quiet / silence / stillness / calm / peace / placidity / respite / restfulness / serenity / tranquillity
What feelings do the image and the words above evoke in you?
How does it feel to let your gaze 'rest' upon them?
Rest is synonymous with sleep but sleep and rest are not the same thing. Many of us incorrectly confuse the two however sleep and rest play different roles when it comes to our health.
"We can’t underestimate the importance of sleep, as we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping. In fact, sleep directly impacts almost every bodily system, ranging from the skin to the immune system.
Rest has a broader definition than sleep. In medical care, rest is defined as behaviour aimed at increasing physical and mental well-being which usually involves stopping activity. Rest helps us recover
from physical and mental effort and can be either active or passive. " www.sleep.org
Saundra Dalton-Smith (MD) has redefined the word 'rest' by expanding our understanding of it. Rest should equal restoration in seven key areas of your life: physical rest, mental rest, sensory rest, creative rest, emotional rest, social rest and spiritual rest.
#1 You need physical rest when:
You don't have the energy to complete all the physical tasks on your list and you rely on coffee or sugary snacks to get you through the day.
You often get ill and have a weak immune system.
#2 You need mental rest when:
You feel overwhelmed/frustrated when you look at your to-do-list and your mind feels foggy/not fully functional.
You lie in bed at night physically exhausted but cant fall asleep.
#3 You need sensory rest when:
Loud noise makes you flinch/ wince.
You don't seem to notice scents that others smell strongly or you don't experience much flavour in natural foods, craving mainly processed foods.
You don't enjoy being touched/hugged by others, even those closest to you.
#4 You need creative rest when:
you always feel selfish doing something for yourself.
You prioritise other's needs over your own.
You rarely feel that your work/contributions are valued by others.
#5 You need emotional rest when:
you continually isolate yourself from others.
You experience self-doubt, you often focus on your failures and flaws.
You are easily distracted, struggle to focus and often getting angry with yourself for small mistakes.
#6 You need social rest when:
You feel alone in the world. Disconnected/disengaged with friends and family.
You prefer fostering virtual relationships rather than face-to-face relationships.
#7 You need spiritual rest when:
You have lost your sense of hope/purpose and lack motivation.
If you've ever tired to fix an ongoing lack of energy by getting more sleep, only to do so and still feel exhausted, then a deeper understanding of rest could be the key to more energy and better health. Nevertheless, according to Dr. Manas S. Kshirsagar, sleep imbalance is a primary reason behind burnout and lack of rest .
So it would seem we must consider the bigger picture and how different aspects of our lives affect one another.
Looking around us, observing the change in temperature and weather, Autumn has definitely arrived. The trees are starting to lose their leaves in the Autumn winds, revealing their bare branches. The trees are preparing for their dormancy, to get through the winter, adapting to their environment. The days are shorter and even during the day there is a shortage of sunlight! This signals to our circadian rhythm that it's time for us to slow down too, not to become dormant, but to consider how the seasons affect our mood, levels of energy and our sleep. Learning how to adapt, so that like the trees, we conserve our energy rather than become depleted.
With fewer hours of light exposure, the pineal gland in the brain produces more melatonin which makes us sleepy. This is the time of year to listen to your body and allow yourself an extra bit of sleep. It's important however not to sleep-in too late in the mornings as it may result in a sense of lethargy and sluggishness, having a negative effect on your ability to go to sleep at night. Sun exposure and exercise are still vital at this time of year to ensure you get enough rest and sleep, so when it comes to adapting your routine; stick to a regular bed and wake-up time even at the weekends, but try going to bed 15-30 mins earlier and getting up 15-30 mins later.
In Ayurveda, Autumn is vata season; light, dry, cold and mobile. It is a valuable practice to balance these qualities with a grounding, stable daily routine adapted to the season. This is the first step to get sufficient sleep and rest. Other ways to support out health during this time is to eat warm moist foods, keep the body warm, oiled and hydrated both inside and out and consider what elements of your life you can 'let go of' this season as you slow down and conserve energy. We also may need to 'restore' the energy we expended during the summer, pitta season. Like the bare branches and trunk of the tree not usually visible under the summer canopy of leaves, as we let things go, notice what is left, what is revealed. It might reveal areas of our health and well being that have been neglected or qualities and strengths we had forgotten about.
Rasayana is an Ayurvedic term for the practice of rejuvenation. The idea is to nourish yourself deeply on all levels, allowing your body to repair, regenerate and revitalise all of your organs, tissues and systems, including your mental, emotional and spiritual states of being. Which brings us back to the seven types of rest, rest is rejuvenating!
Ayurvedic rejuvenation can include dietary changes, lifestyle changes, rejuvenating herbs or a combination of all three. The process should be soothing, grounding and enjoyable.
This process of letting go, conserving and restoring energy may bring a greater awareness of Self and of the greater self that we're connected to.
So what will our yoga practice look like this month? In case you're wondering classes will not be a 90 minute Savasana practice! They will however provide an element of rest in all seven areas we've explored. This month has it's roots firmly planted in the work we did in September, we will continue with softer, slower, grounding practices but ensuring we create some warmth in the body through movement and breathwork. We will continue to work supporting the Vagus nerve using sound and will explore a more contemplative practice with the addition of meditation and yoga nidra during October.
I've been drawn to anemone flowers this week, observing them in all stages, bud, flower and the strong beautiful centre once the petals have dropped. It has reminded me of the Buddhist mantra:
om mane padme hum.
*The jewel within the lotus, which represents the soul self within all of us, the potential buried beneath the mud and the beauty of surrendering to the journey of growth.
When you attend in person classes this month, I encourage you to choose soft, comfortable warm layers for your practice. Bring a lovely soft warm blanket (maybe two!) a snuggly cushion and soft warm socks. If you have an eye pillow/eye mask, perhaps consider bringing that for your Savasana/yoga nidra practice.
I look forward to practicing on the mat with you or connecting with you in some way this month as we explore the concept of rest.
“Take rest; A field that has rested, gives bountiful crop.”
Just in case you're free 16th Oct - I still have one or two places available on the www.paperkiteyoga.co.uk/book-online if you want some seasonal rest & rejuvenation!
*"Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha." Shambala