What is something we vitally need but often don’t get? What is basic and elusive? What is something that is vital to both mental and physical health, but we often spend the least amount of time in practice or support of it?
Rest. We require rest to be our best selves. Simply put REST = QUALITY OF LIFE
The rest I am speaking of is a practice far beyond flopping in front of the screen at the end of the day. This rest is a concentrated deep and healing rest. I am referring to sleep, the supportive practice of focused relaxation, and yoga nidra.
Many of us are moving through our day with mental fog and physical fatigue. We rush, we worry. We concern ourselves with the past and the future. Everything must be moving, or something feels amiss. Have you ever heard “I will rest when I am dead”, or “things should calm down soon, and then I can rest?” One will certainly rest when they are dead but if the life was spent with a foggy tired mind, frazzle emotions, and sluggish body, how can we interpret this as a fully joyful and meaningful life? Of course, sometimes life is busy. We have loved ones that need help, or a deadline which is internally or externally imposed. We can push yourselves for a time, but months and years of a lack of balanced rest, we will suffer, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
What does this amazing and vital rest look like? Constructive rest must be a regular endeavor, in a place that allows you to feel as safe and supported as possible, and for an amount of time required in the moment and overtime. The body should be comfortable and at ease. This could mean that you have extra blankets and pillows to support the legs, arms, shoulders, and head. Consider when, and where you can rest to bring about balance and vitality? How can this practice fit into your day?
Ultimately, the gem of this practice ultimately leads to the absence of movement and patterns in the body, mind, and emotions. The changes can be profound when you rest in savasana or yoga nidra. Physically, studies using a PET scanner have shown a significant dopamine increase. Other physical benefits of relaxation are that blood pressure decreases, blood sugar is regulated, the immune system strengthens, heart rate regulates. Rest and the awareness that arises can also increase proprioception and interception. In other words, we can become more embodied. We become more patient and kinder towards ourselves and others. Muscle holding patterns change in the body, and there is an increased understanding of sensations and emotions of the present lived experience and beyond. We understand more.
Why is relaxation and nidra different than laying in front of the TV and relaxing? The aim is to remove external information and stimulation. In relaxation, one is absorbed and focused beyond the senses. You are interacting with yourself, and you are learning. As the practice deepens you begin to explore the inner world where you can graciously move beyond your conscious experience. There is no anxiety, fear, and anger at these deeper states. Here, one can rest in the questions of “Who am I”. This is a place of both connectedness and of expansion. It is a place of receptive relaxation. It is a beautiful unravelling from ties that bind us.
“I don’t think I am doing it right” is a question I am asked. If you are practicing with the intent to rest and relax, you cannot do wrong. Being there with intent to soften and turn toward the inner experience is the practice. Practice letting go of the achievement and ego mind and settle into the practice as if you were wandering on a path in nature. Take in the feelings, thoughts, and sights. As you practice, you first notice more and then you may notice less. Each time you practice is unique, and the feelings and sensations are numerous. Take it in and let it go.
You have a right to rest. In fact, it is vital. The time taken to unwind the body and experience the moment is always valuable. Enjoy filling up your cup and nurturing your body, mind, and soul with the magic of rest.