He quipped, “If only people give rest to their heart, it will say thank you”.
Coming from a medical professional with over 20 years of experience, it is a simple but very profound statement.
The irony is that there is more awareness about health currently. More and more information, activities are being discussed, promoted for health.
Then why the numbers of experiences shared about chronic illness and pain and other lifestyle issues are only increasing?
So, I scrolled through around 700 articles which are highly rated and shared across social media about health. And this is what I found: Most health articles are about “what you should be doing?”
As if managing your daily routine, job, commute, social circle is not enough. No, it should not be about what more you should be doing, rather what you should not be doing.
The theme here is: What you should not be doing.
The first thing you should not be doing is adding to your workout or any other routine.
Yes, I mean it.Exactly what I just said. You should not be doing more.
You are already doing enough. Don’t load that up with more targets.
Or drop few of things you are doing currently. Things which are not adding as much value as they are costing time. Replace them with what you want to do instead.
Even then, stop, and take out time.
Your body (and mind) need time
Why body needs a break (even with so-called easy life):
While going through a normal daily routine, your body is already going through a lot.
- Picking things etc.
I have mentioned simple body movements only. Because we don’t count them at all while considering all the things we are putting our body through.
So, let’s dig into these movements in current scenarios. Take sitting for example. Unless you are working in a conscious organization, I seriously doubt you are sitting on an ergonomically designed chair. Even if the chairs are good, are you sitting properly?
Each of these things matters:
- Sitting straight- Spine is lifted up
- Shoulders relaxed
- If working on a laptop, then the position of your wrists and forearms.
A similar situation is there for other activities. Like in driving, how many times you get irritated with the way other drivers keep cutting in front of your car, driving rashly or even too much traffic and wrongly parked vehicles.
These things put stress on your body. Stress breaks down your body in long term. Though stress is part and parcel of living in big city, your body needs to recover itself on a consistent basis to be able to function.
Normally, when you sleep, your body repairs itself.
Is sleeping enough?
Human body is designed to heal itself. Provided it is supplied with enough rest and proper nutrition.
Well, as I just mentioned ‘normally‘ your body will be able to repair itself in sleep.
It is not like that anymore. Our sitting postures, eating habits, long working hours are adding up to small increments of stress that require more than just lying down to relax.
What it needs is the proper time to relax and it can heal itself from many, many things.
This fact about the human body is so simple that we tend not to accept this simple fact.
Think this for a moment, when (god forbid) you are hospitalized for something, what is the main thing recommended along with medical care.
Yes, bed rest.
Why do you think that is? Because when medicines and supplements are provided to your body, it needs to stop moving, so that healing process can work.
Sleep serves this purpose. But it depends on the quality of sleep.
The problem is that we are getting less and less quality sleeps these days. Most of the time we just collapse on the bed after a long, nearly neverending day.
Sleeping more is no solution too. Most of the time, you will be just turning from one post to another, to find that sweet spot. And then time runs out, and you have to get up.
Funny enough, this kind of disturbed sleep puts pressure on your heart too.
Instead, what you should be focusing on is proper relaxation. When you relax properly, the quality of everything else is improved.
What is proper relaxation?
Relaxation is the simple word, but why the emphasis on proper relaxation?
Because, we have confused the terms lazing off, watching television or listening to music as relaxation.
Yes, these activities are relaxing. But, they are not relaxation. They are just time out. And what you are actually doing is engaging your mind with something else to keep it occupied.
Proper relaxation is when the focus is on the complete suspension of each deliberate movement and just being there.
Once you stop the movements of the body and bring your awareness to your breath, the breathing slows down. This leads to increased awareness about your body. And this awareness is what makes all the difference.
Once your awareness of your body and breath is there, it focuses your mental energy (and subsequently your body’s) to those body parts which are tense. This hidden tension doesn’t need any self-help book to release itself.
All it needs is your awareness and focus on it. Body and Mind are good enough to know how to heal themselves.
Two practices related to that in yoga asana is savasana and yoga nidra.
Savasana | Shavasana | Corpse pose:
Laying down on the ground, like a corpse, is called Śava-āsana. It removes fatigue and gives rest to the mind.” ~ Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Chapter(pada) 1, Sutra 34.
This simple-looking pose is more difficult than you can imagine. Your body & mind will cause distractions that make it a challenge. Your body might feel cold, itchy, or unsettled.
And your mind will try to deviate into millions of things, like
- what is that sound?
- Did I fall asleep and everyone is up and gone?
- How much time has passed?
- What is teacher doing?
and so on…
This causes you to make movements, lift your head and check around or even moving your toes and fingers. Important thing is to resist such temptations and avoid any such movement.
If the mind is oscillating here and there, bring it back and observe. This difficult, but consistent practice is the key.
When done regularly, this simple asana has immense benefits.
Benefits of savasana
- It relaxes the body (obviously 🙂 )
- Relieves stress & mild depression
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces fatigue by deepening your breath and relaxing muscles
All well-designed Yoga class end with the practice of Savasana. A teacher can only guide you so much and provide instructed practice of Savasana, it is you who has to know how to take maximum benefit out of it.
So, from next class onwards, stay alert and relax consciously when in savasana.
The next step up from Savasana is Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra | Yogic Sleep
In words of YogaInternational: Yoga nidra is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain.
And it is true. Yoga nidra is one step up from Savasana. The difference between two is the guided relaxation(either by continuous instructions of the teacher or self-visualization) is there in Yoga nidra.
As these instructions are planned in a certain way, Yoga Nidra is slightly longer as compared to Savasana as well as the benefits are deeper.
Researchers concede that the sample sizes are small and more longitudinal studies are needed, but the findings are hopeful. In two separate papers published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology researchers found Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Researchers at Shyam Shah Medical College measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice. All of this comes on the back of numerous studies firmly establishing measurable therapeutic effects of meditation, no matter the method, on everything from metabolic syndrome to clinical depression. ~HuffingtonPost
The best part?
You can inculcate Yoga nidra into your daily routine. If you miss your class or not able to go for sometime, simply find good instruction audio (or youtube) online and you are good to go.
It is normally mentioned that 30 min of Yoga nidra is equivalent to 2 hours of deep sleep. Yoga nidra is all about ‘conscious relaxation’ throughout the practice. You don’t fall to sleep, you working with yourself with each breath.
There is no doubt that the need of the hour is proper relaxation. Do it before your body or your doctor makes you do it.
A necessary suggestion: These are simple and powerful relaxation technique, just don’t use them to push yourself into doing more work. Remember work is a neverending process. It was there before you were involved in it and it will be there once you take a break from it.
So, for now, relax. And relax properly.
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Also published on Medium.