The importance of doing nothing
In Italy, riposo, or daily rest, is a thing—a beautiful thing. Many Italians close their shops at midday, and in the mornings on Sundays and Mondays, to be home, cook a meal, have time with family and rest a little.
Daily rest is not a thing for most of us here in the good old USA. We have too much to do, too many commitments, too much forward thrust to bring our lives to a halt to refresh body, mind, and spirit. If we tune in, our bodies will tell us when we need to rest each day. Yet, instead of listening, often we reach for that afternoon cup of coffee or tea to keep us going.
Judith Hanson Lasater, who has crusaded for restorative yoga for more than 40 years now, is now on a mission to teach people that daily rest is essential to our overall health—just as diet, exercise and proper amounts of sleep are. And studies show that all we need is 20 minutes. Lasater explains,
“For the average person, it takes the body 15 minutes to relax. The next stage is when we move into our body clock—our body time—allowing for re-programming of our parasympathetic nervous system. This shift into the parasympathetic system is important because it helps stabilize and improve our long-term functions, such as our immune system, our circulatory system, our digestive system and our hormones, including fertility. After 20 minutes of rest, your mind goes into an empty state, similar to wiping a chalkboard clean, giving us the ability to think more clearly and reframe our focus.”
While in Italy for our yoga retreat last month, I rested each day. It felt wonderful—actually, it felt luxurious. Which made me stop and think—why does this pause in my day feel so unattainable in my normal life?
So, for the month of June, I’ve challenged myself to building 20 minutes of rest into every day. I’ve also challenged myself to committing to a full day of rest at least three Sundays this month. Yesterday was my first one. I found myself feeling guilty for not going to the grocery store to do meal prep for the week and all the other things I do to “catch up” from the previous week. Maybe it was the jetlag, but I just gave myself a little pep talk to let that %&*# go, and I rested. All day. It was awesome.
I invite you to join me in this challenge! Can you find 20 minutes each day to simply rest?
Our pose this month is savasana. I shoot to give students 10 minutes each time I teach, but this month, I’m going to try to give us 15 minutes in each class. Savasana is a challenging pose for some of us, including me. See what comes up for you if it’s difficult to stop your mind from wandering or your body from fidgeting. Enjoy the time if you feel relaxed, calm and clear. It’s all practice.