Judith Hanson Lasater explains how restorative yoga, and understanding your own human-ness creates the perfect atmosphere for healing.
When I began my career as a yoga teacher many years ago, most of my classes were on the vigorous side: lots of vinyasa, arm balancing, wheels, and upside down things. Then I began to teach classes at a hospital and I soon realized that just about everything I was used to teaching needed to be modified or eliminated.
Around the time when I was quickly running out of class ideas, I received a beautiful gift from the Universe—an opportunity to study with world-renowned teacher and author Judith Hanson Lasater. Her innovative Relax and Renew Teacher Training changed my perspective as a teacher and as a human being and because of what I learned, I became much better at both.
This year, Judith is one of the keynote speakers at the International Association of Yoga Therapists’ June, 2014, Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR) in Austin, Texas, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to reconnect with the teacher who has so positively influenced me.
One of the first questions I asked Judith related to yoga’s growth within the medical community. “Recognition and acceptance of yoga by medical professionals, and a growing awareness of stress as a major catalyst for disease has made yoga a valuable part of the healing process,” notes Judith. Over the years, Judith has been involved in a number of studies involving restorative yoga. The results have always been overwhelmingly positive: Restorative yoga can help reduce many of the physiological effects of stress, including regulating high blood pressure. Simply put, setting aside small modules of time each day allows the intrinsic wisdom of the body to function naturally.
“It’s physically impossible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. Being able to consciously rest takes the body out of fight-or-flight mode and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system or relaxation response, allowing the body’s natural ability to heal to kick in. When we teach restorative, how many times do people come up to you afterward and say, ‘Thank you so much, you made me feel so good,?’” asked Judith.
“It’s really so rewarding, but we know that all we did was make sure they were comfortable and well-supported, and then we shut up and let them rest! We don’t have any magic pose that addresses specifically what each student needs —we just give them the space to rest so that the body’s healing instincts can take over.”
I wanted to know if there were any particular practices Judith incorporated into her daily life. “You mean besides resting for 20 minutes each day?” she answered. “I realize that everything I say and do—the residue of all my actions—affects the world. Being aware of that helps me to live more authentically. I understand that what I do matters.”
Judith shared one more important daily mantra with me. One that I have begun to use every day since we had our conversation. “When I make mistakes or forget something like a friend’s birthday, instead of berating myself, I stop and say, ‘How human of me that I forgot my friend’s birthday.’ Reminding myself that I am a work-in-progress allows me to let go of those things I can’t do anything about and move on.”
Great advice from a great teacher and human being.
Rita Trieger is the former editor-in-chief of Fit Yoga magazine, and the author of Yoga Heals Your Back (Fairwinds, 2005). She teaches yoga therapy for both cancer and heart patients at Stamford Hospital, in Stamford Connecticut as well as several other studios in the Tri-State area. Ritatude.blogspot.com
Rita Trieger is a yoga therapist working in New York and Connecticut.