Redefining my Relationship with Rest

We live in a culture that glamorizes stress and the state of being busy, and by no means am I an exception to falling victim to this glamorization. I’ve spent years being busy and when others ask how things are going, I can’t remember a time in which, “Busy,” wasn’t my automatic response. This state of busyness and rushed pace of living has become my normal state of being. And while it looks impressive from the outside, I’m always the first to lose, as it requires me to compromise- whether in self-care, relationships, or the energy I’m able to put forth to any one endeavor. 

It wasn’t until I started my career in education- a career that graciously provides built in breaks and vacations as part of the school year calendar- that I really started to analyze my relationship with rest. And when I use the term rest, I don’t mean sleep (you can ask anyone, I’m always up for a late afternoon nap!), I mean the state of just being, a state of stillness, and a state of doing nothing. When school breaks and vacations arrive, rather than embracing the rest they provide with open arms, I view it as an unwelcomed visitor and quickly fill my schedule with more yoga and fitness classes, additional private yoga and personal training sessions, and squeeze in all necessary health and wellness appointments that are impossible to fit in when school is in session. I find that I simply transition from running around in the classroom, to running around in all other aspects of my life. 

Why, as a yoga teacher and wellness advocate, who encourages every other person I have the opportunity to work with to incorporate rest in their lives, does it cause me so much discomfort and unease? 

As I have sat with this question, mulling it over and exploring my experience with it, I’ve come to learn that the truth is rest and the state of just being, outside of the practice of shavasana or meditation, scares me. And even within those practices, I don’t give it the time it deserves. I find a constant state of busyness to be much more comfortable and in all honesty, rest causes a fear so deeply within me, I do everything I can to avoid it. 

Until recently, I’ve viewed rest as stagnation- a state of no progression- or even worse complacency, and have always struggled with my own practice of it, outside of participating in the practice of yoga led by another individual. Instead of continuing to live in this autopilot state of busyness, I’ve chosen to be much more intentional with my practice of rest, learning into it and opening myself up to all that just being has to offer. 

Here are 3 practices of rest and relaxation I’ve been incorporating into each day and week to help me redefine my relationship with it, while removing the fog of busyness:

1. Practice shavasana daily

Although I love a good shavasana following a class I’ve taken at a studio, I’ve never provided the adequate amount of time for it within my home-practice. For the most part, I would prioritize the more active poses of my asana practice and when it came time to settle in shavasana, I would often lie still for a few minutes only to find my eyes peeking open to see how long I had been lying there. This process would continue until 8-10 minutes had passed and I had decided it was good enough. Now I incorporate at least 20 minutes of shavasana as part of each day, which on some days is the only pose my home-practice includes. I use props to support my body in the most comfortable position- recently legs-up-the-wall pose (Viparita Karani) has been my most favorite- set a timer on my phone for at least 20 minutes, and don’t open my eyes until the timer goes off. I have found this to be such a great practice and I’ve experienced some of my most restful sleep by adding it to my bedtime routine. 

2. No devices until an hour after waking

I never imagined this would be as difficult as it has been, or realized how often I automatically started checking email and social media feeds as soon as my eyes opened. Part of that was because I was using my phone as an alarm clock, which just made the temptation of checking these other mediums too great. Now I use a traditional alarm clock and do everything I can to not pick up my phone until after I’ve been awake for at least an hour. There have been so many times where I have reached for my phone and began typing in the code to unlock the screen without even realizing it, but as I practice it more and more, I find that I do so much less. My mornings now begin with a glass of water, a walk with our dog, and quiet moments to sit and drink my cup of coffee, and what I’m finding is that I transition into the rest of my day feeling much more calm and relaxed. 

3. Schedule days of nothing

When I look at my monthly and weekly calendars, I now schedule at least 1 day each week where nothing is planned, which includes work. By no means has this practice been easy and there are some weeks in which it just doesn’t happen, but I’ve gotten much better about setting one day a week aside in which there is no place I must go or be. I use these days to simply catch up with myself, letting go of all the “should do’s or have to do’s” and instead choose to do what I want to do. Some days that means I don’t get out of my jammies and spend the day reading in bed. Other days, I may take a yoga class, following it up with taking time to sip an almond milk latte at a local café, and then browsing some of my favorite local shops. I don’t spend these days doing laundry or any other form of cleaning, unless I really want to do that of course, or preparing for any upcoming classes or sessions. If something is available to schedule on these days, I simply say, “I’m unavailable,” treating these days like it’s my own personal appointment, because that’s exactly what it is- it’s an appointment with myself to just be. 

How do you incorporate rest and relaxation into your life?