Teaching Restorative Yoga: An Interview With the Program Directors
by Lily Gretz
Shelbi Miles (E-RYT 500, LMT, C-IAYT, YACEP) is an advanced yoga teacher and licenced massage therapist who focuses in craniosacral therapy and visceral manipulation. She now channels these skills into co-directing the Restorative Yoga program, helping others reach a place of peace and balance.
Jacci Gruninger (C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP) came to yoga about 25 years ago and has allowed her practice to grow with her since then. She has used yoga teaching as a way to help others find serenity in many different ways. Her journey now points her in the direction of therapeutic yoga, where she helps bring serenity to peoples’ lives as co-director of the Restorative Yoga program.
What are the rewards of teaching restorative yoga?
For me (Shelbi) the reward is in giving students an opportunity to slow down and look deeper. As a teacher, I get to see students open their eyes from the inside and replenish themselves through practice. I watch the blissfulness and physical melting the students experience over time. It might take a while for them to surrender to stillness, but watching their transformation is very fulfilling.
I (Jacci) love seeing how restorative yoga changes people’s stories. Many people find an openness and a way of decreasing pain that they have not experienced in a long time. It’s not about what i did; it’s my ability to share in those experiences that is rewarding. It’s the reason why many teachers in general keep teaching. Sharing something you love so much and watching others grow in it is an incredible feeling.
How does exploring restorative techniques allow one to deepen their yoga skills?
There’s really so much we can learn from restorative practice. It gives us space and time to listen to our inner wisdoms and promotes a better sense of how the breath, mudra, etc. can affect our energies. Although we tend to rush through life, the time spent in stillness is an invitation to nurture ourselves and notice sensation and emotion. Restorative yoga also trains us to help the mind be quiet. The body is very passive when in restorative poses, but quieting the mind is a challenge which guides us to deeper practice.
How is teaching restorative yoga different from teaching other styles of yoga?
Restorative yoga is obviously much slower than other styles. It is also much quieter, which can be a challenging transition for teachers who are used to a faster-paced class. In restorative practice, it is important to be comfortable with silence so that your students can have space to surrender. The teacher holds silence for long periods of time, typically only speaking during poses. Because of this, teachers need to understand the energies of their students’ bodies. When you hold space for the stillness, you can witness to your students dropping in. It’s quite magical.
This program touches on the scientific aspects of restorative yoga. How does science relate to this style of practice?
There have been studies done for decades about how relaxation and meditation can have amazing emotional and spiritual benefits. In Pranakriya yoga, the benefits of relaxation manifest when we work to strengthen our bodies’ containers and allow ourselves to sit with sensation. Really, science is proving much of what yoga has known and taught for many centuries.
Who is a good fit for this program?
Anyone who wants to delve a little deeper into the meditative aspect of yoga is a good fit. Those who enjoy teaching gentle or therapeutic yoga would benefit from it the most. Restorative yoga can be very helpful for those dealing with chronic issues. I (Shelbi) think everyone would benefit from this program, but only if it lights you up. We all need more rest and need to learn how to slow down. As teachers, we should be continual learners, and this program can help broaden one’s knowledge.