I have been attending a yin yoga class for seven weeks now, and it’s been a very productive approach to managing my hip issues. Each week the yogi picks a theme we reflect on as we engage in the poses.
Last week the theme was motivation. Exercise-reluctant me went “great, another way to engage with feeling fit and well.” Given the volume of snow that has fallen in the region, being motivated to do anything can be a struggle.
As we started in our first pose, the Butterfly, my mind mimicked the moves of the namesake insect. My thoughts went flitting from one flower to another, thinking briefly on the myriad of things I have to do in the run of a day and also my week.
As we shifted into the next pose, I realized the yogi had also shifted her focus. This whole class was about motivating ourselves to respect rest, to be motivated to embrace its power to heal and energize.
I’ve been looking at sleep and rest for a while now. I’ve written about it here with respect to tracking tools. There’s also some solid research looking at the links between sleep deprivation and increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
But I had never really thought about motivating myself to rest. In this class, I came up against some of my resistance to rest especially when ill, or over extended. There is a tendency to expect women to push through whatever ails them.
Part of my issue is that I often see sleep or naps (as much as I love them!) as time lost, as time away from getting the things that matter done, instead of seeing rest as something that is really important, in and of itself.
It’s a distinction that we need to make. When I look back at the last seven weeks, I realize that the yin yoga practice has become a way to give myself permission to rest, to make a space in my week where restoration is actively pursued.
We sink into poses, we rest in the slight movements or changes of position we need to achieve the tension required to support the stretch, the lengthening of ligaments, the relaxation of the fascia.
In this practice we end the session with shavasana, or corpse pose. Its purpose is to remove any tiredness resulting from the effort of getting in, stretching, and getting out of each pose and to rest in the space where our minds are calm and we no longer flit about from topic to issue, from need to crisis.
How we get into that pose is deliberate, focused on ensuring we have what we need to rest actively instead of passively. Do we have blocks to support our knees? Shall we use bolsters on which we can rest our legs? Are our heads comfortable and our necks supported appropriately? Are we warm enough?
Making rest a priority, through sleep, through naps, and even through yoga, matters not just for health but also fitness. My trainer says sleep is the best way to heal. If I want to perform better in the gym as well as in my daily life and work, rest has to become one of my big rocks.
What about you? Do you need motivation to rest? How do you achieve peace and relaxation in addition to good sleep? Tell us more in the comments.
MarthatFitat55 lives, works, plays and rests in St. John’s.