“In America, we hurry–which is well; but when the day’s work is done, we go on thinking of losses and gains, we plan for the morrow, we even carry our business cares to bed with us, and toss and worry over them when we ought to be restoring our racked bodies and brains with sleep. We burn up our energies with these excitements, and either die early or drop into a lean and mean old age at a time of life which they call a man’s prime in Europe. When an acre of ground has produced long and well, we let it lie fallow and rest for a season; we take no man clear across the continent in the same coach he started in–the coach is stabled somewhere on the plains and its heated machinery allowed to cool for a few days; when a razor has seen long service and refuses to hold an edge, the barber lays it away for a few weeks, and the edge comes back of its own accord. We bestow thoughtful care upon inanimate objects, but none upon ourselves. What a robust people, what a nation of thinkers we might be, if we would only lay ourselves on the shelf occasionally and renew our edges!” – The Innocents Abroad
By a strange twist of fate, I ended up getting the full day off today. Between practicing for concerts, prepping for lessons and yoga classes, and doing research, my days off are few and far between. I often get caught up in all of my to-do lists and all of my goals and aspirations, that I forget to find moments of pause. While it is in my nature to get antsy after only a few hours of rest, sometimes my body and mind cry for a bit of peace and quiet: I need only to stop and listen. Though I had planned to go out on an adventure today, when I woke up this morning, my body told me no. Worn out from an intensive teaching and practice schedule and looking towards a concert week, my body needed a break. So, I enjoyed a slow morning, baked some gluten-free cornbread, tidyed up the apartment, read, enjoyed the sunshine, and just let myself be quiet for the afternoon. Normally I become stir crazy and yearn to leave the house after only a few hours, but not today. Today I enjoyed the brief respite before the next storm of activity.
I think we all need these quiet days of hermatige and introspection. Without this time to reflect and regroup, the body lives in a constant state of agitation and stress. The cortisol levels in your body stay high when you never let your body whirl down into sleep mode. This contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, illness, exhaustion, fluctuating emotions, among other things. Your body will live in a constant state of “fight or flight” until you allow your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in to “rest and digest” the stress. In our culture, many of us live our lives feeding the sympathetic nervous system: the fight or flight mode. We drive, work, and play hard, and at the end of it all, to “unwind” we watch adrenaline-filled television or play games which keep the cortisol flowing. We forget to unplug and simply sit in silence, if only for a few moments, to let our bodies settle and digest all of the information and stimulation we have received.
In yoga, savasana, the final 5 minutes of rest time at the end of the practice, is essential. This is the time to allow the body to integrate all of the work, extension, and strength that you had built in the class. It is the time to reap the rewards of your toil and enjoy the breath and the clear head. It is the time to simply be. Unfortunately, many of my students loath these 5 minutes. Our constantly ticking brains don’t know what to do when we are not being physically or mentally active. Several of my gym yoga students even leave before savasana begins– too consumed with their need for productivity that they ignore the benefits of a few moments of peace. Every time I see someone pack up and leave before letting their bodies settle, my heart breaks a little bit. If we can’t spare 5 minutes in our day to honor and restore our bodies, then we must be doing something wrong as a culture. What would happen if we valued our moments of rest (sleep, restorative yoga, meditation) as much as our moments of action? Our lives, our health, and our culture would be very different; that is for certain.
Today, this manically productive girl is going to take a bit of her own advice. I am giving myself the opportunity to lie fallow and rest. While I have a few big concerts coming up, and work that’s been left unattended for awhile now, my body is asking me to lie out in the sun with a good book and some mint tea, so that is what I shall do. I will breath. I will let things settle. I will let myself simply be still rather than constantly pushing to the limits. Tomorrow, when the realities and complexities of life return, I will be more able to face them and make the right decisions. So, today, I am going to rest, free of guilt (for the most part… old habits die hard, you know.) Happy day of rest everyone. Make sure to sit in silence, if only for a few breaths.
#journeytohandstand challenge day 15: Pinchamayurasana/ forearm balance. “Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices to reach them.” Today I woke up craving backbends and heart openers, so I decided to try a new variation of Pinchamayurasana for my challenge posture. I first tried this pose on the smooth wood floor without a mat and my arms slipped out from under me as I kicked up my legs and I face-planted to the floor. 2 years ago, I would have become frustrated, start the negative self-talk of how this is too advanced for me, and given up. But today I just laughed so much that tears welled up in my eyes, rubbed my sore nose, rested in child’s pose for a few minutes to let th adrenaline simmer down, grabbed my mat, and tried again. This time kicking up was no issue and I smiled as my back and heart opened. The time for give up is never.