Have you been feeling lethargic, uninspired, or unable to get out of bed in the morning? You probably need to rest.
Resting isn’t something we discuss often in our hyper competitive society, but it’s an essential practice for optimal health and wellbeing.
Think of your energy levels like a cup. All the things we do throughout the day and week either fill or empty the cup. A good night’s sleep may fill the cup while a hectic work at week empties it.
Sometimes, we get really busy and empty the cup substantially more than we fill it. This could result in becoming sick, developing a stress headache, or just feeling extremely tired. When our cup empties really low, it takes a little extra effort to fill it back up again. We may need more than a good night’s sleep or a day watching movies to feel refreshed.
Fully resting at the deepest levels requires quieting the mind. The mind’s endless chatter is a significant source of leaking energy. Have you ever noticed the more the mind races, the more tired you feel? Mental energy consumes physical energy, so learning how to quiet the mind is essential.
Rest is anything that results in a shift from doing and thinking to feeling and being.
Here are a few ways to rest.
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1. Restorative yoga
Restorative yoga is a practice that relies heavily on blocks and bolsters. It doesn’t increase flexibility like yin yoga, in which the prime purpose is to spend long periods of time in stretches targeting connective tissue.
Some people may find restorative yoga boring, and if that’s the case, then try yin. Yin is slow and can be a nice source of relaxation, but it’s not a total let go because there’s still some effort involved. In restorative yoga, the surrender is complete.
You may find the practice boring at first, wonder what the point is because you don’t seem to be doing anything. But that’s the point: you’re not doing anything. I know, it’s hard to comprehend.
After a certain point during the practice, the mind quiets and the body releases in an incredibly profound way. I’ve cried in restorative yoga — the total let-go is a wonderful way to restore our energetic cup.
Restorative classes are wonderful, but try a few poses at home if you can’t make it to one.
An easy at-home pose is viparita karani, legs up the wall pose.
Come into this pose by cuddling up next to the wall, with your bum touching it. Those with tight hamstrings may want to put bolster or a blanket under their lower back to decrease the intensity of the stretch. Hang out here for five or 10 minutes. You may also want to widen the legs into a straddle and enjoy a stretch in the inner thighs.
Another restorative pose is reclined butterfly, supta baddha konasana. For this one, lie on the back and bring the soles of the feet to touch in front of you, knees bent to create a diamond shape. If you have two blocks or a couple thin blankets or pillows, insert them in between the knee and the floor to soften the pose and allow for complete release. Stay for five minutes or longer.
2. Yoga nidra
Yoga nidra means yogi sleep, and is an incredibly powerful practice. The first time I tried it, I was skeptical it would work on me because my mind tends to hold on very tightly to things. It’s difficult for me to relax. But the practice includes a sort of guided meditation that brings you deeply into your body.
The experience is different each time. Sometimes you hear every word that’s spoken while enjoying a deep relaxation. Other times, you sink just a level of consciousness above sleeping, still awake but not fully aware. You’ll exit the practice feeling completely renewed. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Again, making it to a class is preferable, but YouTube offers a few great yoga nidra practices.
3. Body work
Nothing says relaxation like a massage. Treat yourself and book a massage at your local day spa or massage facility, allowing a trained masseuse to work out all the kinks in your muscles. If you can fit in time in a steam room, hot tub, or sauna, all the better.
4. Spend time in nature
A lot of times when we get really busy, we completely disconnect from the natural rhythms of life. We almost need to cut ourselves off from our bodies to push them to such exhaustion, and spending time in nature helps us reconnect.
Head out to your local park or backyard, sitting in a chair or lounging on a blanket or towel, and soak up the sun, listen to the birds singing and the leaves whistling in the wind. Leave your book inside, instead letting the mind quietly rest on the waves of wind swirling through the air.
If it’s winter time, consider opening up the curtains, turning off all electronics and lights, and just lay on the couch, listening to the quiet sounds of nature.
Making time for rest
Optimally, each day should include things that both spend and refill our energetic cups. That’s not always the reality though. With so many demands, finding time to rest is often difficult.
If you find yourself burned out at after running 90 miles an hour for too long, it may take several days of resting, just laying around, reading, practicing restorative yoga and taking it easy before you feel ready to go back into the world. Take as long as you have, as long as you need.
You are not lazy or weak for needing to rest. You are human. It’s just that the rest of us have been pushing for far too long. So put aside your to-do list, hire a sitter if you need to, and take rest.
What are your favorite ways to rest? How do you find the time? Share your tips in the comments below.