Monday, September 14, 2015

Ready, Set, Rest~


In the year 2011, the Anusara community that I had been a part of for more than a decade crumbled and fell apart. Like so many others in the Anusara community, I felt like I'd been left in the middle of nowhere with one question hanging over my head: What next? Eventually I resigned my Anusara-inspired title and distanced myself from whatever "community" was left. 

Since the Anusara fall apart, I purposely chose not to make a choice as far as teachers or styles of yoga go. I purposely chose to just step back and work at stepping in, listening more intently to my own inner guidance, and just practicing letting the teachings that needed to be shared to come to and through me. I knew I had learned enough and had enough teaching experience to continue to teach minus the Anusara-inspired title. So that is what I did, I continued to teach and find my own way forward.

For a good chunk of time, I just kept teaching but didn't really know what to do with myself or who I wanted to learn from next. The only thing that I knew was that I was ready to learn something, and preferably something new. As I sat with the question of what next and with whom, the only teacher that I felt drawn to study with was long-time yoga teacher, Judith Hanson Lasater. I wanted to learn more about Restorative yoga and how to teach Restorative yoga well. 

So over this past summer, I finally got be a student again. I went all the way to San Francisco to do a week-long restorative training with Judith Hanson Lasater. It was a training that took 3 years for me and my family to make possible. And though it took 3 years, I have to say that it was worth the wait, time, money, and energy that it took to get there.That particular training and teacher were exactly what I needed and what I'd been looking for ever since the dissolution of the Anusara community. I really felt like Judith was speaking my language in terms of yoga practice and the importance and necessity of deep rest and relaxation, something that seems to be missing in most people's lives.

During the first day of the training, Judith said something that really stuck with me. She said, "People in our culture are not taught how to replenish themselves." How true! People in our culture are so used to being exhausted that it's become normal to live life in a fog, running on empty most of the time. And even as exhaustion has become the norm in our culture,  it's not healthy or necessary. So what can we do to dial down the stress and decrease the tired? What can we do to nourish and care for ourselves better? How can we learn the art of replenishing ourselves? And what does the word replenish even mean?

The word replenish means to make full or complete again or to supply with fresh fuel. Who in this world does not need to be replenished daily? I know that I need quiet moments of rest to regroup and refresh daily, or I struggle to cope with the daily demands of life. So what are some ways that we can decrease stress and consciously replenish ourselves? Well, we can do several things: we can take a walk, sit quietly in the woods, eat more slowly, delete an item or two off our to-do list, go to bed earlier, meditate, and, of course, we can add restorative yoga to our lives.

So why restorative yoga and not just a regular yoga class? Well, a regular, more vigorous yoga practice is another great way to dial down stress and most certainly has a lot of positive benefits. And I highly recommend both an active and more passive practice, as I believe we need both to sustain our health and energy. However, a growing trend in a majority of yoga classes these days is for the yoga to be hard, fast, and sweaty, and rarely includes time for deep rest and reflection at the end. Most yoga classes only give students 5 minutes of rest at the end of class. Five minutes! That is not rest, that is merely a pause between one thing and the next. I know from my own personal experience that when there is no real rest at the end of a hard class or practice, I leave feeling even more exhausted and shaky instead of energized and clear. I leave with the feeling that my nervous system has just been completely overloaded, and I've learned that shaky feeling is an indicator that my nervous system has been overloaded.

What most us don't realize is that we spend our days with the sympathetic nervous system turned on and running on overdrive all day. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight mode that helps us to get things done.This is a good thing during the day when we need to get things done. It's only bad when that system stays on all the time, which is what's happening for most people. 

There is another part of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system which is often referred to as the relax response in the body. And when the relax response in the body gets turned on that is when we begin to release stress and when the nervous system begins to settle and re-balance itself. What we can do with Restorative Yoga is consciously manipulate the parasympathetic nervous system to turn on. Meaning we can turn on the relax response in the body with restorative yoga poses. How cool is that??!! And the best part is that it only takes a minimum of 20 minutes a day to reset and balance our brain, body, and nervous system. Twenty minutes is doable. And a whole hour and 20 minutes is magical.

Simply put, we need rest. And Restorative Yoga gives us rest by using props to support the body in positions of comfort and ease to facilitate health and relaxation. Restorative yoga is all about letting the body rest and letting the mind go. It is the art and practice of learning how to replenish ourselves by way of quiet rest. We all need this kind of yoga practice in our lives because we all need a break. Restorative yoga teaches us how to give ourselves that break. 

I'm really glad that I found my way to Restorative Yoga because I needed it. And I'm guessing I'm not the only one. Now, I get to share the sweet, soothing practice of Restorative yoga with others. I get to teach others how to set themselves up in relaxing postures, and then give people the time and space they need to heal, revive, and replenish themselves. and I'm pretty excited about that. I am excited about this new direction that my teaching is taking because I see it as a way that I can be of service in the world, and that is my aim as a teacher and human being anyway. 

Bring on the Rest,
Marcia