There’s nothing worse than someone using your own words back at you (well, perhaps world hunger, but that’s another blog entirely). So when I called my mother yesterday and complained about needing to relax, she said, “Wait, wasn’t that what your last tele-class was about? Why don’t you do some of the things you talked about on the call?” Dead silence.
She was right…I wasn’t exactly practicing what I preached at that moment in time. So, while I may have been slightly irritated, there were 2 things I immediately thought to myself:
- “Ya know, it always bothered me that it seems like mothers are always right…but now that I’m a mom, I can’t WAIT until my son is old enough to seek my advice…then I can tell him to just do what I say, because I’m always right.” And…
- “Note to self: next time, maybe I should “forget” to invite my parents onto my tele-class call.”
By that time, I heard “Hello? Are you there?” I tend to get lost in my own thoughts sometimes…which brings me back to the topic of relaxation, which is in essence, getting “lost in yourself” for a brief moment in time.
It’s a fact: the people who say they can’t sit still long enough to relax are the people who need to relax the most! I’ve been in the yoga industry for over 20 years, and I can’t tell you the number of people who have said “I can’t do yoga…I can’t even sit still at the beginning, or lie down to relax at the end”. To which I always reply: “That’s why we practice yoga…to be ABLE to sit still! We don’t start at that place”, and “The relaxation at the end of yoga [called savasana] is the most challenging yoga pose there is…to still the body, and the mind as well, is HARD! Which is why we do it…to get BETTER at it!”
savasana…the pose of relaxation
So am I suggesting that everyone practice yoga? Well…there’s a part of me that desperately wants to scream, “YES! Just THINK of all that positive energy floating around out there if EVERYONE practiced yoga! No more strife, no more stubbornness, no more grasping”…but perhaps that’s not exactly practical. It happens to be my opinion, however, that yoga IS for everyone, regardless of gender, age, size, and background, as illustrated by my trademarked phrase “the person, not the pose”®. And, before you make assumptions, you just may be surprised at the results you get! Let’s explore a couple of ways that you may not have thought of before:
This is a simple way to both connect with nature, and link your body’s movement with breath. It doesn’t have to be elaborate: you can walk on the sidewalk around your neighborhood, find a big grassy field or park in which to walk (barefoot is extra-nice, because the sensory experience is greater), or even walk around an outdoor mall (I choose not to do this, because then my walking meditation becomes a shopping meditation!). The key is to go SLOWLY…you’re not walking for fitness, as if you’re in a race, just stroll…and take in your surroundings. At the same time, connect to your body and its movement: from the way your feet make contact with the earth to the natural subtle twisting of your upper body that allows your arms to go forward and back. Finally, breathe and really FEEL your breath throughout your body as you walk. For detailed step-by-step instructions on two different types of walking meditations, CLICK HERE to get in touch with me.
Here’s the thing: there are HUNDREDS of different styles of yoga out there, and educating yourself to find the best fit for you is key. I like to think of yoga as a spectrum…on one end is the gentle, slow-moving yoga you may even do seated in a chair, and on the other is what I call “kick-your-butt” yoga, fast and furious, and possibly in a heated room to boot. So know what you’re getting yourself into and ask questions before you sign up for a class.
Not only that, but here’s a secret we yoga instructors might not always tell you: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING WE DO! Okay, I’m sorry I yelled that…but it’s critical to understand that everything can be modified (and, if I may get on my soap box, modifications should always be given by the instructor…if not, find someone who offers them. There is no place for competition or risk of getting hurt in a yoga class). So, as far as relaxation goes…not every class begins and/or ends in a seated or supine (lying down) position, so you may find a style in which you stand to “center yourself” before moving into the poses, or you sit rather than lie down at the end of class. Or…and here’s where modification comes in…you can tell the instructor you prefer to stand rather than sit or sit rather than lie down (trust me, you won’t get kicked out of class!).
Are you furrowing your brow at this suggestion? Because…well…you breathe pretty much all the time?! What I’m referring to here is being CONSCIOUS of your breath. Thank goodness we don’t have to consciously make ourselves breathe 24/7, or we’d hardly get anything else accomplished. What I’m talking about is lying down or sitting and simply focusing on your breath…noticing how it feels in your body, noticing how different parts of your body respond with each inhale and exhale. You can also change your natural breathing pattern to create a greater sense of relaxation by extending the length of your exhalations (e.g., inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6). By doing this for just two minutes, I believe you’ll find that not only is your body more relaxed, but your mind becomes more calm, and you are better able to focus.
Relaxing doesn’t have to be a major production, something that requires a day at the spa, or an hour-long massage on your lunch break (though that is nice occasionally also!). Try one or more of the techniques I mentioned, and see what happens. I’d love to hear your favorite way(s) to relax, and if you try something new! Happy “zen-ning out”!
This post is part of the FYB “31 Days to Quiet the Voices in Your Head” series.
Check it out HERE.