*** Guest Contributor ~ Tristiane Masterson-Miller ***

While working and going to college full time in the late 1970s, I started an intermittent yoga practice. I loved my class! Sometimes I even fell asleep which is simply a sign of deep relaxation and peace. I was in a constant state of agitation and stress going to college and working full-time, riding public transportation to and from my cruddy 4th floor walk up apartment, and figuring how to live my life. Over the years, I have kept up my yoga practice because it soothes my soul. Yoga perfectly complements my healthy vegan lifestyle and my ever-always growing sense of compassion toward other living beings.

Yoga is essentially a practice of moving into specific body postures and breathe control. Meditation may be included or not; yoga can be considered a physical exercise or a spiritual practice depending on what each individual brings – and the teacher offers – to their practice. Classically, the goal of yoga is to integrate mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of oneness with the universe. See … in perfect sync with ethical vegan values of compassion and non-violence!

Yoga is thought to have begun in India during the 5th century BC but only became really known in the west during the late 19th and early 20th century.  Today there are numerous kinds and types of yoga; anyone can find a yoga practice to suit their specific personal needs and preferences. Look online for videos, see what your local Rec Center has to offer, or go to the library and borrow DVD before you invest a lot of money in classes that may not suit you. The important thing is to explore and see what works for you!

For most mornings of my adult life, I have practiced the classic sun salutation series of stretches. I practice for anywhere for 5 – 15 minutes depending on the day. During this time I allow myself to become centered. To think about how I intend to be during the day. I think about nothing at all. I feel peaceful, calm, warm, and connected. Classes and videos supplement my morning routine.

In my educational video session #9 about Stress, I talk about how yoga can help reduce depression and anxiety. Yoga can be considered as a complementary therapy, or an alternative method, in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Further well conducted research is necessary, yet many people report excellent emotional health results practicing yoga.  Yoga, practiced in a more integrated form, i.e., with an ethical & spiritual component, may provide additional benefits over yoga practiced purely as an exercise regimen.  Yoga, coupled with a healthy vegan diet is a winning combination for a healthier happier life! Why not give it a try?

My current class is called Restorative Yoga. I love it; it helps calm my busy brain. As a certified “Type A” personality, to have a designated time to truly, deeply relax, in a variety of poses, is balm to my body and soul. Recently, I asked my teacher, Tristiane to tell me more about it.

Tristiane, how did you learn about restorative yoga (RS) and what prompted you to want teach it? Is there a story behind all this?

I actually took my first restorative class because a teacher whose Vinyasa style class I liked was teaching it, and that was the only time I could convince a friend to come check her out. I cannot tell a lie, I hated it! I couldn’t stay still, couldn’t relax and just wanted to move around. It took a few months for me to realize that the style was exactly what I needed to calm my busy mind. Now, it’s my favorite practice and my cat’s favorite too; when the restorative props come out he knows it’s cuddle time….we often have a hard time finishing practice and have to take  a little nap. Awh … and here you are with your handsome cat!

How is RS different from other types of yoga?

People new to RS are often surprised by the slower pace of the classes, typically we only practice 5-8 postures in an hour length class. It can be a big adjustment for those of us used to more fitness oriented yoga but I would encourage people to give it a try. All yoga postures were originally developed to promote good health in the body so the mind could be free to meditate, so in this way restorative yoga is very much like any other type of yoga.  The longer holds in the postures allow the body to relax and release tension, prompting the mind to do the same.

Tristiane, I know I loved RS from day one. Who is a good candidate for RS?

I would say anyone can benefit from RS! If you can never let go and are a total Type A personality it is a great way to make relaxation a part of your routine.  It is also a wonderful tool for athletes and those with very active lifestyles. RS complements more traditional training by getting deeper into the muscles than regular stretching allows. Restorative yoga is also perfect for ageing bodies, helping to relieve chronic tensions, and release muscles that may have been abused for years creating a constant state of discomfort. RS can be a tool for trauma recovery as well, in yoga we believe that the things we experience emotionally and physically are held on to in the body. The deep muscle and fascia release provided by RS can allow traumatic events and emotions to be accessed and released in a safe way.

What’s your fave thing about a RS practice? I mean, why RS?

My fave thing about RS is how chill I feel when I finish practicing…I am a constant worrier and suffer from anxiety and restorative yoga gives me a safe space to get out of my head. The great thing about restorative yoga is that can be many things to many people, it’s equally beneficial for those looking for a meditative practice and those who need a deep stretch.

Where can people learn more?

The Yoga Journal  has a good selection of poses and explanations people may want to check out. The book Relax and Renew by Judith Hanson Lasater is the definitive work on RS.Give RS a try, it may be exactly what you are looking for!