The Power of Rest
Balance your vigorous yoga practice with the power of rest.
This year I’ve been experimenting with a soothing and gentle approach to my yoga practice through yoga nidra (guided meditation for relaxation) and restorative yoga. These two practices have helped me appreciate one of the foundations of yoga – the niyama of shaucha – in a much more practical way.
Shaucha (saoh-cha) is the first of the niyamas, which are the five yogic principles of how we interact with ourselves. Shaucha literally means “that and nothing else” and is associated with purity and clarity. In practice, shaucha is meant to cultivate an evenness of mind and cleanliness of environment and energy through thoughtful decision-making. After all, in order to create and maintain ease in and around ourselves we must make deliberate choices about what we want and don’t want in our lives.
However, we live in a world that is constantly vibrating at a high frequency. Distractions, noise, and stuff abound! This week is your time to purposefully seek out its opposite. As I’ve experienced it, restoration clears away everything in order to come back to what is most essential.
Through yoga nidra, I’ve been able to access a deeper form of focus that I haven’t been able to achieve in my “waking” meditation. By completely unburdening at each level of my being through my guide’s instructions, I reach a space in myself that is clear and quiet. Some days I fall asleep during yoga nidra because my body and mind are so tired of the spinning from everyday life. But since I began practicing this form of meditation, I have set the same intention – to become aware of and listen to my most inner voice. The motivation to live my ideal life is at the core of my being. Yoga nidra has helped me to silence the internal noise and unlock this motivation by helping me to rest and refocus through meditation. The more I practice, the more easily I recognize which steps I need to take to create the life I want. For example, I look for projects that suit me best at work instead of passively accepting whatever is assigned to me. I speak to my husband in a caring, positive, and respectful manner because I want our relationship and home environment to embody love and peace.
Now, I do my best to follow the same discipline in my body. However, there are days when Power Vinyasa seems too fiery for me, and I walk away feeling on edge. There are times when I feel exhaustion and confuse it for weakness then push myself beyond my edge. When I finally realize that’s my ego pushing, I modify my poses to bring more of the ease I crave. I’ve also begun to notice that when I refuse to address something emotional it shows up in my body as an ache or weight gain. I’ve found restorative yoga to be essential in the process of surrender. Restorative yoga is the tonic to that nagging inner fire that has done nothing for me but wear me down. My first ever Supported Bound Angle Pose felt like heaven because I was able to deeply surrender. Now I practice Viparita Karani against the wall before bed most nights, and the relaxation response in my body is palpable. I find that it’s not easy to quiet my mind or fully surrender to yoga poses because I’m so habituated to pushing or resisting. But once that inner fire dies down, I find my steadiness. My restorative practice helps me to regroup and relax faster which I’ve seen in my power yoga practice and even in stressful situations. This steadiness opens the space for clarity and purpose which makes me more resilient and powerful.
This week as you explore what restoration means for you, emotionally and physically, I invite you to experiment with the following:
1.) Break up your seated meditation practice into five-minute segments at least one day this week to help your mind to rest and refocus.
2.) Have breakfast in silence in order to mindfully experience the nourishment you’re giving your body.
3.) Modify your studio and home practice in order to feel rest in your body and the power that comes from it.
4.) Practice Viparita Karani against a wall after you get home from work or right before bed for five to fifteen minutes to relax the body.
5.) Set the intention to address one thing (big or small!) that has been nagging at you to open space for what you really want out of life.
Rest is a powerful tool, and I acknowledge you for learning how to wield it to your advantage! May you find what you most need and seek this week.