1/11/14

on taking time to rest.

{image from weheartit}
in a recent conversation with my husband, who will occasionally take a yoga class with me, the topic of savasana came up. he mentioned that he loved taking the time to rest in savasana at the end of a practice, and some teachers were awesome because they gave you five minutes to relax down and you could really let go, but sometimes the relaxation at the end of the practice was just too short. it really got me thinking... since becoming a teacher, giving students a long enough savasana is something i've struggled with - there are so many amazing, beneficial poses that i could put into a practice, and i want the people who practice with me to get the most benefit out of their hour on their mats. often by the time i get them relaxing into savasana, i have to acknowledge to myself that we've got only enough time for a minute or two to relax, or we risk going over the time allotted for our practice. for myself as the "teacher" of the class, a minute or two usually seems like more than enough time - after all, i'm sitting there at the top of the room, or i'm walking around pressing on people's shoulders, watching the clock while all the other yogis sink comfortably into their mats, and counting seconds makes two minutes seem like plenty of time to lie quietly doing nothing.

so when my husband said to me that he most enjoyed a good five-minute savasana, i tried to take my teacher hat off and just see corpse pose from a practitioner's perspective. after all of the activity of class, it takes some time to get comfortable and sink down into your mat. it takes time to turn off your brain and just let yourself settle into the stillness of savasana. and then usually once you're no longer paying attention to it, your brain will sneakily start up again, and if you get the chance, you'll become aware of the thoughts that have crept into your mind to dance once again, and you'll gently release them and encourage that monkey mind to rest along with the rest of your body. a lot is happening during the rest time at the end of a practice, even though for me as a teacher i often forget what's going on in the minds and bodies of the other yogis when they seem to just be resting peacefully (and potentially, from my perspective, getting bored) on their mats. when we cut our savasanas short, we are cutting short the development of the skill of turning off our puppy mind when there's nothing else to focus on (no physical asana to bring the awareness to - there is just stillness). this skill of slowing the mind and taking time to rest is so important, and it's something i'll have to work on not depriving my students of for the sake of one final twist or shoulderstand.

this skill of turning off the endlessly running wheels of the mind is one that needs to be cultivated in our everyday lives as well... our culture is one that so highly praises busy-ness (professionals build their lives around their "business") that we might look down upon actions that are counter to this lifestyle. we practice power yoga, moving quickly through postures rather than holding and breathing into them, we schedule and overschedule every minute of our workdays (and often, our whole days, and weekends too), and when we do find moments to be still, well i don't know about you but i find myself checking social media a lot more during these times - scrolling through twitter or pinterest to keep my mind occupied.

why do we do this? i think there are two reasons:

1) being busy makes us feel important. there is no greater feeling than when i'm going through a period where i'm busier at work - i take some time to organize all my tasks, i start to plow through them, and i feel like i'm on top of this mountain of things to do. i am conquering my responsibilities! i am succeeding! things are happening, because of me!

2) we are scared of being bored. bored is not the same as still. feeling bored is stressful - it means you are at a loss with what to do with these precious moments that are passing you by. moments you're not going to get back. how could you possibly waste them with inaction? with nothingness? and so we fill our downtime with hobbies, activities, extra training, social media, to "keep on top of things" so we're better prepared, or better balanced, for when we get back to the busy-ness of our professional selves.

sadly, without exception when i get busy in life, or in work, although i may start out feeling accomplished, important, successful, i will inevitably fall into feeling stressed and burnt-out before long. no matter how many things i am doing right when i'm busy, there will be one thing i'll do wrong, or i'll forget about, and then everything comes crashing down - my self-worth along with it (because it was attached to successfully managing the busy in this situation in the first place). when i invest in excelling at "busy" i get addicted to it and i lose the value i've placed in other areas of my life. i crave that high of succeeding at "busy" and i look for it in other places - at home, in my leisure time, with friends. and then it becomes overwhelming. everything inevitably falls apart. maybe there is something wrong with this approach...

the truth is, we need time to rest. we need that savasana in between our active practice and the rest of our lives. we need to take the time to reset, to be still, to let our minds relax and release, in order to be successful in the busier times. in yoga, five minutes is a good amount of time. in your day, maybe twenty or thirty minutes is necessary. maybe one afternoon a week, or one full day per month. to let go. to be still. to release the mind from the windmills of activity that plague it.

try giving yourself time to really relax, on a regular basis. take a bubble bath (and don't bring a magazine with you) - close your eyes and just focus on your breath and how the warm water feels against your skin. light some candles in your living room, put on music with no lyrics, and really pay attention to it. read a good book (not a self-help book - do not take notes!) that is neither trashy nor overly scholarly, and let yourself get completely immersed in the characters and the dialogue. go for a walk, by yourself, without music, and observe the world around you. take a weekend away, and leave your phone (and any other internet-supported devices) at home.

take some time every day, every week, every month, to just turn off, to really rest. see how it affects the other areas of your life. see how it affects your perspective. see how it affects your busy-ness. and if part of this time for you is relaxing into savasana in your yoga practice, then stay there until you're ready to wake your mind and your body up again. i won't be offended if you stay there longer than i prompt you to :)


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