The secret to a long, healthy life may have more to do with how much, how often, and how well you relax each day, than how many steps you take.
Unfortunately for those who adore their Fitbits, fitness trackers, and other forms of fitness jewelry, their devices can’t capture relaxation metrics. The technology is just too primitive.
We’re a society plagued by a constant burden to have something to show for ourselves: finishing Making a Murderer on Netflix and tweeting at Dean Strang that he’s your hero; walking 10,000 steps before 8pm and posting it on the Facebook; listening to WNYC’s Only Human podcast while doing burpees at the gym, figuring out what you’d do if you lived to be a super-centenarian.
Our focus on accomplishment causes us to ignore two fundamental truths about health: It’s okay to say no to exercise, and it’s okay to relax.
It’s how you relax that is the question.
We know napping leads to improved memory, creativity, and focus. “For some people, naps are as restorative as a whole night of sleep,” said Dr. Sara Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, in an interview with Time in 2014.
But this article is not about napping.
This article is about the art of active rest. It’s called restorative yoga. The goal is total relaxation: laying in a dimly lit room, listening to either silence or calming music (Enya is the obvious the go-to; and yes, she’s still making music) with a blanket draped over you and firm pillows, called bolsters, to support your body. The restoration comes in the state of being just before falling asleep. Getting there is harder than it looks.
According to April Reiersen, a New York City-based family nurse practitioner with a holistic specialty and a 500-hour registered yoga teacher with training in restorative yoga, this practice facilitates a quality of physical and mental rest that promotes balance in the nervous system response. Continue reading >>