A few days ago I was contemplating what I wanted to accomplish in 2017, a yearly ritual I partake in as a closing to the year. Looking back at my resolutions and intentions from 2016 I noticed something very strange :: outside of my career & life-experience goals, I was making the same exact personal development goals. It appeared that nothing had changed during the entire year. I was still complaining about the same physical symptoms, the same fears, the same worries, and the same problems.
I recognized that making these lists of what I “need to do” to be healthy and what I “need to do” to move forward with my personal evolution was clearly not working. I was inside of my head trying to make choices that were not realistic in the present moment. I was habitually creating an impossible ladder to climb every time I set out to create personal change.
As I have been turning this truth over in my head, exploring parts of myself that I've never felt, something about the way I have been approaching change isn't working. I realized it was time to do EVERYTHING differently. Thus, we have our monthly theme and my top new years resolution: REST.
In disbelief that I had made little to no positive change in certain corners of my life despite regularly setting intentions, I had a moment of surrender. I got on my knees and said to spirit :: I am clearly not handling my spiritual evolution well. Send me guidance.
This soft message that came through my heart and my body in this meditation was that I was missing REST. The sweetness of the moment told me that rather than being goal oriented, narrowly focused, and forceful in my movements, it was time to intentionally RELAX, to GO SLOW, and be more MINDFUL in every moment. That's where the change was going to occur.
As we move through this month, I am not suggesting that we don’t do our practice or that we don’t participate in the change we are trying to create, I am simply suggesting that we do things differently, that on the heels of winter we approach our lives and our goals with softness and awareness cultivating the particular practice of moving so slowly that we are able to witness the habitual patterns we are ready to dissolve and choose an alternative way of moving through life.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE REST?
When we actually slow down in our lives we transition out of our stress response, out of loud mind and high mental chatter (AKA BETA BRAIN) and we drop into the RELAXATION RESPONSE of our body where we experience slower brain waves, a quieter mind, and the intricacies of our inner worlds. To make lasting change, entering this space is a must. Beyond dramatic life events, it is almost impossible to plant new seeds of intention into consciousness if we don't do it in this space. A regular practice of resting the nervous system becomes a lifestyle change of feeling our way through life vs. thinking our way through life.
When we finally allow ourselves to relax, the questions of what should I do to solve this problem get answered by the unraveling of sensations in the body rather than the mind. We are able to hear the messages of the inner organs as they are trying to communicate that we are eating too much processed foods, or that we would be much happier if there was more movement in our day, or that the tightness we feel in our chest is because we are being suffocated by our job or our declining relationship.
If we can cultivate and nurture a practice of slowing down in our every day life, then we also begin to see ourselves more clearly: our habitual patterns, choices, responses, and default modes as they arise rather than addressing them after we have already committed an associated harmful habit.
EXPLORING REST IN EVERY MOMENT
This month in my asana classes, we are going to slow everything down with our breath and explore how we are moving from pose to pose as a metaphor for the exploration of how we move through our lives from moment to moment. We will break down how we arrive, how we leave, and what we are doing while we are in our postures :: Are we using the proper muscles to hold us up? Are we leaning on compensatory muscles because of an old injury (or wound)? Are we even aware that we are moving from old, poorly informed patters?
We are going to explore different breath training practices and how the breath alters the brain waves & chatter of the mind and then meditation techniques that encourage us to receive the messages of the body. Finally, we are going to explore how the visual focus we adopt in our yoga practice is connected to how we place weight in the feet and how mindfulness in the feet and the drishti alter each posture.
Whether you are a teacher or a student, the resources here this month are for you. We will be practicing the same variation of sequences all month to explore these topics with different sub themes. I encourage you to come to class, ask questions, and share your experiences. Remember your revelations will undoubtedly support someone in diving deeper into their inner world.
Remember: your practice should change you. Every time you arrive to your mat you should leave a new person.
Where in your day do you take time to rest?
How does your need for rest change throughout the year?
What is your default mode of creating change and setting intentions? Do they seem to stick? How could you do things differently?
What is your relationship to the messages from your body? Do you take time and space to listen? When looking for answers or guidance is there a process of looking outside of yourself or within?
Please share some of your responses with us! We'd love to hear some of your mindfulness and resting tips and tricks. Your insights inspire us all.
Aho & Pranam.