I'm wrapping up a week of teaching a Restorative Yoga Training and have been deeply immersed in the work of rest and relaxation. It may seem funny to use the word "work" to describe relaxation but what I am referring to is the work that it takes to get to a place where we can truly allow ourselves the time and space to relax. It actually takes working on our minds to figure out that it's OK to stop doing and thinking and being busy. Have you ever felt guilty for relaxing? I have.
And I don't just mean relaxing in the sense of hanging out with friends or watching TV (although I love both of those activities and do them often!). What I mean by this type of relaxation is the the kind that involves slowing down & deeply resting. Taking oneself out of the world for a period of time. Disconnecting from everyone and everything and experiencing one's self in a state of BEING.
I admit that I am not perfect at making the time for this. Even after teaching and leading restorative yoga workshops, trainings and classes for 18 years I forget how important this practice is for my personal wellbeing. This is where the inner balancing happens as well as healing and deep connection with my true self. I realized this week that I often trick myself into thinking that my quiet morning contemplation and meditation while drinking my water and coffee in bed and petting Charmaine (my one-eyed cat that has a particular affinity for early morning affection) is enough. It has it's benefits but it's not the same.
I have spent this week with a a group of 8 individuals and a room full of bolsters, blankets, sandbags, eye pillows and essential oils. I have shown them how to set the body up in perfect alignment to facilitate deep rest and relaxation and every time I demonstrated a pose I found myself not wanting to come out of it. This lets me know that I am craving this and haven't given it to myself in far too long.
Resting is a type of self-care that is essential and yet we struggle to carve out the time for it. It is different than meditation or sleeping. It is a deliberate practice that allows your body to access what is called your parasympathetic nervous system which governs repair, healing, balancing and if I'm being REALLY honest (why not?) - your ability to connect with the Universe.
So MY inner work is to ask myself "Why am I not important enough to take care of myself on this deeper level?" "What do I need to do to set myself up in such a way that this will happen?" And then to just begin. Not to dwell on what I haven't been doing. Not to beat myself up. Not to focus on what hasn't been happening.
I'm a busy, productive, engaged, reliable woman that has no problem filling every waking hour. There's always something I can be doing. Can you relate? I know you can. I talk to my friends, clients and students every day. My job is to find out what's getting in the way of any of us giving ourselves PERMISSION to do less. Or even nothing.
Would you be interested in some ways you can practice slowing down and relaxing now?
1. Schedule it on your calendar. Don't rely on just spontaneously making it happen! Put 10, 15 or 20 (ideal) minutes a day on your calendar and start with lying down on the floor with your legs up the wall. This is a restorative yoga pose that can work wonders! Having your legs up alleviates the work of your heart to pump blood and slows your heart rate down which shifts your nervous system.
2. Make it a mission to extend your mealtimes to 20 minutes and practice intentional, pleasurable eating. Dinner is the easier meal to do this with - try it with breakfast and lunch! These are the meals we tend to eat "on the go" and while multitasking. Sit and eat peacefully without distraction, chewing slowly, appreciating the flavor and enjoying the fact that you are nourishing your body with love.
3. Do a smelling meditation! Diffuse some essential oils, close your eyes and breathe in and out while focusing on the scent. This is one of my favorites because not only does it slow you down and relax you but it also can change your MOOD! (if you want me to help you get started with essential oils let me know!)
I encourage you to begin TODAY. There’s no reason to say “Oh I’ll start Monday” or “I’ll do it as soon as I have time”.
The time is NOW.