This morning I did something that I’ve only done a handful of times in life. I overslept past my alarm by almost three hours.
My original plan was to wake up at 5:30 AM, see the sunrise, then do my 90 minute Ashtanga Yoga practice and spend two hours soaking up the sun before flying to Copenhagen. Rather than be upset I took this as a sign from the universe that I need to rest.
After ten hours of sleep, two hours in the sun, meditation instead of yoga, one cold pressed green juice, fresh coconut water, fresh figs, raspberries and plums, I have to say that I really do feel rested and rejuvenated. Rest is not something that I naturally do. Intense drive and focus is something I naturally do. After fifteen years dedicated to the inner tradition of yoga I can finally start to appreciate the benefits of rest and relaxation. I actually did not enjoy the first yoga class I ever tried because it was too relaxing!
In the last two weeks I have traveled between five different cities in three different countries, taught yoga classes and taken photos for my Instagram in each city, filmed a new yoga video in a 14 hour marathon filming session, changed time zones from the U.S. to Europe, practiced every day, responded to way too many emails and found the time to write this blog. Some people say that they get tired just hearing what I do. I’ve been called the “Energizer Bunny” on a positive note and a workaholic on the negative side. I love what I do so much so that it hardly feels like work. It honestly gives me energy to share the inspirational message of yoga with so many people all over the world in so many different formats. But everyone has to rest. And every body has to rest. In other words, both the mind and the body need their time to recover and recharge.
Being busy is itself a kind of addiction, a repetitive cycle that once fed starts to self-replicate and generate its own kind of momentum. Instead of just being busy, I notice myself and people around me saying that we are “crazy busy” or “insanely busy” as if the normal state of just being busy isn’t enough to express just how much we have going on. I, perhaps like you, have used being busy as a way to cope with difficult emotional situations that I would rather not face. It feels good to be moving forward, to be on the go, to feel the powerful thrust forward that is a kind of affirmation of your potential. There is something inherently validating and reassuring about making steady progress towards a goal and measuring that progress day by day.
But if your sense of self-worth is contained only by what you do then you will always be searching for the next big project to throw yourself into. Or when you do not attain the goal then you will feel worthless. If the heightened state of activity is just a mask for a deeper state of irresolution one day the storm of busy-ness will break and you will have to face what you’ve been running from.
Key Points for My Fellow Energizer Bunnies:
1. Listen to your body’s demands for rest and prioritize down time as much as busy time.
2. Leave a little space in your weekly schedule for spontaneity and the unplanned. Sit back and watch how the universe will fill that space with something bigger and more amazing that you could ever plan.
3. Don’t get too attached to the results; practice non-attachment.
Yoga is a mirror for the inner self. It is an honest expression of your inner state that is reflected through the tool of yoga postures, called asanas in Sanskrit. Yoga shows you yourself as you really are. There is no hiding in your practice because the body doesn’t lie. Its simple honesty reveals the truth of the inner experience.
My approach to yoga definitely mirrored my own natural proclivities towards achievement and hard work when I first started. I used to work my physical body beyond the point of exhaustion. I would need to actually injure myself before I listened to the subtle messages of stress that present themselves as feedback in daily practice. My hips were not naturally open the first time I came to yoga class. So I assigned myself the task of opening my hips to get my legs behind my head. I worked hard and stretched as much as I could.
Then, on my first trip to India to study at the Ashtanga Yoga Institute there were three days off in a row. I took the opportunity to visit some of the sights in the countryside nearby Mysore. During these three days I did not practice any yoga an it nearly drove me crazy. Then, something magical and mysterious happened. Every time I moved my hips cracked. When I stood up, sat down, went for a walk or just generally moved there was this cracking sound that came from my hips. At first I took it as a negative sign and assumed that when I went back to practice I would be even stiffer because I wasn’t putting in the work to get more open. Much to my surprise the exact opposite thing happened. When I returned to the disciplined Ashtanga Yoga practice after three hip cracking days of rest I discovered a new found openness in my hips that I never expected. The lesson that I learned from this experience is that no matter how much effort you put into it is only half of the exchange.
You also need to relax and let go in order to receive the results. In some ways this echoes one of the traditional teachings in yoga on how to exert effort. In yoga it is traditionally stated that you strive with intense focus while simultaneously releasing your attachment to the fruits of your labor. That which you attain you receive from a power higher and grander than yourself so that in the attainment of the goal you maintain your humility. Translating the lesson learned on the yoga mat into life has helped me temper my natural tendency to be eternally busy and give myself permission to just relax and just be.
Sometimes the hardest work is in resting in the knowledge that who are is enough and that you don’t need to do anything or be anyone other than yourself to be worthy of all the greatness that you seek. In yoga and life you can only do so much, then there’s nothing left to do except relax and let it all in.