“What is restorative yoga? It could also be called glorified napping,” one of the lead instructors explained during my first yoga teacher training. His definition was my introduction to this modality of yoga. However, with experience I have learned there is one key difference between restorative yoga and napping: In restorative yoga, you don’t fall asleep.
Or more accurately, the intention is not to sleep in restorative yoga. The theory is sleeping is a process of doing, whereas restorative yoga is intended to be a state of being. This concept is simple, but it was amazingly difficult for me to grasp until motherhood.
Inspired by my interview with Dr. Gail Parker on her new book Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race Based Stress and Trauma, I recently took a deep dive into the practice with LL Studio’s 25-hour restorative yoga teacher training. During our 5-day virtual training, our homework was to practice 15 minutes of restorative yoga each day. Lying on the floor should be a simple assignment, but you’d be surprised the challenges that can arise when you add a 3-month-old baby to the mix. Here’s my journal of the journey.
September 30th, 2020
My restorative yoga practice looks a little different than the traditional image of a yogi blissfully lying over neatly folded Mexican blankets in uninterrupted silence. Real life with a baby is a bit messier. For my 15-minute savasana, I stretched out on my bed because Eira didn’t have the patience tonight for me to unfurl my mat or neatly align my props. I landed down on a pillow that cradled my head and managed to slide another one under my knees as Eira wriggled around on my chest. I set an eye pillow over my face to block out the light, but it kept slipping off as Eira shifted positions. I felt as though I were pretending to relax. Should I buy myself more yoga blankets? Or learn to sew sandbags? What would we eat for dinner tonight? Were we doing restorative yoga yet?
After about 14 minutes of struggle, we both landed in a comfortable spot, and Eira began to fall asleep. Then, my timer went off, and Eira wailed to make sure I had heard it.
October 1st, 2020
Today’s savasana was pure bliss compared to yesterday. Eira again didn’t give me a chance to roll out my mat, but I must say, I felt adequately supported in bed. We both found an easeful position, and Eira quickly fell asleep. But before I could make it past 10 minutes, Daniel walked inside the house with Blue, who promptly jumped on the bed.
“HI, CUTIES!” Daniel exclaimed and asked me what I wanted to do with the leftovers from dinner. I wondered if I would reach enlightenment if I made it through 15 minutes of an uninterrupted restorative shape.
October 2nd, 2020
We were assigned to practice restorative child’s pose and legs up the wall tonight. Miraculously, I managed to sneak away from the commotion of my tiny family while Daniel cooked dinner. After completing 3 minutes of child’s pose, I began an elaborate setup for the second shape: a bolster under my low back, a strap around my thighs, a blanket under my back and over my belly, and an eye pillow covering my face. Not long after I had laced myself into my inversion, I heard paw prints in the living room. I tried to block Blue out as she snuck over to sniff my hands. But when she began licking my forehead, I could no longer ignore her and sadly had to end the shape. There’s always tomorrow for mastering stillness.
October 3rd, 2020
Tonight, we were assigned 3 minutes per side of supported spinal twist and 10 minutes of reclined bound angle. Snowpea wasn’t a fan of the first shape, especially when I turned away from her. I made a mental note to move her blanket next time so that my face is always in view for her. Reclined bound angle was much better for us because I could set her onto my chest. She did, however, get a little fussy, so I had to interrupt the pose to move her into standing and sitting positions before she finally settled back down. She seized this opportunity to latch on to eat. Am I still doing restorative yoga if I’m also breastfeeding? I’m not sure, but in any case, we were comfortable. Instead of 10 minutes in this shape, we were happily there for nearly 30.
October 4th, 2020
We completed our training today, so there was no assignment, but I decided to continue with my daily practice of restorative yoga. Snowpea and I opted for savasana in bed again – this is becoming a new favorite. She latched on right away, and we lay there blissfully without a timer for as long as she was content. Our practice may be nothing like the traditional image of restorative yoga, but we are okay with that. Maybe you could call this “glorified napping” or “glorified breastfeeding” in our case, but that’s alright because I do believe the effect is more important than the appearance of a pose.
Whatever we’re practicing, we are both benefiting from it. It’s so rare that I make the time to do nothing but be with my baby sans phone, books, computer, or circling thoughts. With Eira cooing, squawking, and squealing on my chest in a pitch that changes every day, these moments are simply too precious to mindlessly miss. And so, if I’ve learned anything from my restorative yoga training, it’s as a new parent, anytime I make an intention to be present, I’m doing something right.