One of my favorite descriptions of this is guided nap time! I’d probably call it more guided rest period, but either way it is one of my favorite practices. Restorative practices make heavy use of props for a couple of reasons. The main one is that the poses are held for a long time….a long time being 5 – 20 minutes. This means that an hour long restorative class never feels like long enough and that even in a 90 minute restorative class you may never do more than 5 poses, including savasana. The second reason for the props is to allow your body to be fully supported. In a yin practice props are used but the poses are designed to get into the joints and synovial fluid. In a restorative practice the intent is to go even deeper and impact the central nervous system.
A restorative practice does not involve any standing poses, all of the poses are sitting or lying on your mat, but despite not being physically challenge it can be a challenging adjustment to get used to the stillness and the patience needed to settle into a pose. Restorative (and yin) practices can also bring up a lot of emotions as well as mental awareness. And if we don’t like what we are seeing and hearing and experiencing in our mind and with our emotions it can be very hard to deal with and can even feel threatening or uncomfortable. If you can get past this (which can definitely take a few sessions) you can find significant benefits from a restorative practice, particularly a greater sense of peace and calm and all the benefits or meditation. When I teach restorative classes I will often read a guided meditation during the pose that is held the longest and it is amazing to watch the participants sink into a deeper state of relaxation.