Lying on my mat, I have pillows under my knees and another, smaller pillow under my back. A bag of lavender encircles my neck. Breathing in and out, I pay attention as minutes pass. I feel my back starting to sink into the floor, then my arms, then my legs. Fifteen minutes or so in (I have set a timer for 25), I feel my being start to shift and let go. I have moved from relaxation into something deeper, the mystery of savasana, or “corpse pose.” I stay there until the timer dings, then slowly move back into my day with a calmer, quieter mind.
Modern lives are filled with tension. Some of it is obvious: the demands of work and home, lack of adequate sleep, and a 24/7 news cycle reminding us that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket. Perhaps there are health issues, financial problems, marital difficulties, challenges with elderly parents or struggling children. No wonder we women have a tough time just hanging out and resting. Something always needs to be done!
This past week I listened to Shiva Rea talk about Yoga Energy Activism, and she crystallized many of my own thoughts about the need to relax and recharge our batteries. She suggests that we conserve energy of all kinds, from unplugging unused appliances to taking time to rest our bodies. As I listened to her ideas, letting her thoughts swirl and blend with mine, I made some commitments to myself. Specifically, I decided to make time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis for what I call active rest.
On Saturday I took a morning sabbath and spent it in various relaxation practices, including yoga nidra and restorative yoga, both practices designed to take the body to deep levels of nourishing rest. When I had finished my practices, I picked up a pleasurable book that has sat in a stack for too long. The computer stayed off for the entire morning!
For the rest of the week, I plan to take time in restorative poses for about a half hour in the late afternoon. I also plan to build some sort of resting ritual around the new moon, though I haven’t quite worked out those details just yet.
We may feel as though we can’t afford to take the time, but can we afford not to? The cost of stress on our health is enormous, making us look and feel older than we are. Taking even a few quiet minutes per day can add years to our lives and greater pleasure to those years.
I also know that when I take the time I need, I get more done with less effort. So, if you’re into productivity, efficiency, and accomplishment, you’ll see the benefits of taking time to rest.
This week we’ll delve further into the concepts of “active rest.” We’ll discuss ways we can not just slow down, but put the brakes on so we can refresh ourselves. On Tuesday I’ll recommend a CD series that I find helpful, and on Wednesday I’ll write more about “il dolce far niente” – an Italian phrase meaning “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Sound radical? Trust me. If you’re a busy woman, you’ll love this — and don’t worry, you’ll still get it all done! Or, if you don’t, you won’t worry so much!
I hope you’ll come back and visit tomorrow! May you have a restful day!