Submitted by Ben Flanders
With apologies to Wallace Stevens. If you haven’t read his poem “Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird” go and do that right now. He makes ya think…
Constructive rest is not one thing. It can be different things to different people, and it can be different things to the same person on different days (or times of day, or moods or…well you get the idea.) Here are my humble thoughts on just a few ways to practice constructive rest.
1. Progressive Relaxation: start with the muscles around the eyes and the face, work your way down. Go as deep or shallow as you like.
2. Coordinated Breathing: rest one hand on your chest and one on your belly, notice where you tend to expand, and play with letting the movement of the breathing flow throughout your whole torso (or chest, or ribs, or hips…)
3. Nap: Sometimes we’re just fried. Take a nap on the floor or a mat for 20 minutes. Set a timer if you’re not sure if you will wake up. If we go too deep or too long we just end up drowsy, weak, and stiff.
4. Practice inhibition and direction: What is the least amount of effort we can put in and still lengthen and widen? When we release and inhibit do we get longer or shorter? What else can we undo so we lengthen and widen as we relax? Explore.
5. Free your neck: What tension can we let go of in the neck head relationship? Jaw? Tongue? Soft palette? The head/neck area of the body is a treasure trove of places to release and explore. There is always another layer or area to release and soften.
6. Explore your contact with the floor: What is held up off the floor? What is pressed down into the floor? What’s too loose, what’s too tight?
7. Add some movement: Wiggle or rock your sacrum forward and back or around in a circle, roll your head gently around on the books, improvise.
8. Sensory awareness: Play with listening to the sounds around you, explore the limits of your peripheral vision, how much can you feel? Senses are not instantaneous, the longer we pay attention to them the more information they bring us.
9. Emotional awareness: Similar to sensory awareness. What are we feeling? How does our body react to Anxiety? Anger? Sadness?
10. Meditate: Pick whatever mantra you like and repeat it. (let my neck be free etc., our father etc., om mani padme hum, whatever) When the mind wanders, gently bring it back.
11. Just do it: Even if all you’re doing is thinking about all the things you’re not getting done or the movie you watched last night. Just going horizontal for 20 minutes has real benefits. Just get down on the floor and rest. Try thinking of it as a test of will power.
12. Map your body: Take a mental/visualization tour of your body. What does the hip joint do in a squat? How does the shoulder blade balance the movement of the arm? The list goes on and on.
13. Be creative: what works for you?
The possibilities are endless. The only constant seems to be to get perpendicular to gravity for 20 minutes and do what it takes to free your neck. “What it takes” can be the most roundabout, personal, strange, idiosyncratic process in the world, but results are what count. If we get locked into doing the same process over and over it becomes less effective, or we just stop doing it. Keep it new, keep it fresh, keep it interesting. Keep doing it.