"Oh, that's not very restful, is it?" is a phrase I hear really often when I talk about my own rest, holidays and what I get up to away from teaching you lovely lot. It got me thinking - that we don't always really understand what rest is as a society, and we're actually pretty terrible at it.
You'll probably know I'm a mega active human generally - I walk lots, surf, and climb regularly as well as my very active job teaching yoga.
I also find sitting still and doing nothing really draining... so I don't do it. All of those activities I mentioned count as rest.
There's this perception that rest means sitting or lying down, doing nothing.
That's actually a very narrow view of what rest is and can be.
What if I told you there's actually 7 different kinds of rest?
What if I told you it's all down to what you find nourishing?
What is rest?
Rest at its source is about replenishment, not attainment or achievement. It's about making sure we are resourcing ourselves adequately at an internal and self-based level. It's also about acknowledging that self worth isn't reliant on work, or external factors it's that inner resource you can draw upon.
Rest is actually really radical. Socially and politically speaking, we live in a society that relies on us being pushed to be working consistently, always being productive and hustling to our personal detriment so to stand up to hustle and being always on is bold. Putting looking after yourself before running yourself into the ground for someone else's gain is radical.
I personally like to think of rest as filling up a cup with water (squash, tea - whatever). Everything you do takes from your cup - work, chores, family life. Rest replenishes that cup with water. If you keep taking from the cup and never fill it up, what happens when it runs dry? You personally suffer.
That isn't a sustainable approach to living and it also isn't in keeping with the yoga practice of Ahimsa (non-violence). You're hurting and causing harm to yourself by not replenishing your reserves.
Rest will win every battle you fight with it - so resisting leads to burnout, stress, anxiety and lots of physical manifestations like stomach ache, feeling run down, catching every sniffle going around and so much more.
Which is why it is so important that we create rest within our daily lives, that sanctuary within ourselves and our spaces.
Rest is also really subjective, and a learned skill. There's no one right way to do it and it's all down to what you as an individual find replenishing. Someone else's rest might feel super draining to you, and that's okay - it's about working out which types of rest work for you and practicing a bit of self reflection and study to figure it out.
The seven types of rest
The seven types of rest are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory and creative (from Sacred Rest). It's also important to note that many activities cover more than one area of rest.
Physical rest is probably most people's idea of rest - this can take the form of lying down doing nothing. It also incorporates movement like yoga (asana practice), other sports, bodywork like sports or relaxing massages, sleep rituals like baths, good food. Essentially, things that nourish you physically. That might be a gentle stretch when you notice you're tired, or planning a day out hiking if you're feeling good.
Mental rest concerns things that allow your brain to switch off; things like journalling, meditation, making to do lists and scheduling time to do specific tasks, reading, binging Netflix. It's things that allow your brain to take a break from itself. Personally, this is the area I always need the most - so I read before I go to sleep every night, because it allows my brain to switch off from the business and I enjoy climbing because I can really focus on the movements and being present - both of these are the essence of mental rest. You can of course, figure out what this would look like for you.
Emotional rest is the practice of paying attention to how you're feeling, letting go of comparison and sharing your feelings with people you feel safe with. If you're feeling drained, maybe juggling your schedule to do a particular task on a different day, using talking therapies and recognising how your feeling are all examples here.
Spiritual rest is an interesting area, I think of this as nourishing the soul -things like meditation, gratitude practices and acts of service. Acts of service could take the form of making a nice meal for your loved ones, making a small gift for a friend. This is all about things that make you feel good and you do from a space of care and love not only for you, but for others too.
Social rest covers the communication forms you engage with, who and active listening. I think we're all really aware that zoom/whatsapp can feel really draining and take energy rather than give it and feel seeing people in person is way more nourishing. Lots of us also have people who energise us, but also people who are energy takers. We all also like to feel heard and supported.
We live in a very stimulating world with phones pinging, notifications and screens competing for our attention consistently and this is what sensory rest is concerned with. Personally I have all my work alerts and notifications turned off on my phone, I keep it on silent all day, and I schedule outside time after being on video calls. I also often like to have some chilled music on in the background whilst I'm working too, to filter out the background noise.
Creative rest is all about igniting that creativity that we all have within us - our ability to be creative is innate (even if you think you're not) you'll be a problem solver, you'll cook and make things - and it's one of the first areas that suffer when we've not been resting sufficiently. Creative rest can be getting outside and spending time in nature, going to a gallery, and also doing things like blocking allocated time off and down time during the day.
Wondering how you can start to incorporate this into your day-to-day? Give this short exercise a go:
Grab a piece of paper
draw two columns
In the left column; write down the seven different kinds of rest
In the right hand column; write down the activities that nourish you in line with each of the seven kinds of rest
Notice if there are any gaps and see if you can find a couple of activities to meet those needs, however small and simple
Implement for a couple of weeks
Spend a couple of minutes each day reflecting on how you're feeling - you can sit and do this, or write it in a journal/on paper.
Let me know how you get on!
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