Rest is so beautifully underrated.
Recently, my yoga and writing practice has become a lot softer. Simpler. Gentler.
I used to think the only way to success was to do more. More work, more often, with more effort. My intentions for practicing were things like “achieve a flat belly,” “get glowing skin,” “sustain focus to increase productivity for all the really important stuff I have to do.”
I devoted two whole years to mastering a handstand before realizing a) there’s no such thing as “mastering” a pose, each asana is its own ever-expanding universe, and, more importantly, b) “mastering” a handstand left no life-altering impact on me, or the world around me. Sure, my shoulders were jacked and it was a pretty cool party trick, but in retrospect, it was kind of a vain use of my time and energy.
Yogi and activist Seane Corne says, “Yoga without prayer is calisthenics; it will improve your body, but not necessarily your capacity for love.” And, for a long time, this is the plateau I practiced on. I carried my frenetic pace and drive to achieve from my outer life onto my mat, and for a while, it felt great to see all that “progress.” But eventually, I injured my body, fried my adrenals, stopped getting my period, and decided to break up with yoga while I sorted out the state of my poor body.
The medicine for me was rest. I had spent so long equating practice with movement, that I was too distracted to notice what was going on around me or within me. As long as I kept flowing, I could outrun my mind and everything in it that chased me. But the pain and fatigue in my body shouted loud and clear: Please, stop running!
Out of reluctant necessity, my practice was redefined from a state of doing to a state of being. And I couldn’t be more grateful. It was as if one day, while lying on the floor doing nothing, I looked up at my usual surroundings and realized, “Holy sh*t. There’s a mountain in front of me. It’s been there the entire time. And baby, it’s time to climb.”
“Slow grow, long game,” the mountain said.
“There is no need to rush. Enjoy the walk, the climb, the valleys, and the plateaus. There will always be another peak, so why race up this one?”
In 2011, through a series of synchronistic events, I took my 200-hour yoga teacher training at a Tantra school in India instead of the Vinyasa school in Nepal I had originally enrolled in. The asana practice was completely passive. I was a fitness junkie at the time, so I spent the first two weeks of training outraged that all we did each day was lie on the floor and breathe. I was actually so uncomfortable and agitated in one of our first practices that I left in the middle of class to run screaming down the beach for the remainder of the afternoon.
My teacher said something to us that—although painfully obvious—has taken me nearly a decade to digest and understand (like so much of what yoga teaches me). He told us it’s impossible to achieve and maintain health—be it a rockin’ body, ninja mind-powers, uber-creativity, or whatever “reason” brings you to the mat, when our nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems are imbalanced. And the most effective way to balance these systems? Rest.
When our systems are in balance—dang! The weight falls off, the addictions slip away, we get the promotion, write the song, sign the deal, look in the mirror each morning, and think, “Who’s that gorgeous, strong, intelligent, loving, confident babe lookin’ back at me?” And that is what everybody else you come into contact with sees too.
See, we’ve all got this “energetic signature” that is kind of like a dynamic blueprint of who we are. It’s fuelled by prana, or life force, and yoga balances this. Shines it up. Gives your system an oil change kind of thing.
When the prana in your body is dull, it doesn’t matter how fit or clever or rich or successful you are—you’re not going to feel any of that goodness, and neither is anybody else. Because your vibe has literally vacated.
You can’t “work your way” to this vibe by doing more, harder, faster. It’s the stuff you only get to embody when you do exactly that—embody it. Be in it. That’s the practice.
Connect to it, sit in it, feel it, observe it. Get to know your energetic signature. Get to notice when it is shining bright or just a flickering ember. Make it your new best friend, because everything magical you ever do, say, manifest, or create comes from this storehouse of power. This renewable, alchemical resource we all have access to at any time through the simplest and easiest of practices.
Be. In. Ease.
These days, all I want to feel is good. Ease. Gentleness. Rested.
I want my body to be a place that feels both expansive and grounded.
I want my mind to flow—a shapeshifting current making its way back to the headwaters.
I want to look at everyone I meet and see God in them. And live the embodiment of that same Source in myself.
I want this for me. I want this for everyone I love. I want this for everyone I struggle to love. I want this for all of us.
Because when we feel good, we do good things. We bring beauty into the world by just existing in it. And we all know beauty is something our world can never have too much of.
Softness. Gentleness. Ease.
If we practice what we want to feel, pretty soon our whole world is made up of exactly that.