Imagine a time of day when your to-do list disappears. A time of day when your body and brain powers down, leaving you with freedom from your thoughts. You may read this and think, “You’re crazy. I have tiny humans running around at home and a laundry list of things to do — not to mention an actual load (or two or three) of laundry to do.
I’m here to tell you, friend, it’s possible to rest. The only thing holding you back is yourself.
What Exactly Is Rest?
Maybe you think rest is reading a book, listening to music, or going for a walk on the beach. While these are all good for you, they are self-care activities — not actually rest. Rest is not active. An activity that engages your eyes and mind and keeps you mentally active is not considered rest. Most women do not know how to rest.
A Grown-Up Nap
While there are a variety of ways to rest, one that works for me is called yoga nidra, which is essentially a “yoga nap.” This particular yoga practice doesn’t involve downward dog or headstands. This is yoga you can do right on your back.
The practice of yoga nidra signals the body to slip into a deep state of relaxation while the mind simultaneously stays alert.
Yoga nidra expert, teacher, creator, and author of Daring to Rest, Karen Brody, says 45 minutes of yoga nidra feels like three hours of sleep to your body. Who wouldn’t want to experience this?
A Mental Vacation
I would consider myself a mom “in the trenches.” That is, I have a toddler, preschooler, and elementary-schooler. I feel like my mind is always on overdrive and never gets an opportunity to rest.
Thoughts are incessantly swirling in my mind, all at the same time. Should I call the doctor about the toddler’s rash? Preschool picture day is tomorrow — she needs clean clothes. Don’t forget to sign the field trip permission slip and pack a snack. Which kid likes peanut butter and which likes just jelly?
For me, yoga nidra is the one time of day when I get to escape all the chatter. For 20 blissful minutes, my mind goes on vacation.
So how do I fit it in? It will look different for everyone, but here’s how it works for me:
I lay the baby down for his afternoon nap and set my preschooler up with a movie on Netflix (#NoShame). I cuddle her on the sofa for about 15 to 20 minutes, then retreat upstairs. I’ll be real with you, it took some time (read: bribing with M&M’s) to train (let’s call it like it really is) my daughter to stay downstairs by herself.
I close the kitchen off with a baby gate so she can’t sneak in to get all the snacks. In the beginning, I would tell her that if she stayed on the sofa until I came back downstairs, I would give her a piece of chocolate. She didn’t comply at first, and of course, I got frustrated when she would interrupt me, but I trusted in the process. With time, every day got a little better and easier. (Now, when it comes to the great M&M’s bribery, I follow Pavlov’s Law.) Maybe you won’t have to bribe your children like I did, but I have no guilt or regrets about it — and you shouldn’t either. Mama needs her yoga nap!
I turn my phone to silent, set an alarm for 30 minutes (just in case I fall asleep), and find a meditation on my phone. (I suggest starting with this one, or downloading a free meditation app, like Insight Timer.) I lay on the bed (a sofa or yoga mat works, too) with a pillow under my knees, cover my body with a blanket, and cover my eyes with a lavender eye pillow (a washcloth also works).
I leave the door open so I can hear if the baby cries or the preschooler needs anything. Then, I press play and go on a mental vacation for the next 20-ish minutes.
Yoga nidra meditations include creating a sankalpa, the Sanskirt word for intention. When practicing yoga nidra, you will state an intention in the present tense. Creating a sankalpa plants a seed for transformation. For example, my go-to sankalpa is, I am present and patient with my children. It’s working!
Yoga nidra maximizes the body’s ability to heal and restore. It can be used to treat patients with trauma, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. It can decrease pain, lower blood pressure, and more.
This truth is it doesn’t go perfectly every time. There are some days where the internet goes out and the preschooler incessantly yells for me to fix the TV, or days where the second I lay down and get comfortable, the baby starts crying. That’s life, right? On those days I throw my hands up and say, Well I tried and this sucks, but I will try again tomorrow. And I do.
Following yoga nidra, I don’t reach for my phone to check messages or social media. Instead, I transition slowly so I don’t rush my body and mind, defeating the purpose of taking a yoga nap. I drink a glass of water and sometimes jot things down in my journal. My mind feels clear and I sometimes find ideas arise I don’t want to forget.
Yoga Nidra Tips
When I first began practicing yoga nidra, my mind and body had a hard time settling. That’s because I was out of my comfort zone and overly restless with thoughts. But I heard multiple times to let go of “perfection” and just “practice”. Many meditations will tell you to simply bring your focus back to the words guiding you, should your thoughts wander. I kept trying to fight every noise and distraction instead of noticing, becoming aware, and accepting it. I found the more I stuck with yoga nidra, the more peaceful I felt.
For me, yoga nidra was a chain reaction to being a better mother. I found that I had much more patience to handle motherhood.
Here’s to a Better You
Make yoga nidra a self-love ritual — not something to check off your to-do list. I encourage you to try yoga nidra four to five times a week for 20 minutes at a time (allow a total of 40 minutes for prep and transition time). My favorite rest and yoga nidra resources can be found through Daring to Rest and Gina Hardy.
The worst that could happen is, after a few weeks, you realize this is not a practice for you. But, the best that could happen is it could change your life for the better.
Think you can’t still get your yoga in during PCS? Master some PCS-friendly yoga and stay zen on the road.
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