The Restorative Nature of Yoga

a few questions for Phoebe Diftler, our Restorative Yoga Training Instructor

by Tracey Rich

Phoebe and I come from the same part of the country. In fact, we both come from Tennessee. In true vernacular many would say we hail from Tennessee. Imagine two Southern belles from the same neck of the woods being inspired to see the world differently, not simply by standing on their heads.

I began Yoga in 1978 when it was out of trend. History tells us there have been many waves of Yoga moving West, the first beginning two centuries ago, around 1893, but the late seventies were definitely a low tide for Yoga in America. That was irrelevant to me. I was not looking for trends or waves.

The practice of Yoga has always been something deeply internal and personal--something intimate. When I teach, I hope to respect that in each individual and to pass along that reverence. I have witnessed that same respect in Phoebe's teaching.

There is hardly a day when Yoga's benefits are not touted in the news. Today, Yoga is definitely a trend that's creating a wave, but also its merits are finally recognized, researched, and here to stay. What was once weird is now embraced.

With so many types of Yoga being tossed about along with people's bodies, I always feel it important to keep one essential question alive. Why do you practice Yoga? With the intention on a practice that serves you for a lifetime, the answer to that question may deepen or even change over time.

Our Restorative Yoga Training, taught by Phoebe March 2-18, begins soon, so I decided to ask her the essential question. Also, being aware that finally there is a widespread recognition of the deep reservoirs that Restorative Yoga teaches us to tap into, I decided to ask Phoebe a few more questions:

The Big Essential Q: Why do you practice Yoga? In a way, my answer is right in the question you are asking. Yoga brings me to the Essential me. The practice is like coming home on a regular basis. My daily practice runs anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. It has been a way to live in my body with integrity. Also, I have to keep the channel open if I am going to teach and work on others. I want to treat myself with same respect that I want to give to others. I also love to walk and meditate.

When and where did your Yoga practice begin? My practice began in college at the age of 17. I was still living in Tennessee. As someone who studied modern dance since they were 4, the Yoga felt amazing. It felt like coming back home.

How has your practice changed over time? One thing that has changed is the intensity. I still enjoy having a fairly rigorous flow practice a couple of days a week, but I definitely make Restorative a predominant part of my weekly flow. I have also created Restorative Vinyasa Flow that I teach in the trainings we offer at the Center. People are loving it.

What inspired you to teach? I practiced for a couple of decades before I began to teach. People used to say to me: you should teach, you've practiced Yoga for so long. That didn't necessarily make sense to me. My practice was my practice. Truly what shifted is that I decided to change my life and do what I truly loved as my work in the world. That's when I took a year off from being an Art Director and Graphic Designer for the magazine world and moved from Miami to LA to train intensively. Not long after that I discovered White Lotus, where as you know, I have a lot of beautiful history. It is always nourishing for me to be in retreat at White Lotus and it is an honor to teach there. The beauty, the nature, the quiet, the artistry, the food and all the intension that has gone into the Center for so long. Its all a Yoga there--its like coming home. It has been so great to watch it transform over all these years.

Why Restorative? I found it to be so compatible with the Thai work. Sometimes I blend the two within a class. Healing can occur when you are deeply relaxed. I appreciate the way shifts can take place naturally within the Restorative approach.. Healing can occur in many forms of Yoga practice, they just seem more readily available and accessible in this nurturing modality. I was someone with a great deal of flexibility and I found over time I was hurting my joints. I was looking for a way to heal, not just enjoy a practice. Restorative is great for everyone. We all need to relax and restore at a deep level.

Could you give us an insight or a tool to use in our own practice? I have numerous ways of working with props that I love teaching in my classes and trainings. I like making Restorative poses accessible. I love teaching simple techniques that bring support to the parasympathetic nervous system. So essential. Also sharing ways of dropping into a deep state of calm. A tool that can be both a meditation and an actual practice is to think about the whole body as energy. In a supported lying or seated position, Spend time observing your body. Using imagery or sensation, find the places that feel disconnected, stuck, or stagnant. Begin to sense fluid or vibrational movement. Using your breath can be a key element to gain access to this tool. If you stay connected to this process you will truly begin to feel things shift. Much like what can occur within a savasana or yoga nidra . I teach this process as a guided practice in class.

Is there anything else you would like to share in closing? Yes, I would love to share that there is a huge difference between a 1or 2 hour class and in giving yourself a week dedicated to restoring well being. I know not everyone can take that kind of time, but it is the gift that keeps on giving. There is something completely different that takes place within an extended period of focus. True shifts, lasting shifts, occur. Also, if someone is teaching Yoga, it is essential to take this kind of personal and educational time out. Teachers need to restore themselves, and to understand from the inside, not just correct prop and wall work, or the timing of a Restorative class, but the nature of what transpires at this depth. It changes the way they hold and teach all their classes. It's necessary, it's immeasurable.

Thank you, Phoebe. Anyone can see why we love and appreciate you so much and treasure our longstanding relationship.


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