Hello beautiful friends,
How’s the balance of action and rest in your life?
And is the rest you’re getting, the best sort of rest?
Do you know that the right sort of rest can literally change your genes?
In today’s blog we dive deeply into what has to be the simplest and most effective way to improve your health and happiness doing a practice that is very close to my heart, DEEP REST. Harvard Medical School researchers have discovered some amazing benefits to the long-term practice of deep rest. This isn’t just any sort of rest though, so make sure you read the full story to find out the real art of doing nothing and how you can start now, as well as a link to the full article (by Food Matters) about the research.
Improve Your Health doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
Yes it’s official. Scientific research has finally caught up with what the East and its’ followers have known for centuries (or maybe millennium), that you can dramatically improve your health by doing absolutely nothing, zero, ziltch.
I can say quite unashamedly that doing sweet nothing (think meditation, savasana, yoga nidra, restorative yoga) is one of my all-time favourite things. So if the researchers at Harvard Medical School are correct then I’m going to have far more “disease-fighting genes”, lower blood pressure, stronger immunity, healthier hormones and less likelihood of developing arthritis or cancer, than you….. if you’re the go-getter always on the go.
Does that ring bells for you?
Could you do with a bit more downtime?
Perhaps you’re experiencing some of these health issues or maybe you’re interested in lowering your levels of inflammation and protecting your body FROM cancer?
Then read on, not just for your body but for your mind too.
Action and Rest
Rest is an essential ingredient for the foundation of a healthy body and mind. Just like the breath, where inhalation is active and exhalation is passive, like day and night, spring and autumn, tide in and tide out, there is a natural rhythm and balance to life. There’s a time for light, growth, action and giving and a time for darkness, letting go, rest and receiving and …. THIS IS BOTH THE LAW OF NATURE AND GOOD HEALTH.
Hence, it’s not healthy for our bodies or our minds to be racing through life at full tilt all the time. Research tells us that over-activity and stress cause the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate and blood pressure and weaken your immune system.
Relaxation on the other hand has been shown to increase levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, increase cellular repair, lower heart rate and boost the immune system. Other benefits include greater emotional balance, increased fertility, relief from irritable bowel syndrome, anti-inflammatory effects and greater mental and emotional calmness.
The Art of DEEP REST
But, it’s not just any kind of rest. Relaxing on the couch with a cuppa is not it. Even going for a quiet stroll in nature isn’t it either. And I’m sure many of you have already been thinking- “ah she’s talking about meditation.” And you’re already coming up with the excuses. “I can’t do meditation. I’ve tried and it just doesn’t work for me.”
Well don’t go away, because whilst yes, meditation is one form of deep rest, there is another way…..
You can lay down, right? You do it every night. Now all you have to do is stay awake!
………and just a couple of other special ingredients to master the art of Deep Rest that will actually change your body genetically and enable it to thrive. Here’s the recipe:-
2. Conscious relaxation of your mind and body.
To reap the greatest benefits from rest, you must be aware of yourself, of your mind, of your breath and of your body.
Then you invite in an attitude of acceptance or non-resistance, simply noticing whether you feel tense or relaxed, anxious or calm. Notice your thoughts, breath and sensations without judgement and without responding.
Then you consciously practice relaxing both your mind and your body, inviting in a sense of spaciousness, timelessness and ease.
In Deep Rest you remain connected to your whole self throughout the process.
For those of you who are meditators, please note that not all meditations are equal. Some meditation practices use music, guided imagery, visualizations and mental focus techniques that are either not body focused or take you out of your body. They too can relax you however from my experience, I strongly believe that the most effective way to reap the benefits of a relaxation practice is to keep your awareness firmly planted in your PHYSICAL BODY.
In this way you connect your mind WITH your body and develop a greater level of conscious awareness WITHIN your physical body, sensing the way it feels and functions. The harnessing of your awareness within your body has a powerful healing effect and enhances your ability ‘to know thyself’ and thus make choices to support your physical and emotional wellbeing.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER AND THE GREATEST KNOWLEDGE FOR YOUR HEALTH AND HAPPINESS IS SELF-KNOWLEDGE.
Practising regular self-awareness through rest, relaxation, stillness, contemplation, reflection or meditation is an intrinsic and necessary part of a balanced and healthy life in which you’re healing, learning, growing, living and thriving.
So if you already know how to meditate, I recommend that throughout your practice, you gently and regularly turn your attention to your body, allow your breath to flow, feel your bodily sensations and consciously relax every muscle as you sit or lay.
For non-meditators here’s another way to access your health benefits. This is a lovely practice anyone can do anytime just follow the steps:-
Deep Relaxation, ‘Savasana’-style
(i) lay on your back on the floor or your bed with your arms out to the side, palms up and your legs apart
(ii) ensure you are warm and comfortable
(iii) breath in deeply 5 x, breathing out with a sigh
(iv) then allow your breath to drop into it’s own natural rhythm, breathing in and out through your nostrils if possible
(v) slowly scan your body, consciously letting go any obvious surface tension you find
(vi) then commence a slow journey through your body starting from the top of the crown and going all the way to your toes
(vii) spend a minute or so in every part, feeling the sensations there and with an attitude of gentleness, invite your body to relax and to let go more deeply
(viii) follow this sort of sequence but don’t be rigid about it. Remember relaxing is the key:-
head / neck / right shoulder / arm / hand / left shoulder / arm / hand /
chest / abdomen / upper back / lower back / pelvis / buttocks /
right hip / thigh / knee / calf / foot / left hip / thigh / knee/ calf / foot.
(ix) when you’ve made your way to your toes, then relax your entire mind and body.
(x) continue to lay still, be aware of yourself, breathe rhythmically, feel the sensations in your body and relax for a total of 30 minutes.
(xi) you may listen to the sounds of life around you or to some beautiful relaxing music but remain aware of yourself.
Before you arise, acknowledge how you feel. Note the state of your mind. Are there less thoughts? Has your thinking changed in some way? Do you feel more calm and peaceful or maybe more energised?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. You may even feel an emotion that wasn’t there initially. The deep conscious rest can have released some anxiety, grief or anger from your subconscious mind-body. THIS IS PART OF THE HEALING PROCESS, as we need to make conscious what is unconscious BEFORE we can heal.
So treat yourself gently and know that ‘this too will pass’ AND it can pass more rapidly if you continue to practice this technique. If any issues remain then don’t hesitate to call me or seek professional help or advice.
Now, rise slowly…..with awareness, remaining in touch with your breath and body, as you begin to move and return to the activities of your day.
Try this recipe to improve your health:-
30 MINUTES OF DEEP REST PER DAY
Ah, I feel relaxed just thinking about it, so I know where I’m heading now.
Here’s the link to the full article:-
Health and Happiness, doing nothing.