RnR Wherever You Are: The Power of Restorative Yoga
Ok, so I am the first person to put my hand up to say that I find resting hard.
Yep, you read that right - I, a mindful movement teacher and restorative yoga advocate find resting hard. I find doing nothing hard. I find, in particular, giving myself PERMISSION to do nothing particularly hard.
But here's the thing: part of the reason I find it so hard is because
. It's my habit to do all the things and tick off all the lists. It's my habit and my deeply held belief (one that I’m calling BS on, actually) that in order to be useful and worthwhile and valued in this world, I have to be busy.
Can you relate?
Now I'm super aware of this tendency in myself. I see it. I can hear the voice whispering this harmful belief in my inner ear. And when I hear it hiss 'You can't stop ... if you stop, people won't like you. They won't value you. You'll never get anywhere. You'll just be a failure. Chop chop, do the busy things ...' I stamp my inner foot and say 'No!' I don't believe you, little voice.’ Because this voice isn’t helping me AT ALL!
I know many of you will relate with this because it is such a human thing to experience.
We're making up stories all the time and playing them out on a habitual loop.
So, if you're the kind of person who is 'bad' at pausing, pausing feels hard and, inevitably, you don't do it (conversely, if you see yourself as someone who is good at this, then it feels much easier and you'll engage in the habit, again by ... habit).
What do we do when we're the 'type' of person who perhaps knows we need to slow down and take a moment to pause, but that pausing actually feels damn hard?
My favourite way? Through movement. And then stillness. In that order.
Why movement first? Mindful movement - when we get super curious about the intricacies of what we're feeling - allows us to anchor the mind on something beyond our ordinary thoughts. When you're on the hamster wheel of thinking about ALL. THE. THINGS. trying to 'think' your way to resting can be counterproductive.
That's why I love to use slow, mindful movement as an anchor point for these restless thoughts. It requires a deep sense of curiosity - noticing the small changes in sensation we experience as we move, marvelling in the capacity of our body to move through space. From there, we're a little more 'prepped' to rest - both because our mind has been anchored, and also because we're physically more comfortable from the movement itself.
When we take the time to move first, and then take some time to pause, there are two important elements in the pausing itself: support and allowing.
First, we want to create a level of support for ourselves that leaves no doubt to the nervous system that we are indeed supported and safe. That container of physical support sends a signal to our body that we're safe and therefore not in need of the fight-or-flight stress response that we may find ourselves in the bulk of the time as we navigate our day to day lives.
The second element is a sense of allowing. This one is two-fold. Firstly, we're allowing the physical support of the floor and any props we use to hold us in order to enter a state that is physically relaxed. Secondly, we're allowing the experience to be what it will be.
What do I mean by this? Well, there is no surer way to find yourself in a dizzying state of thought-war than to attempt to fight the thoughts that enter your mind.
Trust me - it is a losing battle.
Your mind's job is to think, so don't expect that it will stop, just because you think it should. Maybe it will slow down at some point, but don't let that be your aim.
Instead, allow your mind to do its thing and start to play with what it means to be able to notice your own thoughts.
Is it possible to notice them without actually engaging in them?
Yes? Well then, my lovely human, YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. You can let them do their own thing - coming and going and looping and whirring and you don't have to worry about them or entertain them.
Some of those thoughts aren't even true. Lots of them, in fact. And, for a while at least, you can choose not to engage.
If it’s helpful, you can choose an anchor point for your awareness so that you have somewhere to return to when you do inevitably get pulled in by the thinking mind (and it is inevitable). You might come back to this anchor point a dozen times or more in a very short space of time. And that’s ok! The power lies in the choice to shift your awareness.
Where can you anchor your awareness? The choice is yours. Perhaps you might choose to be present with the sensation of your own breath, or with the physical sensations within your body. Or maybe you notice the sounds within and around you, without the need to get caught up in any stories about what you hear.
Whatever you choose, recognise that this state of pausing is one in which we give ourselves permission to experience it as it is. You're not there to conquer yourself or beat your mind into submission.
Even if you stay engaged in your thoughts the entire time, the act of setting your body up to rest still has IMMENSE value ... so don't aim for perfection, because it doesn't exist. Aim instead for a moment of pause for yourself, recognising that it is entirely worth your time to do so.
Now for a little video. In it, you’ll find a short mindful movement practice that you can do at home that will lead you beautifully into restorative yoga. All you need is your couch and the floor. You might also like to grab a blanket or two and/or a small pillow.