I have made several posts at this point all mentioning how vital resting practices are to our busy lives. Today I want to offer you some more specific information on this point, as well as offer you a free Yoga Nidra meditation to get you started.
Our nervous system processes information. I know that you probably know that, but really let that sink in for a moment, along with this fact: We only perceive 5% of what is going on around in us and around us.
Your nervous system is taking care of 95% of Stuff, without you being aware of it.
When the nervous system is overloaded, or saturated, with information, it actually stops processing. In extreme cases, this looks like PTSD, or shock, or a break
down through. For people under what we consider normal amounts of stress, we just feel tired, frayed at the edges, anxious, we get sick easily, we are overly-sensitive and emotionally reactive, etc etc. And here’s the real kicker: the information doesn’t STOP coming at us. Rather than process it, however, and acting (or not), the information goes into the tissues of our body, and creates HARD MUSCLES. The extra information of our lives turns into tension that we literally carry with us.
So how do we get on top of it? How do we balance and relieve tension? Is there a real solution?
Well, there are a couple of things we can do:
We can move the body within its healthy capacity (not pushing the edges…that’s where we compensate and then injure an already stressed system) to release tension on a physical level.
We can also rest.
When we rest, we literally stop the information coming at us (our nervous system calms down, we aren’t actively processing, and our body is on “restore” mode rather than “evolve” mode). Often when we are stressed, we don’t sleep well. This has to do with a vicious cycle of adrenal depletion. So we need extra rests (even if you’re sleeping well, but you experience anything I mentioned above, including pain, PMS, and a ton of other symptoms) during the day, to let the bodymind pause, process, and release tension.
I recommend at least once a day, but if you’re feeling “stressed” then find time for two.
There was that old story of a seeker telling a sage, “But master, I don’t have time to meditate for 30 minutes!” and the sage replied, “Then meditate for an hour.”
Get it? When we are most full, we most need time off.
I recommend a mantra practice like the following I recorded from Sally Kempton’s book, Meditation for the Love of It. She is a wonderful meditation teacher and the following excercise is only 5 minutes long. Mantra is a word or phrase that we repeat to focus the mind. When a mantra is in a sacred language (Sanskrit, Hebrew, Gurmuki, and Latin are a few) the words actually contain divine essence, and help us re-awaken to our true nature. The mantra in this meditation is SoHam, meaning, I am That (“That” being pure expansive Awareness.)
I suggest starting with listening a few times while you practice, then setting your timer for 10 minutes for a few days, and then increasing by one minute each day until you reach 30 minutes. That’s a nice amount of time to sit, and it will give your body time to adapt to longer sitting. Also, you can sit in a chair if you are not comfortable or able to be on the floor. Have the spine as long as you can, and enjoy your practice!
The next exercise is called Yoga Nidra, which means Yogic Sleep. I am including a short version (under 10 minutes) that I recorder, and suggest you begin with, if you are brand new to this practice. If you have more experience and want a longer practice, I am including one that I use as well.
Yoga Nidra is meant to bring us into a deeply relaxed state, but we are intended to stay awake and alert. If you are exhausted, you will fall asleep, and that is totally ok! You need the sleep! But in time, you will be able to stay conscious and go deeper with the practice.
I hope you enjoy both of these offerings, and can do at least one a day to start seeing benefits.