I’ve tried Yoga several times. I like it well enough. But I prefer Pilates. While a lot of the movements and poses are the same, Pilates is all about building a strong core, at the same time as it builds your flexibility, strength and endurance. It also puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing and improving coordination, balance and posture.
The aim of Yoga, on the other hand, is to unite the mind, the body and the spirit. It helps you become more aware. It helps you find personal harmony. It helps you relax. All the while, making you more fit and energetic.
Probably the most significant difference between the two, is that Pilates incorporates both mat work and the use of special Pilates machines. As opposed to Yoga, where your body’s own weight is used for resistance; and a lot of focus is devoted to the ‘flow’, from one pose into another.
There’s no right answer. They are both wonderful. And beneficial. It’s a matter of personal preference. And there are an awful lot of people who are devoted to both.
What I absolutely love, is Restorative Yoga. The classes I’ve attended last for three hours, and you hold each pose for anywhere from ten to twenty minutes, depending on the pose. Don’t panic. Yes, you can do it. First of all, you’re on the floor, never standing. Plus the poses are very different from those done in traditional Yoga; and you have props to help you ‘surrender’ to them. Blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets, the wall. And to help you get the most out of some of the poses, the instructors also use some thai massage.
You are in a state of deep, deep relaxation. There is no movement. Once you’re in the pose, it’s completely effortless. Nothing for you to do. Even your brain becomes silent. At which point, all of your attention is focussed on your breath.
With Restorative Yoga, you’re essentially stretching. Opening the body, so that all the stress can escape. Allowing your body to renew and heal. It triggers the Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is responsible for balancing the body and bringing its response system back into equilibrium. It helps lower your heart rate and your blood pressure; and it helps to stimulate your immune system. It also keeps the endocrine system operating healthily.
So there’s no question that Restorative Yoga has real health benefits.
This practice is done with the lights dimmed and the only sound you hear, at least in the classes I attend, is the occasional instruction from the teacher, when we’re changing poses; and, from time to time, a selection of chanting music, playing very, very softly in the background. Because you are so still, so relaxed, your body temperature can drop. So you’re often covered with a blanket. And we put eye pillows on which, obviously, keep our eyes closed, so we can relax even further.
It is heavenly!! Trust me, you don’t want it to end. Ever.
My studio offers these classes every four or five weeks. And usually, they’re scheduled from 3:00 – 6:00 pm on Sundays. Could not be more perfect. It’s a wonderful way to end the weekend and get yourself physically, mentally and spiritually ready for the week ahead. And I love the late afternoon start. Because trust me, you don’t want to do anything when you’re done.
Not that you’re tired. Restorative Yoga isn’t tiring. You are just as mellow as mellow can be. When you’re finally ready to get up, and no one rushes you, your body feels weightless. You feel nothing. No joints or muscles or bones. Nothing hurts. Nothing is stiff. Nothing is sore. Nothing is tight. Your mind is free. Totally open. Unencumbered. Whatever baggage came into the room with you, has miraculously disappeared. You don’t even remember what it was.
You feel joyful. Soulful. Free. Calm. Peaceful. Replete. Complete. Content. Connected to your soul. Satisfied. Full. Blissed out. Grateful. And, yet, exhilarated. I mean it. I’m not exaggerating.
I float out of there. Waft my way home. Where I do nothing but revel in the feeling. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to read. I don’t want to watch TV or listen to music. I don’t want anything to break the mood. I find I’m not very hungry, either. I just want soothing things, like tea and soup. So that’s what I do. Enjoy the solitude and the gift that I’ve given myself. Because it is a gift.
Would I indulge everyday, if I could? Oh yeah, baby!!!! Oh yeah.