If you get (and read!) my newsletter you will know that I have a new project. It's about rest. More specifically it's about restorative yoga and yoga nidra. More specifically than that it's promoting and celebrating and sharing the news that these practices are more than just flopping about on a bolster - these practices have the potential to be radical.
'The world feels like it's unravelling, it's gone mad, like nothing makes sense anymore'. I hear these words, and I see people coming to yoga who are stressed and worried and exhausted, not just because of the pressures and demands in their personal lives, but because of the anxiety and fear they have about the rest of the world. Being glued to social media and TV news and newspapers puts us into information-overload. Too many opinions leave us unsure and scared, and when we feel like this it becomes harder to feel confident, empowered and capable.
In biological terms this is the response known as fight or flight. When the body feels like it's in a life-threatening situation the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, producing adrenaline and cortisol, increasing the flow of blood to the heart, muscular tension and much more. It's a really useful response to life-threatening situations - coming face to face with a tiger, say.
It's really unhelpful and potentially dangerous when it becomes our permanent way of being. When the body is constantly trying to prepare itself for perceived threat, nearly all its other day to day functions are put on the back seat, resulting in insomnia, anxiety, depression, menstrual problems, digestive issues, sex drive, aches and pains and much more.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately for many of us this has become our 'only' way of being. Life is just like this, we think. How am I meant to change the world? I have bills to pay and children to feed and a job to do.
Well yeah. For most of us, life brings a certain amount of stress. We do have control over some aspects of our life, and how we treat ourselves is one. If we know we are stressed - did any of the above sound familiar? - then we can respond to the stress. Restorative yoga is one way to do this.
Restorative yoga brings us out of the fight or flight state. We literally calm down. Thanks to the types of yoga postures we do (most lying down, using props, holding for at least 5 minutes at a time, opening the body and releasing muscular tension) the nervous system recognises that the body is safe, we stop producing so many stress hormones, and we actually begin to unwind.
For those people who still feel exhausted after an 8 (or 10) hour sleep, or after a weekend of "doing nothing", you seriously need this. When you're on the go 100% of the time, you can't expect your body to immediately stop. Learning just one or two restorative yoga practices that you can practice at home could literally transform your life. Lying with your legs up against the wall doesn't take strength, balance or flexibility, yet this simple action can rejuvenate the body, bring life back to tired legs, and lift energy in a more sustainable way than a glass of wine or chocolate bar can.
With time, restorative yoga can bring a great sense of peace and wellbeing that you might not have ever experienced before. That's how powerful it can be. But if you like your yoga hot and fast and despite all the warnings above you just can't bring yourself to come to a restorative yoga class, I have 3 ways to bring more rest into your life and I defy anyone to not be able to take these 3 easy steps below.
1. Turn your phone off. If you can't bring yourself to do this, make sure your phone is at least off when you come to the yoga studio. Seriously guys. Unless you're on call for your work, then just don't do it. Have some respect.
2. Lie down. Whether this means you actually take savasana at the end of class instead of skipping merrily out of the room in complete oblivion, or you simply give yourself ten minutes between getting home and starting your next chore, just take 10 minutes to lie, shut your eyes and do nothing.
3. Try one restorative pose. Legs up against the wall is easy and simple. Sit on the floor, facing sideways to the wall you plan to rest your legs on. Have some support underneath you if the floor is hard. Roll onto your back and as you do, bring your legs up to the wall. Your bum should be about a hand's width away from the wall unless your hamstrings are really tight in which case experiment with going a little bit further away. Put something over your eyes if you like. Stay here for a minimum of 5 minutes. If you like challenges, make it a challenge to do this every day for a week.
Sometimes the actions we need to take are simpler than our ego would have us believe. If you're ready for deeper and more profound work, join me for a restorative yoga class, workshop, 121 or retreat. Contact me to find out more. You can find out more about the new project, Rest Is Radical here.