A fantastic post by Nicola Jane Hobbs (@nicolajanehobbs) touched a chord within me on this; the idea that the human body needs to sit within a deep state of relaxation, where there is nothing to do, or be. No expectation, no idea of achievement or progress, no guilt, no anxiety - just rest. This is quite alien to me, and it will be to many of you. I was brought up with the idea that we must be achieving, making progress, making ourselves useful, countless to-do lists and the idea of success and failure.
"Relaxation where we are fully present, fully embodied, fully here." - Nicola Jane Hobbs
Not many of us even know a need for deep relaxation. We might consider time with friends, reading a book, watching TV, going for a walk as relaxation, and whilst these things are necessary and, in some way, relaxing, they don't touch the body in the same way as deep relaxation. In those activities there is still the expectation of doing something; maybe numbing emotions, exerting ourselves, finding distraction or simply an output of energy.
Most of us forget consciously how to relax some part of our body, especially in a fraught modern life which is full of micro-stresses. Part, or the whole of our bodies, forget how to step out of the 'fight or flight' sympathetic nervous system mode. Certain muscles, that you're not even aware of, tighten up and freeze under constant stress. We can hold it in our jaws, bellies, ribs, shoulders, backs and necks, for instance. It's not that we don't want to relax, it's that physically we now can't.
I've experienced this inability to fully relax, and I've seen it in my clients. This low-level continual stress can show up in many ways in our lives. Insomnia or disrupted sleep, anxiety, panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, forgetfulness and short term memory loss, gut problems and IBS, heart palpitations... the list goes on.
We need practices that allow us to heal, on every level, from any sort of trauma past and present. We need to be able to access the 'rest and digest' mode to sleep, integrate, heal and connect. To process emotions healthily. We need to remind our bodies how to rest and the necessity of rest, how to be in this present moment rather than in the stresses and concerns of the past or future. On a side note, that's also not to say we don't need movement - we also need the contrast of conscious movement, to stretch, sweat, strengthen and allow the body to flow and thrive. To move in a way that allows us to enjoy our bodies, right now and in the long term.
Whilst many of us can contemplate the necessity of exercise, rest and relaxation can often fall by the wayside, It fits in the category as 'something nice', but not really a priority in our lives. The problem is, as we ignore the small signals our body tries to send us, as we disconnect further in order to achieve more, the body will send stronger and stronger signals until it breaks down - mentally and physically.
Don't expect deep relaxation to be easy as you maybe try it for the first time. Sit down on your doorstep, with just the view and your thoughts, and notice how quickly you become distracted. Conscious relaxation practices can help:
calming breathing practices (pranayama)
yin and restorative yoga
Intrigued and noticing that is resonating with you? Even in the busiest of lives you can make small changes to achieve this. Take a two minute break this week (or right now!), to stop scrolling, take yourself out of any distraction, and just be. Let yourself be guided through a practice (there are plenty of apps and content on YouTube out there) if that feels easiest to begin with. You could even join us for our next sound bath with Christian in November.
Your body wasn't meant to strive constantly.
Take a deep breath.
You are allowed to rest.