‘To relax is not to collapse, but simply to undo tension. This tension has been accumulated in the body and in the mind by years of forceful education. Tension is the result of will, effort and prejudice.’ Vanda Scaravelli
It’s so interesting how we approach yoga and meditation. I often have conversations with students about lack of time in their daily schedule for their practice. I think it comes from a simple misunderstanding of what our practice is.
We were trained to achieve, to struggle daily in the effort of reaching clear goals – in our work, in education and in sports. There is always somebody we are in competition with, even if they are an imaginary person somewhere out there in the world. We are encouraged to ‘give it our best’, to ‘push through our limits’, and to ‘keep going no matter what’. This way of thinking and behaving has become unconscious and automatic for most of us.
Then we show up in a yoga class and we bring that approach to our practice on a mat. After all it works for us in our daily lives so it should work here! Only that it doesn’t work for us. The evidence is in the levels of stress and anxiety we are all struggling with, the tiredness and exhaustion experienced by many, and the high level of anti-depressant medication prescribed by GPs.
For me the strongest evidence is in our yoga sessions where I observe students not able to settle down or relax and feel very disconnected from their breath and body.
But what does it mean to relax? How can we shift from our constant ‘doing’ to relaxing?
In my first job in substance misuse services over 15 years ago I learned a useful abbreviation: HALT, which means STOP in German. It asks you to pause when you feel:
H – hungry
A – angry
L – lonely
T – tired
It’s about coming back to basics and take small steps to self-care. How many of us run around feeling hungry but not taking time to eat? How many of us feel angry or lonely but not able to express those feelings or seek support from others? How many of us are exhausted but keep pushing through?
Of course we can do it for a period of time – push our body and mind and be able to cope with a lot of pressure – and sometimes it’s necessary. But at some point something has got to give – and always it will be our body or mind.
As we are going into the season of giving – let’s start with ourselves. Give yourself a gift of self-care – time to relax and self-soothe, time for your body and mind to re-adjust and nourish, time to rest and let go of tension. Take some time to move your body and connect with your breath. Allow yourself to finish the year with gratitude for your life and enter New Year with a renewed energy in your body and clarity in your mind.
And if you would like some support with making changes in your life in 2017 you might be interested in “90 Days to Re-boot Your Body and Mind’ one-to-one programme I will be running in New Year.