Whatever your age, there's so much of life to experience and frankly to simply get done... sometimes it feels like the only time for rest is when you finally roll under the covers last thing at night. But sleep is only one part of what the body (and mind) requires to fully repair. If you'd like to look brighter, feel better and know that you're giving your whole being the best possible tonic, read on.
active rest is a distinct practice
At some point in the day, you probably have what feel like restful moments: Stopping for a cuppa or a chat with a friend, watching your favourite programme or listening to a podcast... These are certainly beneficial and a lovely part of life. But to truly restore and give yourself the boost you crave, there’s nothing as potent as Active Rest.
Active rest sounds like an oxymoron, a ridiculous contradiction in terms. It’s a term I coined (invented?) after years noticing the remarkable change in people actively resting on my yoga retreats. A phrase to describe the act of taking a conscious and extended pause. What singles Active Rest out from the usual day to day restful moments is:
- You make an active choice to do it
- You dedicate a certain period of time to completely stopping
- It's long enough for you to feel your heart rate drop, muscles relax and mind letting go
- While resting, you bring your awareness to your body, breath, the environment around you
In short, you're fully present to (that is, conscious of) the moment to moment unfolding of life. And it's the combination of all these elements that brings the magic.
why active rest is so important
Active rest, as opposed to passive or unconscious rest (even sleep), affects your repair mechanisms in a way that nothing else can.
- In active rest your body drops from a state of alert into a state of recovery. This allows your natural repair mechanisms to get to work, healing overworked areas of the body and mind; literally increasing your ability to regenerate at a cellular level
- As you drop into this state of deep replenishment the mind can enter a liminal space. Brainwaves slow and the gap between unconscious and conscious is lessened, enhancing creativity and even giving rise to amazing 'aha' moments
- As oxygen levels decrease and carbon dioxide levels rise in the bloodstream, so endorphin levels increase, reducing stress and pain, lifting your mood and creating a deep sense of wellbeing and ease
- With enough active rest you create your very own inner reservoir of calm and equanimity, which is a massive boost for your own wellness and also greatly improves your ability to respond with loving calm to those around you, enhancing your relationships and life satisfaction
- Surprisingly perhaps, taking conscious rest can aid your ability to get a good night’s sleep. By temporarily switching off your fight or flight reflex, which lowers stress hormones like cortisol and resets your emotional state, you’re more likely to be able to drop off when it comes to bed time
how to introduce more active rest into your life
Let's be honest, how many of us find it easy to give ourselves this time, let alone find the mental willpower to turn our focus off the long to do list? But when you remember the benefits and once you've truly experienced how this kind of rest feels (delightful, euphoric, soooo peaceful) then you may just start carving out the time and space for it.
Here are some suggestions to begin:
- Take a little time to gaze out of the window and daydream, slowing your breath and dropping your shoulders
- Run a warm bath and vow to stay present to every sensation, bathing yourself with sensuality and surrounding yourself with smells you adore
- Stop and stroke your pet with full attention to how it feels and their response to your touch; pause and just be alongside them, creature to creature
- Take part in some slow mindful yoga that allows you to be fully conscious as you move your precious body to its own rhythm and beat
- Seek out a soulful Yoga Retreat focused on replenishment and reap the rewards for months to come (I hear time and again from my retreat guests how their reservoir of inner calm has lasted way beyond the retreat itself)
And there's no time like now! Here to get you started is a special guided recording I've made just for you... Let me know in the comments how you feel after listening. Plus any suggestions or favourite ways you have to actively rest.