Let me ask a question.
How agitated are you?
I know. It’s like asking the witness when he stopped beating his wife. Sure there’s a presumption there but I don’t think I’m wrong.
We all have some level of unrest going on inside. It’s a pandemic exacerbated by the persistent demands on our attention by technology, by work, by financial concerns, kids, traffic, Netflix cliffhangers, diet, studies, AAAAH!
We are distracted to the point of deficiency. We can’t digest our food properly because of it. We don’t sleep well. We suffer through chronic pain. We are anxious, depressed, overwrought. And instead of eating better, we take a medicine. Instead of resting more, we take a sleeping pill. Instead of taking time to cultivate calm or relief from pain or avenues to alleviate depression, we medicate, neglect and bear it. We accept unrest as a natural turn of events. Something that simply comes with age. Fate.
But unrest isn’t compulsory. And it has a remedy. Guess it. Go on.
It’s not a pill.
It’s not even a supplement.
Natural rest. The kind that follows from the simple act of lying down and doing nothing. Let me offer up a Spanish proverb:
que bueno es no hacer nada y luego descansar.
How nice is it to do nothing, and then to rest.
Because minds in unrest are primed for a challenge—all tied up in the fight-or-flight side of the nervous system, just itching for confrontation—let me make another offer. Please try this at home.
In honor of Yoga Month, set aside 10 minutes a day and try out each of the following four poses over four consecutive days. Each of these poses will calm your nervous system, improve your digestion and help you refuel your reserves of energy. Before you do any of them, silence your phone, wrap it in a sock and put it in a drawer in another room. Same for your computer, ipad, kindle, tv, children, spouse, etc. Then proceed with a hearty commitment to treating yourself right.
Savasana: Savasana means corpse pose. So make like one and lie flat on your back (or with a blanket under your knees if your low back is tight). Let your arms and legs relax on the ground a comfortable distance away from your body. Once your there, take some deep breaths, exhaling through your mouth. With every exhale, feel the weight of your bones sinking into the floor. Deepen your breath, feeling your belly rise and fall. And then, let go.
Supported Child’s Pose: Grab a couple pillows or a blanket or two. Stack them so you’ve got a nice lump of softness to straddle. And then sink your bum back toward your heels, let your chest fall toward your knees and relax your arms wherever they’re most comfortable. Feel yourself releasing into all the points of contact your body makes with the floor. Then use your breath to soften through your spine. Finally, let go.
Supta Baddha Konasana: Use your blankets or pillows again. Place them vertically in line with your sacrum so when you lie down over them, your torso covers the length of the pillows. If you have one more pillow or a blanket, use it to support your head, keeping your throat slightly open but not gaping. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall toward the ground. If you have more blankets and pillows, smoosh them under your knees to support the very open inner thighs here. If you don’t have more pillows, plan on staying in this pose with open knees for about 3-5 minutes and then use your hands to lift your knees toward each other and straighten your legs to the floor. Let go.
Viparita Karani: Sit on the floor and cozy your right side up to the nearest wall. Lean back onto your elbows and swing your legs up the wall. You should now look like a wall support. As you breathe, feel your femur bones sink into their hip sockets. Feel your spine settling on the floor. Finally, once again: let go.
All of these poses come from the restorative yoga playbook. They’ll help you access the healthful benefits of yoga poses without strain or stress. They’re intended to be performed in a relaxed manner. They do no harm. From the place these poses take you, your body can begin to heal, to repair, to restore. They not only trigger the parasympathetic nervous system—the benign twin of the fighting-and-fleeing sympathetic system; the yin, the nurturer, the healer—they don’t have any bad side effects. You rest. The consequence? You feel rested. You like yourself again. Other people like you too.
A student told me the other day that she was trying to find more energy to do more work after struggling through a 12-hour shift at work. She said she needed to get more done. She wanted my advice on pushing through because coffee wasn’t cutting it anymore.
All I could think was: if you were thirsty, you’d drink water. So why is it that when we’re tired, we don’t let ourselves rest? And don’t tell me you have too much to do. Because you know you aren’t effective when you’re Grumpy McGrumplestilk who can’t remember where she put her keys.
Let me know how you go. I’d love to hear how these poses make you feel. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Now, drink up!