Now matter how much time you have, these strategies will help you feel more rested and energized all season long.
Early fall and winter are known for wreaking havoc on our ability to rest, and from an Ayurvedic perspective, it makes sense—it’s Vata season. Vata is the air and spirit element characterized by wind, movement, coolness, and dryness, and during autumn it is the dominant energy both around and within us.
If our own Vata is over-abundant, we may have a harder time feeling grounded and calm; our days can leave us feeling depleted, and then later that evening we may experience less rejuvenating sleep. Sound familiar?
This isn’t without repercussions. In Ayurveda, sleep issues—such as insomnia, waking in the middle of the night, or inability to have restful sleep—are considered the root of many illnesses and physical and mental imbalances.
While Vata seems like a challenging energy, it’s important not to label it as “bad.” The truth is that it’s necessary. When Vata is in balance, it can be very powerful. It’s the energy we need for change, recreation, and transformation.
The good news is that yoga offers many tools to balance Vata throughout the day, so we can create conditions for rest and regain rejuvenating shuteye.
Here, I offer three practices to help you build rest into your day, so you can balance the excess Vata energy within and feel more grounded and calm all season long.
Got 3 Minutes? At Every Transition, Pause and Count Down to Calm
Settling down and quieting your mind doesn’t just happen at the flip of a switch. To move into a more restful headspace throughout the day, try this transitional technique called Counting Your Exhales. Use it before practicing yoga or meditation, trying to sleep, joining an important meeting, driving through rush hour—you get the idea.
Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Take a few letting-go breaths. Then, starting on an exhale, focus on the number 10. (Maybe picture the number as you mentally count it.) On the next exhale, lightly concentrate on the number 9. Continue to count down on each exhale. When you get to one, start again with 10.
Continue the cycle for 3-5 minutes. When your mind begins to wander, just notice it and without judgment draw your attention back to the number of the breath you are on. If you forget the number you are on, simply start again at 10.
Got 6 Minutes? Release Tension Before It Builds Up
If there’s one pose we could all spend more time in, it’s Constructive Rest. This pose helps free our breath, aid with digestion, and release tension in the belly, groin, low back, and all along the spine. It’s both calming and gently energizing. Even if you have just a few minutes, Constructive Rest can be deeply rejuvenating.
This potent 6-minute restorative flow is a simple sequence that weaves together Constructive Rest with mindfulness meditation and breath-based movement. It's just enough to leave you feeling gathered: more present, grounded, and open.
Got 15 Minutes? Reconsider What Rest Looks Like
When you feel your energy lagging and want to rest, you may think your options include a catnap or melting into Savasana — and I wholly encourage that if it feels good. However, it isn’t always possible to cue stillness on demand, especially if you’re experiencing tension and anxiety. Although it sounds counterintuitive, sometimes rest looks like mindful movement.
I often teach restorative flow practices that incorporate breathing practice to help us feel more grounded, present, and open—which in turn allows us to bring more relaxation into our day. In this 15-minute restorative flow practice, you’ll leave the mat feeling rested and centered. (The pack includes a 15-minute Savasana, in case that’s what your rest looks like today!)
May you find grounding and ease through this time of transition and transformation.
If you would like to prioritize rest during the holiday season, I hope you’ll join my upcoming program, MINDFUL OF REST: A Series of Daily Pauses for Yoga, Meditation, & Relaxation. It takes place November 27 - December 3, 2022, and features offerings from 12 luminaries. Learn more and register here.