We are under a great deal of psychological stress. We spend a lot of our time in our stress responses, especially those of us enduring ethnic and race based stress and trauma. These ceaseless stressors impact our bodies in countless ways, showing up as anxiety, inflammation, and much more. Even as we aim to relax and restore ourselves to continue on, it is often difficult to find true release. We can take that stress with us even when we go to bed at night, still not finding the solace our bodies, minds, and spirits really need.
The practice of Restorative Yoga can be a gateway to relief that can be difficult to access even in sleep. Restorative Yoga requires little physical exertion, and uses props (like a pillow, bolster, blanket) to support the full release of the body's tension. If you've taken a yoga class, it's possible that you've experienced a restorative posture towards the end of class—with the lights turned down low, and you holding one posture in stillness, maybe lying on your back. The stillness is important. It helps our bodies move into the opposite of the stress response, the relaxation response—where our body is able to engage its processes of long term health, like digestion of our food, strengthening of our immune systems, and processing of the traumas we otherwise have to push down. Restorative Yoga can help us begin to heal, by relearning how it feels to truly be at ease.
Dr. Gail Parker’s Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race Based Traumatic Stress and the companion workbook, Transforming Ethnic and Race-Based Traumatic Stress with Yoga are a wealth of information about how our oppressive structures wreak havoc on our nervous systems, and how we can use the practice of Restorative Yoga to heal and sustain ourselves, body and soul.
I am currently in the process of reading the book and working with its companion workbook, and am deeply grateful for the resource. As a former direct action organizer, recovering workaholic, and a queer Black woman with a long history of inflammation-induced illness, restorative yoga has become an essential practice of mine. I hope it can offer some rest to you too.
Contributed by Asha Carter
Certified Yoga Instructor, MM Team Member & Co-Founder of Cambium Collective
Visit Dr. Gail Parker's website.