It was a family tradition with us that each Sunday Mum would cook up some poor beast and we would sit and eat a huge midday meal. After that everyone ‘threw themselves down’ which was our talk for a nap. This routine seemed to tick off the ‘hierarchy of needs’ boxes nicely and everyone was fresh and ready to go again later that night with the remains of the roast.
When I teach yoga and it is time for the rest or savasana I notice that some students can’t seem to turn off. They twitch, keep their eyes open, some don’t even stay for it. One student commented that it makes her agitated. However you are only agitated in rest pose if you are agitated already. This state of agitation is common in a lot of people who can’t switch off, feel they have too much to do and their brains are constantly giving them feedback noises all day long. Put a group of fully functioning adults in a room and ask them to lie down and rest for ten minutes and see what happens. They can’t.
Resting has wonderful effects on our nervous system. It encourages the parasympathetic system to be activated creating an overall calming effect on the body and mind. Keeping your body charged all day without rest is detrimental to your health. It stimulates the sympathetic system releasing cortisol into the blood and readying us for a punch up with someone, maybe ourselves.
Yoga gives us at least three ways to rest if we want an alternative to the Sunday nap.
Savasana: This is complete relaxation after some yoga poses. You could do a couple of stretches and then lay down on the floor. Put an eyebag over your eyes if possible and a blanket over your torso. Here are the benefits from yoga journal site.
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Relaxes the body
- Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
- Helps to lower blood pressure
Yoga Nidra: This is basically a yogic sleep. The student lies down in a comfortable rest position and is taken through a series of centering, breathing, guided relaxation and visualisation exercises. It is said that 20 minutes of this is worth an hour’s sleep. Richard Miller developed a programme for returning Vets to calm them and help them cope with the after effects of war. There are many yoga nidra recordings around you can download. Here is one from my yoga online. http://www.myyogaonline.com/videos/meditation/yoga-nidra—audio-practice
Restorative yoga: This was developed by Iyengar in Pune, India. He explored ways of helping people heal by placing them on props in positions to work the spine, or inversions with the head lower than the heart. The student was left there anywhere from five-twenty minutes. These poses are wonderful to do if you are recovering, lacking sleep or feel slightly undone. Judith Hanson Lasater wrote a book on them called ‘ Rest and Renew.’
Practice for today: Are you really that busy that you can’t take time out to put something back into your energy bank? Spend at least five minutes resting today, it’s Sunday the universe is going to be ok with that.