More is a four-letter word. Every day is filled with lists of more things to do: more projects to complete, more meals to cook, more events to plan and attend. No wonder we all run around feeling crunched for time, exhausted and resentful—especially this time of year. When your mind is constantly telling you to hurry up, the accompanying tension in your body contributes to your agitation. So telling yourself “I don’t have enough time!” produces physical responses that zap your energy and trigger the stress response, which can wreak havoc on your digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems—to say nothing of your mental health. But guess what? You literally have all the time that’s available—there’s nowhere else to get more. The keys to understanding that fact are to pay attention to the little choices you make every day that rob you of precious time, and to make room for rest and relaxation.
Take a load off Health care professionals regularly tell their time-pressed, stressed clients to relax. That’s good advice, but they seldom tell you how to do it. Luckily, restorative yoga offers simple, serene solutions to help you reduce the effects of daily stress. It involves, in short, taking a break and lying down, but it also provides you with something you might find you need: a solid technique for stopping and catching your breath. Benefits include less fatigue, lower-back pain relief and reduced blood pressure. While some forms of modern yoga seem more like a workout than a respite, restorative yoga practice is focused entirely on the art of resting. Its simple postures are designed to promote deep relaxation. You don’t have to concern yourself with moving in and out of poses, stretching or challenging yourself, but rather with supporting yourself more fully. The props that are used in restorative yoga sessions cushion your relationship to the floor and gravity, helping you surrender completely to the moment and allowing your body to soften and open up.
Inhale, exhale, repeat One of the most powerful tools you can use to calm your body and mind is your breath. Who hasn’t been told in the midst of a frenzy to take a deep breath? When you connect deep breathing with the supported postures of restorative yoga, your parasympathetic nervous system calms down and overrides the fight-or-flight response. To help your mind slow to a more natural pace, begin each practice with some long, unhurried, even breathing. Most people find that they’ve already begun to relax and “drop down” into a quieter space after five to 20 breaths. Restorative yoga is most effective if you have 10 or 20 minutes to practice, but even five minutes can quiet the mind, in turn opening up the possibility of a cooler, calmer approach to life. When you come out of a pose, you can feel that your biochemistry is different, which changes your perception and unlocks the potential for you to live differently. Restorative yoga can be practiced at any time of the day, virtually anywhere and by anyone. All you need are a quiet, comfortable space, a little time to disconnect from the world and a few yoga props (you can buy them at fitness stores or from websites like huggermugger.com) or items you already have around the house, such as couch cushions, blankets and face cloths. Using a timer will allow you to relax deeply and focus your mind and your breath rather than worrying about how many minutes have gone by. Taking a few moments to restore your body and rejuvenate your spirit is time well spent, and a gift you give not only to yourself but also to others in your life.