Restful Yoga: Homage to the Goddess of Rest
Article At A Glance
When my busy mind wants me to ignore my need for rest in favor of my to-do list, I remind myself that there will always be dozens of things to check off my list. The kitchen floor can always be cleaner, but there is always another email to answer. But those things all have to wait. A simple, restful yoga practice takes precedence.
For most of my life, I’ve struggled with rest. And I’m not talking about sleeping (although I’ve struggled with that too). Rather, I’m talking about how I find it hard to slow down, do less, enjoy the sky and the trees and the birds more, and just be happy being a human being rather than a human doing. It’s certainly why I’m so obsessed with slow, mindful, restful yoga practice. It saves me from myself. It forces me to do what’s not natural to my mind but what my body demands (and my mind will ultimately admit that it needs to).
One of the keys is to reframe self-discipline, not as self-punishment but as setting healthy boundaries with yourself. This can initiate an important shift. The shift is from seeing your yoga practice as another burden to check off your to-do list at best (and as something to punish yourself with at worst) to understanding your practice as self-care in service of your higher self.
Why Do We Avoid Restful Yoga Practice?
The days are shorter, and the nights are longer. This is the time of year when we’re called to rest, at least those of us in the northern hemisphere (although it probably can’t hurt folks in the southern hemisphere to get some more rest, too). Earth is signaling us to chill out and turn within. Yet, here I am, at the height of this crazy season, trying to remember what my nephew wanted for Christmas, how and when I’m going to decorate my front porch or, goddess willing, actually bake anything, and getting ready to travel.
So, I pause and rest for a bit each day. And, even though I know how important it is, I still wrestle with the goddess of rest:
“Just 20 minutes?” she begs.
“Nope, but I’ll slump on the couch and watch Netflix for an hour.”
“Um, no. That doesn’t count. How about 15?”
“10, and that’s my final offer.”
A Single Mindful Yoga Pose Can Promote Deep Rest
Then I either put my legs up the wall, or lie down and drape them over a bolster, or set up in Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddhakonasana) with lots of props. I find some spacey singing bowl meditation music or soft chanting on my phone. I cover up with a blanket. I decorate my face with an eye pillow. If my mind is in overdrive, I have a notebook next to me so that my speedy thoughts have somewhere to go while I’m resting. What’s delightful is that I find that the goddess of rest is quite adept at tricking me into hanging out longer than I’d negotiated.
How to Make Restful Yoga Practice an Integral Part of Your Day
When my busy mind wants to rebel against rest, I remind myself that there will always be dozens of things to check off my to-do list, the kitchen floor can always be cleaner, and there is always another email to answer. But those things all have to wait. They all have to bow down for a few minutes to the goddess of rest.
One thing that helps remind me to rest is having yoga mats around. I have them either rolled out on the floor or rolled up in a corner of most of the rooms in my house.
Taking time to rest with yoga is about using a tiny amount of self-discipline on top of a heap of self-boundaries to affect self-nurturing. It’s about acknowledging that I deserve to be rested. I deserve to feel strong, healthy, and clear. I do not deserve to be burned out, exhausted, or depleted. That doesn’t serve me or anyone else. And it’s about doing whatever it takes to get there despite my resistance.
When I finish my restful yoga practice, I feel much more peaceful, and I can go back to my life with a sense of ease. A restful vibration seeps into the rest of my day, as if I just had a massage, as if I have all the time in the world as if nothing is worth stressing out over. There will always be too much to do. But there’s never a better moment to rest than the present.