by Elizabeth Ewanchuk
Recovery is as important to your training as the physical conditioning itself. Adding Restorative Yoga to your routine can speed your recovery and ultimately enhance your performance. This type of yoga incorporates poses that are held for several minutes each using props such as bolsters, blankets, straps and blocks.
As an athlete who is used to pushing hard to meet your training goals, practicing Restorative Yoga might seem like doing a whole lot of nothing. It may feel counterintuitive at first, but if you continue it on a regular basis, your body will thank you. Here are some of the benefits:
RELAX YOUR SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (SNS)
The SNS is dominant during exercise. It’s responsible for priming the body for action and regulates functions such as increasing your heart rate, dilating your bronchial passages, increasing glucose levels in the bloodstream and producing perspiration.
ACCESS YOUR PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (PNS)
The PNS is responsible for healing, repair and rejuvenation. It conserves energy, facilitates digestion, constricts the bronchial passages and subdues the SNS. After training, your body’s ability to recover quickly is dependent on how well it can tap into this system.
For example, during intense exercise your SNS stimulates the production of cortisol and epinephrine, which allow you to push yourself physically. Following your workout, however, you need to tone down the SNS. The PNS prompts the release of acetylcholine, which signals to the adrenal glands to taper the production of these hormones. By consciously slowing down and focusing on your breathing during Restorative Yoga, you switch your body from SNS-dominance into PNS-dominance. With your body propped in restorative poses, your hard-working muscles are able to lengthen slowly without triggering an active stretch reflex.
RELEASE YOUR FASCIA
Fascia is a type of connective tissue that extends uninterrupted from head to toe. It connects all the cells of the body as it surrounds muscles, bones, joints, organs, nerves and blood vessels. Trauma, injury, inflammation, poor posture, repetitive strain or over-training can cause it to become shorter, thicker and less pliable. Because your fascia encompasses your entire body, torsions and misalignments in one area can show up in other parts of the body, causing injuries or impeding flexibility, range of motion and strength.
QUIET AND FOCUS YOUR MIND
Mastering the mental game is at the heart of running at your peak. Restorative Yoga is a meditative practice that encourages you to turn inward to focus on the present moment.
Here are a few poses to try. Hold each pose for 3 to 5 minutes.
1. Constructive Rest
releases psoas; lengthens lower back; calms SNS.
opens side body, outer hip and IT band attachments.
3. Forward Bend
calms SNS; decompresses spine; lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
4. Legs Up the Wall
revives legs and feet; releases lower back; stretches hamstrings and calves; calms adrenals.
5. Legs Up the Wall With Hip-Opener
opens hip joint; lengthens the thighs, gluteals and piriformis muscles; relieves sciatic pain.
6. Reclining Bound Angle
releases groin; opens chest.
7. Child’s Pose
releases lower back; relieves shoulder tension.
Elizabeth Ewanchuk, LHP, is a Wellness Coach who practices in Toronto. She helps her clients lead vibrant lives. Treatments target the underlying causes of illness and injury so that active folks can remain pain-free and agile at any age.