Restorative yoga feels like my dirty little secret. As I get older and my practice focuses more on rest and rejuvenation, I’ve identified a terrible lie we’ve all been told. I’m sure you have heard it: hard work always pays off.
To that, I’d like to respectfully say: bullshit.
The myth that “nothing but hard work will bring you success (or happiness, or love)” used to run me ragged. What I’ve discovered is that the more I do what I enjoy, the more success (and happiness, and love) I feel. There is nothing hard or work-like about it.
Relax and Listen To Your Body’s Wisdom
Recently, I visited one of my favorite places in the world: Ojo Caliente mineral hot springs. I spent two full days soaking, reading, walking, painting. Occasionally, conversation sparked with another soaker. Otherwise, there was a whole lotta nothing going on.
Back at home, I returned to my work with renewed enthusiasm and vigor. But something shifted. I realized that I don’t want to ever “work” again.
Shifting Your Perspective
When you have to force yourself to do something that feels like a struggle, you are essentially going against your body’s wisdom. Your body knows when a situation or an activity is aligned with your inner wisdom (or not) and it will tell you so: by becoming either relaxed and healthy (or stressed and sick.) The signs are pretty clear. But if you’re not paying attention, you could miss them. Or you might be in a temporary phase of working through something. Or you might chronically override your body’s messages and miss the life that was meant for you. Regular gentle yoga will keep the rejuvenation process active.
Relax and Notice What You Love
One of my favorite things in the world is to spend an afternoon immersed in a great work of literature, or a contemporary art museum. My body literally vibrates when I am in the experience. My mind gets calm, clear and inspired. The message is clear. What I do with that message is up to me. This is a process that has not completely revealed itself yet, but I am doing my “practice” of painting and writing every day and seeing what unfolds.
This is not to say there is no labor in doing what you love, and I’m not advocating laziness. Getting on your yoga mat can mean a very focused practice, even if it is not outwardly vigorous. But do you really need to work so dang hard all the time?
Do What You Love, Rest + Rejuvenation Will Follow
It’s not much more complicated than this. But you can make it complicated. Many of us have self-imposed rules, or externally imposed rules. We have belief systems that subvert our truth. For many years, practicing a vigorous daily Ashtanga practice was what I loved. Then at some point it got to be too much. But because I had bought into the system by that point, it took me YEARS to allow myself to slow down and listen to my body. I was not listening.
Often we don’t know what we love because we have those preconceived ideas dictating what we think we should be doing. Or we let endless distractions hijack our attention and sabotage our awareness. This is truly a tragedy. When you relax and listen to your body’s wisdom your intentions are attuned to your actions.
One Posture To Add To Your Restorative Yoga Practice
Take time out every day to settle in to this posture and pay attention to your body’s wisdom. Notice any tension in your body, become aware of your thoughts, and let them go while you focus your attention on allowing the breath to settle down. Spend at least 10-20 minutes here–you will be amazed at how relaxed and renewed you feel afterward.
Here is a great interview with Judith Lasater a wise and seasoned yogini who now champions yoga postures that allow for rest and rejuvenation. Listen to her view on the importance of rest, and being kind to ourselves, and how restorative yoga can help with that process.