Shot of trainer Gillian smiling at camera while in yoga pose

Gillian McKelvie looks back to the benefits of her restorative practice during a challenging 2020.

Those of you who know me will know that I was pretty unwell at the start of the year, resulting in surgery in March, quickly followed by 8 weeks of Covid-19, further hospital treatment and finally an accident which resulted in a broken vertebrae in my back.

Suffice to say 2020 is a year I won’t forget in a hurry!

As a result of all this, I was not able to practise as normal for quite some time.  Some days I could only manage savasana, or a little pranayama. Some days I could do more. But certainly for 6 – 8 months of this year, I did mainly restorative yoga, and it has transformed my understanding of this type of practise and the physical and mental benefits it can bring.

I have to confess that I thought of restorative yoga as a luxury before, a treat – or even a cheat! But over the course of last year I have come to appreciate it as a tool to help recharge the batteries, take time out and find some peace in what is without a doubt a crazy world right now. I also appreciate now just how much staying in these poses for longer can open up the body, just as much or more than some of the more ‘challenging’ poses.

My restorative practise provided me with a little haven over this difficult year and gave me a bridge back to a more normal practise when my strength improved. Mentally I found it incredibly beneficial too. I felt calm and refreshed after taking some time to do a few poses and savasana. It also really helped with the crushing fatigue that seems to come with Covid-19.

Therefore, when Frances spoke to me about possibly teaching a restorative class, I was excited about taking the poses I have done over the last year and sharing them with some of you.  Having mostly taught athletes before, it will be a completely different style of class for me, and I’m really looking forward to it.

My biggest message in all this would be not to feel guilty about taking the time to do this type of practise.  It’s just as valid as a tough class full of standings or strong back bends. The world is a scary place just now, and I think we are quite justified if we feel anxious or stressed at the moment. We need to look after ourselves more than ever.

My practise before was quite often goal orientated – working on a particular pose I wanted to improve or a stiff part of my body, etc. Now my goal is to use my yoga to support me, mentally and physically.  I still want to be able to do some of the ‘wow poses’ one day, but from now on I will definitely still be making time to fit in some restorative practise.

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