The body is a beautiful tool, a beautiful machine, a work of art really. We fuel ourselves, go go go, and then rest on a cushy mattress and soft pillows. We expend staggering energy, accomplishing magnificent feats, and then recharge as an infant would in a crib. I can’t help but smile and think of that computer game The Sims. Do you remember that game? The characters had little wellness meters that ran green when they were pleased and red when they were not. When the characters grew filthy and stinky you had to direct them to the shower and they would come out with a green meter. Unless, of course, they’d grown hungry, in which case it would stay partially red and you had to direct them to the kitchen. I loved that game. It was the closest I ever got to video games, growing up, and I was always fascinated by the technological display of “human interaction.” I recall the characters never growing so agitated as they did when they were sleep-deprived. They could be reeking, starving and bored and drag on, but if they hadn’t slept they would just collapse anyplace and take rest.
We often overlook rest as being a valuable ingredient in our recipe for wellness. My fellow wellness advocate, the intelligent Jessica Sepel (http://www.jessicasepel.com) prescribes rest and rejuvenation in the quest for healthy adrenals. Rest can be taken in so many different ways, as one would expect. Just as exercise, entertainment and nourishment are all taken in such varying modes, one’s way of taking rest is acutely personal as well.
What’s brought me to this post is the sort of “break down” I had yesterday. I’m a perfectionist, “Type A” personality, go-getter, high-energy girl. I adore my yoga practice for the holistic benefits I reap from it, my mind, my body and my soul. Yoga has changed my life. That being said, as Sacramento yoga teacher Kate Saal so wisely put it, “Rest is crucial to recover, get stronger and maintain your health.” She’s right. She continued to say (and sear my eyes with these accurate words), “by practicing in a strenuous manner every day [then] expect to take a few months off every now and then for injury.” She’s right again.
Is this news to me? No.
Do I preach taking rest myself? Yep.
Have I been taking my own advice? Nope.
I realized yesterday, in what I can only describe as cascade of rather dramatic emotion, that I use my healthy lifestyle as a coping mechanism. Yes, I’m grateful and aware that having being this dedicated to my wellness practice is far better a crutch than say, alcohol or drug abuse. Indeed. But I realized that that pesky little thing about myself, that “Type A” part of me that tends to act like an iPod set on “repeat” can hurt me. I can over-do the yoga. I can over-do the vitamin A (I’m literally glowing yellow, woopsies), I can cause myself stress by being so thorough.
This is embarrassing to admit and yet it’s me. It’s the elusive something I’ll always struggle with keeping, and that which I strive for most in my every endeavor: balance.
I know I sound a bit dramatic, I don’t need to many any drastic changes in my lifestyle, I simply need to take a day or two of rest per week. I underestimate how physically active I am at work, on my feet all day, oftentimes commuting via bike or my little footsies to get myself there. Rest is a vital component in wellness. Rest allows muscles to recover, rebuild, replenish; the mind to reset, rejuvenate; the grip of the world on the spirit to release (what an alliteration that sentence was!). Rest is an integral step towards a holistically well life.
We learn through living, and what I’ve learned this week is that there’s no shame in slowing down. Taking a day off is not lazy of me, it’s an act of preservation. I strive for longevity, I’d rather have a sound, safe yoga practice for life rather than a fancy looking, super advanced practice for about ten years (I stole that line, in so many words, from my yoga teacher because it’s so true). How good is my goal of longevity if my knees click and ache at every turn? Slow down. Breathe. Breathe into the belly. Foam roll. Rest. Repeat. 🙂 I think I’m getting the hang of this.
We operate on trial and error. Seven days/week of practice plus an active job, no bueno. I’ve learned that. Check mark that lesson. Now for the fun part, rest and experiment.
I’m blessed with a YogaWorks membership now and the rapidly approaching commencement of my teacher training program. I’ll get to practice six hours per weekend with infinitely wise and knowledgeable yogis, as well as take finely honed classes throughout the week.
As I’ve just learned this lesson, and have eyes wide open regarding my own weaknesses and tendencies, I’m taking a vow. I vow to care for myself, holistically, not just for the duration of my teacher training, but for the entirety of my blessed, living, breathing existence. I vow to listen to my body and rest when it’s tired. I vow to be kind to my heart, my mind (especially), and my body. I vow to practice at least one of what I call “serenity acts” per day, if not more. I vow to practice safe, sound, challenging yoga and to always call that practice home. I vow to treat my mind and divine Self as I would my mom, or my best friend, with love and care and respect.
My own personal modes of taking rest, or what I call “Serenity Acts” are as follows:
- I’ve never been a napper, but sometimes placing a cushy eye pillow over closed lids and curling up under a blankie (yes, blankie is a necessary term here!) with pillows (I like a pillow for my head, to clutch, and to place between my knees when I nap . . . I don’t know why I reserve this supported state for naps) is unparalleled.
- Lighting candles, brewing a cup of tea, and sitting down with my journal.
- Lighting candles, brewing a cup of tea, and laying back with a good book.
- Gathering my bolster, blocks, yoga blanket, foam roller, eye pillow and rolling out my mat for some restorative yoga, meditation and pranayama.
- Taking a long, slow walk. This one I’ve heard being prescribed as rest from several sources, and if you have a sedentary job or your stress levels are through the roof, the effects of walking will be invaluable. If your body is strained, choose a more stationary form of rest. A leisurely walk is more rest for the mind than the body, both of which are valuable forms of rest.
- An epsom salt and essential oils bath. Filling the tub with hot/warm water, a great deal of epsom salts (depending on how achy/strained/sore the body feels) and your choice of essential oils (I love eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, tea tree or lavender) and then sinking into it and soaking can be monumental. Sometimes I bring a book, I always light candles, and occasionally I play music. Last night I just let the water caress me and soaked with shut eyes for I don’t know how long. The epsom salts can provide a powerful detox and the essential oils are incredibly soothing.
Let us learn from ourselves and from one another. Value the lessons we cultivate and pass on, receive and polish. I am so indescribably grateful for my parents, my compassionate closest friends, my intuitive yoga teachers, my brilliant professors, my fellow health and wellness advocates, and the beautiful strangers who continue to permeate my bubble of existence and promptly nestle themselves in my queue of valued beings.
Let us be gentle with ourselves and with one another. It is our responsibility to be as such, because only we can direct our own actions. No one can tinker with our minds as one would a Sims character, directing us to be kind, generous and thoughtful towards one another. We must take this on, and we must honor the responsibility. Be gentle, kind, generous, loving and thoughtful to the Self, and to others. One must know how to treat oneself this way before the gift can be extended to humanity.
Let us love ourselves and one another. At the core of it all, love is all there is.
Let us take care of ourselves because the only person who can unconditionally take care of you every moment . . . is you.
Peace, light, love, abundant wellness, and blessings to you all.