I am witting this blog as I am cuddled up in my reading/study/nap/meditation space. We are finally getting some good rain this winter in Northern California and it is so peaceful and lovely to slow down and listen to the rain. To see it make shapes and sparkles on the window glass. I wonder who else might be doing the same thing. No music, no t.v., just Nature at her finest and fierceness.
How often do we just slow down and listen to the rain?
There in lies the question of, when do we slow down?
When we retire?
When we are dead?
My Nana used to say something like that to me, as I enjoyed sleeping in on "lazy" summer mornings. At my Nana's house there were now lazy days (except for Sunday after church dinner) there was always work to be done on the farm. "She used to say you can sleep when you're dead." This has impacted me since even as a freelancer I am aware of the patterns to be constantly on the go work mentality.
When will we ever get to slow down?
I have since found some balance of work and nourishment (I also helps to have jobs that are nourishing, but very energetically consuming sometimes). What I have learned on this nourishing journey is how to listen to my body, how to trust and have faith that this vehicle knows exactly what I need and when, if I only give it the space and time, the healing will occur.
To be clear I do not spend all of my days in a bathtub or in a constant Savasana. What I am saying is I am learning and relearning ways of living that is most nourishing to my nervous system and the longevity of a healthy bodily vehicle.
One of the tools I recently got to relearn was Restorative yoga. I LOVE Restorative yoga (and Yin) as it really allows for the practitioner to drop deeply into a Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) state of being. Last week when I attended a workshop with the Queen of Restorative yoga, Judith Lasater, I was amazed at how much tension I was holding. Not only that, but I was reminded that this practice of Restorative yoga (the practice of slowing down) allows us to come out of Fight/Flight or Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and into Parasymapthertic Nervous System (PNS). When that happens we are tapping back into our truest forms.
Have you ever done a Savasana that maybe put you to sleep?
Maybe when you came out of it do you feel more ease?
That state of being.
That place of ease and "chill".
What if we could all live at that PNS state of being?
What a dream that would be. It can happen it is possible! Let's understand what happens when we are on the go constantly.
When we are living in a state of constant stress (I wonder if anyone isn't in this modern world) our bodies produce hormones to balance the nervous systems. Our body is really producing these hormones when our body into fight or flight (SNS) the body doesn't know the difference between stress and stress. It will produce the hormones either way. One main hormone is, cortisol. When our body is under stress (also the body doesn't know when it's good stress or bad stress, stress is stress, the body releases cortisol. The body was only designed to release these hormones when we as humans went into our SNS, not in a lifestyle of constant stress.
Here is a more in depth listen to stress (towards the end) of an episode of Your Health and Fitness on KPFA. If you want MORE information on cortisol, this is an article by Psychology Today about the toll of being stressed out can take on us humans.
So how do we get out of stress without retreating to the mountains (which I think we all deserve more mountain time)?
We must SLOW down to reconnect, listen, and heal throughout our our day to find balance. When we are able to drop into our PNS more frequently; we are able to allow our bodies to rejuvenate from stress, injury, pollution detox, and so much more. So we owe it to ourselves and to our future generations to set the example of what self-care looks like. Why it's not self-ish, it's necessary.
Here are my 3 main practices for slowing down.
I have been journaling for years it has helped tremendously as I am not a fan of talking. Due to childhood trauma I didn't start talking until I was 2 or 3 years old. This is a common side effect of trauma and dancing and journaling was very helpful in the teen angst years to now. Now I feel a lot of my stress is made up by my mind (and society standards, but mostly my mind), so getting pen to paper helps clear my thoughts so I can vocalize them, I have a specific list to get a task done, and I feel as though I don;t have to hold onto this information for the rest of the day. Once I have finished my ramble of inner confessions I feel lighter, clearer, and softer in my mind.
2. Taking time for a self-care routine.
Sometimes this is the smallest thing like cutting AND filing my nails. Or doing Garden work (keep those nails trim keep less dirt out). Others might be going for a walk, taking a bath or rolling out my feet. I try to choose something small that would lessen the stress in my body, mind, and spirit. With this one it also a moment to be Mindful. So for an example when you go for a walk could you be aware of all the parts of the foot connecting to the Earth? Your toes in your shoes? The wind (or lack of) on your skin? What about taking a moment to check in with the breath?
This picture is of my feet grounding at one of the Labyrinth's at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve.
3. 20-Minute Savasana.
I read in one of my required readings for my 500hrs Teacher Training. It was from a book, Yogini by , and on e the sections was written by none other than Judith Lasater. The biggest take away from that book was the 20-minute Savasana. She recommended that everyone should practice 20-mintues of savasana a day. 20-minutes may seem like a lot, but if you haven't tried it I highly recommend to carve out sometime this week or this weekend and try allowing the body to settle for 20-minutes. You might fall asleep, but after a few weeks of practice you will begin to "master" the most difficult asana we practice n the West.
Here is my favorite (Least prop intensive) one:
All you need is something under your knees (ankles connected to the floor) and a blanket for weight. Set the timer and you'll be set after 20 delicious minutes. It takes us modern humans about 10 minutes just to get settled. So enjoy while you have this time!
What starts to happen when we practice slowing down? Our brains and our focus on a task become clearer, and more connected. Our short term memory is more obvious when we are under stress or have unresolved Trauma. When we slow down and get closer to that PNS style of life we are able to reconnect the brain (this is called Neural Plasticity) and have a clearer attention span for tasks at hand.
When we slow down our ability to handle stress becomes greater. We might not obsess about the smallest of things, but let them roll off our shoulder. We might feel more whole and connected at ease in our skin and within the world around us.
How would that feel if we could start to practice this slowing down? Get on that Island Time together!
I find the practice of slowing down Radical! Enlivening! Centering! And so much more.
What about you?
Do you have one thing that helps you drop into your Parasympathetic Nervous System?
Let me know in the comments below!