Restorative yoga, restorative ...religion?


These are the four conditions to meet during a restorative practice, says Judith Hanson Lasater. I wanted to write out why I love the restorative practice so much. And I realized, there is one word missing, that I feel during the practice, to fully melt - SAFE. It's important I feel safe, sometimes safer when in anonymity, to fully relax and melt away.

I've always loved the feeling of dark and enclosed spaces, they bring me back to the womb (as if I remember that experience!) and the sensation of complete and total enclosure, safety, and comfort. During my religious pilgrimage in India last year, the temples were those safe havens, bringing me back to so many facets of comfort.

Our first tour took us through the chota char dham yatra (loosely: little 4 gates pilgrimage) and our first temple site was Kedarnath mandir (Hindu temple named after town and a King named Kedar). Kedarnath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and believed to be the most important temple of the chota char dham. The entire commute to Kedarnath, which included a bus ride through the Himalayas and a helicopter ride, was intense, gripping, and at times plain ridiculous.

[From my travel journal]: Dressed warmly, took 645am helicopter to Kedarnath Mandir. Met priests as removed shoes, took photo w/my priest. Went into double hall for darshan. Nandi at front, Nandi in inner hall, Shiv Lingam in deep inner hall. People crowded around Lingam of triangle shape w/large silver chandelier w/jingles hanging, also mutki in middle which poured water onto Lingam. Thread, flowers, rice, kunku, bowed to Lingam. And priest bowed my head down and had me repeat after him 10 lines from slokha. Ladkhi Bani! Surrounded by Himalayas, and one side w/snow capped peaks. Priest also wrapped prayer cloth on my head.

Travel Journal 10/8/14 - includes Mom's writing of the Great Death Conquering slokha - Prayer for Lord Shiva

The inner chamber where the Shiva Lingam rested, was windowless, small, and featured a square stone platform. People were kneeling around all sides of the platform, rubbing ghee on the Lingam, praying in soft mutters, reciting after priests who were monitoring all who entered.  The entire temple was built up around this Lingam and has been subject to ten centuries of floods and severe winter storms.

The story for this particular Lingam I know as two versions: The Pandavas beat the Kauravas at Kurukshetra (Mahabharata epic) and later came to ask Lord Shiva for absolution from the sin of killing their relatives. The Lord did not wish to grant absolution and instead hid from the Pandav brothers in the form of a bull. The brothers noticed Lord Shiva stood out from the rest of the bulls and either

1. herded the whole group through an incredibly giant Bhim's legs or

2. Bhim hit Lord Shiva with a mace 

this caused Lord Shiva to burrow his head into the ground to try to dig an escape. It is said the Shiva Lingam within Kedarnath mandir looks like the back of a bull, with three nubby points. Do I believe that? I think so from what I witnessed even though the inner mandir was incredibly dark and hazy from incense. The front of the Lord Shiva bull, the face separated from the body and flew north. It is the Lingam at Doleshwor Mahadeva Temple, Nepal. There are two other locations that house the rest of Lord Shiva in this manifestation.

While praying in the Temple, I immediately felt a sense of awe, of being smaller than the sum of all the moments happening around me, and while kneeling with my parents, rid of sight, a silent hum of activity electrifying the air, I felt safe and at home.  I may not have that exact experience daily, I can invoke parts of it during my restorative yoga practice. The cocoon of support and comfort built up around me during a restorative pose invokes familiar feelings of intense connection to Self and  physical and spiritual surroundings. It's a practice I feel strongly connected to, as with other yogic practices, and continue to enjoy exploring through my asana practice and writing.