When I moved back to the East Coast from California, I promised myself to vacation somewhere warm for a few days each winter. Usually, I go away in February when I'm starting to feel light deprived and a bit sluggish. It also gives me a chance to get away from work and other daily tasks, which easily rob me from taking the rest that I need.
What I've learned about myself from the past few years of traveling in the winter is that I often come back more tired than when I left. And while my vitmain D levels may have increased, my overall energy has not. But, why?
All rest is not created equal.
There I am, taking in the sun, lounging on the beach, but I'm not actually allowing the beach chair to support me. I'm still holding a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and my legs are stiff. My mind is still jetting out all over the place, coming up with less than restful ideas having nothing to do with where I am (on a gorgeous beach with the stunning clear blue ocean in front of me!)
Taking some tips from my teacher, Thea Elijah, I started to ask myself, "Am I trusting my beach chair? How much more can I trust my beach chair?" As I started paying attention to the answers to these questions, I softened. I started to sink into the chair. I realized my head was sticking forward so I gently laid it back on the towel and let it become heavy. I dropped my shoulders down, I let my hips settle in and my legs fall open. My breathing started to deepen and slow. My chest felt more open. My eyes softened, my mind became quiet. I felt as heavy as the anchors keeping the boats close to the shore. I drifted into this tranquil space where all of my muscles were relaxed and drinking up the warmth. I was finally resting.
You don't have to be on a beach in the caribbean to get in on this feeling. You can start by asking yourself, "Am I trusting my chair? Am I allowing myself to be held and supported by the chair? What would have to change for me to feel even more supported?" Check in with your body and start with your feet. "Are my feet relaxed and rooted to the ground? Are they flat on the floor?" Then move up your body, asking each body part if they can relax and trust even more into your chair. Move all the way up to your head and neck making sure you let go of any tension and relax more deeply into your chair. This is something you can take a few minutes to do in the middle of your day to make sure you aren't working more than you need to in order to get things done.
Another way to do this is by leaning up against a wall. Stand a few inches from the wall and then rest your back body against it. Feel your feet grounded and supported. Bend your knees as necessary to get into a position where you feel the support from the ground below and the wall behind you. Sink your back into the wall more deeply. From your gluteals and sacrum up your back all the way to your head. Let the wall hold you up. Once you really feel supported by the wall, step a few inches away from it. Can you still feel your back being supported? Even if you aren't touching it, can you sense that the support is there? How does the back of your body feel like this? You can continue to move a little farther away from the wall and keep checking in with your back. "Do I feel supported?" and "Am I resting into my back?" You can eventually start walking around the room with the same sense of support in your back. See how this feels. See if you are resting more into your back body and into the infinite universe behind you.
These exercises have been very valuable for me but only when I practice them. The more I do them, the more useful they are and the more I'm sending a signal to my body to relax into whatever it is I'm doing. The health benefits from me have been great. I'd love to hear how they work for you or anything you notice when you try them out. And you can check out Thea Elijah's website for more information about her Medicine Without Form program, which is where these exercises came from.