew (Chapters 1 through 3) provides background information about stress and and how restorative yoga works to counter its effects. Chapter 2 takes a question and answer approach to providing information on how to get started practicing restorative yoga with details on where to begin, how to begin, what you should wear, what props you will need, etc.
Chapter 3 is devoted to the topic of props – a significant aspect of a restorative yoga practice. She categorizes props as props you lie over, props you place on your body, and props you rest on or against and includes detailed charts for how to fold blankets for various poses.
The remainder of the book focuses on specific restorative poses, a general restorative yoga practice, restorative yoga poses for busy days, restorative yoga poses for the office, and restorative yoga sequences for various conditions such as low back pain, neck pain, insomnia, difficulty breathing, jet lag, women’s cycles, pregnancy, and menopause.
Each pose includes instructions for how to set up your props for the pose, getting into the pose, settling into the pose, how to come out of the pose, benefits of the pose, and any cautions. There are also detailed photographs of each of the poses, which are meant to be held for several minutes.
If you are feeling weak, fatigued, and generally stressed out by life, you may want to consider using Relax and Renew to help you begin a restorative yoga practice.
However, if you are used to moving at quantum speed and have difficulty slowing down, you may find this book and the suggestion to rest in supported poses challenging. It may also take some time to learn how to set up the props to support you properly in the various poses. To get the most out of the poses described in Relax and Renew, you will need props including several blankets, pillows, yoga blocks, yoga straps, a yoga bolster, and a chair.
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