Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Relieving deep exhaustion with yoga

As I lay in the Big Relax last Saturday, I began to let go. I had begun the session by leaping up to assist Cherise, helping students to set up their blankets in that wonderful art of blanket origami that is a part of the art of restorative yoga.  Then I began to recognize what I had not been taking time to acknowledge.  I felt deeply exhausted.  I began to settle into the practice. soaking up the deep relaxation of just being. It may sound odd but after two hours of restorative I still felt really tired.  I listened to this, I went home, had dinner, did no more work that day, and had an early night. And woke enormously refreshed.

This all happened after a week during which I had been pushing myself to take advantage of every waking hour to do more.

I have a friend who had an extremely high pressure, powerful but stressful position; and then she stepped back from it.  Discussing that later I asked her how she was finding it.  She told me that as she took on more and more she hardly noticed the increasing pressure.  Like the proverbial live frog in the pot in which the temperature is rising who doesn't jump out, she had simply absorbed.  "Now I have stopped" she said,  "I am exhausted.  I didn't know how exhausted, until I stopped."

The lesson is that we do not always recognize the symptoms of our deep exhaustion until it erupts as illness. But we can be wise and take steps to give our body and mind the true rest it needs.

This is what restorative yoga does. We support the body really well, and feeling that support, the body can finally relax. When the body relaxes, so can the mind and all of our organs and all of our cells can be flushed and refreshed with blood.

Donna Farhi, writing in Yoga, Body, Mind and Spirit said it more eloquently.

"In a restorative posture that has been well propped, one feels absolutely comfortable with no intense stretching sensations. Don’t mistake this, however, with a mild result. It is the graduated nature of the position that will allow you to stay for much longer periods of time than you might normally if you were practicing a posture more actively. This longer stay allows the key organs and glands to become drenched with revitalizing blood. Because the action reaches deep into the nervous system, the practice of these postures can dismantle chronic tension patterns, improve immune function, and bring the body and mind back to their original state of equilibrium."

We can learn from the suggestion of Judith Hanson Lassiter, author of Relax and Renew, "practice at least one restorative pose every day, at least one full session of restorative yoga every week, and one full week a year doing nothing but restorative yoga".

If you attend classes and learn restorative yoga from a good teac her you will learn to finesse your setting up to attain "impeccable standards of comfort" (Neal Ghoshal). But here is one pose you can always rely on.  It doesn't need a lot of props and you can do it almost anywhere.

Easy Rest, or Constructive Rest position is a pose you can do for ten minutes every day. Lie on your back on the floor and feel the spine laid along the floor.  Bend the knees and rest your feet on the floor. The fussiness in this restorative pose comes in the exact positioning of the feet. They should be hip width apart, with the weight evenly distributed underneath them. so sense the weight under the feet. try lifting them up and putting them back down again and sensing that weight beneath them.  If they are too close the weight will be more in the toes. If they are too far away the weight will come into the heels. If the feet are too wide, the knees will want to collapse inward, if they are too narrow the knees will want to collapse outwards. So shift the feet around a little and find that just right position.

You might find that your body greets this position with a deep "Yes". Close the eyes over and just rest here, watching your breath, for ten minutes.

To come up, roll over to your side and stay there awhile and then come up giving weight into your hips, supporting yourself with your hands and let your head arrive last.

(Picture credits: Babbling brook -
Constructive Rest position -