I heard ‘rest is revolutionary’ on a yoga nidra teacher training course last year. Since then I have made rest part of my weekly yoga practice and it’s changed my life.
Taking healing rest is something we usually don’t allow ourselves. Most of us forsake it in order to produce, create and move. As a populace we spend more time doing, achieving and acquiring and less time restoring, listening and being. As a result stress related health issues are prolific in society today. Over the last 30yrs science has shown connections between stress and most major diseases, diabetes, cancer, depression, stroke, immune disorders, the list goes on. Rest is a revolutionary because it goes against the tide and offers us another way of living. A revolution is exactly what we need.
Stress is perceived and felt differently by people. However one thing remains the same from person to person. Stress ensures we exist in the flight, fight or freeze sympathetic state of our nervous system. Here we fill our bodies with stressor hormones, cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Yogic practices offer a reprieve from the attack of stress. They are designed to bring balance to the five koshas (layers of our being): the body, breath, heart, mind and tap into our true nature, our bliss body. They move our experience in all these layers into the parasympathic nervous system. Here we can restore, renew, re-balance.
There is an enormous amount that can be said on specific practices and they’re benefits and it is fascinating to read about. But the only way to truly understand how yogic rest can literally change your life, is to take some.
Here are some practices for total novices or the most experienced of practitioners.
Practices of deep rest
Practices can make an instant impact on your sense of wellbeing but to truly expand into the power they have to offer nothing beats a regular practice. Like any practice, the more you do it, the better the results. Make space for rest, but be kind to yourself, be flexible about it, its length, location, time. Don’t let your rest time stress you out.
Before you start take a moment to notice how you feel, maybe write it down. When you’ve finished ask yourself again ‘how do I feel?’ and write it down. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, just the observation itself.
Yoga is a journey of understanding the self. When we start this journey we don’t need to know how it works, we just need to feel the benefit.
Stillness and breath
It’s not new. It’s not clever but it is powerful.
To do it
Be comfortable, sit, lie, stand
Spine is as straight as possible
Bring your awareness to your breathing
Breathe in for a comfortable count. Breathe out for a slightly longer count (in for 4, out for 5)
Keep your attention and interest on the sensation of the breath and the body together
This demands a recording or to go to a practice. You can listen for free at www.yoganidranetwork.org.uk. There are different lengths, voices, focuses of nidras here. Try a few and see which ones work best for you.
Nidra is a state of being in between sleep and wakefulness. If you fall asleep don’t worry at all the rest will still happen and over time you’ll learn to stay quietly conscious throughout.
To do it
This can be done, anywhere at anytime. All it demands is the attention of your awareness. You can apply this to any gentle activity, walking, cleaning, gardening, painting or any moments of stillness.
To do it
Find your body’s connection with the earth, where is your body meeting the ground?
Feel those points actively, become interested in them
Develop an awareness of other points of contact, to the washing up, your paintbrush, your cleaning cloth
Keep noticing them as you begin to invite the sensation of your breath into your awareness also
Explore the detail of your breath, how it is to breath in your body in this moment, as you are still or as you move
Remember, be kind to yourself. The practice will be different from one day to the next, week to week. It is a practice, not perfection.
If you’d like to share your experiences of your practice please get in touch. I truly hope you start your revolution today.
Helen Moss, BWY/Sivananda trained teacher and has been teaching since 2005. She has specialist training in Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Pregnancy Yoga, Post Natal Yoga, Kids Yoga, Hypnobrithing and Reiki. She teaches regular classes in workshops in Brighton and Pregnancy and Post Natal Yoga teacher trainings with Lushtums around the UK.