Rest is a bit of a revolutionary concept.
We can fit into our busy schedules coffee with friends, a trip to the dentist, servicing the car or bike, and all of the myriad activities and occasions that make demands on our time. Yet despite us knowing on one level that rest is really essential to our good health and well-being, necessary to bring balance to our fast-paced lives, few of us actually make taking the time to rest a priority.
I know how challenging it can be to switch this mindset. I’ve been the burning-the-candle-at-both-ends girl, especially in a previous fast-paced career that required me to be ‘always on’. I remember thinking then that racing through each day on a cocktail of caffeine, Berocca and sugar was simply a means for living life to the full, supplying me with enough energy and alertness to take advantage of all the exciting opportunities that were up for grabs. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”, I used to joke. Back then, deliberate resting, unless it was on holiday, meant missed opportunities or - even worse - laziness.
If our GPs offered us a pill to suppress tiredness so that we would never need to sleep and so could be more functioning and productive, we’d think they were crazy. But somehow as a society, we accept this pressure – this idea that we ought endlessly to be ‘doing’ - and in some ways come to expect it of ourselves and of each other. Even though we know, logically, that if we stay in the sun too long we get burned, and if we stay in the activity phase all the time we get burned out, more of us than ever are experiencing the ill-effects of chronic stress, constant pressures, sleep deprivation and lack of balance. To help redress this, we need to take time to change gear, slow down, and rest. This isn’t lazy or indulgent, it’s simply an act of self-care. I got there over time with the support of a regular Yoga practice and the increased self-awareness and self-kindness it provided, as well as discovering the benefits of Yoga Nidra which revolutionised my approach to rest and recharging.
I still enjoy a full life and exciting opportunities, but have found ways to balance this with care for myself and my health. The practice of Yoga Nidra – which translates as ‘conscious sleep’ – has brought incredible benefit to me, providing space from the pace and pressures of daily living and functioning rather like a reset button. Being given permission to rest and be guided on a short, but powerful, inner journey has helped me find my own balance, and I love creating the opportunity for others to experience this for themselves.
Yoga Nidra replenishes the body and mind on multiple levels, and allows us to experience a return to the essence of ourselves. It is much more than a physical resting, and a very simple practice and accessible to all: we lay down in a supported posture, get as comfortable as we can so we can rest in stillness, and listen. Our conscious awareness is taken on a journey around the body and the mind, through different brainwave states as we go, literally slowing down our systems and allowing space for insights and experiences to emerge. I describe it as that delicious in-between space between sleep and wakefulness which most of us experience from time to time – when we know we’re falling asleep but we’re not quite asleep because we’re aware that we’re not quite awake.
The practice of Yoga Nidra can be tailored for use in different ways to nourish us according to our needs: managing a challenging transition in our lives, working out the next steps in a creative project, supporting health, gifting ourselves a daily ‘rest packet’, dealing with insomnia, preparing for a stressful event, and so on.
On Saturday, 27th August 2016 at our Pay It Forward Scotland Yoga & Cake Festival in Edinburgh, I’ll be sharing a Yoga Nidra for Stress Relief. This will help you to experience space and calm while connecting to your inner resources to feel supported mentally, emotionally, and physically. Most people feel calm, centred and with a sense of clarity after a Yoga Nidra practice. Afterwards, we’ll have yummy cake on offer to nourish your tastebuds and activate the pleasure centres in the brain – it’s all about balance!
I warmly invite you to come and nurture yourself with this deeply restful and beneficial practice, delicious cakes and a beautiful community spirit, all in support of Edinburgh Women’s Aid.
Book your tickets, and we'll see you on Saturday! :)