How Slow Is Becoming The New Fast: The Art of Resting Down

13 October, 2012

Do you often find yourself telling the story of how busy you are to anyone that will listen?  I do.  All the time.  Frustratingly I am becoming one of those people that you need to book in with two weeks in advance to catch up with, timetabled to the last breath of the day. Exercise, buy groceries, work, very important appointments, soak seeds for breakfast in 3 days (chia porridge in joke), fold towels, respond to emails, catch train on time, sleep, see that film, clean bathroom, work, book course, exercise, meditate, plan, arrange, organise, coordinate; every day the same, rushing to relax.

I was in Bali recently for Yoga Coach teacher training, where our teacher Mark Breadner encouraged us to rest down as much as we could, not to fill up our spare time with practicing more asana or swimming or walking, but really, honestly just rest. I remember thinking, ‘what the fuck does that mean?’ Like my Dad on every family holiday I can ever remember, as soon as a few quiet hours have passed I’m getting niggly ‘Where can we go’ ‘What can we see’ ‘Who can I talk to’, and of course, like all good habits, this came up for me in Bali.

It was the perfect space to really let go and observe what would happen.  And of course, before too long, emotional release happened! That scratchy irritability of sitting with yourself, fears, frozen attitudes, anxieties and stress that I’ve stuffed away over the years like clothes of 4 seasons past came bubbling up to the surface.  Intimidating. Lucky I had my beautiful sangha around me for support and listening ears.  I was kind to myself, I learnt that it’s okay to rest. I watched how easily I was torn between the past and the future and very rarely in the present.

Why do we prefer high speed to slowing down? You just have to look at what’s popular in gyms and yoga studios today to see what people are willing to pay for.  Could it be that filling up our time, busy schedules, pushing the body to the brink work outs, are just really covers for subtle unexplored emotions and skeletons from ye days of ole?

If the nervous system is a bank, then I am in huge debt with the sympathetic nervous system.  This is the part of our setup responsible for fight or flight response, and is meant to manage The Stress. When, since prehistoric time, have you required your flight or fight response? Apart from a Lululemon sale, the answer is never! Many people rush around most of their lives in this unconscious stressed state, which can have serious influences on health.  In contrast to our parasympathetic nervous system which manages the rest and digest, our natural intuitive healing state.  Maybe for our hearts to truly rest down, relax, for us to be creative and be ourselves, we have to allow our parasympathetic nervous system to do it’s job a little more thoroughly…

Here are 5 practices that have been working for this recovering yang-a-holic:

  1. Observation.  Take an afternoon and really focus on what you’ve got going on.  If you’re someone who’s training for a half marathon, while writing a short story, while playing golf, while organising Tough Mudder and working a 50+hour week, it might be good to make a priority list and focus on the top 2 things on that list for a designated period of time (six weeks) forgetting the rest… just to encourage the natural equilibrium.
  2. Slow. Down. Amigo! When you begin to slow motion, you notice how fast everyone around you behaves.  Walking fast.  Talking fast.  Listening fast. Reacting fast.  My devil is eating fast! If you’re someone who is always late, set a tapasya (yogi goal) to get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to take the heat out of your step getting to work.  When eating chew each delectable mouthful 10 times before swallowing.  If you’ve got more acid in your system than a chemical bomb, your gut is going to love you for the extra saliva created by chewing.  How can you rest when your tummy isn’t rested? Love your tummy!
  3. Swap yang for yin.  Yin yoga is a restorative asana practice which encourages much longer, slower holds and greater focus on the breath, compared to yang which is a more dynamic, cardio practice.  5 years ago in my yang hay day you wouldn’t have seen me near one of these classes, now I can’t get enough.  If you suffer from any of the following: stress at work, weird sleep, the grumps, poor digestion, knee abusing marathon running – please for the love of your parasympathetic nervous system get yourself to a yin yoga class.  I highly recommend Holly Coles Thursday 7.30pm class @ House of Yoga Redfern or Michael Ross Sunday 5.45pm class @ BodyMindLife Surry Hills.
  4. Holy day.  Make one day a week a complete rest day for six weeks.  This does not mean going to work on Monday and coming straight home to bed! It means a whole day in tune with the off button.  No phone.  No TV. No Breaking Bad marathons. No music. No house cleaning.  No plans to meet so and so for the so and so. Sleep in with no alarm.  Take a 1 hour bath in candle light with your favourite book. Write a hand written letter to a friend you haven’t seen in a year (when do people ever reminisce over emails?).  Lie in the grass and make stories out of clouds.  Have a cup of tea with a neighbour. Practice yin yoga. Meditate. Be in good company. Be in the moment.
  5. Stand up to the guilts.  Nearly everyone I talk to and myself included say they feel guilty for resting.  Remember that day when you called in sick and lay around like a sloth all day in your jim jams watching bad day time TV? Around 2pm the “you are so fricken laaazy” talk begins. Although I am not condoning reckless use of sick days (although duvet days are a prerequisite for mental health and colleague life span) please back off yourself when the guilts knock at the door.  Employ positive affirmations like “Today I am marinating in my restful, chilled, sleepy, snug self and tomorrow will be whatever it is” or just remember our mantra to please, in whatever scenario or case or situation you find yourself – be kind – to yourself.

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